Eating your way round Italy

tomatoes at the market

Today’s featured post, provided by Carly, is all about the fantastic food of Italy – certainly one of the highlights of any trip to this wonderful country.  It’s likely to surprise you with the variety on offer and if you’re opinion that Italian food is largely composed of pizza and pasta – then prepare for your taste buds to be blown away! Enjoy!

In today’s world, surrounded by reports of poverty and the environmental burden of feeding 7 billion people, gluttony can seem a very self-indulgent word. However, if you’re travelling to Italy, it’s impossible to avoid that country’s best-known specialty: truly stupendous food.

Everyone who goes there - even the most puritanical - returns raving about the sheer amazingness of nearly every meal. One way to stop your Italian adventure from turning into a gross pig-out is to treat it as a sampling tour. Car hire is an ideal transport choice for Italy, because public transport - beyond the main rail network - is often non-existent, especially in rural areas like Calabria, in the south, where hilltop trattorias and beachside bars offer some of the most unmissable delicious local food you’ll ever eat, but you can only get there by car.

tomato on bruschetta and burrata

Travel from region to region, from the mountainous north where you’ll find woodland truffles served up in rich meaty stews, down through rural southern vistas growing grapes, olives, veggies, golden wheat, to legendary cities like Naples, the birthplace of pizza.

Every region - every town and village, even - in Italy has its own distinctive culinary characteristics. Here are just a few to whet your tastebuds:

Lombardy

Although fresh stuffed pasta is popular in the Italian north, meat, freshwater fish, butter, rice and polenta (cornmeal) are also definitive. This makes for great winter food - the sort of thing you want to eat by a crackling fire - or if you’re after a lighter summer meal, look for rice salad or tasty frittata (thick omelette) with fresh local veggies like asparagus, green beans, and a nutty melting cheese. Wine, like the food, is great as standard - even the house wine is usually very good - and adds further authenticity to your meal.

Wine pouring

Umbria

Characterised by rich green farming country and a very traditional approach to cooking, Umbria is the place to taste recipes that date back for centuries. Roasted or grilled meats are popular here, cooked with a blend of sunny tomatoes and the more wintery dark green veg like kale, which grows well in the inland climate. Excellent sausages and cured pork products like salami are typical of Umbria, as are aromatic lentil soups and stews.

Calabria

Filling Italy’s southernmost tip, this is one of the country’s largest regions, and where you’ll feel most grateful for your hire car. There are no buses or trains heading out into the hilly green countryside, but this is where you’ll find the most fantastic food. Tomatoes and aubergine thrive in the sunny southern climate, and the cuisine bursts with their juicy flavours. Delicious breads come smothered in sun-ripened tomatoes and garlic, while the 500 miles of coastline guarantee excellent seafood.

Mussels and spagehetti cooking in a huge pan

It’s helpful to realise that good eating is just a way of life in Italy. This can be hard to comprehend if you live in a country where it isn’t - England, for example, where we typically believe our food is nice enough until we go to somewhere like Italy or Belgium (where even the quiche in the railway station cafe blows your socks off), and we realise that great food is not a Marks & Spencer’s ready meal.

Once we go somewhere that has good taste as standard, it’s difficult not to fall face first into the first delicious bowl of gelato you encounter and just stay there, pleading to never go home. But if you can travel around Italy and just eat normally, you’ll learn more about the Italian way of life than if you just stuff yourself for fear of never eating such tasty food again.




Liked this post? Here's something related: