The simple definition? People are choosing destinations to visit based on the food served, the restaurants, cafes, and all the options a country offers; whereas not that long ago, just the act of sight-seeing was a thing. Still is of course, the activities and experiences offered by any hot spot are a huge part of why we visit, but sophisticated travellers fully understand that what we eat on vacation is a crucial part of the complete, full-meal (pun intended) deal. Italy, without dispute, is a foodie travel capital, and I’ve zeroed in on 5 cities, and 5 must-eats for each. Next visit to bella Italia? Mangia!
Eat: Risotto Milanese
Where? In Milan
Since the first recorded recipe on record for this Northern Italian rice dish dates back to 1809, I think it’s safe to call it a classic don’t you?
Extra virgin olive oil, minced onion, saffron and butter are combined with raw Arborio rice. Chicken stock and white wine are added in small amounts, stirring and cooking each liquid addition until fully absorbed. The result? The creamiest, simplest rice dish, made (ironically) without cream, I’d ever tasted.
Served as a starter, or primo course, before your main. Perfection. So good in fact, that I have since forgotten my main course on that long ago visit...but my virgin voyage with risotto Milanese is 'in the vault' forever.
Where? In Venice
Iconic Venetian eatery Harry’s Bar can take full credit for this delicious appetizer dish.
The first time I tucked into a plate of wafer-thin-sliced raw beef tenderloin dusted with peppercorns, tangy capers and shavings of salty fresh Parmigiano Reggiano, I knew I could never be a vegan. Some restaurants serve carpaccio with a delicate, creamy sauce on the side too.
Tender, raw beef that melts in your mouth may just put your sashimi cravings on the back burner for a while.
Where? In Verona
Italians make ice cream (gelato) like no other country.
Gelato is often made without dairy, so ask if you’re in doubt and want to be cautious.
Go for a classic flavour like pistachio (which is earthy, nutty and not sweet), chocolate (which is dark and tastes like it should, unlike the light brown, no-flavour stuff of North America) or pucker up with refreshing limone (lemon).
If you come across what looks like a perfect peach, but that is actually a halved skin of the fruit stuffed with peach gelato, then frozen into perfection – grab it. I once stumbled across a cart selling these on the street and it changed my life.
Eat: Scialatelli Pasta
Where? On the Amalfi Coast
This regional dish celebrates local ingredients like super fresh seafood, lemons, and of course, Italian pasta.
I’d best describe the noodles as a short tagliatelle and depending on the restaurant and the season, the pasta is tossed with freshly caught sea urchin, spiny lobster, huge prawns, or delicate clams, individually or a combination of a few. A squeeze of fresh lemon to finish is a given, as the gorgeous yellow fruit is abundantly grown on the Amalfi Coast.
Eat: Margherita Pizza
Where? In Rome
The debate is real. When it comes to pizza, some say Naples has it nailed, while others claim Rome serves the best pie. Roman pizza is the really thin-crusted variety, with a nice char from a wood-burning oven.
The variety I always go for? Margherita of course.
The classic combo of simple tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil, and a dash of olive oil and coarse salt illuminate the theory of what Italians have known forever – a few quality ingredients make the most delicious dishes.
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