Italy, the land of food. Sure it’s known for wonderful landscapes, history and fashion, but the food is one thing that attracts me and unfortunately the bathroom scales agree! As we travelled from Bari airport to Alberobello to stay in the trulli houses and then on to the natural Castellena caves, there were always tastes and smells of fresh fruit, meats and cheeses everywhere. From the caves, on to stay at Taranto for Easter Sunday, meaning only one restaurant was open and very few options for lunch the next day! Amazing and cheap ice cream (gelato) at Matera where we stayed in Sassi cave dwellings and experienced a lovely meal at a vineyard, trying the local Dragone wines.
Amalfi and a walk to Positano on the coast, before our history portion of he trip to Pompeii and Herculaneum and then to Naples, which had plenty of food to tempt me!
When near the coast, you have no excuses not to have a fish dish and so I sampled dorade and swordfish. If you get a chance to try dorade… do. It’s moist and succulent and served very simply. Italian food has such style to it that the flavour is enhanced by the simplicity on the plate. Maybe this goes back to Italy also being known for fashion.
Simple lunches of focaccia with mozzarella or other local cheeses and prosciutto ham for next to nothing in cost for a quick bite while hiking and in between stops on a busy day. Beats pret lunches any day! One of the best drinks, was a freshly squeezed Amalfi lemonade on a stop from the ‘walk of the Gods’. I had been waiting for a fresh lemonade after seeing the huge and contorted shapes and sizes of the lemons in the region.
Any chance for burrata or mozzarella must be taken and spaghetti and pizza must be eaten at least once! In Amalfi I jumped at the chance for spaghetti vongole, a dish with succulent clams and a negroni to enjoy the evening.
When looking for restaurants, I often looked at TripAdvisor but as I know ratings can be rigged, a local ‘top 10’ can help too. Unfortunately as we were in Italy over Easter, a lot of restaurants close and didn’t give many options. I did, however, notice a 1 Michelin star restaurant in Amalfi was on the list. With my London mindset, I thought there would be a 3 month waiting list, but we managed to get a booking for the next night at ‘La Caravella’.
I’ve been to a couple Michelin star restaurants now and this was similar with a tasting menu, although they only had Italian wines (apparently they used to have NZ but no one ordered them). The restaurant was lovely with lots of ceramics and art, but there were only 6 people in total at the restaurant, so it lacked atomsophere. There were some experimental dishes (chocolate and aubergine) and some that were delightful (squid ink ravioli filled with ricotta and lobster), but I’ll leave a full review for another blog.
In Naples, we tried pizza (obviously) but unless you stuck to the original Margherita pizza, you might not have been so happy. The original Naples pizza wasn’t to the taste of a few, where it is thin, soft and elastic but can be mistaken for being undercooked. The tomatoes must be San Marzano tomatoes which grow south of Mount Vesuvius, mozzarella campana and basil. The dough must be hand kneaded fresh to order too.
On my final day in Naples, after visiting the archaeological museum, I popped down to Spaccanapoli, which splits Naples in half through the narrow, old, historic centre. This was my last opportunity, and so I had a mini cannoli, sfogliatella to take home – which is a shell shaped pastry with a ricotta and orange peel filling and an ‘Amalfi’ ice cream which was lemon based. I also purchased a quick lunch of a pizza bread filled with ham and cheese to eat before boarding the plane. I felt like I was on a desperate mission to buy my laste few tastes of Italy before heading home!
Amongst my purchases, were handmade orecchiette which resemble a small ear, limoncello which will be kept in the freezer, Dragone white white (similar to a Vino Verde). I already have some herbs and dried porcini from my parents last visit.
My Italian adventure is far from over, I needed more time in Pompeii, I needed more sun and will probably visit somewhere along the Amalfi coast once more and I obviously need to try more food. Until next time Italy!