I love everything about Italy, the people, their culture, their style and vanity, their art and music, and of course Italian food.
I’ve been asked to suggest 5 things to do whilst visiting Italy. I’m not going to suggest any town or city as that’s a very personal choice, nor any particular piece of artwork not to be missed.
What I am going to suggest is what I’ve learned during my extended visits to Italy, and it all revolves around food!
1) Enjoy an Aperitivo, served between 18-21.00hrs.
This is an absolute must, it’s really pre-dinner drinks, but with food, so pace yourself if going out to dinner afterwards.
The type and amount of food served with the drinks depends on the bar, but often include olives, meat cuts, crostini, grilled vegetables, peanuts, all kinds of lovely things. My favourite aperitivo bar when visiting Bologna has to be Zanarini, who offer an incredible buffet to accompany your choice of drink, one of the most popular being a Spritz, made with Aperol or Campari and Prosecco.
2) Eat where the Italians eat.
Leave the main piazzas and tourist areas when looking for somewhere to have lunch or dinner, opt for a small family run Trattoria/restaurant. There may be no menu and little English spoken, but with lots a hand gestures and guesswork you’ll get there. There’s always three courses, and if all else fails, go for the middle pasta course, the word ‘pasta’ being the same in both countries!
During my earlier Italian visits my phrase book was always close at hand, but now of course we have Google Translate which makes conversation easier still.
3) Go to a family run restaurant or Agriturismo for Sunday lunch.
This is an amazing experience, but you have to allow yourselves at least 3-4 hrs, of eating time!
Again it’s always a set menu, usually starting with plates of mixed meats, cheese, olives, vegetables and bread. Then comes the pasta, I’ve been caught out on more than one occasion when I’ve eaten so much of the delicious pasta, only to have a second pasta dish brought to the table..yes, there are usually two pasta dishes!
The third course, roasted meat, with potatoes and side salad. And yes, there’s dessert, coffee and more often than not Limoncello or Grappa.
If it’s a popular venue it will be buzzing, but don’t go if you want a fast meal, it just wouldn’t happen.
4) Drink the local house wine.
Don’t go straight for the wine list, the house wine is usually locally produced, very good and much cheaper. I like it because I can have just a quarter litre carafe of frizzante, whilst J can have a quarter of whatever he wants.
5) Eat an ice cream or two or three.
Italy, in my opinion, does have the best ice cream ever. I still smile if we’re out late and pass a crowd of boys in their late teens queuing for ice cream. Or the grannies, on a hot summer evening in the local bar, chatting whilst eating a large cone of amarena and vanilla..no alcohol, just ice cream.
I could make this No.6, but thought it worth mentioning.
If you go to a restaurant and would like to try three courses, but know you couldn't possibly eat the amount, it’s perfectly acceptable to share, especially the first and second course.
If we’re eating down at the beach, and the main course is grilled mixed fish, J and I will share all three courses, although he’ll eat far more than me!