Having just spent five marvelous weeks in Italy enjoying (a bit too much) cheese, learning to make pizza, and spending (a whole lot of) money on olives at the farmers’ market, it comes to no surprise that I talk about visiting the country every chance I get.
Italy is the country that convinced me – and may I say very fast? – that even a person who isn’t a foodie will quickly turn into one. Given the right food, of course!
In this article, I’m sharing ten great reasons why you should choose Italy for a culinary vacation. Or any type of vacation. As a bonus, I have included a cheat sheet to help you plan your vacation in Italy.
Antipasti (Engl: Appetizers) are the first things to show up on your table. No matter how many countries you visited and the similar foods you’ve tried before, they will never be as good as in Italy. The amount and type of dishes depend on the region you are visiting. When you see “antipasti locali” be sure that you’ll indulge in the best of what that region has to offer. Generally, though, cheese and cured meats are likely to pop up on any table.
Although I have never had bad pizza in Italy, I still recommend Naples for a taste of this real Italian staple. The trick is to look for the longest queue in front of the pizzeria and make sure no one speaks English. You want to go where the locals, not to tourists go to eat.
And you should consider a pizza making vacation in Italy to learn the skills which will allow you to recreate this mouth-watering dish at home.
There are about 55-60 different types of pasta in Italy nowadays. The various noodles are made from durum wheat, which is also called “pasta wheat”. Durum (hard) wheat has a high content of protein and also a higher gluten content than common wheat. Most homemade pasta – such as cavatelli or orecchiette – use durum wheat.
Pasta is a staple in the Italian diet and the recipes are endless. Skip the dishes you already know the names of and opt for something local and traditional.
Italy enjoys 4,722 miles (7,600km) of coastline. What does this mean for the visitors? Many gorgeous seaside towns and a lot of seafood to enjoy! As with the case of any place where seafood can be enjoyed, there are some fish which should be avoided and also a lot which can be eaten without problems.
Locals know best and the sooner you make friends with someone, the better. For example, octopus (polpo) can be eaten during the winter, while gray mullet (cefalo) can be eaten year round.
During my first trip to Italy (in 2012), I really wanted to try gelato. We do have some good gelaterias at home, as well, which claim to use Italian recipes, but I had not reached gelato nirvana until I tried it in Italy. Luckily, I have never had a bad experience and I apply the same principle to choose a place to buy ice cream from as I do with pizzerias: long queues, locals, no English menu.
Ordering a coffee in Italy can be quite weird at first. I still laugh when I remember the first time I ordered a “cafe” at Bari Airport. It turned out to be a ristretto though I was expecting a shot of espresso. Ever since that moment, I stick to cappuccino.
And speaking of, never order a cappuccino after 11 a.m. If you want to try a traditional Italian breakfast, get a cornetto alongside. The sugar rush won’t keep you full for long but, honestly, who cares.
There’s nothing more interesting than to take part in the process of picking the olives and preparing them for consumption. Olive picking and tasting holidays offer a unique glance into those activities and, of course, the chance to taste organic produce.
Don’t forget a trip to the farmers’ market with local produce on offer. Take advantage of the tastings and try various types of olives.
If you love historical sites, then a culinary and culture holiday is a great option. You get to learn to make traditional recipes and visit incredible historical sites. For the first time visitor, Rome is a great choice and is, literally, an open-air museum. Just put on your walking shoes, get a map, and explore.
Naples, with the nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum, is another gem worth exploring and falling in love with.
One of the reasons I love to travel to Italy during winter is that I can have an entire beach for myself. Or share it with locals who jog or take their dogs for a walk.
Italy’s beaches are most crowded during the high season (July and August), when the hot weather makes the locals escape to the beaches alongside the tourists. There are a lot of wonderful beaches to choose from for your holiday, such as Marausa Beach in Calabria, Riva di Ugento in Puglia, and Monterosso al Mare in Cinque Terre.
The trulli of Alberobello are unique limestone dwellings constructed without using any mortar. Located close to Bari, in Apulia (Ita: Puglia), Alberobello is home plenty of them. One area is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit sight during any vacation in Italy. The other area hastrulli which are still inhabited by locals. And yes, you can spend a night (or more) in a trullo.
Thinking to visit Italy on your next culinary holiday? At BookCulinaryVacations.com we have numerous culinary vacations in Italy on offer that you can choose from!