I had high expectations for Italian food, and I can confirm Italy truly didn’t disappoint. Whilst interrailing Italy we swapped the nutritious ‘5-a day’ for ‘gelato a day’ and our diet was a strong 3 meals a day of pasta and pizza, everyday, consecutively over the 2 weeks. We explored a vast area of Italy and nowhere disappointed us with true Italian cuisine. Needless to say I was very “basic blogger” on holiday getting all the shots before Dan could have a mouthful (sorry Dan). I have now compiled a list of my favourites from the trip with accompanying photos just to make your mouth water and make you feel disappointed next time you visit Zizzi and its not quite to the same standards….
I had high expectations for Italian food, and I can confirm Italy truly didn’t disappoint. We swapped the nutritious ‘5-a day’ for ‘gelato a day’ and our diet was a strong 3 meals a day of pasta and pizza, everyday, consecutively over the 2 weeks. We explored a vast area of Italy and nowhere disappointed us with true Italian cuisine. Needless to say I was very “basic blogger” on holiday getting all the shots before Dan could have a mouthful (sorry Dan). I have now compiled a list of my favourites from the trip with accompanying photos just to make your mouth water and make you feel disappointed next time you visit Zizzi and its not quite to the same standards….
First up, best pasta dish has to go to Caffe Panzera Dal 1931. A family run, traditional, Italian restaurant right outside of Milan Central Station, which makes the perfect travel stop off. We stumbled across this place on our last night in Milan and I am so thankful that we did as it was surprisingly my favourite dish of the whole trip. I am usually quite fussy when it comes to Carbonara, and it is far from my favourite kind of pasta (I am a tomato girl at heart), but the flavouring of the sauce accompanied by freshly made pasta, meant that my mouth was just watering the whole time, my tastebuds could not quite believe what was going on inside my mouth, like a firework of flavours exploding all at once, it was insane. I didn’t really enjoy Milan as a city, but would go back purely for this pasta dish.
It was closely followed by a simple ‘bore ragu’ in Pisa at a restaurant called Ristorante La Torre Pisa, just a short stroll up the road from the tower. A simple tomato ragu with bore meat and tagletlli pasta, I could have eaten another bowl full of this it was that good. I am a big fan of simple, tomato dishes, and this was just that packed with flavour and mouthwatering pasta. It was also super cheap, I was very impressed.
Pisa did very well as it was also home to the best Italian coffee I had on this whole trip. Dolce Pisa, a wonderful coffee shop/cafe which we found on our walk down to the tower. I didn’t have an awful lot of coffee but I would usually grab one if we stopped somewhere that did coffees for breakfast. Italians are known for their coffee and being a coffee lover I was super excited about this. One thing to note is the Italians drink a lot of coffee, but in small doses, do not go in expecting large American style coffees! It is also unusual to have a milky, frothy coffee after lunchtime, they are seen as breakfast coffees and Italians apparently frown upon an afternoon cappuccino…. I didn’t let that bother me though!
Best Pizza has to go to our hotel’s restaurant in Lake Como – Hotel Baia di Paré. A little, family run hotel, with a pizzeria/bistro attached on the side. It was very popular with the locals and the menu was divine. I didn’t have high expectations of this place, being a hotel restaurant, but it completely excelled any expectations. The stone baked pizza was delicious, topped with freshly cut ham. I will struggle to go back to a dominos or papa johns after tasting this delightful pizza.
I ate a lot (and I mean A LOT) of gelato on holiday, I found this quite difficult choosing my favourite gelatoria, but it has to be a toss up between a cafe we found in the centre of the Borghese Gardens, in Rome, or a gelatoria we found off a side street in Florence, the founding city of Gelato, called Festival Del Gelato. They are very generous on portion sizes over there, a small pot (1scoop) is plenty big enough, unless you want to sample different flavours like I did…. If you go out of the main touristy areas, and squares you are bound to find some gems and at a fraction of the price.
Another food highlight from this trip has to be the food market in Florence – Il Mercato Centrale Firenze. This place blew me away! Everything is cooked right in front of your eyes, the smells will knock your socks off… its a buzzing atmosphere with a wine bar running through the centre of the market. A top tip if you are not on your own (or if you just have a big appetite) buy several different dishes and share them with whoever you are with, this way you can eat your way through lots of glorious food all in one sitting. There really is everything you could wish for, seafood, bakery, pizza, pasta, meats, rotisserie chicken, sandwiches, gelato, all the best Italy has to offer under one roof. I even picked up a few fresh pastries for our breakfast the next morning as they were too good to walk past and not buy!
Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, and when I am at home, going out for breakfast or brunch is one of my favourite things to do. Italy was just a dream for cute little coffee shops and cafes for breakfast pastries and coffees, very European. If you try and get out of the tourist areas, down side streets and off the beaten track you are sure to find a few caffeine gold mines.
The budget for food out there can really vary, you can find small cafes and pizzerias for $10 a meal or visit a sit down restaurant for €20-€30 a meal, and there are some fancy bistros and restaurants in the main squares for a higher budget too. Romes side streets are teaming with the yummiest restaurants and cafes, you are truly spoilt for choice. We were paying around the €40-€50 mark each evening meal for the both of us and around €20/€25 for lunches and don’t forget to factor in gelato at around €3-5 a tub. But Italy will please any budget.
We were living our best Italian lives, overindulging and immersing ourselves fully in the Italian culture. I did have to start a serious diet the minute I got home but it was completely worth it. It is also safe to say that our holiday has completely ruined Italian food here in the UK for me, as its just not as good…. obviously!