Italy is a wonderful place to visit, especially if you are a food lover. Italian dishes like pizza, pasta, and lasagne are among the most popular dishes in the world and with good reason. They are delicious, but they really are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what is available. Italian food is very diverse, so there is plenty for the traveller to sample and enjoy during their visit.
But, as with all things, when it comes to travel, the more prepared you are the better. Here are some tips to help you to enjoy the best Italian food while you visit this stunning country!
Book your vacation to coincide with a special celebration
Like most nationalities, the Italians love to celebrate with food. So, try to book your holiday to coincide with a national holiday or local celebration. When you do so, you will get the chance to try all kinds of unusual and delicious foods.
The Carnival in Venice is especially impressive as is the food. If you stay along the Amalfi coast, try Migliaccio di polenta. These delicious morsels are made using grated cheese, cornmeal, and sausage meat. In Naples, take the time to try the luxurious lasagna di Carnevale, which is sometimes called a Ricotta lasagna.
Wherever you are in Italy you really must try the carnival sweets. Each locality has its own specialities all of which are very moreish. The lemony strips of fried dough that are variously called Chiacchere, frappe, or Cenci, are especially good.
Talk to friends and family
If you know someone who has visited the area you are planning to visit, take the time to have a chat with him or her. Often, you can pick up some unusual tips and learn about some of the nicer restaurants and dishes that they enjoyed while they were there.
Tap into the power of the web
It is also worth asking for recommendations on social media. People love sharing their favourites, so a quick post will normally be answered very quickly.
Sometimes you will find whole blogs dedicated to the cuisine of a particular region, city or town. It is really worth checking a few of these out, especially if someone who actually lives there writes them. The fact that they are not simply passing through means you will get some great insights into where to eat and drink during your stay.
Find yourself a local Italian guide
If you can, get a local Italian guide to show you the foodie hotspots. In many towns and cities, there are local residents who put together tours that are specifically aimed at tourists who love food and drink. How good they are, varies, so it is always worth checking out what traveller review sites have to say about a specific tour before booking.
Avoid eating near tourist attractions
It is wise to avoid the tourist traps. There really is no point in frequenting restaurants that serve up frozen pizza when you can get a freshly made one just down the road. Usually, all you need to do is to check out the bars and restaurants that are located one or two streets back from the main tourist attractions.
Learn the terminology
These days a lot of restaurants translate their menus into several languages, in particular into English. However, some do it better than others, so it is well worth learning a bit of restaurant Italian. Or, loading your Smartphone with a really good translation app. Just be sure to choose one that includes even the rarer ingredients and products, so you can be sure of what you are ordering.
Try some bite-size Italian delights
There is a general belief that Italians do not do finger foods or tapas. To some extent, this is true, but not completely. The cuisine of Italy is not all about huge multi-course meals.
Far from it, the cuisine is peppered with beautiful tasty morsels like Arancini, grilled baby squid, polpette and bite-sized crostini. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Venice you are in finger food heaven. Most bars serve a good range of Cicchetti, which is basically the equivalent of Spanish tapas, only better. Each bar has its own specialities, so it is easy to take a tour of them and fill up on fantastic food.
Take a cooking lesson
Another quick and easy way to get access to traditional Italian food is to take a cooking lesson. If you book a class with an older cook you will usually learn the proper way to cook several traditional favourites. Plus, of course, you usually get to eat everything when it is ready. For most food-lovers, their cooking is a highlight of their trip.
Go food shopping
Even if you are staying in a hotel and do not have any cooking facilities it is still really worth going food shopping. Doing so will give you some great ideas when it comes to what to try. Plus, of course, you can always buy yourself a few snacks.
Enjoy a picnic
In fact, if there is a nice park in the place you are staying, it really is worth putting together a picnic. This gives you the chance to hit the deli counter and sample some of the delights that are on offer.
Don´t forget the street food and markets
You should also take the time to try some of the street food. Usually, it is very good and there is plenty of choice. You really must try Pesce Fritto Al Cono. It is fried fish in a cone. This sounds a bit boring, but it is quite wonderful if you have it in an Italian port town. Usually, the fish and seafood are really fresh.
For those with a sweet tooth, Zeppole is a must. Traditionally, they are small balls of dough that are fried and sprinkled with icing sugar. But, over time they have evolved and you can now buy them filled with custard, chocolate, and other sweet delights.
As you can see, when in Italy you are going to be well and truly spoilt. So, be sure to pack clothes that have a little extra room around the waist area.
Line Arias is a writer at Nonnabox.com. When she is not experimenting with food, she is either planning her next trip or writing poetry.