Italy: Passionate About Food

Today’s guest post is by Valerie Sisco

View in ItalyIf there is such a thing as fast food in Italy, I didn’t run across it on my trip to the land of pizza and pasta. I discovered that Italians don’t grab a bite to eat on their way from one place to another. Instead they savor their meals in the company of family and friends. And you might as well clear your schedule for the evening, since those meals could last well into the night.

Growing up with holiday feasts of fish and pasta during visits to my dad’s Italian family, I know firsthand that Italians are passionate about food. They’re serious about family, too so when they gather around the table for a meal, it’s practically sacred. That’s why I couldn’t wait to experience the culture, art and food when I planned my first trip to Italy last summer.

Navigli Canals in ItalyMy food adventure started in Milan with a three-hour appetizer and wine walking tour of the historic Navigli canal district. Little did I know that was the fastest food I’d eat during my trip, thanks to a tight itinerary that didn’t let us linger at any of our stops.

Food Tour in ItalyOur handsome Italian tour guide led us to an entoca {wine bar} where we learned about the region’s wine specialties. We stopped mid-journey to sample a generous spread of bread, meat, cheese and olives, before finishing at an all-you-can-eat apertivo. Our guide invited us to order any cocktail on the menu to go with our thick slices of bread spread with cream cheese and sprinkled with raw shredded zucchini. I wasn’t sure I liked the raw zucchini since I usually have mine steamed or baked as an ingredient in bread, but the drinks were so good, I didn’t mind the zucchini. That evening confirmed my hunch that getting together for drinks and appetizers in Italy may just be robust enough for a meal.

After Milan, I traveled to Bellagio where every dinner was an epic work of art. A slow work of art.

Vegetables in ItalyI dined on a terrace hilltop overlooking the lake, where I savored the best fish I’ve ever eaten, with a plate of brightly roasted vegetables and crispy zucchini fries. I feasted on a four-course meal at a top-chef restaurant that concluded with a gorgeous dessert of coconut ice cream that could rival those featured on Food Network. That night I looked longingly at the pots of coffee carried out to end the meal that I was forced to miss so I could catch the last ferry back to the hotel before the clock struck twelve.

Pasta Salice BluEven at a small local café, my appetizer salad and plate of pasta were served in no hurry but with a flourish. The Italians seem to have an air of confidence that diners will relish the food that’s created for them and appreciate the beauty of what’s on their plates.

Not one of my dinners in Italy ended before 11 pm. I kept checking the time, amazed at how slowly the courses progressed. Even though I didn’t have any other plans for the evening, four-hour dinners seemed endless at first. But I soon discovered that this was the time to gather around the table with family and friends, savoring what the kitchen prepared while enjoying delicious conversation.

Making Ice CreamIce CreamOn my last night in Italy, I dined at the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni’s Michelin-starred restaurant. For the grand finale dessert, the staff performed the art of molecular gastronomy as they made our vanilla ice cream tableside with liquid nitrogen. The servers, more like actors, stole the show.

I left Italy with my beliefs confirmed that culture, art and food are interwoven in the lives of Italians and family is the ribbon that ties it all together.

Valerie Sisco writes the blog Grace with Silk. She lives in Orlando, Florida, where she’s dreaming of her next travel adventure. Follow her journeys via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

6 thoughts on “Italy: Passionate About Food

  1. Italy and food. Yes, amazing stuff. To me, Italy fast food is selecting a slice or two of pizza (where they weigh it by the gram) and eating it while strolling the ancient streets, probably on the way to the next gelato shop.

  2. This post made me so hungry! I loved traveling along with Valerie’s food journey through Italy! I felt like I was actually there. I have never heard of half of these foods, but they all seem amazing!!

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