The uninitiated might think the boundaries of Italian food and drink end with pizza or pasta and a bottle of Chianti – needless to say, this only scratches the surface and the ubiquitous Italian restaurant you might find on any English high street does poor justice to the sheer range, variety and quality of the best of Italy’s food and drink.
It is because of that variety and the marked diversity of individual regional cuisines that a holiday using a single base in the country is unlikely to do justice to all that is on offer. For some idea of the very different gourmet dishes and chefs to be found the length and breadth of the country, you might want to look no further than the Telegraph newspaper’s reviews published on the 5th of January 2016 about just some of the leading establishments.
It is because of this diversity and regional variation that Italy multi centre holidays may be a way for you to enjoy a lot of what Italy has to offer in its different areas.
Here are some of the dishes and drinks you might want to sample as you make your way between your chosen holiday centres.
Lobster (aragosta) and many types of seafood, fished fresh from the Mediterranean, provide some of the most flavoursome dishes wherever you are in the country.
Bottarga, or botargo, is another variant on the fish dish. In this instance, the dried roe of fish, such as swordfish, tuna or grey mullet, are spread thinly on bread or grated over rice, omelettes, mozzarella cheese or even potatoes.
The white and the black truffle are known as the king and queen of Italian cuisine – and come with a price tag to match. In fact, there are as many as six to eight different species of truffle to be found in Italy and each is treated with delicacy and respect.
The same goes for what might be considered the humble mushroom in other parts of the world – in Italy the Ovoli and Porcini varieties are revered for their delicacy almost as much as the truffle and come a close second in terms of the price.
Italy is the world’s foremost producer of wine, so it may come as no surprise that there are more than 20 major types of grape variety that go into the production of wine.
Of those different varieties, three are the most important:
- Sangiovese – used predominantly in the production of the Chiantis of Tuscany and Umbria, this grape is planted all over Italy and is known for its flavours of cherries and herbs, its tannin content and its high acidity.
- Nebbiolo – the grape from which probably two of the most highly prized Italian wines – Barbaresco and Barolo – from the Piedmont region are made.
- Barbera – planted almost as widely as Sangiovese, the Barbera variety is somewhat lighter bodied, with less tannin content but with high acidity.
White grape varieties are equally prized, with Pinot Grigio probably the most widely known and loved. Tocai Friulano (from the Friuli region) runs a close second in terms of its crisp acidity. Trebbiano grapes are commonly grown, although appear mainly in the less expensive bottles of white wine that might accompany shellfish dishes, rather than wine drunk on its own.
Whether you love pizza, pasta, refined fish and shellfish dishes or decadent desserts, Italy has a wealth of cuisine to discover and is the perfect destination for foodies looking for a cultural holiday in one of Europe’s most beautiful countries.