Eating my way through Italy…
My friend Heather and I have returned from Italy…
Happier and perhaps a little more worldly but certainly NOT thinner.
Pizza, gelato, fresh seafood, pasta, nutella filled pastries, sfogliatelle!
Want to know what topped my list of favorites?
Wow! Did I have fantastic coffee, I mean out of this world – perfect EVERY time – coffee!
I stuck to espresso and cappuccino. I’ve never had coffee so dark and rich yet so smooth and creamy. Not a hint of bitterness or acidity, just pure heaven in a cup.
Above is a view of Florence facing out towards the Apennine Mountains from the top of the Duomo.
Of course we visited all the sites, in Florence…The Statue of David, The Uffizi, Boboli Gardens, Ponte Vecchio. In Rome…The Colosseum, The Roman Forum, The Pantheon, The Vatican, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Via Del Corso. We journeyed through Cortona, Naples, Pompeii and Sorrento.
I’m not going to talk about the sites though, this is a food blog and I like to talk about food so let me take you on a food tour of my trip, Andiamo!
First stop, Firenze!
A little cold and rainy, Florence was beautiful. Wonderful little sandwich shops abound where you could get a fresh sandwich and a glass of wine for about $10. Gelato shops were endless with their mounds of about 20 different flavors. We enjoyed a little grocery store where they sold giant cupcakes in a box, wonderful meats and cheeses and plenty of great wine!
We had a fabulous dinner one evening in Florence at Trattoria Anita. I ate wild boar and a lovely mixed salad, cinghiale e insalata mista. The boar was wonderfully tender chunks of meat marinated in a tomato based sauce.
Next stop, Cortona!
We rented a car to drive from Florence to Rome just to go to this town. You might remember this town if you read the book “Under the Tuscan Sun”. Cortona is a beautiful walled city high up on the side of a hill. As we walked the steep little streets and looked in various shops we met Gabriella from Romeo Winery who let us taste her organic delights, such as Chianti, Vin Santo dessert wine and Limoncello. I bought a bottle of the 1995 Vin Santo, it was delicious.
Next stop, Roma!
At the end of a four-hour walking tour which included seeing the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Pantheon we ended at Piazza Navona which had been transformed into a bustling outdoor market. There were vendors selling hand-made puppets (I bought one for my daughter), fresh donuts, roasted chestnuts, Christmas ornaments and lots of candies. I decided to buy a licorice rope and it was the best licorice I have ever eaten. So soft and sweet.
Rome was full of little pizza and gelato joints trying to attract tourists. They may be tourist trap’s but they have some darn good pizza! Better than anything I’ve eaten here in the US and the choices of toppings were plentiful.
Loved the grocery stores in Rome!
The one we went to several times near our hotel had so much fresh seafood and hanging meat, it was fun to just look around. Better yet, they sold yummy boxed Sangria for $3, it was so good. The storefront windows were festively decorated all over Rome, I was intrigued by the 2 ft. tall Chocolate Santa!
My favorite restaurant in Rome was Il Giardino Di Albino. So much so I dedicated this entire collage of photos above to it. The service, the food, the ambiance and the price were all very good. We were given a useful piece of advice in Rome about finding eating establishments… stay off the main streets, look in the alleys, around the corners. Such was the case with Trattoria Anita in Florence and it was the case with Il Giardino Di Albino. It’s hidden in an alleyway, with an unassuming entrance, but it was comfortable and tasty. The house wine was very good and the pasta was great. I had fresh pasta with pancetta and mushrooms and Heather had fresh pasta with artichoke hearts. For dessert we had tiramisu (much more creamy mascarpone than I’m used to) and almond cake.
Before touring the Vatican on Christmas Eve (oh, the chaos of 40,000 people) we got up early to check out the Trionfale Market! It is a large indoor market where vendors sell meat, fish, pastries, produce, coffee. It was quite busy with people shopping for Christmas dinner preparations. I loved that the zucchini were sold with the blossoms still on them. I got a funny look when I snapped the picture of the large swordfish. Christmas Eve night we had a lovely meal at one of the few restaurants open, Scuderia. It was a bit touristy and expensive but given our choices it was worth it. We ate pasta with fresh tomatoes and lobster, crawfish and shrimp.
Christmas Day, off to Napoli!
I was disappointed with Naples, it was dirty and there was lots of graffiti, however, the food was fabulous. Christmas night in Naples the open restaurants were limited so we ate in our hotel, we were pleasantly surprised with how beautiful the M Gallery Hotel was and the restaurant was amazingly good. That top left picture is Caprese Salad…when the mozzarella bundle was cut open, olive oil and tomatoes oozed out, it was so good. For dinner Heather had Anchovy Ravioli and I had Risotto with Prawn Tartare, yumm! For dessert, we had Baba (upper right) and Millefoglie (bottom left).
Naples and the surrounding region is known for their Sfogliatelle and I consumed plenty at the breakfast table the next morning in the hotel. It is a delightful pastry filled with slightly sweetened ricotta. For any of you that live in the Denver area you can buy them at Dolce Sicilia! Go get some, they are worth it!
An excursion to Pompeii and Sorrento…
While in Naples, we took a day trip to Pompeii and Sorrento. Pompeii was amazing. It was a much bigger city in its day than I expected. Check out the wood fired oven in Pompei. Much like the ones still used today all over Italy. Pizza is on the menu everywhere and during lunch near Pompeii we ate some for lunch. Simple, yet so good!
Next to Cortona, Sorrento was my second favorite place that we visited. High on a cliff, this seaside town on the Amalfi coast is home to lemon groves and even better, Limoncello! I had always liked Limoncello before going to Italy but now I love it. We tasted some Limoncello and Lemon Cream at Limonoro’s in Sorrento and I even got a picture of a cutie bottling it in the back of the store.
Before we left Naples we did have some Pizza Margherita. It was excellent. We also ate lemon cream cake and cheesecake for dessert. I noticed desserts in Italy are not as sweet but rich and full of wonderful flavor. For example this cheesecake was only lightly sweetened, the cheese really stood out.
It was a fantastic trip! I was ready to come home though and in the Munich Airport I saw some candy that reaffirmed it was time to get home to family and friends…
January 2, 2013
This entry was posted in desserts, dinner, holidays, travel and tagged coffee, Cortona, Florence, Gelato, Italy, Naples, pizza, Pompei, Rome, seafood, Sorrento, travel.