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My own Italy food tour: 3 April - 3 May 2019

There’s always excitement when planning a trip and this time even more so…my main focus was on food!

Our first flight leg was a 14hr flight to Dubai then to Rome, let’s welcome typical plane food, questionable coffee and limited leg room but overall a good flight.

When we finally arrived in the eternal city Rome, driving from the airport to our hotel was filled with so much excitement with a touch of travel exhaustion. Italian driving and traffic never change then you see why you’re in Rome again with the beauty of history surrounding you. No tmuch exploring on arrival as it was late and dinner was a glass of chianti wine, gorgeous handmade cacio e pepe pasta, carbonara, polipo con patate (octopus with potatoes), bruschette miste, pannacotta and coffee. The start of our food tour commenced perfectly. I laughed a little when we checked into our hotel room, the first thing my family had said to each other was ‘where shall we eat!’.

The following few days we walked from one side of Rome to the other there was always a good reason to stop for coffee, stop for food, stop for a photo and absorb the Roman surroundings and experience! From the Piazza di Spagna, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, finding pasta art, drinking all the coffees and devouring sweet treats, roaming the streets to find gorgeous pathways, Roman arcades and quaint restaurants and bars, eating pizza and pasta. The aroma of many more coffees, pistachio cannoli croccante (crunchy like peanut brittle!), street roasted castagne (chestnuts), gelato, coffee percolator shopping, mini fruit market, the Colosseum, Roman forum plus some gorgeous meals...just list a few of our adventures whilst in Rome.

When it was time to board a train from Roma Termini to Napoli then Sorrento, we had to buy a panini, coffee and doughnuts to sustain on the train. It was a restful train ride and we relaxed watching the gorgeous views like a movie through our window.

Sorrento was home for approx. 3-4 days and our hotel views captured the sea beautifully. It’s been awhile since I had visited Sorrento and was loving the non-peak tourist season, we were able to enjoy our surroundings so much more. We arrived just after lunch and strolled to the main Piazza and wandered through the streets which had many stores selling amazing chocolates, blended spices, truffles, pasta art and so many other goodies. It can be very easy to fall into the tourist trap when shopping on holidays, thankfully I’ve travelled often to be able to walk away from the temptation to buy a souvenir t-shirt, magnet or snow globe. Food was the focus and food we would seek and devour!

The morning after we did become a little touristy and ventured to Capri via ferry. In the morning we strolled towards the Sorrento port and sipped coffee waiting for our ferry to arrive. We people watched as mini tour groups with matching hats, bags or jackets gathered to board their ferries also. We seemed the only people not part of a tour group...maybe I should’ve made our family wear matching T-shirt’s! When we arrived it was a total tourist land but we still walked around and was able to capture the beauty that Capri had to offer. We didn’t follow the tour groups, instead we walked our own way around and wondered through the small streets and paths, some were busy and some so quite and serene.

For our last full day in Sorrento we mainly stayed local. We went to recommended restaurants for lunch and dinner, devoured more gelato, shopped a little and strolled through many streets and took in more beauty of the town. We witnessed many shops and restaurants preparing for the peak season, some were extending their dining space, painting, adding new signage, etc. Being able to stroll through a tourist town prior to peak time is a blessing. We walked along the Marina Grande and for lunch we stopped at a local restaurant situated right on the Marina. Their menu was based on locally caught seafood and fresh handmade pasta. For dinner we went to a pasta bar that specialised in fresh handmade pasta with most recipes using semola flour. Their food was delicious but the sweet dessert pasta of Neapolitan Pacchero (Sicilian cannolo inspired) and Spaghetti chocolat (light fried spaghetti with nutella & crushed almond brittle) were a perfect highlight.

Next stop was Florence for a beautiful few days, I’ve visited Florence a few times so the familiarity was comforting. We walked through the Mercato Centrale (Central market) which was a delicious food temptation and I wanted to taste all the food! Nearby the market were a sea of stalls selling the same leather bags, jackets, souvenirs etc. We made a mental note of cafes and restaurants we walked by during our stroll. We also enjoyed a brilliant coffee masterclass by a coffee expert, hey explained the whole process, flavours and serving the best coffee. It was all proven by the coffee tasting and samples. We even chatted about Italian and Australian coffee comparisons.

After a few peaceful days of exploring we headed to Modena. We arrived mid Sunday, it was cold, rainy and hardly anyone in the streets. Our hotel was a little quaint, hidden away surprise that was tucked away in a cute laneway and their breakfast buffet was a perfect spread.

We searched for a coffee, aperitivo and dinner and came across two places that are a must to visit. Both were recommended and I’ll definitely go back to again. We also braved hiring a car for the day and I’m glad to say we successfully tackled the Italian roads and pretended we knew what we were doing...especially for us driving on the other side of the road, lots of ‘hands over the eyes’ with a little ‘we missed the turn’ moments. After our afternoon coffee and cake stop, we found a cosy restaurant for dinner where I devoured amazing tortellini filled with pumpkin, drizzled with balsamic and topped with shaved parmigiano reggiano.

We spent our last morning in Modena visiting the Mercato Albinelli and enjoying the fresh produce, cheese, pasta and other goodies. Also, I finally was able to meet Helena, a beautiful person who is an Emilia Romagna food and wine expert, teacher, cheese taster, traditional balsamic taster and amazing woman with many talents. We chatted through the market, while buying balsamic and over coffee, of course!

By midday we were on our way to Venice. Upon arrival the tourist crowds had started to increase slightly but we were still able to roam freely. Our accommodation was a gorgeous apartment with amazing views and private jetty, recommended by Vita Italian Tours. After an aperol spritz (yes again) we strolled a little and went to the local supermarket to pick up a few things as it’s the first time since being home we have an actual kitchen and a quick minestrone was for dinner.

From our gorgeous apartment window views to exploring Venice city, it’s was a great first day. Our apartment was situated in a fairly calm and quiet area. The coffee, food and even an aperol spritz were at very reasonable prices. The closer you walk towards St Mark’s square and/or Rialto bridge then tourist pricing shock kicks in and with most places it doubled. We wandered through many streets and over bridges, took many pics, relaxed at cafes, bars, enjoyed panini, found some murano glass mementos...every now and then we just stopped, admired and took it all in. You always notice some tourists with maps in a hurry and some others slowly following their iPhone maps. Everyone is here to capture their own special adventure!

Venice evenings are perfect for wandering. After dinner we strolled again, streets now becoming deserted and lights turning on. Walking through narrow back lanes, crossing over bridges, witnessing gondolas silently glide past and hearing water lapping around boat edges at their jetty’s.

Just beautiful!

We loved our apartment breakfast window view and peacefulness of our jetty just outside our apartment door. We even relaxed with coffee on the jetty and people watched as tourists and locals travelled on boats and aqua-bus through the grande canal. Our last full day in Venice was filled with eating, walking, coffee, walking, gelato, walking, cicchetti, aperol spritz, tiramisu, walking...

Thank goodness the amount of walking had outweighed our eating (I hope so!).

Next stage of our trip was with our Italian family and we travelled from Venice to Pescara, Abruzzo. We hired a car for the remaining part of the trip. It was a change of scenery from countryside to the Adriatic Coast. Watching the blue sea and gorgeous blue sky was something only postcards capture. Our first family visit was with my cousins in the beautiful and picturesque town of Castiglione a Casuaria, it was exactly how I remembered from our previous visits. Family always welcome you with huge hugs and a full table of food. We stayed for a while but leaving family is always a sad moment with more family hugs and promises to see each other again soon.

Our road trip continues to Southern Italy for nearly 2 weeks with more family. Driving through more tunnels, mountains and past many towns we finally arrived in time for a late dinner at my sister-in-laws home in Cittanova, Calabria. After welcome hugs we devoured minestrone which was absolutely perfect after our long drive. The following day we feasted at a restaurant in Roccella Ionica, located on the Ionian Sea side in Calabria. We ate, drank, laughed and chatted through the afternoon. Next day more food feasting was devoured with zeppoli, antipasti, pasta, tiramisu and wine at an Agriturismo restaurant in Maropati, Calabria.

We continued to explore and also relaxed at the same time. Weather was gorgeous and we even drove to Reggio Calabria for a stroll along the lungomare and the main street. With an aperitivo and spuntini we admired the sunset., simple day and gorgeous views!

We also ventured to Taurianova, Calabria and found a great café/bar which we adopted as our daily breakfast stop. It was hard to choose from the delicious selection of pastries to match our early morning coffee. We also drove to to Tropea, a small town on the east coast. Another historical town with beautiful clifftop views, beaches and renowned for their red onions ‘cipolla rossa’.

It was also ‘Anniversario della liberazione d'Italia (Liberation Day)’ and there was definitely a festa feel in the air and streets. We wandered through the centre, enjoyed brioche with gelato and took so many pics from the clifftop overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. On the way home it was pizza for dinner in another small town called Pizzo!

I loved market day in Cittanova! Walking through the streets lined with so many stalls showcasing all sorts of items like clothing, bags, flowers, shoes and fresh fruit/vegetables. Watching people taste test peanuts and strawberries to bargaining prices for a better deal. We walked home with gorgeous produce to create a delicious lunch and also dinner. The afternoon called for another gelato and then at dusk passing the beautiful town garden with lights shining brightly!

Spending time with family always flies too fast and the last weekend was definitely spoend with more family time. This meant lots of eating, gelato, coffee, a little shopping and visiting nearby gorgeous towns again like Scilla, Bagnara Calabra, Reggio, Gioia Tauro and Taurianova. I love how each town has its own unique feel. Our last day with family in Cittanova Calabria was filled with extra coffees, pasta, aperitivo, cannoli, another drive to the Gioia Tauro lungomare, more family pics and trying to fit more memories until we meet again soon. We now commenced our drive to Sicily through Messina and then stayed for 1 night in quaint Taormina before we started our journey home with a 2 night stopover in Singapore.

Post trip….we arrive home and the dreaded unpacking of our suitcases commenced. We found little bought treasures and memories whilst unpacking from places we definitely want to remember, I must say it took a long whole to unpack at this pace.

I’ve been to Italy quite a few times now but this visit was my favourite. Think I was more relaxed, letting each day unfold to whatever it had planned for us and just taking in my surrounds freely. If possible, I recommend travelling just before peak season. Always stop and make sure you take in your surroundings, admire and just enjoy!

Until our next trip!

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