One of the biggest pleasures of a vacation is indulging in the diverse and delicious local culinary experiences. As you plan your clients’ unique vacation to Italy, one of the most compelling motivations is the extraordinary cuisine throughout each region.
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Now, let’s turn our attention to the fun gastronomy of Italy. Warning: Don’t read on an empty stomach!
Few places are as devoted to the pleasures of the table as Italy, with each region offering its own specialties to enjoy. In general, the cuisine of northern Italy is richer and creamier than that of the south and is more likely to feature risotto (rice) and polenta (cornmeal mush). The cuisine of southern Italy relies more on tomatoes and olive oil and often is spicier than that of the north.
In all of its countless variants, the specialties on Italy’s tables are known to be wholesome and fresh: from the Piedmont’s fondue in the north to Sicily’s caponata (eggplant and other vegetables served as an appetizer) in the south, from the risotto alla milanese (rice cooked in broth served with saffron and parmesan) to Campania’s mozzarella cheese, from the Veneto’s risi e bisi (sweet peas and rice) to Rome’s porchetta (whole pig with herbs roasted over an open fire), from the trenette al pesto (pasta with basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and cheese sauce) of the Ligurian coasts to the Florentine steaks, from the lasagna of Emilia Romagna to the spaghetti alla chitarra (spaghetti with eggs and spinach) of Abruzzzo.
Pasta is the basic component of most meals and usually is the first of at least three courses. While it never has been proven conclusively where pasta originated, one thing is for certain: Italians have taken this simple food—made from flour, eggs, and water—and raised it to culinary heights. Italian variations include pasta e fagioli, with beans; alla Bolognese, with meat sauce; alla carbonara, with bacon and eggs; al forno, meaning in the oven; al pesto, with basil, garlic, pine nuts, and cheese; and dozens of other combinations.
Other typical Italian dishes are polenta and gnocchi (dumplings with cheese or a sauce). Liguria is where pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and foccacia bread originated. In Liguria, Tuscany, and Umbria, the locals use a lot of olive oil and herbs.
A dinner starts with antipasti (appetizers): smoked meats, fish, cheese, olives, and vegetables (such as artichokes, red peppers, eggplant, and mushrooms). The first course is soup (such as minestrone or Tuscan white bean) or pasta. The main or second course of the meal usually is meat, game, or fish. Vegetables and salads are served as separate courses, and fruit and cheese complete the meal. To help the digestion, Italians drink a digestivo (after-dinner drink) at the end of the meal.
Sweets are more likely to be eaten independently rather than as a dessert. Popular dolci (desserts) include cassata (cheesecake covered with fruit, marzipan, and icing), cannoli (fried pastry roll with sweet, creamy filling), zabaglione (custard with wine), granita (fruit, flavoring, sugar, and water), and marzipan (ground almonds, egg whites, and sugar). Other well-liked desserts are tiramisu (lady fingers, mascarpone, eggs, sugar, espresso, and cocoa powder), zuppa inglese (sponge cake soaked in rum or vermouth with custard, cream, and fruit, similar to English trifle), and gelato (ice cream or sorbet).
Hungry yet? (For more knowledge, of course!) This is just the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t even discussed Italian wines, liqueurs, brandies, or even a local version of schnapps! If you are starving for that information, you’ll need to sign up for Premium Access today!
Set yourself apart. Be the expert your clients are looking for. Satisfy your clients’ cravings and help them create lasting memories with a trip to Italy! Buon appetito!