Emma spend July 2013 in Florence, at IED, through the AIM Overseas program.
First of all I just would like to say that I am having serious withdrawals from the Italian food.
If you ever hear anyone say ‘oh the food in Italy isn’t that great’ then they either think that La Porchetta is the real deal, or have no idea how to appreciate gorgeously fresh, tasty, mouth watering food and for some bizarre reason choose to eat at a burger place every day while they’re in a country that is renowned for it’s food… yes let me shock you…WHILE THEY ARE IN ITALY. Umm a little bit crazy perhaps?!
So, I made smart/not so smart decision to be a carb queen for six weeks and embrace as much Italian food as my ever-growing stomach would let me, all to prove those uncultured foodies wrong… Well okay I guess that wasn’t the only reason. To be perfectly honest I thought it was utterly fabulous that I could get away with eating as much pasta as I wanted for six whole weeks.
Coming out of my ears (not literally) was Pesto al Gnocchi, Bruchetta al Pomodoro, and a to-die-for Nutella slice, (not sure on the exact Italian translation for that one but lets call it the bello slice (bello is the masculine word for beautiful and was one of the only words that I learnt while I was away.)
My advice is to find the real ‘nonna in the kitchen’ type restaurants. They are as authentic as they come. The food is incredible and will not make a scratch in your hip pocket. Another tip is to go to the restaurants where the locals dine. If there are locals there it automatically means that the restaurant is fantastic.
You will find that Italian food is very simple. I was quite shocked by this at first and asked a waiter if there was going to be anything else in my pesto gnocchi like tomatoes. He just looked at me confused, probably thinking ‘another tourist!’. As Australians we are so used to over-flowing our food with unnecessary ingredients and condiments just because we think the more that’s in it the tastier it will be. Quickly I realized that this actually isn’t the case. The Italians had this way of making something so plain taste so magical. The key: The simpler, the better.
By embracing the Italian foodie culture, I also started going for aperitivo. I had heard about the rage by reading the Lonely Planet ‘where to eat and drink’ section (the only section that I truly studied). Aperitivo means that you pay between 7-10 Euro and receive a drink of your choice and either an antipasto platter or a plentiful buffet, which really is huge spread of Italian food of which you can fill up as many plates of it as you wish (my record was four plates). This means that you can get your whole dinner and a drink for a ridiculously cheap price. As aperitivo is taking Italy by storm you will find that many restaurants and cafes offer it.
As I spent most of my time in Florence, which is in the heart of one of the best wine regions in the world, Tuscany, I had the pleasure of tasting some beautiful wines. Chianti is one of the most popular wines in Italy and takes its name from where it comes from, Chianti, which is about a 2 hour train ride from Florence.
I fell absolutely in love with Spritzes in Italy, a perfect drink over the hot months as it is refreshing and has that summer tang. You will see many of the Italian people having leisurely afternoons at cafes drinking a Spritz. As I was amercing myself fully into the Italian culture, I sat many an afternoon sipping on a Spritz in the sun. I highly recommend.
Oh my gosh and how can I forget to talk about the one thing that I ate every single day while in Italy. GELATO.
Flavours included: Coconut, Nutella (as you can see I grew quite an obsession to this chocolatey goodness), Banana, Pistachio, Tiramisu, Hazelnut, Dark Chocolate, Kiwi, and the list goes on. Some places even put a dollop of whipped cream and a wafer on top. Yes I know, amazing!
For 2 Euro you can get a mammoth size gelato that is heaven in a cone. Don’t get ripped off though. From my experience, places that are close to touristy areas, like the Duomo in Florence charge around 7-10 Euro for one of these delights and unfortunately tend to not be as delightful or as big.
My tip: Explore the backstreets away from the touristy areas to make sure you get abundant and super cheap gelato. It’s a great way to really see the cities too, and a great way to walk off that gelato just so you can go get that Nutella (sorry I had to) crepe from the crepe place around the corner. Yes Italy has crepes too! Can life get any better?!
I would like to conclude by stating that Italian food rocks. You will be culturally transformed by embracing it and your taste buds will thank you for it.
While the Italian men are yelling ‘ciao bella’ to you down the street, you will be singing ‘ciao bello’ to the culinary delights that Italy will absolutely overwhelm you with.
What’s YOUR favourite travelling food?