One cannot be in Italy and not talk about food. Last night we thought we would be eating at the very elegant Restaurante Nettuno (that’s Neptune in English) with its views of the flood-lit monuments of Paestum, but when we arrived it was shut up tight. We’re accustomed to being the last tourists in places at the end of October, but this is the beginning of October and already many places are closed for the season. Tourism appears to be down significantly in Italy this year.
|Italian Pasta is unbelievable in its variety|
However the topic of today’s blog is FOOD. It is near and dear to my heart and one of the things I love best about traveling in Italy. Leaving the closed Nettuno, we returned to our hotel in Capaccio. I will be kind and not mention it by name. The first evening here we were too tired to seek dinner elsewhere, so we made the mistake of taking dinner in this four star hotel. It was one of the worst meals I’ve ever eaten. Do not EVER eat in a hotel dining room in Italy—especially one that caters, as we discovered too late, to tour groups and wedding parties. That being said I hasten to make an exception of the Marconi in Sirmione on Lake Garda. Presided over by the Visani family, it has one of the best dining rooms in Italy.
It is hard to find bad food in Italy. Discovering the elegant restaurant we had hoped to eat in
|Mozzarella da Buffa|
|Prosecco - Italian champagne|
And the service? I spilled some sauce on my jacket and our waiter (also the proprietor) came over with a powdered dry cleaner and sprayed the spot away!
We’ve been in Italy not quite a week now and we’ve already had three pasta dishes I’ve never even seen before—and I’m a pasta lover. Pasta in Italy is unbelievable in its variety, but it’s never a main course. First there is the antipasto, the appetizer. To me that could be a meal. But no. then there is the “Prima”, the first course, usually pasta in one of its many varieties. The “Secundo” is the main course, meat or fish, which may be accompanied by a salad. Then there is dessert, followed by fruit and cheese. Waiters shake their heads at those of us who simply can’t run the course.
Italians spend so much time eating it’s a wonder anything else ever gets done. Italians also eat at very different hours than we North Americans tend to. At noon, I want lunch. Lunch is a BIG meal here, and it seems to begin somewhere between one-thirty and two pm. Dinner? Seven for me, if I push it. Nine for Italians. We’re leaving the restaurant as the Italians are drifting in. This has one advantage. Waiters and proprietors all chat with us. There’s no one else in the dining room, so they amuse themselves and us with conversation. We’ve picked up all sorts of interesting information (and misinformation) this way.
|Gnocchi ai Quattro Formaggio|
But back to food. Some of the most memorable meals of my life have happened in Italy. My
favorite, hands down, is Gnocchi ai Quattro Formaggio—little potato dumplings in a four cheese sauce, heavy on the gorgonzola, as made in a restaurant on the Piazza Navona in Rome. A close second is a dessert – a crisp pastry shell filled with creamy ricotta cheese and dribbled in chocolate – also in Rome, at Querino’s. Rome is full of good eateries. There is no excuse for eating badly in Rome.
On this trip so far, our best meal was in Sperlonga, a beach resort south of Rome, in a little trattoria across from the Hotel Aurora—(a hotel we CAN heartily endorse). It consisted of a lovely, previously unknown to us pasta dish, followed by veal with lemon, and finished with pana cotta, a lighter-than-air creamy molded sweet. The wines of the region must be mentioned. We always order a carafe of the local wine and are never disappointed. They cost about seven euros a litre.
We’re in a coastal area south of Naples now. As we move north our meal costs will rise and the meal quality may well go down. That’s a sad fact. It’s difficult and expensive to eat well in Venice. Venice is a city to which we return again and again for its sheer beauty. But a culinary capital it is not. Rome is considerably better, but is not inexpensive.
As we find other noteworthy places to eat and dishes we love we’ll mention them on this blog. Cheap or expensive, meal for meal, we eat better in Italy than anyplace else we’ve ever traveled.
Day 7, Agropoli
Our find today was the little town of Agropoli. The name is descended from the Greek word acropolis and the setting of its “old town” high on a cliff face over the sea is like that of the many we have seen in Greece. Not surprising since for five hundred years before the birth of Christ there was a Greek settlement here. Over the centuries the settlement switched from Greek to Saracen to Roman. Traces of all these cultures can still be seen.
|One of the towers at Agropoli|
Back in Capaccio we went for a swim in the sea…cold! Now, showered and with our wet bathing suits hanging out on our balcony to dry, we’re about to go experience another Italian dinner.
Tomorrow, on to the Amalfi Coast.
Following are my published novels. Go to my Goodreads page, to find more info and reviews.
To purchase one of these books, just click on the book link below and select the vendor of your choice.
• The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family. It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.
• Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!
"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews
• Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find some shocking situations:
~ A robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame;
~ Alyssa James who she barely knows, is about to become her new stepmother;
~ and Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, is a charming Irishman who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri.
It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?
• Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
Abigail's Christmas is a holiday story about Abigail who goes looking for a tree on Christmas Eve, and ends up with the man of her dreams in a sleigh in the Rockies --- with a wedding in the offing! Is it real? Is she dreaming? Or is it just Christmas magic?