Eating our way through Italy – a feast for body and soul

One of the highlights of our trip was eating our way through Italy. Mama mia, the food was fantastic!

Eating our way through Italy

Pizza signage outside the Pompeii Ruins.

Of our two-and-a-half weeks in the Napoli area, we only had one dinner that was just so-so. The rest of the time, every morsel that came our way was delectable.

Mealtimes in Italy are a much slower-paced than here at home. Dinner is much later in the evening – around 8 p.m. In fact, some restaurants aren’t even open for seating until 7-7:30 p.m. You won’t find hours-long waiting, either. At least that was our experience. It was really nice to eat at a leisurely pace and not feel like we needed to rush through our meal because there are people in line, waiting for a table.

My morning usually started with a trip to the hotel’s dining area for breakfast. Seriously, how can one not want to eat when the aroma of fresh, warm pastries wafts through the air? I had zero self-control. So, I would grab one – only one – along with some fruit, yogurt and a cappuccino. Sometimes I would vary the “extras,” and grab some cheese or cold cuts, which were always offered as well. The two hotels we stayed at offered eggs and cereal, but I observed most people dined as I did – a sweet roll and espresso or cappuccino.

Eating our way through Italy

My mid-morning cappuccino.

Most mornings, I took my breakfast to the terrace or balcony. Depending where I was, I listened to waves as they caressed the shoreline or enjoyed the chirping of birds and roosters crowing. There was always a subdued energy and excitement to the start of the day.

Cappuccino is usually reserved for mornings. Espresso is an all-day, beverage of choice. But… I totally broke the rules. While my husband would enjoy his double espresso, I would make everyone cringe with an afternoon cappuccino. I knew the custom, and I always apologized to the server, but I also am not a huge espresso drinker. When I asked one of our friends why afternoon cappuccino is frowned upon, she explained it is because of the amount of milk that is used, making it better-suited for breakfast. So, next time we visit I will try a macchiato (espresso with a bit of milk) so I don’t look so much like a tourist!

Drinking espresso or cappuccino is an experience. The server will bring you a small glass of sparkling water with your caffeinated beverage. One drinks the “Acqua frizzante,” sometimes referred to as “Acqua with the gas,” before the coffee drink to clean the palate. (If you want plain water, order “Acqua naturale.”) Enjoy that beverage, but don’t cap off your coffee drink by guzzling a water chaser, as it isn’t customary to drink the “acqua” afterwards.

Most espresso bars offer pastries as well as lunch-time options. We did dine a few times at a café, but mostly hit restaurants and grabbed a pizza or panini.

Eating our way through Italy

Delicious Margherita Pizza, Napoli-style.

Napoli pizzas are served individually, and most people eat them using a fork and knife. I’m not sure why, maybe because they are scorching hot out, served right out of a wood-fired brick oven. Come to think of it, I had never seen a pizza served pre-sliced. Maybe because these delectable pies looked like a piece of art as they are placed in front of you? Surprisingly, it is fairly easy to eat an entire pizza, or in my case, most of it. The crust is so very light, and the sauce is usually crushed tomatoes, so it felt light, too. In my case, I tasted as many Margherita pizzas as I could, and enjoyed each and every one of them. Each one, though similar, had a slightly different taste. I equated it to relatives using the same family recipe – the food tastes nearly identical, but there is a slight difference.

My husband was in his glory in Positano, where fresh seafood was plentiful. I enjoyed pastas and gnocchi and fresh salads. I didn’t see any bottled dressings. If my salad didn’t arrive tossed with olive oil and lemon, those items were brought to the table. Balsamic vinegar and olive oil was also available. We enjoyed meals that were simple yet elegant; fresh and locally-sourced.

Presentation of the food was beautiful, too. Each time we purchased a to-go item at a bakery, it was wrapped elegantly, which was perfect when we were taking pastries to our friend’s home.

Eating our way through Italy

Cannoli, wrapped elegantly at the bakery.

Eating our way through Italy

Cannoli, ready to eat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On two occasions, I indulged in a burger. Can you say divine? The homemade potato chips were delicious. I had the best fish and chips ever – better than I had in England – in a little town outside of Napoli. Even the Chinese food we had was outstanding.

Eating our way through Italy

This burger and the chips were ah-mazing!

Trust me when I say, there are days since our return that I long for the amazing food and wonderful dining experiences. Most of the time we enjoyed sitting outside, soaking up the weather, culture, sights and sounds. In Amalfi, we were sitting in the middle of the main piazza, where vehicles and foot traffic were part of the dining experience.

Eating our way through Italy

Traffic you can touch is part of the dining experience on the main piazza in Amalfi.

I’m being totally honest – I miss Italy. A lot. I appreciate the slower pace than we have here in the States. I felt that way after being in England for a while, too. It’s hard to incorporate the European lifestyle here at home, but we are definitely trying. We are eating dinner a little later than before. We are a little more aware of bringing the “slower food” concept into our home.

I think that is one of the best things about traveling – whether here in the States or abroad. There is always something to learn and appreciate about your surroundings, even if they seem odd, like eating dinner so late. (Though it certainly curbed late-evening snacking!) What I liked about the Italian dining experience was that people didn’t just shove food down their gullet to fill a hungry belly and rush off to an activity. They were unwinding from a long day. They were nourishing not only their bodies, but their minds and their souls. They were connecting with family and friends. They weren’t in a hurry.

Eating our way through Italy

Oh my, I couldn’t decide which was better – the chocolate or the apricot tart!

 

Yes, the wines, coffees, pizzas, pastas, paninis, pastries, cannoli, gelato and other foods and beverages were amazing. But it was the near-spiritual experience of dining that made such an impression on me as we were eating our way through Italy.

Ciao!

© Lynne Cobb 2017

Did anything you experience in your travels stick with you or made you want to change the way you did things when you returned home? Feel free to share in the comment section.

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16 Responses to Eating our way through Italy – a feast for body and soul

  1. Lynne, I loved this post. It took me back to when I spent time in Italy. I felt such a connection that I honesy was racking my brain trying to figure out hoe I could make it my permanent home. The food, culture and attitude of the people was incredible. So happy to hear that you had such an incredible experience!

  2. Ah, to see a country through their food. Delish!

  3. Lynne, I am jealous. I’m also very hungry right now, after reading about your dining experiences. Everything looked terrific. The “laid back” culture you described sounds great. I’m sure that John could compare this slow pace of eating with being in the service (lol). It’s so nice to see a well-deserving couple be able to enjoy some real quality time together. Thanks for posting. The pictures are great. I could almost taste the food.
    Bob Wonnacott recently posted…Life In The Ant HillMy Profile

  4. Pat says:

    Ah yes, the food in Italy is divine, but I still believe the French cuisine is finer. Of course, I am prejudiced. I married a Frenchman. Glad you had such a wonderful trip.

  5. Lovely post, Lynne. Yes, the dining experience in Italy is fabulous. Did you notice the consistent professionalism of restaurant waitstaff? Next time, if you can fit it into your schedule, consider a cooking class. We attended one in Varenna that was wonderful. And btw, when you return, you’ll feel like you’ve come home!

    • LynneCobb says:

      Yes, the professionalism was top-notch, even when I ordered cappuccino in the afternoon! We discussed a cooking class but didn’t have the time. Next time, for sure! When we “go home.” LOL

  6. These pictures are amazing!

    michelle combs recently posted…Adult Supervision RequiredMy Profile

  7. We spent three weeks in Italy and I never wanted to leave. The food is amazing! I want to be back there now.
    Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski recently posted…Majestic Madrid – Toledo -Valley of the Fallen and El Escorial – Spain Photo GalleryMy Profile

  8. Cindy L says:

    Looks like a yummy trip, Lynne! Bob W. came to one of my classes last night and reminded me that I needed to check out your blog. How nice that you had that much time with your husband in Italy, and that you enjoyed the lifestyle — and the cuisine!

    My favorite memories of Italy include time in Florence — so much beautiful art and architecture.
    Cindy L recently posted…A workshop to jumpstart your writingMy Profile

    • LynneCobb says:

      Our next trip will be to Tuscany and Florence. It is such a beautiful country, rich in art, architecture, culture and history. But the food!!! Ah, the food

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