Palazzo Seneca, Norcia, Italy: hotel and restaurant review
“Moviti!” Truffle hunting expert, Nicola, bellows across the densely tree-covered Sibillini Mountains in Umbria. “Lulu! Nina! Dove vai?” (“Where are you?”). A young black cocker spaniel emerges from under a large oak tree to deliver a black king (a prized local variety of truffle) to Nicola, while an older spaniel, Nina, keeps her nose to the ground in search of the next treasure.
Also in these mountains, within the stunning Sibillini National Park, is Norcia, one of the foodiest towns we have ever come across. Enter through one of seven gates in the town’s heart-shaped, ancient walls and you soon discover a network of paved streets rich with foodie delights – café and restaurant tables spilling onto pavements and traditional food shops, Norcinerias, packed with prosciutto, cheeses, spelt and truffles.
As well as abundant produce this area, in central Italy, is known for its warm welcome. True enough, 83-year old local, Elso, greeted us like we’d known him for years as we sipped on café marocchino in one of the town’s cafes (espresso with milk froth and a dusting of cocoa).
Find out more about our trip around Norcia here
Palermo, Sicily: Top 10 places to eat and drink
Sicily’s largest city is famous for its street food, but don’t miss the grilled fish, suckling pig cooked with pears and breakfasts (yes, really) of brioche buns filled with gelato. When it’s hot outside, pop along to Gelateria La Delizia for a soft brioche bun filled with rich gelato. We recommend the pistachio, almond and coffee. Why not get three to try them all? After that sweet fix, head on over to PerciaSacchi for the best pizza you’ll find in Palermo. The base is made from a sourdough starter, while the topping are strictly seasonal and local. After all the food, you’ll need a cold aperitif. Head over to Vineria Arrè Gusto for a craft beer and glass of wine from small producers.
Find out more about where to eat in Palermo here
Umbria, Italy: homestay holiday review
Stone archways, cobbled lanes and steps edged with scarlet geraniums link the tightly packed houses of Montecchio, Umbria. As we soon realise during our holiday here – a foodie homestay trip based at Casa Jole, a cosy and welcoming property just outside the village – Montecchio is the prettiest of the many stone-built medieval villages that dot the wooded hillsides south of Orvieto where mushrooms, truffles and chestnuts grow.
Wine and olives too, of course. The village is within the Colli Orvietani PDO olive oil zone (it also belongs to Italy’s Città dell’Olio network of olive oil-producing locations) and the Orvieto Classico wine area and is surrounded by vines.
Wine has always played a fundamental role in the local economy: the Etruscans invented an ingenious system for wine-making in Orvieto, digging three levels down into the tall spur of yellow tufa-stone which serves as a pedestal for the city, treading the grapes on the first floor, allowing the juice to flow down a level where it fermented in vats before being transferred to the lower floor for ageing.
Read more about the wine and food in Umbria here
Verona, Italy: best places to eat and drink
Wines from nearby Valpolicella, Soave and Custoza, in Verona’s busy bars, are perfect accompaniments for rich north Italian risottos, fluffy polenta and gelato made with wild fennel and figs. For a plate of creamy polenta, check out Al Bersagliere. They offer slow food, cooked by the owners wife, using only the best fresh ingredients. The focus really is on the ingredients – there are over 20 olive oils to choose from. If you’ve got a yearning for fish, head on over to Trattoria ai Piloti for paccheri ai piloti (pasta with prawns, tomato and aubergine) and scallop gratin. Midday on Sunday is the best time to go though, that’s when the seafood risotto is brought round.
Find out more about our trip to Verona here
Turin, Italy: best places to eat, drink & sleep
Scenically framed by the Milky Way mountains, Turin is often overlooked in favour of some of its flashier Italian city cousins. But with its Parisian-style boulevards, opulent baroque and neoclassical architecture (much of it built after the city became the capital of the Duchy of Savoy in the 16th century and, later, the first capital of a unified Italy) and kitchens that make great use of Piedmont’s bountiful natural larder, it’s worth putting on your must-visit list. Start at L’Osto del Borgh Vej for a bowl of creamy risotto or Piedmont’s famous vitello tonnato – veal with tuna mayonnaise. If you fancy a sweet treat afterwards, check out Pepino gelateria for a scoop of smooth gelato. Choose between gianduja, violet and coffee to name just a few.
Read more about where to eat in Turin here
Where to eat and drink in Parma, Italy 2016
We are spoilt for choice as to where to eat and drink in Parma (We’ve also got a guide to Parma on a budget). The city was recently named a UNESCO Creative City for Gastronomy and, at the city’s Borgo 20 restaurant, beneath prosciutto hung like silky delicates over a washing line, I discovered why. Parma ham must be air-dried for a minimum of 10-12 months to meet its PDO status. That’s the stuff you’ll find in UK supermarkets. But, after a couple more years the flavour and texture of the ham changes dramatically. Eating this sweet, mature, ham with my hands, body heat almost started to melt its buttery fat. The three-year-old ham is sweet, matured in flavour, and soft, the five-year-old, earthier and drier.
Next came organic salad leaves weighed down with shavings of black truffle – and later I spot piles of the treasured black rubble in the many greengrocers around the main square, I can’t resist buying one for only 20€. Then, risotto with punchy 30-month-aged parmesan, a slick of onyx balsamic and Parma’s other great fungi, sautéed porcinis. If you don’t get drunk on that heady smell, or the Malvasia they serve here (a gently sparkling white made in the Parma hills) a shot, or two, of Emilia-Romagna’s nocino, a bittersweet liqueur, made with young walnuts, should do it.
If you want to find out more about where to eat in Parma, read our full review here
Where to eat and drink in Rome, Italy
In search of Rome’s best carbonara, we started at the top. Restaurant La Pergola in the city’s Cavalieri Hotel is much-loved for three things – its panoramic view of the city, its fêted chef, Heinz Beck, and its signature fagotelli la pergola, a riff on Rome’s most famous dish. In Beck’s version, little parcels of pasta are filled with cream and pecorino and served with a white wine, courgette and guanciale (cured pig cheek) sauce. This, along with a theatrical dessert – a cream-filled red fruit sphere and crystallised raspberries – was the highlight of a tasting menu deserving of its three-star Michelin status.
Read more about eating in Rome here
Five of the best places to eat in Florence, 2016
Florence may be home to some of Italy’s richest architectural treasures but its kitchens are just as rich. To start your afternoon, stroll to Le Volpi e L’Uva for a glass of natural wine. The menu is always changing, so you can try something different and delicious every time you visit. If you fancy, you can order a plate of cheese to go with your wine, too. After a few glasses of wine, take a trip to Trattoria Mario for local food. With a n0-booking policy, you might have to wait but it’s worth it. Choose between veal, bean soup or pasta with artichokes. It’s a Florentine institution.
Read more about the best foodie places in Florence here
Alta Badia, Italy: Taste for Skiing and Sommeliers on the Slopes review
Unless you’re Lindsey Vonn, or so addicted to the white stuff that only the finest off-piste will do, then a ski trip should be like any other holiday – one dominated by good food and drink. And, on those terms, there are few more satisfying destinations than the Italian resort of Alta Badia.
Visiting amid reports that mountains across the continent were bare of that all-important component of skiing (snow), I’d been lured to this corner of the Dolomites with the promise of world-class cooking and fine wine. Indeed, no other valley in the Alps can boast a higher concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants than the pretty resort of Alta Badia: a fact its chefs are extremely proud of. So much so, that they take part in a yearly event called Taste for Skiing.
Find out more about Taste for Skiing in Alta Badia here
Where to eat and drink in Salento
In my white Fiat 500, I snaked hungrily along the coast heading towards Gallipoli, and the southernmost tip of Italy. I had come to Puglia, the province that teeters in the heel of Italy, to explore its west coast. A rocky landscape beside the Ionian Sea, dotted with wild, remote beaches, I was also discovering that this affordable, sun-kissed region makes an excellent foodie road-trip. Starting my four-wheeled tour, first stop was the town of Porto Cesareo. Here, I walked along a powder-white beach before lunching on fresh mussels and clams, their salty juices soaked up by pieces of fried bread, at Trattoria al Gambero (19 Piazza Nazario Sauro, 00 39 0833 569 123). With a terrace overlooking the marina it was an ideal spot to enjoy a glass of the local rosé, made with Negroamaro grapes. Not for me, though; first, I had more driving to do.
Read more about where to eat in Salento here
the team reminisce about their favourite foodie adventures in Italy; plus, editor Laura talks about the recent renaissance of authentic, regional Italian restaurants in the UK
olive magazine podcast ep62 – Gibraltar gastronomy and Italian food adventures