Best Italian food trips for 2019
From the hilly mountains of Abruzzo to the stunning city of Bologna, we have eaten our way around Italy, and here are our top trips for 2019
Looking for places to visit in Italy? From hotel suites in Venice with private pools, to a foodie yurt retreat in Abruzzo overlooking olive groves. If you want Italian food and wine, check out our top trips from North Italy to the East coast of Italy.
Hotel Schgaguler, Dolomites
Pale wood and light hues dominate at Hotel Schgaguler, a central Castelrotto hotel surrounded by the Italian Dolomiti Superski region and all its endless ski runs. The food here is lighter than the hearty mountain fare of the surrounding mountains, with an Alpine-meets-Med twist. But the approach to ingredients remains as hyper-local as possible, making the most of what’s on the hotel’s doorstep. Eat light-as-a-feather gnocchi sprinkled with Alpine herbs, and drink milk supplied direct from local farms. The wine list is cherry-picked from Tyrolean producers further down the valley near Bolzano, and there’s a selection of grappa from neighbouring distilleries.
Fireflies and Figs, Abruzzo
Fern and Jono plot a celebration of Italian produce from dawn until dusk at Fireflies and Figs. Here, you can indulge in fresh and honest food with a hyper-local focus. Try handmade gnudi or sweet cherry ice cream laced with cherries plucked from the surrounding trees. Enjoy regional wines while overlooking rolling fields and olive groves and take the time to soak up the serenity of the Abbruzzi mountains. Be sure to spend your days exploring every direction. You’ll find bustling market stalls, quiet beaches and idyllic forests.
San Luis, Avelengo
Executive chef Arturo Spicocchi draws on modern Mediterranean influences to build a five-course dining experience at San Luis Hotel restaurant. Those and more local food traditions (while this is Italy, it's also very close to Austria; other highlights include the Weiner schnitzel with cucumber and potato salad, a modestly named "grill night" and locally produced Kohl apple juice). Each of the hotel's 22 chalet bedrooms feature refined yet rustic décor with many housing their own hot tubs and saunas for guests.
The Marriott, Venice
Venice has long been known for its iconic Italian landmarks and traditionally rich culture. And cooking is an intrinsic part of that culture. At the Marriott, Federico Belluco, one of Italy’s youngest Michelin starred chefs, demonstrates why, making the most of the island’s kitchen garden of herbs, edible flowers and vegetables in dishes such as silky tortellini or comforting seafood stew, all drizzled in Isola delle Rose olive oil, the only olive oil produced within the city's boundaries. The resort's luxurious bedrooms and suites are modern and minimalist. Particularly impressive are the Residenza suites, which come with private pools with views of Venice.
Bologna is well-known as a foodie hub in Italy, and for good reason. Local markets are teeming with people jostling for good Italian food and wine, and seeking foodie secrets rooted in Italian traditions. One place to unravel these secrets is Romagna. On a cookery course and foodie tour you can learn to view classic Bolognese dishes like strozzapreti , and enjoy the fruits of your hard work over a large glass of wine and good conversation. Visit Eataly, a foodie themed park in La Grassa, to browse traditional produce from all the country.
The Maremman landscape, a "hidden" corner of Tuscany, immediately speaks of food. It has a long, idyllic coastline of rocky islands and turquoise waters, wide areas of immense natural beauty filled with wild forests, swaying wheat fields, hills polka-dotted with olive trees, rambling vineyards, rampant prickly pears, wild animals (boars and deer are frequent visitors to backyards and even the beach) and ancient villages on hilltops with views of the sea.
A region within a region that runs the length of the Tuscan coast from the southern part of the province of Livorno to Lazian province of Viterbo, with the town of Grosseto at its heart. It’s closer to Rome than Florence, and the cuisine is influenced by its history of fishermen, hunters, farmers and butteri (cowboys), which means that the food – simple, straightforward, seasonal, thrifty – speaks clearly of its surrounding landscape of sea, forest and hills.
One-pot dishes are a favoured way of cooking in the area, whether it’s caldaro (a seafood stew traditional to the fishermen of Argentario), scottiglia, a braise of mixed poultry, or a soup of vegetables and a poached egg (known as acquacotta), there’s a prevalence of comforting, low-maintenance, easy-to-prepare dishes.
Foraged, fished and hunted foods take a leading role – wild boar, mushrooms, chestnuts, shellfish, eels and wild herbs make up some of the most local dishes. With many dishes born of poverty, there is a surprising selection of vegan or gluten-free options – legumes have long been a staple protein in the area, while polenta and chestnuts make alternative starchy bases for recipes from gnocchi to sweet treats. Like most peasant cuisine, it’s food that makes the most of a few fresh ingredients and provides a belly-filling and nutritious meal that’s simply delicious.
Words by Emiko Davies (March 2017)