Have you ever eaten a wild hyacinth bulb? Bittersweet lampascioni are a homegrown delicacy at Francis Ford Coppola’s Italian hotel in the sleepy hilltop town of Bernalda. Palazzo Margherita’s daily-changing menu is a tribute to fresh local produce, with the treasured, shallot-like lampascioni served alongside lamb and buttery potatoes in a bread-covered terracotta pot. Other highlights are artichoke salad and broccoli rabe orechiette topped with crisp breadcrumbs. Make sure to leave room for tiramisud, the chef’s ‘southern’ take on the classic Italian dessert: a contrast of dense, coffee-soaked sourdough bread and ricotta…
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Gozo, Malta’s second island, might not be everyone’s idea of a food destination. It keeps its secrets. But there’s great cooking here if you know where to look.
Start at Fliegu where owner Tony Grech is one of the best cooks on the island. His knowledge and passion for local food is inspiring and his signature rabbit dish – very local, very popular – is outstanding, moist, rich and packed with bay. Or go off-menu and ask him to make you kofta, a spiced goats’ cheese dish of extraordinary subtlety and depth…
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In the fruit and veg section of Palma’s Olivar food market, chef Marc Fosh points out bunches of tomatoes hanging on hooks above the stalls. They’re ramilettes and last for six months when hung properly, he says. ‘They have very little flesh, just juice and pulp, so they’re only used for pan am boli (toasted rustic bread, rubbed with tomatoes, olive oil and a little salt)’.
You can buy everything at Olivar, from Mallorcan olive oil to local cheese, wine and the famous spreadable sausage, sobrasada. The fish section is the busiest, and everything is still twitching fresh, from cap roig (scorpion fish), inky cuttlefish, corvine and cod to fabulous red prawns. In the meat section there are stalls selling sheep’s heads, tongues and sweetbreads and acorn-fed Iberico ham. It’s a good place to meet, shop and grab a glass of wine and some tapa…
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Before you head for the white sands of Sardinia’s beach-blessed coastline, pause in its overlooked capital and enjoy its culture and distinctive Italian island cuisine. The best place to view Cagliari’s elegant Mediterranean-backed sprawl is from the hilltop Castello district, set around the city’s massive medieval ramparts. Castello’s cobbled streets are the best place to find a hotel for the night, too.
Close by, and near the city’s excellent archaeological museum and impressive Roman amphitheatre, B&B Ferone 1947 has three immaculate rooms, with plush Egyptian cotton sheets, elegant earthy colours and free WiFi.
A short, panoramic, walk away lies one of Cagliari’s most atmospheric restaurants, Su Tzilleri ‘e Su Doge (Via San Croce, 3; 00 39 327 154 2216). Come here for farmhouse décor and casalinga-style Sardinian cooking: octopus stews rich with summer tomatoes, and feather-light, handmade culurjones de patate (Sardinian ravioli with beef ragu)…
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La Escondida (the hidden one) is a luxury hotel, 35 minutes’ drive inland from Alicante. It opened last October with just 10 rooms, each furnished with original beams and stonework, relaxing, muted colours, and views over a tranquil valley fringed with pine-forested mountains surrounding olive and almond groves and nterspersed with medieval Moorish watchtowers. It comes as a surprise that this isn’t the country’s latest parador, but a new venture from former England and Barcelona football manager Terry Venables and his wife Yvette.
They bought the estate 20 years ago, having fallen in love with the area, with the intention of doing something with it – a soccer school was one idea – when Terry left international football. In the event, they turned to hospitality…
Click here to read our full guide to eating and drinking in South-east Spain
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