One of the first things that comes to mind when people think of Italy is the iconic cuisine. Pasta, gelato, tiramisu, cannoli, pizza… With so many options for delicious dishes, a holiday in Italy is a foodie’s dream.
To get your taste buds tingling, we’ve compiled a list of the best places to find the most scrumptious Italian specialities to enjoy during your holiday.
Pasta: Italy’s most popular dish
Pasta is perhaps the dish that’s most associated with Italy and you’ll truly be spoilt for choice. From freshly made tortellini and ravioli, to pasta dishes such as carbonara, lasagna, spaghetti alla puttanesca and spaghetti cacio e pepe, all topped off with a generous helping of grated parmesan, Italy is a pasta lover’s dream.
The aforementioned tortellini famously has its origins in Modena, a region located 90 miles north of Florence. With traditional recipes perfected and passed down from the nonnas (grandmas) of Italy, you won’t have any trouble finding your favourite pasta dish.
Gelato: A must for those with a sweet tooth
You can’t have a holiday in Italy without sampling the traditional gelato. In fact, having a scoop or two of gelato each day is nothing to feel guilty about as it’s the norm! More creamy and flavourful than normal ice cream thanks to its lower amount of butterfat, there’s no artificial colouring in the best gelato and the fruit-flavoured gelatos (also known as ‘sorbetto’) is said to contain more vitamins… That’s enough to win us over!
If you’re looking for delicious gelato, Florence is the place to visit! The modern version of this refreshing delicacy is widely thought to be created by Bernardo Buontalenti, a resident of Florence. Today, Florence is filled with traditional gelaterias and is reputed to be one of the best cities in Italy for gelato.
Coffee: Enjoy a brew by the masters
Italian coffee has long been regarded as the best brew in the world thanks to the love that’s poured into it. Like many Italian delicacies, coffee is considered an art form, so the standard of coffee in Italy is very high.
Coffee lovers should head to Naples, the birthplace of the espresso. Get your caffeine kick at a sidewalk café and enjoy a delicious cannoli with your brew as you watch the world go by. It’s the perfect opportunity to sit back and relax.
Make your Italian holiday dream a reality
If your stomach is rumbling at the thought of all this heavenly food, book a holiday to Italy to give your taste buds a treat (or two)! With so many great places to visit in the country, let Eurocamp help you explore all the wonderful culinary surprises and satisfy your hunger, thanks to many of their holiday parc locations located close to these delicious Italian cuisine hotspots.
*This post has been sponsored by Eurocamp
A perfect balance of zen and hippy vibes to rejuvenate the mind, body and soul
Daily meditation, world-class yoga, nourishment and holistic therapies, Kali Yoga, has it all, making it the perfect retreat to re-balance, escape modern life, and submerge in daily practice.
This 7-day retreat combines daily Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga classes and activities that focus on awaking 'the inner you'. Teachers are on hand to help you break down each pose to allow your body and mind to engage with each asana (posture). Whatever your level of expertise from beginner to advanced, a positive outlook and eagerness to learn will set you up for regular practice and healthier choices when you return home leaner, healthier and happier.
Kaliyoga’s menu varies according to the season. Each day yogis are treated to inspiring and delicious culinary treats from raw salads to super food, with a daily mid-afternoon raw food snack - a welcome treat after relaxing in one of the hammocks or taking a dip in the on-site pool. You’ll be inspired by the recipes and the chefs - be ready to jot down a recipe or two!
What to pack
Not sure what to bring? We recommend:
Kaliyoga is perfect for anyone with a desire to revitalise and a curiosity to explore yoga and meditation as a way to get to know their body better. After spending a week at Kali Yoga, I have a renewed passion for yoga and healthy eating.
To book, visit www.kaliyoga.com.
Rosanna J. Head
Sardinia is known for its spectacular coastline and hidden beaches, but it is also one of the most ancient lands in Europe and its rich archaeological heritage can be seen in the interior of the island, too. Sardinia has many fascinating places still waiting to be explored...
Top Secret Cuisine Fusion
Sardinian with Catalan. Alghero’s Catalan past is evident in its street names (such as Carrer del Bisbe) its cultural heritage, its traditions and its cuisine. Even the Town Hall proudly flies the red and yellow striped flag to announce its allegiance and the ‘Sardinian’ dialect of Alghero is officially recognized as a variant of Catalan.
Among Alghero’s foodie treats, don’t miss the Aragosta alla Catalana (lobster served with tomatoes and onions) Cassola de Peix (a rich fish soup) and Polpo alla Catalana (a refreshing octopus salad). These dishes are all descended from Catalan specialities but have a Sardinian twist, just like the crema bruciata – a puff pastry roll filled with cream and covered with burnt sugar, reminiscent of the more famous Catalan crema catalana. For wine lovers, there are interesting local white wines produced with grapes brought by the Catalans such as Torbato and Vermentino. Try out the fabulous restaurants in Alghero’s old town – the maitre d’ is sure to be happy to advise.
Top Secret Frescoes
Bosa is a delightful town on the west coast. It’s a surprise to the senses when you first come across its brightly-coloured houses on the riverbank and beyond. But the real secret in Bosa is a little harder to find. Take your time wandering the narrow cobblestone streets (Bosa is a town founded by the Phoenicians) where you may well come across a decorative festa or the popular local market featuring artisan crafts of the area. Then walk through the olive groves and blue jasmine up the winding stone steps to the castle, which offers spectacular views of the church of San Pietro, the Temo river valley and the red roofs of the Sa Costa quarter. But the secret lies within the small fourteenth century Nostra Signora di Regnos Altos chapel. Restoration in the 1970s has brought to light the most stunning cycle of Catalan school frescoes – unexpected, vivid and truly beautiful to behold.
Top Secret Beach
Although there are some stunning secluded coves on the southern coast between Chia and Teulada, my choice would be Cala Domestica in the west. Head for the old mining town of Buggerru, where you can still see some of the caves, tunnels and buildings used in this industry, now crumbling and abandoned. Beyond Buggerru, take the SP83 into the mountains (a spectacular drive and you will see more deserted mining villages on the way) then take the signposted right turning down to the secluded beach of Domestica overlooked by a solitary Spanish tower. Park on the grass and walk the boardwalk past deserted mining buildings over the dunes to the beach. Its fine white sand is peppered with bright mineral specks and the water is blue and clear as glass. This is a perfect place to snorkel as the waters of Sardinia abound with flora and fauna. But you will also see a path that leads intriguingly around the rocky promontory. Follow this until you reach a tunnel through the rocks and on the other side you will find the tiny bay of Caletta, invisible from both the sea and Cala Domestica, lying at the mouth of a river surrounded by myrtle and juniper-scented maquis.
Top Secret Catacombs
Further down the coast towards southern Sardinia you can visit another island –Sant’Antioco, which is connected to Sardinia by a causeway. Here the remains of a Roman bridge are still visible from the road. This ancient town was also founded by the Phoenicians (in the eighth century BC) and was a flourishing port until pirate raids in the Middle Ages led to its gradual decline. The town itself is very pretty, but climb up to the church and look for the man with the key who will be pleased to let you in to see the catacombs through the transept. The catacombs are underground caverns, in which the first Christians met clandestinely to celebrate rituals and to bury their dead. The chambers are less than six feet high and some are decorated with frescoes. If you sense a slightly ominous vibe, this may be because the martyred patron saint of Sant’Antioco is said to have floated here after he was killed by the Romans in Africa... In fact, you can still see the altar-sarcophagus, which apparently held his relics once upon a time.
Top Secret Sculpture
This has to be the elephant sculpture on the Torre dell’Elefante in the Castello district of Sardinia’s lovely capital city of Cagliari. Cagliari is a great place for history – you can visit the old Roman amphitheatre, the elegant houses and arcades of the Via Roma on the promenade and walk around the old City Walls. As you do this, why not visit the Romanesque Santa Maria Duomo which boasts a fine multi-coloured marble interior, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Porta dei Leoni.
If like me, you can’t find the Torre dell’Elefante at first, let alone the secret sculpture, it’s a mediaeval tower made of limestone bricks, 31 metres high and is situated right by the City Gate at Via Universita. It was built by local architect Giovanni Capula in 1307 and for 4 euro you can walk up the 120 steps for a magnificent view of the city, the harbour and the distant mountains. The tower was once used as a prison and the heads of the executed were put on display. Nice. But the secret lies in whether or not you can spot the elephant on the tower – the reason why it was so named.
The Little Theatre by The Sea by Rosanna Ley is out on 9th March (Quercus, £20.99).
There are few people over whom Italy fails to cast its spell - of all European countries, it seems to offer a mix of food, history, culture, landscape and architecture so spellbinding that hardly anyone who visits fail to return. Considering its relative compactness, too, it’s remarkable for its wealth of desirable destinations: so many areas have such a gorgeously glowing reputation that it can make choosing one single place to visit a comparatively tough task.
Tuscany has long held travellers in its thrall, overshadowing its neighbour Umbria with glamorous ex-pat tales of farmhouse restorations and ancient frescoes springing up behind stripped wallpaper - but that’s actually quite happy news for the rest of us, as it means that this glorious region remains relatively undiscovered and infinitely more charming.
Placed bang in the centre of the country, Umbria is known as the ‘green heart of Italy’ - a name which suits its verdant, rolling hills, which are peppered with pinkish towns that cling to hillsides in glorious feats of gravity defiance and glow rosily at sunset. Explore these on foot to fully appreciate their steep, winding loveliness, where just the turn of a corner brings you face to face with either beautiful medieval architecture, a breathtaking vista, or a sight as simple as local store owners standing outside, with faces turned up to the sun … sometimes even all three.
Visitors to Umbria are understandably drawn to legendary sites like Assisi, but we took the bold move of avoiding it altogether, preferring instead to delve into villages with names less instantly recognisable: Todi, Cannaro, Scheggino, Monte Castello di Vibio… The appearance of each is picture-postcard “Umbria” but don’t allow this sense of quasi-familarity to fool you into thinking that you already ‘know’ these places .. each has its own unique highlights and charms, whether it’s a cramped alcove under some stairs in which St Francis was housed on his travels (Cannara) or the gloriously ornate Teatro della Concordia in Monte Castello di Vibio - the smallest theatre in the world, so ornately decorated and trinket-like that not being able to scoop it up and thrust it in your pocket doesn’t quite seem to make sense…
What to do
Eating is, of course, one of Italy’s most irresistible siren-songs - no mean feat, when its other enormous appeals are taken into consideration - and Umbria is an ideal place to sample much of what the country has to offer, especially as so many specialties are produced within this area. Head to Urbani Tartufi for the most wonderful truffle products, stay at agriturismo Zafferano e Dintorni in San’Anatolia di Narco to experience life on a saffron farm - or time your stay to coincide with Cannara’s annual late-summer Festa della Cipolla (Onion Festival) where visitors have the opportunity to sample completely onion-based menus at a variety of locations, as well as to enjoy the atmosphere of the produce markets lining the streets. Many of the restaurants in the region proudly showcase the best of Umbria’s edible specialities: at Il Rientro in Collemancio (not far from Cannara and itself the site of Roman and medieval monuments) we feasted on homemade pastas and pizzas delicately flavoured with truffle and onion, plus prosciutto shaved into impossibly thin slices in front of us, alongside sharp, creamy cheeses and a hearty lentil-based soup.
Umbria is also steeped in culture and there is no shortage of museums and galleries to visit, as well as richly decorated churches - the church at Montefalco , in particular, is stunning. The Museum of Wine in Torgiano provided fascinating insights into the history of one of our favourite tipples; nearby, The Museum of Olive Oil was similarly interesting - all the more so as we’d just had a mind-blowingly good lunch at Lungarotti, where we’d supped amply on both. Of course, wine and food can eventually take their delightful toll, leading you to either want to work it off with some physical activity or collapse in a blissed out stupor - for which the adults-only Borgobrufa Spa Resort is marvellous, not least because its heated pool leads (literally) swimmingly outdoors, where you can take in the most wonderful views of the surrounding terraced countryside while you drift around in the soothingly warm water. For those with a thirst for adventure, Umbria’s landscape, which soars to high points in the Appenines and swoops down to low-lying lakes and valleys, provides the perfect setting for a number of outdoor pursuits, from mountain biking and hiking, to rock climbing and white water rafting.
Where to stay
There’s no end of choice when it comes to accommodation in Umbria - many old buildings have been refurbished for this very purpose, often with a faithful attention to the preservation and restoration of original features. We wanted a rural setting with proximity to Perugia, where the thrum of a lively student population blends effortlessly with awe-inspiring antiquity: enter Castello di Monterone , a medieval castle, with sweeping panoramas of the verdant Umbrian countryside beyond its crenellated edges. Each of the castle’s 18 rooms boasts exquisite details and unique character, while suits of armour and other curiosities dot the warren-like maze of public spaces. The restaurant is very good - head to the terrace for the best atmosphere and view, and take time out from exploring in the rose garden, or with some genuine chill-time in the pool, spa and wellness facilities.
*During my stay I was hosted by Regione Umbria, www.umbriatourism.it.
All words and opinions are my own.
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As I arrived at JW Marriott Venice by private boat charter (the only way to travel if you ask me), I thought to myself 'This is the life.' Sadly, my daily commute normally consists of being squashed on the London Underground with a stanger's armpit in my face, but for a few glorious days, I was able to pretend that luxury boat travel - and a seriously luxurious suite - was my norm.
Click here to read the full review
What to see and do when visiting the Amalfi Coast...
There are few places in the world more naturally stunning than the Amalfi Coast. A breathtaking assault on the senses, it lures you in like a seductive siren from the moment that you arrive. Pastel houses cling precariously to the jagged cliffs, providing their occupants with spectacular views of the aquamarine waters below.
It's safe to say that those with vertigo (or the health and safety obsessed) are probably best giving this destination a miss, as steep cliffs with gasp-inducing drops are par for the course here.
And let's not even mention the roads. Locals have no qualms zipping around hair-pin bends at break-neck speed, happily passing on double yellow lines - even on blind corners. But hey, what's the good life if you can't live a little! From the smiles on everyone's faces, it would seem that any cares quickly dissipate after taking in the views and enjoying a slower pace of life.
What to Eat and Drink on the Amalfi Coast
Wherever you go, the food is fantastic. Meals here are a leisurely affair, with both visitors and locals whiling away the hours in restaurants and cafes, eating and drinking while taking in the sun.
Seafood is fresh and abundant here, which means you'll be able to find many restaurants along the beach serving the catch of the day, which is typically freshly grilled. After a delicious meal, enjoy an ice cold Limoncello (an Italian liqueur made from lemons), which feels remarkably refreshing - especially if you've indulged in a carb-laden meal!
Restaurant and Italian Cooking class in Salerno
If you're looking for a bit of food inspiration, visit Al Convento in the quaint village of Cetara in Salerno. This traditional Italian restaurant and pizzeria in the heart of the Amalfi Coast, is the perfect place to enjoy Italian fare with a Mediterranean twist.
If you fancy trying your hand at whipping up your own Italian delicacies, sign up for one of Al Convento's cookery courses, where you'll learn how to prepare a variety of traditional dishes like Mama used to make.
16 Piazza San Francesco
Cetara Salerno, 84010, Italy
Boating on the Amalfi Coast
A boat trip is a must during any visit to the Amalfi Coast. From the vantage point of the boat, you can see the Coast in all of its spectacular glory.
If you have a skipper's license, you can charter your own boat for a full or half day. For those who aren't as sea savvy, you can hire a boat complete with a skipper, from a variety of companies.
Positano Boats has a great selection of beautiful boats to choose from and will also provide you with a map, so that you can easily navigate your way along the Coast.
As each town along the Coast is as beautiful as the other, it's worth taking the time to stop off at a variety of destinations to see the charms of each area first-hand.
Top Tip: If you want a dining experience fit for Bond, dine at La Conca del Sogno. Accessible only by boat, this stunning restaurant is in a league of it's own. After all, it's all about location, location, location!
Shopping on the Amalfi Coast
If it's shopping you're after, Positano is the destination in the Amalfi Coast for seeking retail therapy.
For a truly bespoke experience, treat yourself to a pair of luxury handmade sandals at Safari. Located just above Positano's main beach, here you'll find a wealth of supple leather straps and decorative accessories to choose from for the creation of your sandals. At only 40-50 Euros per pair, it's a snip for how luxurious you'll feel. We guarantee you'll be looking for any excuse to show off your beautifully adorned feet!
Italian Ceramics in Positano - Ceramica Assunta
Italy is renowned for its ceramics. At Ceramica Assunta, you'll be spoilt for choice with the dizzying array of ceramics on offer.
I love the geometric-patterned ceramics, which feel both modern and sophisticated while maintaining a traditional charm. If you're worried about your luggage weight, there's no need, as they will happily provide international shipping to most destinations.
Accommodation on the Amalfi Coast
Accommodation on the Amalfi Coast is renowned for being eye-wateringly expensive, so ensure that you book early to save on costs.
You'll find a wealth of unique (and relatively reasonably priced) accommodations on the Costa Divina website.
For those who want to treat themselves and completely blow the budget, hire a private villa fromBorgo San Michele.
Canals and Canaletto - be seduced by the city of serenity...
Architectural porn at its best
There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Venice. Using words and phrases such as 'Awe-inspiring’, ‘beautiful’ or ‘wondrous’ seems an injustice to this truly magnificent city unlike any other.
Quite simply, it’s pure architectural porn. Around every corner, architectural delights await. It seems as if the buildings are trying to outdo one another, which anyone with an appreciation for fine buildings and intricate detail, will love.
From the shabby chic allure of the subtle graduation in the bricks of ancient buildings (a result of years of erosion), to exquisitely ornate churches and endless stunning squares and beautiful bridgesthat have withstood the test of time, it all blends together harmoniously.
Remarkably, the buildings remain in relatively good condition, which is an impressive feat given that their foundations remain submerged in water, with the ground floor level of many houses rendered unusable as the canal has taken over.
In Venice keeping up with Joneses requires a big boat and even bigger wallet. Here, it’s not about the car you drive, but the boat you have, which is understandable when you see the vast amount of canals in this magical city. And frankly, it’s the only way to see and be seen.
If it's good enough for the dashing Mr. Clooney and his blushing bride Amal, then it receives top marks in our books.
Visit Tours in Italy to book your own canal cruise.
The way that the gondoliers handle their gondolas is an art form in itself, requiring nerves of steel and upper body strength as they paddle their way through the maze of narrow canals, skillfully pushing off the sides of the walls with their foot as they avoid other gondolas during the busy rush hour.
Boaters on the canal take a more carefree approach to the task at hand, leading one to believe they aren’t paying attention (often using their bums to control the steering handle), but their nonchalance is simply that of someone who has been at the helm of a boat since they could walk.
Lose the map – you never know what you might discover…
Half of the fun of being in Venice is getting lost in the small streets and alleyways, which run along the canal. Snake through the charming squares bursting with life, and enjoy people watching at its best, one of the many pleasures to enjoy.
Streets are poorly marked, so don’t stress too much as you’ll eventually find your way by trial and error. If you’re really struggling, ask a local (which isn’t always as easy as the place is crawling with tourists) and they’ll happily point you in the right direction.
Satisfy your sweet tooth
Whatever you do, ensure that you visit one of the many gelatarias with to-die-for gelato. Quite simply, no one does ice cream better than the Italians and that’s a fact.
For Venice travel guides, visit Foders Travel. Or, try Tours By Locals for a friendly local guide to show you the city's delights.
We've rounded our favourite places to inspire your visit to Italy.