Italy, Italy, Italy. I think I may have found my spiritual home. Having spent three and a half weeks travelling from Venice to the Amalfi Coast, England now feels damp and a little isolated. It was a glorious combination of sun-people-scenery-culture and of course food!
The tour began in Venice, and my, did it begin in style: riding in on a water taxi had us feel like movie stars for twenty minutes! This was a fascinating place, partly what I expected but equally surprising. With its crumbling canals and near tangible history it is rather magical. However, it felt almost like a film set due to the disproportionate ratio of tourists to locals.
Venice, as charming as it is crowded.
As our first taste of Italian food we weren’t disappointed. Although, now thinking back on the whole trip Venice was slightly lagging compared to say Bologna and Florence. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy great meals. I think you just have to be a little more careful where you choose to eat. For the best food and atmosphere you need to come away from the main strip and venture into the quieter canals. Oh, I also highly recommend hopping on a boat and visiting the islands – there was one so colourful even the drain pipes were pink!
Did you know Bologna is Europe’s oldest university town? It’s not one of Italy’s stand out destinations, but is therefore highly under appreciated. With none of the tourists of Venice, a student buzz, and outdoor cinema it was splendid. For lunch we ate under a ceiling full of hams, munching from wooden boards chockablocked with meat and cheese. Not forgetting the mammoth pizzas we devoured in a place just below the flat we were staying in – my mum was in the strange habit of ordering tomato-less pizzas… and the gourmet sorbets. We kept being surprised with free food, turns out they won’t serve you alcohol without a nibble – not that we were complaining.
Bologna, the under appreciated city.
Florence. Beauty, art, Florence. Here we stayed in the most incredible apartment, with a terrace sitting amongst the city’s rooftops. We of course visited the Uffizi – my brother (Jai) falling asleep at every available seat – and who knew a statue could be so attractive, David you charmer. The food matched the culture. If you’re after rustic and lively Osteria Santo Spirito is your place, or if you’re looking for refined elegance La Menagere is an utterly stunning restaurant come homeware shop. I wanted to move in. Also, don’t forget to check out the central food market. The produce will make you weep about having to shop in English supermarkets, and if you’re a fan of truffle there’s a whole stand dedicated to it upstairs!
Florence also produced the trip’s best ice cream – Nutella is even better given to you frozen and in a cone.
Beauty, art, Florence.
Away from the selfies and galleries we arrived in serene Tuscany. The B&B we stayed in was called Podere Salicotto and was up in the hills and with a salt water swimming pool – what more could you want?
Jai and I even woke up at seven to go on a two hour bike ride before breakfast – never again! Not even the thought of freshly made apricot cake could get me up those hills. A day trip to Sienna, sadly no horse racing, but we liked the church that looked like a mint humbug. Dinner required yet more cycling, down into the local town. The most memorable meal was in a truly family run restaurant where the menu was recited and the bill came in some unknown currency. But yum yum yum… until we had to cycle back up the hill. Tuscany really is the land of peace, sailing over in a hot air balloon at six in the morning was magical.
Roma with the Romans. I loved it so much I plan to go back in my gap year. Busy, unkempt, utterly charming. Although I had to persuade my mum that Roman ruins are fun, she could’t understand how they fought in the Colosseum when it had no floor… oh dear indeed. On Saturday night the river was lined with arcades, shops and eateries. It had an almost South Bank London feel – only they can guarantee the sun. Don’t worry, we were proper tourists here and ticked off all the sights with bowls of gnocchi to keep us going. But we won’t reminisce on when I managed to throw our apartment keys into the door, and I mean into. Two hours later and still sitting on the step with a coat hanger, the bellies were rumbling.
We went from monuments to ocean as we hit the Amalfi Coast. Initially I was hesitant as it was packed full of people. However, you can’t help but be swept away by the stunning scenery. Sunbathing on a platform built into the sea, or imagining where the writers used to have their wild romances in Amalfi. Of course we nipped into Naples for some pizza. Queuing for forty minutes, ala Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love (although she probably got a table quicker) – expectations were high. While the family didn’t agree that it was the best pizza they’d eaten, when I’m sitting hungry in the classroom it’s stuffing my face with a Neapolitan margarita I like to re-imagine. We had some fancy fish down by the water in Sorrento, and the most incredible pasta dish in Ristorante Mariana Grande. It was simply courgette linguini but… my, oh my…
Monuments to ocean on the Amalfi Coast.
Sitting here in Dorset, reminiscing, is making me long for the giant focaccia sandwich I munched at the train station in Rome, the raspberry tart in Florence, or yogurt in Tuscany. Not long now until I can put down the textbook and pick up the gelato!
*Edesia was the Roman Goddess of food who presided over banquets.