I saved the best of the senses for last—taste. I could write pages about the food in Italy. In fact, I’ve never eaten as much in a day as I did while in Italy, yet I only gained 2 pounds. All the walking keeps the weight off. It’s the perfect diet/exercise system, you get to eat and eat and not gain weight!
While in Italy, my day went something like this, eat breakfast, sight-see (which involved walking at least 6 hours a day), then around 1 p.m., when the shops all closed, we’d go for lunch. Lunch was followed by more walking. Then we’d head back to our home base, rest a bit, swim, then between the hours of 8:30 and 10:00 p.m. we’d go out for dinner. So much food. In fact, it felt like our day revolved around food!
A typical day in Italy started with coffee (Americano, cappuccino, etc.) and pastries. Most pastries were filled with chocolate. I’d buy something, thinking it looked like it had apples in it—nope, chocolate. It became a bit of a joke. However, when we came upon a larger pastry shop the selection was greater and you could buy everything from cupcakes, to croissants, to pastries with fruit, nuts, etc. While in Italy, I also ate a lot of biscotti. It’s so good dipped in your morning or afternoon coffee! You’d think a breakfast like this would be enough to pack on the pounds, but no, from here the day brought even more calories.
Lunch in Italy usually consisted of pasta or pizza. The typical Italian menu is broken down into many sections, so the mid-day and evening meal each had the potential for several courses. At first, we felt like we had to order something from each section! No! We soon figured out that we couldn’t eat that much food! Sometimes for lunch we’d order two or three antipastos and share them. This could be anything from a cheese plate with honey and figs, to stuffed squash blossoms, to prosciutto drizzled with truffle oil, etc. Super yummy. Most often, we’d try to eat our big meal mid-day. The pasta in Italy is the best, fresh and delicious. Sometimes it comes without sauce, for example, ravioli in truffle oil. My favorite pasta dish had a fantastic gorgonzola and walnut sauce—this dish was pure heaven.
Dinner was a different story, at least for me. I had a hard time eating pasta at 10 p.m. I just wasn’t hungry, so I’d often get a salad of mixed greens (Italy has the best butter lettuce, it melts in your mouth) or I’d get a bowl of Tuscan soup—if I could find it. My husband, however, loved ordering from all the sections on the menu. He’d get an antipasto, then a pasta dish, like pasta with olive pesto, then a beef dish (where they would bring a big hunk of meat to the table, cut off a piece, then take it away, prepare it and bring back, and finally the waiter would salt it for you at the table—quite a presentation). My husband also ordered a vegetable, and maybe a dessert. Who can eat that much? And he didn’t gain any weight!
Dinner was often followed with an espresso, or a limoncello, and/or a dessert. The tiramisu in Italy is wonderful, so much better than in the U.S. There is more whipped cream, less cake and rum. One of the best desserts I had was a ricotta cake. We were at a little restaurant right off the main piazza in Assisi. The cake was served on napkins and we ate it with our hands. Delicious!
I ate so many wonderful things in Italy. Here’s a list of my top favorites: caprese, pizza cooked in a wood-burning brick oven, pasta with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and fresh tomatoes, coconut gelato, lemon gelato, pasta with truffle oil and shaved truffles, eggplant parmesan, chocolate croissants, any of the cheeses—gorgonzola, pecorino, parmesan, goat—drizzled with honey, served with walnuts, capers (the best I’ve ever had), olives (also the best I’ve ever had). The melons were sweet. Cantaloupe wrapped with prosciutto is fabulous and refreshing. I had crepes stuffed with berries, chocolate layer cake with coconut, and cheesecake. I had ravioli stuffed with ricotta, and duck, and lemon. I’m not much of a meat eater, but my friend had a steak cooked in a balsamic reduction sauce that was out of this world!
Okay, okay, enough about food! Someday I’ll put up a list of some of the restaurants we ate at. Many were off the beaten path, in small hilltop towns I’d never heard of.
We never had a bad meal in Italy. How could you? Beauty surrounded us on a daily basis, both within our sight and on our plates!