Wondering what foodstuff to bring back from your holiday in Italy? Prachi Joshi has a few suggestions.
From top to toe, the boot-shaped country is a food lover’s paradise. Pastas, pizzas, gelatos, wines, cheese, salami, and biscotti – you will always eat well when travelling through Italy. The cuisine varies across the regions and each place has a food specialty that is worth trying. But, if you are planning to bring back food gifts for family and friends (or for yourself), here are a few suggestions.
Amongst its many monikers, la grassa (the fat one) is the most apt name for Bologna – the unofficial food capital of Italy. The city, along with neighbouring Modena, forms the gastronomic hub in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. You will find a large variety of food options – ranging from cheap pizza slices to gourmet fine dining. A word of caution; if you go looking for Spaghetti Bolognese in Bologna, you will not find it since it is more of an adapted dish. In Bologna, the meat sauce is called ragu and is usually served with tagliatelle (a flat ribbon-like pasta).
While most shops in Via Pescherie Vecchie stock good quality products, A. F. Tamburini is your best bet to buy vacuum-packed salami and Parmigiano reggiano (Parmesan) cheese to bring back home. Another must-buy is balsamic vinegar, which is largely produced in Modena, but is available at most places in Bologna. Try Eataly on Via degli Orefici for a wide selection.
The quaint medieval town of Volterra in the province of Pisa, Tuscany is a little gem that you must visit when you’re in Italy. With history going back to the Etruscans (around 700 – 5 BC), Volterra is a history-buff’s delight. The region is also known for its top quality olive oil; the hills around Volterra are dotted with several olive groves, most of which run an agriturismo (home-stay on a working farm).
Podere San Lorenzo is an agriturismo with its own olive grove. You can rent a room or an apartment in the charming villa, have breakfast and dinner in the renovated 12th century chapel and take a Tuscan cooking class. Do not leave without buying a bottle of olive oil ( EUR15 per litre), fresh off the estate.
The most famous wine from Italy is no doubt the Chianti Classico, produced in the Chianti region of central Tuscany. Driving through the region, you will see several vineyards, set in the bottle green hills – a classic image of Tuscany. There are several grades of Chianti wine and Chianti Classico is one of the finest, with more robust flavours and aroma. Most vineyards in the region offer a tour and tastings so you can try several grades and then decide which one you like the best.
Greve and Radda are two places in Chianti where you can buy quality Chianti Classico. Be sure to check for the ‘black rooster’ label that certifies its authenticity.
Located on the famous Amalfi Coast of Italy, Sorrento is a small town in the Campania region. A popular tourist destination overlooking the azure blue waters of the Bay of Naples, Sorrento is known for Limoncello – a liqueur made from the rinds of lemons grown here. It is usually served cold, as a digestive after meals.
Limoncello is one of the most popular liqueurs in Italy and can be bought all over the country. It’s readily available in supermarkets as well. Check the sugar content; if it’s too high the liqueur will not be the best.
The romantic city of Venice in Italy’s Veneto region is touristy, yet besides the romance, the canals and the gondolas, Venice is known for its variety of biscuits. The bitter almond flavoured amaretti biscuits most likely originated from Venice, but are today more popularly known as amaretti di Saronno (a town in Lombardy region). Some typically Venetian biscuits include the baicoli – twice-baked and shaped like a sea bass – and the Bussola’ buranelli, which are S-shaped. Both are usually served with coffee into which they can happily be dunked.
Venetian biscuits are available at several supermarkets and cafes in the city. If you’re flying out of Venice’s Marco Polo airport, try La Bottega dei Sapori for all things gastronomic.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, since Italy has so many culinary gems to offer. So what did you bring back from your travels? Leave us a comment below and let us know.