What To Eat In Italy
Food is my favorite thing in the world. (I’m a Hufflepuff remember?) Pizza was the love of my life…until I had gelato in Venice. I ate a lot in Italy. Anything from pizza, pasta, gelato, a cannoli, a panini, cheese plates, I ate it all. Going into this I had budgeted out about two gelatos a day aside from meals that weren’t already paid for. I was planning on eating a lot of gelato okay. So much so, I lost count on how many I had by day three.
Gelato, gelato how I love thee.
While I consumed my weight in gelato, I did try ordering it myself in Italian every now and then, but I can’t for the life of me tell you how to do so if you asked me now. It’s more of an in-the-moment-in-Italy thing okay. I had an affair with gelato. I ate a lot of gelato. I lost count. It was amazing. I fell in love. The gelato was also different in every city we went to. The city with the best gelato was Venice. I had a chocolate gelato there that tasted like a cloud of whipped chocolaty goodness, mixed with jeweled dark chocolate pieces between the cloud swirls. It was a little more expensive than most of the gelato places we went to, but it was worth the extra Euro. Don’t tell pizza.
Eat like the locals do.
The best way to eat in Italy, or anywhere you travel really, is to find where the locals go. Thankfully I brought my translator who ordered for me in Italian, but most of everything we ate was way cheap and super good. You could Google and Yelp these places, but the best way to find a good, cheap, local place to eat, is to get lost and stumble upon them or simply follow the locals. Don’t stalk them or anything, but stand there and observe where they go in for food versus the guy with the Canon around his neck, wearing a travel belt.
Venice was the city where my brother and I tried this local theory the most and it’s how we found the best gelato and the cheapest lunches. These kinds of meals are also smaller portions, which is perfect for me personally, especially if you’ve timed a gelato every two hours. They’re easy items you can grab on the go or sit and savor. It varies but there were a lot of slices of pizza, calzones or sandwiches where you could taste each ingredient because everything was so fresh.
Eat a meal that is homemade. Like legit homemade.
One of our days in Tuscany, we went to a small family vineyard for a wine tasting. This was by far one of my favorite experiences on this trip. Not only did I learn about the wine that I was drinking, but I learned how to drink it—how to savor it, how to appreciate what was awakening my taste buds. I don’t remember how many glasses of wine I had, but I do remember them bringing out their grandmother’s lasagna…with truffle oil. I don’t think you understood what I just said…Their. Grandmother’s. Lasagna. All I kept thinking was: Is this real life right now?
This experience had me fully immersed in a culture while I was learning something new, about my favorite thing, food. So, yes, I would highly recommend this as an experience on your bucket list. Going to smaller cities that aren’t as touristy is the best. It’s quiet and peaceful and there is great food. We also visited a family owned shop in an old, small medieval town that sold every Italian cookie you didn’t know existed. They are hand made and a great pick-me-up as an afternoon snack, right before your noon scheduled gelato. Also, note to self: you should definitely get married in a vineyard…to a human, not a pizza. (Sorry pizza.)
Splurge for your taste buds. Trust me.
While we were on a budget, we still managed to eat delicious food. I wasn’t going to leave Italy without having an amazing meal that I splurged on. So, when in Rome, we did. We stayed in a local area in Rome where there were a lot of new restaurants. Walking around scoping out where to eat in Rome was just like having something new around every corner, you won’t go hungry in Rome…or in Italy for that matter. In the evenings, there were kids playing in the streets and in the afternoons locals were sitting outside having their mid-day espresso.
There were so many options to choose from in Rome. My brother and I opted out of a super expensive meal by the Trevi Fountain. Instead, we took a walk and stumbled upon a little restaurant on the corner of a cross section, a few blocks away from our hotel. There was an old Italian man sitting outside eating his meal, his cane rested on the arm of the chair next to him.We were sold.
I have never had a Ratatouille moment until I ate in that small corner restaurant in Rome. Let me tell you, Remy was right. I had to have a cheese plate in Italy, and the one they served us was a plate meant for the Roman gods. Here’s the secret: Italians like to eat ingredients and let the flavors work together as you slowly introduce each one inside your mouth. I can’t explain what happened, but I cried. Legit cried. The explosion of flavors inside my pallet was like Magic Kingdom fireworks on the 4th of July. I have never shed a tear for flavor and I finally understood what eating food tasted like. Why do we eat so much crap?
Eat like an Italian.
Time is slower in Italy, wayyyy slower. While sometimes we are so consumed with what’s next, Italians are still sitting there sipping their cappuccino on a quiet Monday afternoon. Just eating. Just drinking. Just enjoying that moment in time. Watching people do this made me realize how much I pair the simple task of eating with something else. I’m always eating and watching TV, I have my food in front of my computer when I’m working, I’m eating and listening to music, checking my phone or reading. I’m never just eating. Just sitting outside, eating.
Multitasking doesn’t really exist in Italy like that, time is presently peaceful. Food for them is a leisure activity. They enjoy it because that’s what they’re doing in that moment—they’re eating. That’s it, nothing else. They might converse with a friend or read the paper every now and then, but that’s only after they’re done eating. And let me tell you, food tastes better when the only thing you’re doing, is just eating it.
A couple of weeks after returning home, after I had eaten a ton of tacos and enchiladas after taking a break from pizza and pasta, I missed Italy and I caved. I went to a coffee shop and bought a Panini to-go. I found a bench outside and I just ate it. No headphones, no phone, just sandwich—alone. The idea sounds a bit weird right? Or maybe you’ve mastered this, and you know what this feels like, but for someone always on the move and looking to save time, this was a new venture for me to try and implement in my everyday life. I got some stares, mostly from those people on the go. But, I enjoyed the moment and my lunch break actually lasted longer. Probably because I was living in the moment and simply eating a sandwich. I try to do this at least once a week just to remind myself how the Italians live in time.
Other things you might not know…
- A shot of espresso really does wake you up instantly. This will help if you are experiencing jet lag.
- They also don’t really do chicken in Italy, so bring the Tums, you’re gonna eat a lot of meat…or eggplant. Give yourself a break from the meat, choose the eggplant on Tuesday.
- Dipping bread in oil, that’s not a thing in Italy.
- Chicken Alfredo is also not a thing in Italy. Sorry Olive Garden lovers, you’re going to just have to enjoy different ingredients exploding in your mouth for once.
- Wine is always on the table, this is a good thing. Wine in Italy doesn’t give you a hangover because it doesn’t have the preservatives that wine has here in the States. So, drink away!
- An espresso after dessert is always a good idea. Cuz then you’re still awake after the food coma to go get one more gelato. Duh.
Lovely Life Lesson:
If I learned anything from eating in Italy…it was to savor and enjoy the moment. That you can have all the time in the world if you just take a second to enjoy the moment that you’re living in right now. Food should always make you happy. Heck, cry if the cheese is that good, it’s okay. Pizza will forgive you for cheating on it with gelato. So don’t count calories while you’re having the affair with gelato.
Eating and learning about what you’re eating, makes the food taste better. Experiencing something new while you’re eating will also help savor the moment more. Try new things, get your favorite things, but enjoy it. You can still budget and eat a good meal at least once on your trip. In fact, you deserve it, and your taste buds will be forever grateful.