Holidays in Italy for foodies

Italian food – just the words are enough to get the mouth watering.

Italy has a number of iconic and specialist dishes specific to different regions. If you want to sample the best that its gastronomy has to offer – especially in those parts of the country where it is at home ­– you might want to give serious consideration to a multi centre holiday in Italy.

According to the website Made in Italy, Italian cuisine dates back to the 4th century BC and today may be divided into 20 different regional styles of cooking – quite enough to justify more than one multi centre holiday in Italy!

Just to whet your appetite, here are just a few regional specialities:

Take the tiny region of Abruzzo, for instance, tucked away in the middle of the country’s Adriatic coast. The website Rustico Cooking describes this rarely visited and sparsely populated area as one of Italy’s unknown treasures.

Thanks to its location, fish dishes feature in many of the region’s recipes, whether as the main course or in a hearty soup. Meanwhile, pasta is the favoured first course in Abruzzo, as it is in many other Italian regions, whilst polenta tends to be reserved for heavier meat dishes and sauces – often containing spicy sausage.

At quite the opposite end of the popularity scale is the practically revered Tuscany, which has been attracting well-heeled visitors and tourists since the Golden Age.

The use of deceptively simple ingredients in Tuscan cooking, including vegetables, beans, unsalted bread and rich olive oil, enlivened with herbs and spices, such as fennel, rosemary and thyme, lends the flavours of Tuscany that are uniquely distinctive.

Sicily is the Mediterranean’s largest island and something of a melting pot of many different cooking styles that emerged from its 10,000-year-old history. Here, therefore, you might find influences from the ancient Greeks, Arab traders, the Spanish and the French. The result is an exciting blend of stuffed pasta and rice dishes featuring skewered fish and meat, followed by desserts that are heavy in almonds or honey.

Compared to Sicily, Sardinia is perhaps less well-known but it retains a distinct atmosphere of mystery that makes for a particularly romantic holiday.

The cultural influences in Sardinia tend to be typically Mediterranean, with flavours from the Phoenicians to the Arabs, the Greeks, Spanish and French. While fish and seafood are favoured, meat dishes are still popular, making use of the island’s herds of sheep and wild boar, along with hare and other animals.

This region is probably best known for the wonders of its capital city, Venice, and it has as many different styles of cooking as it has landscapes with cuisine coming from the mountains in the north, across the rolling hills of the interior and down to the lagoon of Venice and the beaches of the Adriatic.

In this region you’ll find a tendency towards hearty meats and stews in the mountainous villages, with more delicate fish-based dishes on the plains and coast.

Lazio plays host to the Italian capital of Rome and it is practically a must-see on any multi centre holiday in Italy. Here you will find simple flour- and water-based pastas, vegetables, including the famous artichokes, and dishes of lamb and pork.

This whistle stop tour of just a handful of Italy’s culinary regions hardly does justice to the rich variety of dishes and styles. You might just have to visit some of them yourself to experience all that the country has to offer to the foodie and ordinary visitor alike.

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