Mangia- Italy makes everything a sensual experience.

April 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I say Italy, you think what- authenticity, arts, eats, fresh pressed wines, beauty, culture & passion? If so you’re right on, these guys don’t mess around.

The Italians know how  things work & visiting them this past summer made me want to give up my education to become a 24-hour-bread-baking-cheese-making mammina.  It may not be fancy, but this hearty loaf, hot out the oven, topped with some homemade ricotta (pronounced ree-cOtta) & sweet fig jam was blissful. This breakfast was perfect to kick-start our hike through Le Cinque Terre, five small villiages in the Italian Riviera.

One of my favorite parts of both the Riveira & Capri was how everything was growing so abundantly. With fig, apricot, lemon & kumquat trees, rosemary larger than me, fennel between every crack & enough grapes to make wine for the rest of eternity, anyone with taste buds would be happy here! Hiking in this area was quite a privilege. We trekked up steep stone steps, through olive groves, down tight alley ways, around pastel apartments & right in to a big tomato & pesto topped focaccia. Did I mention Le Cinque Terre is known for their pesto?

I can’t say there is anything better then a hot day of roaming through the outdoors, cooling off in the  Mediterranean, relaxing on a breezy ferry & tasting some seriously local chow. Despite the fact that Le Cinque Terre & Capri were extremely fertile & possessed a natural beauty beyond words, the cities boasted the best eats.

Not to say I liked one over the other, but we are talking about food here, right?

On the way from Capri to Florence we had to stop in Naples for pizza.  Honestly, WOW is the first thing that comes to mind when describing this simple pie. The whole experience was exhilarating. This pizzeria, La Pizzeria da Michele, claimed to be one of the oldest in all of Italy. It was tiny, with a huge fiery oven that was stoked constantly with wood chips. A prideful middle-aged waiter who seemed to be a seasoned professional scurried around plopping pizzas & mingling with the locals. The pizzaria served only Margherita or Marinara pizzas. We decided to order one Margherita seeing as we only had fifteen minutes to spare before catching our train. Our mistake however, was that we only ordered one. After finishing half of the pizza we decided (Shann convinced me) to take a risk & ordered another, this time the red sauce & oregano seasoned Marinara. Let’s just say the sprint to the train, pizza box in our hands & packs on our backs (no doubt looking like true Americans) was well worth it.

Florence definitely has some delicious food.  It was there, in the Piazza da Santa Maria, that I enjoyed my favorite cheese plate of all time & probably my favorite meal of the whole trip. Not to mention the chocolate, hazelnut & pistachio gelato (called bacio, kiss) from Slow Food affiliated, Grom. I guess it should be no surprise, seeing as Tuscany is known for their plentiful harvests & fresh food. When I say fresh, I mean it. Italians actually know where their meat comes from. We should take notes:

If you’re thinking, “hmm… a butcher, aren’t those extinct?” I would not be surprised, as they seem to be extinct here in the States. But non the less, this made me smile- he was smiling too before he realized some creepy girl was taking pictures of him.

The next pictures, both from Rome, bring back great memories. We never actually visited the cafe in the picture, but it sat in Piazza Navona along with Bernini’s Fountain of Four Rivers. That night mama fed us dinner. Literally. 22 Euro for a five course meal with no menu brought some serious laughs. 

Dinner began with wine & bread, then vegetables, cured meats & “baby mozzarella” (as seen to the right), two pasta dishes, a main dish, a lemon custard cake & a shot of mango juice. I was definitely full & smiling by the time I topped off mama’s cooking with a shot of mango sweetness.

Italy, for more than just the food, was amazing. If the chance ever presents itself, go & don’t think twice about it!

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