Located right on the border with Slovenia, Trieste, in the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, has all the characteristics of a frontier town. The city has always been at the centre of an historical crossroads with the Venetians, Slavs, Austrians, and Italians all laying claim to it during its two-thousand-year history. Unsurprisingly all of these people have left their mark on the city, its culture, and of course, its food.
See Naples and … well, eat! As well as having the reputation for being one of the most lively and naturally beautiful cities in Italy, Naples is also considered by Italians to be one of the foodie centers of the peninsula. I recently spent a weekend in the shadow of Vesuvius and here are my top five must eats if you are visiting the city.
I think it was Woody Allen in his film Midnight in Paris who said that Paris was the only city in the world more beautiful in the rain. Well, unfortunately I wasn’t in Paris last weekend but in Padua and there was a lot of rain. Padua (or Padova as it’s called in Italian) is undoubtedly a beautiful city but when it’s raining you tend to stay under the porticos to keep dry, patiently waiting for the sun to come out so you can see the buildings. I did a lot of patiently waiting over the weekend.
If Bologna is the city of colonnades, Modena, its near neighbour is the city of bicycles. There are hundreds all over the town and are the preferred way for the locals to navigate the centro storico lending the city a tranquil air. There are also colonnades which give the town the look of a small Bologna but that’s where I will stop the unfair comparisons, for Modena is a city in its own right, with a proud history, and a very impressive culinary culture.
I first visited Verona thirty years ago. I was in Venice having lunch with an aunt and two cousins who I had never met before. During the memorable lunch, which you can read about here, it emerged that my eldest cousin, Silvia, sang in the chorus at the Arena di Verona—a well-preserved Roman amphitheater where a summer season of operas are staged in a manner that Cecil B DeMille would be proud of—and was appearing in Aida that evening. A moment of summer madness resulted in my going with her (Verona is about an hour away from Venice) and hearing Verdi’s music soaring up to the stars while a cast of a thousand ballerinas danced on a vast pyramid behind the stage.
A recent ad on Italian TV said, ‘If Italy was a house, Emilia-Romagna would be the kitchen.’ Many Italians from other regions might throw up their hands in horror and rightly say, ‘but we have an amazing cuisine too!’ However, this demonstrates the reputation that Emilia-Romagna—the capital of which is Bologna—has as the foodie region of Italy.
I might correct the ad to ‘If Italy was a house, Emilia-Romagna would be the larder …’ because with one or two exceptions the fame of Emilia-Romagna is not for dishes but for several ingredients and products now considered essential to Italian cuisine in general. This list would include: Aceto Balsamico di Modena (balsamic vinegar), Prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham), Mortadella, and the indispensable Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese).
I recently spent a weekend in Bologna and decided to put together this guide to the city, focusing on its food but also history and art. If you’ve never been and are looking for an Italian city-break destination, I would highly recommend it.