Tours in Italy
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Understanding Italy. Part One: Eating

There are very few towns in the Western World without at least one ‘Italian’ restaurant, whether it be a true family run trattoria or a takeaway pizza joint.
Rightly so, true Italian food is considered one of the world’s greatest and most varied cuisines. One of the delightful parts of a holiday in Italyis sampling the sheer joy that Italians attach to food and drink.
I live in Spainwhere it isn’t unusual to eat five times a day. Italy has more in common with northern European or American culture, Italians eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Italian Breakfast: While you’ll find cereals, fruit and bacon and eggs in tourist establishments, a croissant and espresso are the general fare.
Lunch and dinner: Generally there is little difference in the fare but lunch menus may be a little ‘heavier’ especially in the north. You’ll start with ‘antipasto’ which is like finger food, followed by ‘primo’, (entrée) usually a  pasta or rice dish. Main course is ‘secondo’, usually meat or fish (vegetables, salads, potatoes etc. are ordered as side dishes).
Next course is an assortment of cheeses and cold, sliced cured meats. This is followed by ‘dolce’, desserts or fruits (but not normally ice-cream, which is often enjoyed afterwards in a “gelateria” ice cream place.
Finally comes the espresso (never a cappuccino…) often with a brandy or liqueur (do try ‘strega’, the ‘witch’, if you see it but, unless you want a hangover from hell, don’t overdo it.

Lastly here are a few misconceptions about Italian food.
  • Caesar salad is American.
  • Bread is not usually served with olive oil or butter.
  • Pasta sauces are generally light with just enough sauce to flavour the pasta.
  • ‘Italian dressing’ does not exist. You will be served with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to dress your own salad. Croutons or crispy bacon or onion pieces are an unknown.
  • Plain grilled meats or steaks are not usually served.
  • Fresh vegetables are generally served sautéed with a little oil.
  • Plain water is not served. You will have to pay for bottled mineral water carbonated or regular.
  • ‘Peperoni’ means peppers.
  • If you want pastrami, bring it from a New York deli as it’s almost unknown in Italy as is ‘alfredo’ sauce and spaghetti served with meatballs!
  • Pizza is made with a thin base, nothing like the Chicago variety!
Buon Appetito!
Peter Harrison
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