A CULINARY JOURNEY THROUGH ITALY Buffalo mozzarella from Campania, pesto from Genoa, truffles from Alba, prosciutto from Parma: Italian cuisine is incredibly diverse and each region has its own specialities. The country has declared 2018 as the ‘National Year of Italian Food’. From the mountainous north to the sun-drenched south, we will take you on a culinary journey across Italy. 1. THE NORTH CULINARY MELTING POT Northern Italian cuisine may be the least Italian of all, but that’s what makes it so interesting. Thanks to Swiss, French, Austrian and Slavic influences, the menu includes not only risotto and gnocchi, but also apple strudel and ćevapi. The mountains of Valle D’Aosta are known for their hearty cuisine with polenta and melted Fontina cheese, or meat stews with a full-bodied red wine. Video Player 00:0000:00 Further east, pasta has made room for dough dumplings and spicy stews, with exotic names such as zuf, mesta, paparot and jota. But real gourmands will make a beeline for Piemonte and in particular the small town of Alba: the truffle capital of the world. The annual truffle market displays this valuable delicacy in all different shapes and sizes. The highlight is the annual truffle auction, where epicureans try to beat each other to find the finest truffles. HOME-GROWN SLOW FOOD Considering the region’s rich culinary history, it should come as no surprise that Piemonte is the cradle of the Slow Food Movement: an international movement committed to preserving culinary traditions and artisan food production. To sample and enjoy authentic regional flavours, responsible foodies can opt for an agriturismo experience: a culinary stay with a local farmer or wine grower. Choose a location in the rolling hills of Montserrat or Serralunga, the birthplace of fine wines such as Barbera, Barolo and Barbaresco. 2. THE HEART POWERFUL CLASSICS This fertile region, with the Tyrrhenian Sea on one side and the Adriatic on the other, has produced many Italian culinary stars. The rolling hills of Tuscany produce fruity olive oil and Chianti – perfect with a juicy Bistecca alla Fiorentina. In Rome you will taste the best artichokes in all of Italy and Perugia is famous for its Baci chocolate. But the classic gourmet heavy hitters come from the region of Emilia-Romagna and cities such as Modena, Parma and Bologna. Who can imagine life without a splash of balsamic vinegar on their salad, grated Parmesan cheese on their pasta or flavourful Parma ham as an antipasto? The Italians are deservedly proud of these products that can only be produced in this region. BALSAMICO FROM MODENA Visit Modena to watch the production of authentic aceto balsamico tradizionale. The nectar is aged for at least 12 years, or ideally 25 years, in wooden barrels. The remaining aceto is bottled in standard bottles that bear the official seal of authenticity. The producers of acetaia are usually ancient families who have been producing the balsamico for generations. One of them is the company Giuseppe Giusti,which has been producing balsamic vinegar since 1605, earning the title of oldest acetaia in the world. Take a free tour to see the centuries-old barrels and partake in a balsamico tasting; perfect with a piece of Parmigiano Reggiano! 3. THE COAST For the best combination of sun and sea, head to the Amalfi Coast, west of Salerno. This magnificent part of Italy is dotted with pastel-coloured fishing villages, beaches and jagged cliffs. Savour the full bounty of the sea, including prawns, red bream, sea urchins, octopus and shellfish. Or try a combination of all of these, served in the popular pasta dish scialatielli ai frutti di mare. FRUTTI DI MARE Italy boasts around 7,600 kilometres of coastline, making the sea a lead player in Italian cuisine. Coastal cities offer menus packed with fish and seafood. In Venice try the black octopus risotto, in Ancona the sautéed codfish, and in Genoa try the cappon magro: a pyramid-shaped fish salad. SWEET LEMONS It’s hard to miss the lemons on the Amalfi Coast. They are everywhere: painted on colourful tiles, grated over the ravioli or processed into the local specialty limoncello. For centuries this popular citrus fruit has been cultivated here on the sun-drenched terraces set into the rocks and then hand-picked. These lemons are so sweet that you can eat them straight off the tree. Visit a lemon orchard for the full experience and a fresh taste. On your guided tour at the Aceto family’s orchard, for example, one of the sons will tell you all about the wonderful world of lemons and invite you to sample a glass of homemade limoncello. 4. THE SOUTH A PLATE FULL OF SUNSHINE Sun-ripened tomatoes, garlic and spicy peppers: the flavours of southern Italy are bursting with sunshine. A pasta dish is not complete without a sprinkling of peperoncini and the fiery ‘Nduja sausage will spice up any meal This region is also famous for its pizza. The area around Naples produces the most important ingredients for the real pizza napoletana: San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil and creamy buffalo mozzarella from Campania. The pizzerias in Naples will make your pizza to perfection, with a crispy base and a healthy splash of olive oil. SWEETS FROM SICILY Not all pizzas hail from Naples however. Sicily is known for its own version with a thicker base and toppings such as anchovy, broccoli and onions. Sicilian cuisine in general is quite different from the rest of the country. Many different rulers have left their mark on the island. The Arabs brought sugar, apricots, melons, raisons and cinnamon. This is one of the reasons why Sicily is heaven for those with a sweet tooth. The lavishly decorated cassata cakes, marzipan fruit and sugar figurines in the windows of the dolcerias are almost too pretty to eat. Chocoholics will also find plenty to enjoy on the island: at L’Antica Dolceria Bonajuto in Modica, staff still make chocolate according to the ancient Aztec recipe introduced by the Spanish.