The Italy Awards

You know when you get back from holiday, the photos are downloaded, the suitcase is unpacked and put away, the laundry done and you slip into the old routine – bills to pay, must get a haircut, need to enroll in Italian classes again etc. – and the holiday becomes a distant memory? Well, before my Italian holiday does just that, here are a couple of the ‘Best of…’

Best Food: Big ticks for gelato, coffee and pizza – except the pizzeria with the sign ‘Pineapple available’. No tick for you. I was beginning to despair of Italian food. I had seen the crusty breads, fresh salad vegetables, cheeses and fruits in the markets but they didn’t seem to make it to the restaurant table. The traditional food of land-locked Umbria was all too heavy for the warm weather and every restaurant that I could afford was serving the same things. Who wants Osso Bucco (veal casserole), wild boar or veal in port and truffle sauce  in summer? Not me. I tried to avoid touristy places but as I was a tourist and staying in very touristy cities it was difficult. I had been in Italy for 5 days before I got lucky.

Porchetta was being sold from a van in the market in Orvieto. Wikipedia describes porchetta as ‘savoury, fatty and moist boneless pork gutted, rolled, spitted and roasted over a wood fire.’ It is stuffed with lard, garlic, rosemary, fennel and wild herbs and has lots of added salt. Served warm on a bread roll it was delicious!

But the most memorable meal was at a cafe called Il Particciolo in the main street of Manarola, one of the Cinque Terre towns. I ate outside. The wine was chilled and the tortelloni (pasta) with mussels, octopus and pinenuts were cooked perfectly in lots of garlic, parsley and olive oil.

Best Hotel: It should have been the room in beautiful Vernazza but as I wrote at the time, it was just too noisy. The room was in the pale apricot house next to the church.

So the award for best hotel goes to Hotel Astoria in Genoa because it had a fabulous lift.

…with a seat.

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