Avrete belle memorie del lefelong dalle vostre corse in Italia ed in Sicilia del sud. Goda di ogni momento. Wishing you beautiful lifelong memories from your travels to Southern Italy and Sicily. Enjoy every moment.
Mangia Let’s talk food! Face it, to taste the foods and wines of Italy and Sicily at their absolute best, there’s no substitute for a visit to their regions of origin. There, the unique qualities of foods, such as cheeses and meats, made by artisans following local traditions are extraordinary. Interlude is poised to embark with you on a culinary journey of a lifetime as you embrace the beauty and majesty of the southern part of Italy and explore the food that embellishes every table. Below I am providing a crash course in the Italian Food Experience 101. Hope you find it helpful.
Most of the basic elements of Italian foods, olive oil, wine, cheese, grains, fruits and vegetables, originated in other places, but what came to be known as the Mediterranean diet assumed its enduring character in Southern Italy. The Mezzogiorno, as it’s often called, was a garden of the Greeks and Romans and continues to be today.
Italian meals may progress through multiple courses, from antipasto to primo and secondo, formaggio, frutta and on to dolce. But even a simple repast would not be complete without vino in the country that produces more wine than any other in the greatest variety of types and styles. And…without sulfides or sulfates – Italian wines are positively divine. Italy’s first pasta was almost certainly made in the south, though noodles were preceded by flatbreads called focacce, forerunners of pizza, whose spiritual home (if not its place of origin) is Naples. Baked goods, including pastries, biscuits and cakes, abound in the Mezzogiorno.
Arabs in Sicily established a pasta industry in the Middle Ages, using durum wheat for the dried types that still prevail in the south. Tubes and other forms of “short” pasta may be referred to generically as maccheroni, distinguished from “long” types such as spaghetti and vermicelli. Also popular are spiral-shaped fusilli, oblique tubes called penne and larger tubes called ziti, though variations make the pasta field as confusing as it is intriguing. Fresh pasta is also prized, sometimes made with eggs but more often not, in such familiar forms as lasagne, fettuccine and ravioli, through there is no shortage of local peculiarities – be sure to experiment with some form of pasta you’ve never tried – you won’t be disappointed.
Pasto is a generic term for meal. Colazione may refer to lunch or a mid-morning repast or, as prima colazione, breakfast, which usually runs to “continental” standards with coffee or tea and bread or pastries. Merenda, more or less synonymous with spuntino, may refer to a mid-afternoon or mid-morning snack-or light lunch. Cena signifies an evening meal or late supper. Pranzo, which in parts of Italy means lunch (synonymous with colazione) and in other places dinner or supper (synonymous with cena), also refers to an important meal, banquet or business dinner. I guarantee you will get confused because local expressions can complicate matters, but smile and say grazie molto (thank you very much) and you’ll do just fine.
Full meals may range through three to six courses (called portate) or sometimes more. Curiously, though, antipasti don’t rate a number, even if the range of appetizers offered in some places would constitute a feast. The first course–primo piatto (also simply primo) or minestra–may consist of pasta, risotto, polenta, gnocchi or soup. The second or main course–secondo piatto or piatto di mezzo–may cover seafood, meat, poultry, game, omelets or other cooked cheese or vegetable dishes.
The numbering system falls flat when meals include two or more primi or secondi or when a fish entrée, for example, precedes a meat course. With the main course or courses will come a contorno, a side dish or garnish of cooked vegetables, salad, rice, noodles or polenta. Courses may continue with formaggio (cheese), frutta (fresh fruit), dolce (also called dessert), caffè (espresso, of course) and digestivo (grappa, brandy or liqueurs, such as amaro or sambuca.
Italians love choices so there are several different places in which you can enjoy the fabulous food other than a Ristorante.
, applies to a neighborhood, small town or rural eating house, of
ten family run, serving local foods and wines. Though the surroundings and service are usually unostentatious, like the price, the classic trattoria should provide exemplary regional cooking. Daily menus are often hand written or chalked on a blackboard or simply recited.
Osteria, from the Latin hospes, originally defined an inn providing food and lodging. But the name came to signify a modest wine house, often serving simple foods-like the similarly cozy taverna or locanda. Such locales have faded. Osteria (or hostaria) suggests simplicity, but the term (like locanda, taverna or trattoria) may apply to a sophisticated eating place.
Pizzeria, the pizza parlor popularized in Naples and the south, provides its specialty baked by a pizzaiolo in a wood-fired oven to be eaten on the premises or taken out. As the most popular type of eatery in Italy, the pizzeria no longer confines choices to pizza, but often provides other dishes, usually at lower prices than a ristorante.
Caffè originally applied to the coffee house popularized in the 18th century. Although a modern caffè will specialize in espresso-sometimes from its own torrefazione or roasting plant-the term has become synonymous with bar. In Italy, a caffè is not usually a dining place, as a café so often is elsewhere. But there are exceptions.
Birreria was originally a place that served draught beer made in its own brewery, though it now signifies a tavern or pub that specializes in beer but offers other beverages and often a menu with hot and cold dishes.
Terms for shops where food is sold and may be eaten on the premises are rosticceria (specializing in roast meats), tavola calda (hot dishes), tavola fredda (cold foods), paninoteca (sandwiches), gelateria (homemade ice cream). Enoteca (wine library) usually refers to a retail shop, though some enoteche also serve wine and food.
I hope this escorted vacation fits into your travel plans, and if so, I wish you,… buon viaggio and buon appetito!
As you’ve seen on our blog, each of our escorted vacations is completely packed full of amazing attractions, breathtaking vistas, and surprises of all kinds. So please take a look at the itinerary details!
Sicily and Sorrento, Italy (click here for details)
– Interlude blog team
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