Cooking In (in Italy).

sausagesIn my book I write about a style of travel that pairs the pleasures of eating with the history and art of a region that result in a unique travel experience way beyond a “show and tell tour”.

Part of that can certainly be found in the food served in almost every ristorante, trattoria, osteria and enoteca in Italy. Over the years many people have asked me what is the best place to eat in Italy. For me the best place to eat in Italy is at the home of your family. The second best place is at the home of your friends and the third best place is at “un ristorante” chosen by your family or friends.

Having said that I’ve added a corollary that is a natural consequence of my experiences eating, shopping and cooking in Italy with my Italian family and friends, one that you may want to try on your next trip – cooking nella tua casa (in your house)  as in your vacation house. For our last few trips to Italy we decided to rent either an apartamento or house as an alternative to other more conventional accommodations and cooking in. We enjoy shopping the local markets and alimentari (grocery stores) and using regional ingredients to make at least one of our meals “at home”. Of course if you do this, depending on where you are staying, you should have a conversational understanding of Italian as you will be shopping and buying your ingredients at local town markets where English is not the main language spoken.  A vocabulary of food and words and phrases associated with weights, measures, numbers and money are always good to know  as in “Un chilo di mele, per favore.” – a kilo (2.2 pounds) of apples, please. “Tre pere, per favore” – three pears, please.

Here are a few helpful links to grocery shopping in Italy. Be sure to bring your favorite recipes from home to cook in (in Italy).

Glossary of Italian Food Terms

Shopping for Groceries in Village Shops

Shopping at Large SuperMarkets

A Vocabulary of Fruits and Vegetables

Grocery Store Phrases

The Market of the Flea

Arezzo-flea-marketThe piazze and arcaded porticoes of Italy are the settings for some of the most pleasurable shopping experiences you’ll find in your travels. Collectables and found objects are tucked into the nooks and cranies of almost every town, village and city where locals and tourists alike shop for unexpected treasures and destination bargains at open air markets and tented booths.

The markets often have colorful names like the Mercantino del Pidocchietto (Little Louse Market) in Passignano sul Trasimeno or La Soffitta Sotto i Portici  (the Attic under the Arches) located under the ancient arcades of Piazza Augusto Imperatore in Rome. The Mercato delle Briciole (Market of the Crumbs) in Spoleto may allude to the cast offs or crumbs that fall from the master’s table, however the antiques, crafts and collectables found at this market are anything but. Located in the centro storia (historic center) of the city, over 100 exhibitors fill their stalls with antiquarian delights and products typical of the region. These cose d’altri tempi, things from another time, are often long cherished heirlooms ready to be re-purposed by another kindred spirit. We can only imagine, or if we are lucky hear, the stories of the interior life found in each object. The connection to an owner, place or event that lives on in their possessions.

Two of the most famous antique fairs in Italy are in the town of Arezzo with more than 1,000 vendors from Italy and all over Europe and the Mercatore del Naviglio Grande, held along the canals in Milan’s artsy Navigli district.  There are many antique and flea markets to see and savor in Italy including several called Il Tarlo (The Moth).  Held in Genoa and various other towns, in this case, the moth is a good omen of the fabulous finds to be found. Dates and specific information on locations  for these and many other antiquarian markets in Italy are listed on-line  at sites that specialize in flea market shopping in Italy.

* flea market > mercato delle pulci in Italian