After a lovely two-week adventure through Italy with my mom and sisters this fall, I came up with one solid piece of advice to future travelers out there:
Don’t ever go to Italy if you plan on being on a diet. And here’s why:
- Olive oil. Yes, it’s a healthy fat, but here there’s no way to avoid eating a lot. The deep green tinted oil is drizzled on everything and served at every restaruant table along with the s&p. And the more you taste, the more you crave its rich olive flavor, taking every chance to use your bread to sop it up like a sponge.
- Bread, pasta, pastries, pizza. They’re the staple foods, and made extremely well with quality ingredients. Pretty much impossible to avoid (and why would you want to?)
- Gelaterias around every street corner. And that is no exaggeration. So light, creamy, and luscious…. and how could you turn down flavors like tiramisu or marscapone-fig?
- Pastries, cookies, and packets of nutella… for breakfast. This was the case at several B&B’s we stayed at, and the same if you go out to eat at a café. No blueberry-kale-protein smoothies here!
- Fresh cheeses. Nothing compares to fresh buffalo mozzarella or homemade ricotta.
- Vino. You will drink a lot. At lunch, before dinner, during dinner, after dinner. This is Italy, remember :)
Basically, the Italian diet seems to be everything vegan and gluten free diets are not. And somehow someway, I indulged myself in this delicious lifestyle for two weeks and came back without gaining a pound (sure didn’t lose any, either). In fact, my sister and I suffer from gastrointestinal issues – her especially after consuming dairy – and we both were surprised to feel fine the entire time. She and my other sister who doesn’t do well with dairy enjoyed many a whole milk cappuccino, gelato and fresh mozzarella without the consequences.
We could really only attribute this to the care that goes into Italian food culture. Whole foods, high quality ingredients, homemade and homegrown are key. Every home seemed to have its own personal vegetable garden. And despite what appears as a high carb, high fat diet, I personally did not notice many overweight Italians at all, compared to what I’d see in the average American city.
Yet many of us (as Americans) seem to be obsessed with one extreme or the other – with highly processed convenience foods and fast food chains, or ‘dieting’ with fat-free, low-carb and artificially sweetened products. Where is the in-between, where fresh homemade cheese and local organic vegetables are not just a trend for people with money, but are just plain normal and accepted by everyone?
Hmmmm… unfortunately I am no expert and have no simple answers; these were just some thoughts that intrigued me throughout our travels. But anyway. Now that we can all accept there’s no reason to attempt a diet whilst traveling in Italy, you can start planning your next delicious vacation. Here are some photos to get you motivated (and maybe drooling)..
Clockwise from top left: “special toasts”- my first meal in our first stop (Venice), a window full of meringue-like cakes (Venice), mom’s first pizza in Italy (Venice), variety of focaccias (Cinque Terre), & ricotta-stuffed croissants with thick hot sipping chocolate (Cinque Terre).
A long day wandering Florence and celebrating Tara’s birthday, ending with a delicious meal, wine, & birthday tiramisu :)
My one goal for this trip — to get the best pizza in Naples ( = the best pizza in Italy = the best pizza in the world) at “Pizzeria Da Michele.” And even through all the hype, even though they only offer two choices of pizza—marinara or margherita—it really is the best. Plain and simple. That’s it.
And then there was this over-the-top meal at family owned farm/restaurant Fattoria La Tagliata in Positano. Some other travelers we met in Positano recommended it for a night full of entertainment and a beyond delicious, homemade Italian dinner. And that it was. If 9 different platters of appetizers wasn’t enough (a sample of each in the bottom right photo), then we would certainly be satisfied with the 4 homemade pasta dishes that followed (including yummy gnocchi and ravioli!). But oh no, that was only the beginning. Then came out an entire platter of charcoal grilled meats (a shame because we don’t eat much meat), a plate of really good french fries (I know, seems a little random), a large salad, and a plate of mini desserts and glasses of limoncello to top it all off. This is all while we were provided with unlimited bottles of wine. And an intermission of singing and dancing and instrument playing and an appearance by Chef Mama herself. Needless to say, we left feeling the most stuffed we had been on this trip.
Now, do you see where a diet does not fit into this picture? :) But that’s ok, this is what vacations are for.
And I don’t regret one bite of it.