By Imani Thompson.
Edesia was the Roman Goddess of food who ensured that the feast went well and the food was excellent. So I decided to channel Edesia through my trip around Italy!
Italy, Italy, Italy. I think I may have found my spiritual home.
Having spent three and a half weeks travelling from Venice to the Amalfi Coast, England now feels damp and a little isolated. It was a glorious combination of sun-people-scenery-culture and of course food!
The tour began in Venice, and my did it begin in style: riding in on a water taxi had us feel like movie stars for twenty minutes! This was a fascinating place, partly what I expected but equally surprising. With its crumbling canals and near tangible history it is rather magical. However, it felt almost like a film set due to the disproportionate ratio of tourists to locals.
As our first taste of Italian food we weren’t disappointed. Although, now thinking back on the whole trip Venice was slightly lagging compared to say Bologna and Florence. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy great meals. I think you just have to be a little more careful where you choose to eat.
For the best food and atmosphere you need to come away from the main strip and venture into the quieter canals. And I also highly recommend hopping on a boat and visiting the colourful islands like Burano, where even the drainpipes are pink. Or head over to the island of Giudecca for sea bass ravioli at Trattoria Pizzeria Do Morri.
Did you know Bologna is Europe's oldest university town? It's not one of Italy's standout destinations, but is therefore highly underappreciated. With none of the tourists of Venice, a student buzz, and outdoor cinema, it was splendid.
For lunch we ate under a ceiling full of hams at La Baita Formaggi, munching from wooden boards stacked with meat and cheese. Not forgetting the mammoth pizzas we devoured in a place just below the flat we were staying in Bella Arti. (My mum was in the strange habit of ordering tomato-less pizzas, or the gourmet sorbets).
We kept being surprised with free food, turns out they won't serve you alcohol without a nibble, not that we were complaining.
Florence is full of Beauty and art. Here we stayed in the most incredible apartment, with a terrace sitting amongst the city's rooftops. We of course visited the Uffizi Gallery, whilst my brother (Jai) fell asleep at every available seat. Who knew a statue could be so attractive - David you charmer!
The food matched the culture. If you're after rustic and lively head to Osteria Santo Spirito. If you're looking for refined elegance then La Menagere is an utterly stunning restaurant come homeware shop. I wanted to move in.
Also, don't forget to check out the central food market. The produce will make you weep about having to shop in English supermarkets, and if you're a fan of truffles, there's a whole stand dedicated to it upstairs!
Florence also produced the trip's best ice cream - Nutella is even better given to you frozen and in a cone.
Away from the selfies and galleries we arrived in serene Tuscany. The B&B we stayed in was called Podere Salicotto and was up in the hills, and with a salt water swimming pool - what more could you want? Jai and I even woke up at seven to go on a two hour bike ride before breakfast - never again! Not even the thought of freshly made apricot cake could get me up those hills.
We took a day trip to Sienna, sadly no horse racing, but we liked the church that looked like a mint humbug. Dinner required yet more cycling, down into the local town. The most memorable meal was in a family run restaurant La Ristorante Da Mario where the menu was recited and the bill came in some unknown currency. But yum yum yum!
But then it was back to cycling UP the hill this time. Tuscany really is the land of peace and tranquility, and sailing over it in a hot air balloon at six in the morning really shows you just how magical this region is.
Initially I was hesitant of the Amalfi coast as it was packed full of people. However, you can't help but be swept away by the stunning scenery. Sunbathing on a platform built into the sea, or imagining where the writers used to have their wild romances in Amalfi.
Of course we nipped into Naples for some pizza. Queuing for forty minutes, expectations were high, and as I sat there stuffing down a margherita, the rest of the family weren't that impressed by the pizza.
We had some fancy fish down by the water in Sorrento, and the most incredible pasta dish in Ristorante Mariana Grande. It was simply courgette linguini, but my, oh my was it delicious!
Back home now, and sitting here in Dorset reminiscing is making me long for the giant focaccia sandwich I munched at the train station in Rome, the raspberry tart in Florence, or yogurt in Tuscany.