In Italy, food and culture go hand in hand. The image we see in the movies of numerous family members tucked neatly around the dinner table, diving into delicious cuisine and enjoying several glasses of Italian wine, is in fact an accurate portrayal of a real Italian Sunday lunch. This same family spirit and idea that sharing a meal is a precious moment in the day can be recreated in many of the delightful restaurants across the country.
Below we bring you a guide to exploring food and wine with friends on a tour across Florence, Venice and Rome. Prepare to embark on a journey filled with mouth-watering, traditional Italian food, delicious desserts and elegant wines.
We recommend beginning your wining and dining tour in Venice, where you can fly into Marco Polo airport directly from the UK. Once you’ve arrived and settled in, take a stroll down the glorious Grand Canal before slipping into Ristorante Grand Canal in Hotel Monacco.
There you can enjoy dishes typical of the Venetian tradition whilst enjoying the exquisite view of the Grand Canal. The restaurant offers a delicious selection of Venetian dishes placing particular emphasis on seafood and vegetables.
Having experienced Italian food in a luxury environment, the next experience we recommend is visiting a traditional Venetian café. Try Ca D’Oro alla Vedova, tucked away in a little side street of Cannareggio. The smell of mixed herbs and fresh tomato will have you drooling before even finding a table. Quiet and quaint, you can experience Venice like a local here.
Our last recommendation for dining in Venice is for La Zucca. This cosy little place serves excellent and original dishes. The menu changes often but usually includes tagliatelle and vegetable flans. Make sure you leave room for dessert though, these are extra special!
Catch the train from Venice to Florence at Santa Lucia train station. The journey time is approximately three hours which will give you time to work up an appetite. When you arrive, your first port of call should be Robligo, a small, old-fashioned pastiocceria that sells delicious teas and wonderful Italian ice-cream.
We suggest that when in Florence you should experience some traditional Tuscan dishes at Angiolino on via Santo Spirito. This restaurant is always busy and will give you the chance to experience the hustle and bustle of Florence whilst enjoying good food, wine and a welcoming atmosphere.
Although hard to narrow down our favourite eateries in this small town, our final recommendation has to be for Cibreo. Situated on Via a. Del Verrochio, Cibreo is one of Florence’s best restaurants. The menu changes daily but always includes a selection of tasty appetizers, soups and main dishes, which are mainly fish and meat. Cibreo is renowned for its particularly good fish, cooked with real flair.
Catch a train to Rome which will take around an hour and a half. After soaking up her incredible sights and enjoying the 16th century architecture of the Spanish steps head right on over to Da Enzo for traditional roman cuisine. Located in the small neighbourhood of Trastevere this tiny little restaurant only has around 10 tables. With the most mind-blowing carciofi alla giudia (Jewish style fried artichokes) classic pasta dishes like amatriciana and carbonara (guanciale and egg) or Roman style lamb Da Enzo really is the place to be. Why not throw in a bottle of house wine –they have an excellent selection!
If you’re looking for an extra special experience when in Rome, we recommend the La Pergola, Rome’s Michelin star restaurant. Located at the rooftop of Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria Hotel, La Pergola may cost a fair bit more than your usual restaurant in Rome, but with the best view of the city, it really is a prime location. And, if location doesn’t sell it to you, it is ranked among the top 50 restaurants in the world. Award-winning chef, Heinz Beck whips up some innovative dishes such as veal fillet with black truffles and apple puree, carpaccio of scallops on amaranth, and beef tartare on liquorice-gelatine with caviar.
Finally, capture that Italian culture at La Carbonara trattoria. This old-school trattoria is owned by the Rossi family – with Mama Teresa doing what she does best in the kitchen and charismatic Andrea welcoming you front of house, the restaurant is the picture of a ‘proper’ Italian restaurant. Tables are packed close together and customers are being encouraged to scribble words of wisdom on the walls after their meal. Try the artichoke antipasto selections, they are delicious. The carbonara is a must; trust us when we say you’ve never tried carbonara like this before!
What are your favourite restaurants in Italy? Do you have any tips for your fellow travellers? Let us know in the comments box below.