Why I love Italy…
Italy…quite possibly the best country in the world. It really does have it all, from beautiful lakes and spectacular skiing, to history-packed cities and breathtaking beaches, as well as all the gorgeous countryside. And that’s without even mentioning the fantastic people and of course the food, ah yes the food.
Discovering the best food in Palermo, Sicily…
I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited Italy a number of times and yet still don’t even think I’m scratching the surface, I’m always looking at a map and being drawn to new and undiscovered cities and towns (especially the ones that remind me of food, for instance Parma – on the list).
And what do you do if you really want to eat the best food that Italy has to offer? Go with Italians. Don’t know any? That’s ok, follow some of these food tips, shamelessly stolen from my travels with two of the loveliest and most generous Italian friends I could wish to have (Ciao Francesco and Sara!).
Now something to note, there’s no way I can give a top 5 for the whole of Italy so I’ve focused on Palermo, Sicily. Not somewhere originally on my list of places to visit (I’m a fool). But Sicily is a much loved destination and home of one of my two favourite Italians, so it was discussed one night and hatched as a May bank holiday getaway.
So if you are planning a trip, then here’s a few highlights that you need to include in your culinary adventure (there were many!!)…
Ice cream for breakfast
Ice cream for breakfast is a thing! I knew I was meant to be Italian. Not only is it ice cream, it’s ice cream in a brioche bun. Incredible. This (Francesco and Sara correct me if I’m wrong!) is a Sicilian speciality so you’ll find it in most cafes and restaurants. I’d recommend at least trying it one morning (strongly recommend every morning).
Taste test at a market
The Food Markets – ok so this isn’t really one food but lots of food so it doesn’t officially count but I couldn’t miss it out because it was a feast for the senses. Sadly we couldn’t buy much (although that didn’t stop Francesco and Sara doing their supermarket shop for the week to bring back on the plane). There’s a number of markets and it’s worth going just to feast your eyes on the fresh seafood, ham selections, vast array of olives, colourful fresh vegetables and everything in between that’s on offer. Borough Market eat your heart out.
Bomba – think Arancini but bolder, bigger and better at Bar Touring in the heart of Palermo. We are talking huge (hence bomba) and I think it’s claim to be the biggest Arancini in Sicily must be pretty accurate. It reveals a delicious mixture of gooey cheese, ham and rice enclosed in breadcrumbs. Since trying it I’ve thought if I was looking to make it on the restaurant scene in London this would be it. So when this restaurant inevitable opens I’ll be kicking myself about this and then turning up every week to pay for one.
Drink (number 1)
Aperol spritz – a popular drink yes but there’s really no better Aperol spritz than drinking one in Italy. As well as being a large and busy city, Palermo also has a beautiful beach not too far outside the city centre that’s really worth visiting if the hustle and bustle get a bit too much. Some people say a location makes a wonderful culinary memory and in this case I think it’s true. I haven’t tasted a better Aperol Spritz than this one. Head to Mida beach bar to taste the magic and enjoy a sundowner or two.
Drink (number 2)
Limoncello probably tops the drinks chart in terms of the most obvious and well known Italian beverage (as does the scenario that goes with it. Reluctantly downing one when it comes with a bill in an Italian restaurant but smiling through it to that nice Italian waiter in true British style). So when encouraged to try Limoncello in Palermo I was ever the Brit and prepared my face for the forced smile, ready for that fake lemon taste…that never came. Instead it was an authentic and delicious zesty flavour, a revelation and a lesson learnt – say no to Limoncello in the UK but always si in Italy.