Location: Naples, Italy
As soon as you set foot in Naples, you’re enveloped in a world of perfect chaos. Caught in a flurry of scattered pedestrians, speedy vespas, and crumbling alleyways, you’re a mere dot splattered on a canvas.
There’s the banter and shouting of animated locals and the impatient, aggressive honking of congested traffic squeezed into the tiny, twisted streets. There’s the aroma of fried local goodies, of freshly baked bread and pizza a portafoglio. There’s wonderfully brewed espresso. There’s babà with custard! There’s sfogliatella. Amidst the confusion, there are historical gems like Castel dell’Ovo and beautiful old churches around every corner.
Location: Lecce, Apulia, Italy
During our road trip around Puglia, we stopped in Lecce for a day. When evening rolled around, looking to have a casual dinner, we scoped out a place that served bombette – a popular Pugliese specialty that I had read about before our trip.
Fresh ingredients such as ham, eggplant, nuts, cheese, asparagus, and mushrooms are wrapped in fresh slabs of pork, which are then grilled to perfection. It was madness when we walked in. A sweaty horde of people gathered around the meat counter, the heavy scent of pork fat wafting through the air.
Location: Palermo, Sicily
Arancini are originally from Sicily, so of course, the best arancini I’ve ever had were in Palermo.
These savory fried rice balls are made everywhere in Italy, but from personal experience, they aren’t very good unless they come from the homeland. Elsewhere, they are always too dry, lacking flavor, or the rice-to-other-ingredients ratio is terrible. My favorite are the arancini al ragù (rice, tomato sauce with minced meat, peas, onions, and mozzarella), but they can be filled with a variety of ingredients like ham, mushrooms, and spinach.
Location: Merano, Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy
We spent this New Year’s Eve in Merano, a lovely town completely surrounded by mountains in Trentino-Alto Adige. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the region, Trentino-Alto Adige is basically the least Italian place in Italy. Situated on the borders of Switzerland and Austria, it’s is an autonomous region (their healthcare and school systems are separate from the rest of Italy) divided into two parts: Trentino, the southern province, and Alto Adige (South Tyrol in English), the northern province. Merano is in the Alto Adige part. Generally speaking, those who are from the area identify more with the German culture and lifestyle, and are not too fond of being considered Italians.