by: Giulia Pezzin
Unlike the titular film where Julia Roberts travels around the world to find herself, you can Eat, Pray, Love completely in one country, ITALY! Italians are born with an innate passion for food and romance, activities where they find their spiritual nirvana every day. So, if you’re ready to immerse yourself in La Dolce Vita, jet away to Italy, the land where the lines of Eat, Pray and Love are continuously and fervidly blurred.
The food tradition in Italy, as we all well know, is very strong and deeply connected to the roots of the country. When traveling to Italy the first thought that might come to mind is, where can I find the best food? You might think of Rome, where we can eat some of the most famous types of pasta like Carbonara and Amatriciana. Or maybe Naples, the world famous ‘Capital of Pizza’. According to a recent study by Forbes, you would have been mistaken. Emilia – Romagna is actually the region with the best food in Italy.
Emilia – Romagna, located in the Northern part of Italy, is home to a multitude of microclimates giving rise to its diverse & flavorful food offerings. To truly immerse yourself in the food culture of this region, there are 5 cities that stand out, called “The Big 5”: Bologna (also called la Grassa or, ‘the fat one’), Modena, Reggio Emilia, Parma and Piacenza. In each of these cities we can taste the most famous dishes of this region.
Best Restaurants In Emilia-Romagna
Bologna: L’Arcimboldo offers an experience that combines the love for food and the appreciation of art. What’s peculiar with this restaurant that makes their fresh pasta daily, is that you can also visit the laboratory and buy it, while appreciating the exquisite art exhibitions that they host.
Modena: Osteria Francescana is one of Italy’s favorite restaurants, and was awarded three Michelin Stars. With the Tasting Menu experience, chef Massimo Bottura brings you on a journey through the Italian landscape.
Reggio Emilia: Ristorante Arnaldo - Clinica Gastronomica. The owner, Arnaldo Gastoldi, founded it in 1936 and decided to call it a clinic, saying “My food, my dearest, is a medicine for the soul and spirit. Eating here is good for the tongue and stomach, but also for friendship”
Parma: Ristorante Osteria della Capra is a very unique restaurant that brings you back in time: old wooden doors, some salames hanging from the ceiling and great authentic food.
Piacenza: Ristorante Castiglia is located in the heart of the historic center, in a 15th century residence with vaulted ceilings and warm exposed bricks.
The first dish from Emilia-Romagna that stands out for its international recognition is of course Lasagna alla Bolognese.
What makes it special is not only the incredible quality of the meat used for the ragú (the meat-based sauce), but the pastry. This is usually homemade, and it follows the traditional recipe of the “arzdore”, the grandmas that in the old times were in charge of making pastry for the whole family, since this can be used for other typical dishes from this region, such as tagliatelle, tortellini and ravioli too.
But Emilia-Romagna was awarded as the best region also for its incredibly genuine ingredients, such as Prosciutto di Parma, Coppa, Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino dell’Appennino, Squaquerone. In fact, one of the most common habits when dining out or while having aperitivo, is to share with friends a “tagliere” (a ham & cheese board), accompanied by tigelle and gnocchi fritti. The tigelle are round and thick breads while a gnocco fritto is a square dough, fried in lard.
Another all-time favorite is the Piadina romagnola, which is a thin flatbread, filled with a variety of cheeses and hams. There are two types, one thinner and wider typical of the Rimini-Riccione areas and another thicker and "puff pastry", slightly smaller, widespread in the northernmost areas around Cesena.
During these hectic times, we all find ourselves a little bit lost, needing to reconnect with our inner selves. Whether you try to achieve that through prayer or meditation, it always feeds and benefits your soul. In Italy, the best way to reconnect with our spirit and nature is through a pilgrimage (with some wine stops along the way).
They say ‘All roads lead to Rome’ and the most famous pilgrimage in Italy, called “Via Francigena”, certainly lives up to that name. The historical itinerary is often compared to the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and it starts originally in England and leads to the eternal city, the Vatican. The most scenic part of this route can be found in the path between the city of Lucca and Rome, linking two amazing regions, Tuscany and Lazio. Here, set among dreamy landscapes and characteristic cities, you will find some unique UNESCO World Heritage Sites including Siena, Pienza and Val d’Orcia.
If you’re of an adventurous nature, it’s possible to travel the Tuscan - Lazio portion of the Via Francigena route by biking or walking and depending on this, it can take anywhere from 11 days to three weeks. The pilgrimage starts from the city of Lucca, passing by the extraordinary medieval towns of San Gimignano and Monteriggioni, through the white countryside roads of Siena, through the picturesque hills of Val d’Orcia, reaching the thermal town of Bagno Vignoni, with its huge thermal pool in the city center and finally reaches Rome and the Vatican City.
Whether you are religious or not, it is hard to deny that churches in Italy are architectural wonders that will feed your soul and lift your mood. Connect with yourself by stopping in at these spiritual spots on the Via Francigena, a perfect spot for meditation or a small prayer.
Best Churches to Visit:
Camaiore: Badia of San Pietro - hosts an annual International Organ Festival in the summer
Lucca: San Martino Cathedral
Siena: Baptistery of San Giovanni - be sure to venture down into the crypts to see exquisite 13th century frescoes
Montalcino: Sant'Antimo Abbey - tranquil Romanesque Abbey
Mount Amiata: San Salvatore Abbey
If you are a wine lover, you will find some of the best Italian wineries along this routeIn the Tuscan hills we can find several prestigious wine regions, such as Brunello di Montalcino, Sangiovese, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, made with high quality and locally grown grapes. To recognize this designated area these grapes have the denomination of Orcia DOC, located in the dreamy hills of Val d’Orcia, where some of our favorite and most scenic wineries are.
You can enjoy the amazing view of the countryside while sipping the best wine at Castiglion del Bosco, learn more about organic farming at Valdorcia Terrenesi or take a stroll around the vineyard of Campotondo.
Finally, after you have filled your soul with picturesque countrysides, stunning architectural cathedrals & delicious wines, end your journey at the Eternal City: Vatican City.
Vatican City tips
Book your tour online: this will save you a lot of time since queues are usually very long. Also, during summer, it can be very unpleasant being under the Roman heat for more than an hour.
Take a VIP Vatican Breakfast Experience: you will be allowed into the Vatican even before it’s open for the general public, to enjoy a buffet breakfast in the Pinecone Courtyard. Want to learn more?
Choose your outfit carefully: since it’s a sacred place, you should avoid crop tops, skirts or tank tops.
The best days to visit are from Tuesday to Friday, but try to avoid visiting on Wednesdays morning since St Peter’s Basilica will be closed for the papal audience.
We can all picture the romantic vibe that Italy has to offer, especially when we think about the dreamy landscapes, the small canals of Venice, the stunning sunsets in the Tuscany countryside and the genuine Italian people. There is one city that above all channels what we call AMORE and is the perfect frame for a love story: Verona.
Verona is located in the northeast part of Italy, in the Veneto region, very close to the second-largest lake of Italy, Lake Garda. The city has a very unique charm, with its cobblestone roads and warm-colored buildings, but the most stunning site is the Arena. The Arena is in fact the third largest amphitheater in Italy from the 1st century AD and it is still used during summer for concerts or operas thanks to its great acoustics. Although there are plenty of magnificent churches and a castle, we can definitely say that the most visited destinations are love-related.
While Verona has been mentioned in several of Shakespeare's plays, it is of course “Romeo and Juliet” that gives this city the title of “City of Love”. In fact, thousands of tourists come to Verona every year to visit the place where the two star-crossed lovers fell in love. In fact, we can still visit Juliet’s house, where we can see the small balcony from which Romeo declared his love for her, and the small courtyard, where tourists leave their notes, hoping to find real love. Every year, during San Valentine’s season, the city organizes “Verona in Love”, which is a three day event to celebrate love. Verona is tinged in red, with all the heart-shaped lights and ornaments, and many couples enjoy their special day here.
But, Verona is famous not only for its charismatic city center, but for its surroundings too. A weekend in this beautiful destination can include an amazing trip to the splendid Garda Lake and its small towns, or a fun drive around the vineyards of the Bardolino, Soave or Valpolicella region. Lake Garda is in fact an international tourism destination, with its lively entertainment and variety of sports and activities on the shores of the lake. Thanks to its romantic vibe, Verona and its surroundings are chosen every year as one of the favorite proposal destinations, and we personally selected our favorite and most romantic spots.
The Panoramic Terrace located at the fifth floor of Due Torri Hotel has a breathtaking view of the city and its Gourmet Restaurant really sums up the Italian food traditions with a great ambience.
The Restaurant “La Casa Degli Spiriti”, located in Costermano facing Lake Garda, is an elegant and refined 18th century residence, with a breathtaking view of the lake, especially at sunset.
Overlooking the green hills of Soave, we can find the restaurant “Relais Soave Castelcerino”, that especially in summer offers an unforgettable view of the valley below.
Many people come to Italy with their loved ones, others come to mend a broken heart or to look for a romantic liaison, but one thing is for sure: it’s impossible to not fall in love with this romantic sceneries and charming people.
Italy, a beloved destination, with its millennial traditions and historic heritage, stimulates our appetite, helps us discover ourselves and celebrates love in all its forms. It's a place that can delight and enrich the soul. Come experience how to truly live life to the fullest: EAT, PRAY, LOVE - the Italian lifestyle.
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