Chef’s Personal Tour of Italy

Food in Rome, Naples and Matera

In a frenzied week of food, history of art and architecture, and archaeological sites, it was easy to be overwhelmed by Italy’s riches. The time was afforded and determined by a rare winter hiatus at the restaurant where pastry chef/daughter Melissa works. Between two of us, we tag-teamed on where to go, how to get there, and making sure that we maximized resources.

Speed traveling in a slow country by two generations of sturdy travelers was achievable, satisfying, and forever memorable. With Rome as our base in Testaccio, we took a full day trip to Naples by train. An inexpensive flight to Bari at the heel of Italy enabled us to visit Matera in a second, dawn-to-dusk trip. A one-hour drive from Bari allowed us to reach Sassi, two ancient hill towns straddling a deep valley. This UNESCO area is designated to become a major destination in 2019, to showcase sustainable tourism and environmental protection of treasured and not-to-be forgotten settlements.

Matera Hill Town

Elena Ferrante in Napoli

Famous Pizza and the Opera House drove us to Naples, but we couldn’t help but think about the stories written by Elena Ferrante in her four book series about scrappy Neapolitan life. We stopped at the Archaeological Museum, one of the country’s top sites holding treasures from Ercolano and Pompeii. Porn was thriving in Pompeii, as witnessed in this museum, along with all the other artifacts that are no longer available at the sites. In between glutting out on pizza (shown above and in video on next post) and a lackluster Nutcracker at the historic Teatro di San Carlo, the food won hands down.

Reminder: Click on any area of the galleries above for a full-fledged slide show.

10 thoughts on “Chef’s Personal Tour of Italy”

    1. Had to cram everything into one post with an addendum for the videos, as everything happened so fast. I didn’t have much time to organize any thoughts or reflections as my body was seriously suspended in food heaven and my brain followed…

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    1. Now I know why you lived Italy so much last summer! I have not returned here for over 20 years so lost my desire…until now! We will have to compare notes during our next local museum outing!

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  1. I’m reading this as I get ready for lunch. I feel like heading to the airport for lunch in Italy. Thanks for sharing your adventure!

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    1. I salivate just thinking about the pizza dressed with flavorful meats, lovingly combined with the freshest ingredients, lightly tossed on the chewiest dough, and just the perfect amount of crunch. It was hard to reconcile the 5-10€ Wine bottle (or glass?!?) on top of next to nothing snacks that you could afford to eat all day!

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    1. A sucker for food porn huh?!? Actually I rushed home and ransacked my cookbooks and made osso buco and veal scallopini! You would love the tiny shops packed with eye candy and mouth watering decisions. The popular places make you wait until it hurts! I had forgotten how exquisite Italian food really is, and the perfection of flavor and blending of spices. You get schizophrenic between trying to eat or see museums or the sights. While packed the week we were there, I’m sure it tones down off peak. The crowds in many sights are unavoidable, so it takes alot of navigational skills to get around. We clocked in an average of 10 miles a day to work off the calories. I miraculously managed to avoid gaining weight, despite the gluten-laden diet. Apparently Italians have a higher percentage of gluten-intolerants but they are more apt to offer options than in other cultures. Hard to avoid the bread, the wine, the cheese…

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