Well, I’ve done it – the much talked about Italian adventure has finally come to an end, and the “real world” now has to begin. I’ve had, as you can probably imagine, a pretty spectacular time. Visiting all the regions of Italy, taking in the different cuisines, cultures and way of life has been fascinating. A lot of people have asked me if I’m sick of pizza yet and amazingly, no I don’t think I am. I guess it’d be like being asked ‘are you sick of sandwiches or bread’ as the majority of the UK population will no doubt eat a bread based product once a day. Also, pizza in Italy comes in so many different forms, that it never felt that I was constantly eating the same thing.
I’ve had company for the last few days and in comparison to my hostel and budget travels, it has felt incredibly luxurious. From getting a private water boat to our apartment, to eating at some of the nicest restaurants and drinking a lot of delicious wine, it’s been an awesome end to my trip. The highlights have been Verona, a beautiful city, home to Romeo and Juliet which, with its ‘Arena’ (aka small Colosseum) felt to me, like a mini Rome. Despite the city being incredibly busy and having to barge through a few people, it maintained a different atmosphere to other Italian cities I’ve been to, in that it felt more sedate and calm. We also had our best lunch in Verona, at la Cantina de l’Arena – here’s a review!
Another highlight was the delicious food and drink we shared. Our first evening at Enoiteca de Mascareta was a brilliant find, from its brilliant range of wines, to the fresh carpaccio of fish, to the lamb rack but I’ve written a review so I won’t waffle on. However, our favourite dinner was enjoyed on the last night at Osteria alla Staffa. Located off the beaten track, it felt very local without a trace of English on the menu (always a good sign). We shared the whole four course extravaganza and a lot of Prosecco for a very reasonable price – if you’re interested, here’s a review! Oh, and I also made us try some of the local specialities including veal liver (and oh wow, I have rarely felt so sick) and sardines in onions (both of us were pretty surprised by actually liking this) and squid cooked in its own ink, with polenta. In return, I allowed Andrew to eat a lot of ‘safe’ food including parma ham, mozzarella and vanilla ice cream.
I obviously ate a lot of pizza, unfortunately none of which stood out. We shared three take-away pieces, one from a place recommended by many guides called Arte della Pizza, but none of our samples seemed to have much taste. However, there didn’t seem to be a ‘standard’ recipe in Venice as you’d find all types of pizza, ranging from the thick spongy base to the more Neapolitan, thinner style. The two restaurant pizzas we shared were nice enough, but nothing to write home about. So, all in all, Venice didn’t deliver on the pizza stakes and we did give it a fair go.
I also did a bit of cooking, making us involutinis of mozzarella wrapped in parma ham and then veal lightly fried in lemon with roasted potatoes – both so simple, but very Italian. This was washed down with a 1.5 litre bottle of wine bought from a shop in Canneregio which offered varying white and red wines in oak barrels, of which you bring your own bottle for them to fill up, incredibly cheaply. So, we went off with what could have been disguised as a large plastic bottle of water, filled with what turned out to be pretty decent wine, all for 3 euros. Ah, I’m going to miss Italy!
So, I’m now on the plane back to England, to what I’ve heard will be offering me damp, miserable weather. I’ve learnt a great deal on this trip and I certainly don’t regret doing it. I now have the inspiration I’d previously lacked to enable me to open, what I hope will be a successful mobile business. This will be the first stage in my journey to opening the full scale version of MYO. I also have the basis for which recipes I’ll be using for MYO’s pizza, so these next few weeks will see me continuing to cook up the perfect pizza storm, acquiring a van and kitting it out and starting my supper clubs. So let the experimenting commence! I’ll be writing weekly updates, so if you fancy keeping tuned post Italy, I’ll still be here. Although I warn you, whilst the recipes might increase, the reviews may well decline due to me putting an end to my life of luxury in lieu of getting MYO started.