Italian cuisine is one of the most popular in the world, so it’s fitting that Italy will play host to this year’s food-themed Expo 2015. Between May and October, gourmands from all over the globe will converge on Milan to taste dishes from 145 different countries and debate the issue of how to feed the planet in the future. Why not use the Expo as a springboard to discover the mouth-watering world of Italian gastronomy?
With its theme of ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, Expo 2015 is set to be the biggest food-focused event of the decade. A soon-to-be-confirmed programme of lectures, workshops and debates will run throughout the six-month exposition, but it isn’t all about the serious stuff. The one-million-square-metre site is laid out to mimic the typical Roman city plan, boasting an exposition garden with over 12,000 trees, a vast open-air theatre and hundreds of exhibition pavilions.
Visit the Future Food District to discover how technology is changing the way we produce and eat food, wander through the Biodiversity Park where ecosystems from around the world are reproduced, and see how the relationship between food and art has changed through the centuries at the Trienniale Museum (Viale Emilio Alemagna 6, +39 02 724 341).
There will also be plenty of opportunity to sample cuisines from around the world, thanks to nine themed markets and a giant refreshment area. And with daily cooking demonstrations, food-themed shows and concerts, foodies will be spoilt for choice.
The Expo 2015 site is just a short journey on the metro from central Milan, so there’s no excuse not to immerse yourself in this stylish city’s culinary culture while you’re there. Milan has countless internationally acclaimed restaurants, but if you want to make like the locals then start your day with a melt-in-the-mouth apricot brioche from artisan patisserie Pavè (Via Felice Casati 27, +39 02 9439 2259). When you’ve finished licking your fingers, enjoy a relaxed wander around one of the city’s many neighbourhood markets. Mercato Papiniano (Viale Papiniano 1), which runs on Tuesdays and Saturdays in the Porta Genova area, is among the biggest and best.
The traditional Milanese lunch is a simple sandwich, and you won’t find a more delicious panini selection than that on offer at I Panini della Befi (Via Privata della Passarella 4, +39 02 7602 3321). Finish off the day in style by dining on impeccably cooked traditional Italian cuisine at two-Michelin-starred Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia (Via Privata Raimondo Montecuccoli 6, +39 02 416 886).
Keen to extend your journey of culinary discovery beyond Milan? Rome, capital of Italy and a centre of gourmet excellence, should be your next stop-off point. The challenge here is navigating around the extortionately priced, tourist-centric restaurants that dominate the centre of this stunning city and rootling out the more authentic eateries.
Start with a cooling gelato at the pricey-yet-fabulous Il Gelato di San Crispino (Via della Panetteria 42, +39 06 679 3924), Rome’s original gourmet gelateria. Now mosey over to the Circus Maximus to browse the Campagna Amica market (Via di San Teodoro 74, +39 06 489 931), which specialises in truly local produce and showcases everything from olive oils to artichokes. Rome is famous for its pizza, and 75-year-old Pizzeria da Remo (Piazza Santa Maria Liberatrice 44, + 39 06 574 6270) reportedly serves the best in the city. Rub shoulders with the raucous locals as you wait for your pizza to be individually baked to order.
Rome boasts an endless choice of gourmet eateries, but for a classic combination of location, cuisine and price you can’t do better than Pierluigi (Piazza Dè Ricci 144, +39 06 686 8717). Dine on succulent seafood against a stunning palatial backdrop.
Tuscan cuisine is legendary among food lovers, and the region’s capital is the best place to sample it. See a spectacular rainbow of local produce at the Mercato Centrale (Piazza del Mercato Centrale), a thriving market where stalls selling seafood, olive oils, breads, sundried tomatoes and prosciutto are overlooked by an array of casual dining eateries. If you’re keen to avoid the tourist hordes then the smaller Sant’Ambrogio market (Piazza Ghiberti) is where local chefs go to source ingredients and offers an authentic flavour of Florentine life.
For a home-cooked lunch of traditional ravioli or tagliatelli, make for Osteria dei Pazzi (Via dei Lavatoi 1, +39 055 234 4880). Don’t be fooled by the casual atmosphere – the chef here is top notch, and every dish is packed with flavour. There’s a completely different experience to be had at Cibrèo (Via del Verrocchio 8R, +39 055 234 1100), where advance bookings are essential and the traditional paper menu is replaced by a small but exquisite line-up of daily specials. Still peckish? Enjoy a top-notch dessert at Vestri Cioccolato (Piazza Gaetano Salvemini 11, +39 055 234 0374), where you’ll learn to see chocolate in a whole new light.
Venice might be known for its exquisite art and architecture, but the city’s gastronomic scene has always been associated with the wallet-draining restaurants around St Mark’s Square. Don’t be fooled, though – there’s plenty for food-focused visitors here if you know where to look.
Start by getting up early and making a beeline for the Rialto Market (San Polo 42). This famous foodie haven is bombarded by visitors from mid-morning onwards, but before breakfast it’s virtually a locals-only zone. Escape this popular area ahead of the crowds and make for Calle San Pantalon, where you can breakfast both wisely and well at the Tonolo pasticceria (Calle San Pantalon, +39 041 523 7209), one of the best patisseries in the city. After that, pick up a scrumptious souvenir at the Pantagruelica deli (Calle Lunga San Barnaba, +39 041 523 6766), which stocks everything from fine wine and rare alcohols to handmade pasta, delicious goat’s cheese and Sartorelli biscuits.
If you’re suffering from the heat, a slice of whipped cream-drenched ice-cream cake on the scenic balcony of Gelateria Nico (Fondamenta Zattere al Ponte Longo 922, +39 041 522 5293) is the ultimate cure – but leave room for dinner at the atmospheric Altanella trattoria (Giudecca 268, +39 041 522 7780), where friendly family service combines with delicious food and a laid-back atmosphere.