Eating in Italy, the short version...carbs, carbs, espresso, carbs and dairy, espresso, wine and gelato. The stereotypes are real. Italians love their pizza, pasta, cheeses, and coffee. Places aren't fast in preparation and they take hours to consume lunch and dinner. You're going to have to forfeit your diet for this trip. As much as we tried in the beginning to avoid eating carbs at breakfast to have them later in the day, it was short lived and we soon realized that carbs were at every point during the day and it was unavoidable. To survive the marathon of yoga-ing, exploring, and energy on self-discovery and managing a group, the carbs were a necessary part of thriving and not collapsing to pure exhaustion.
The pictures can't even do justice to the beauty and pride that each 'chef' took to create these masterpieces. Sure, there were some not so great meals along the way, and we soon learned that those not great meals were located in the tourist traps of Italy. We were lucky enough to have spent some time in the southeastern countryside of Italy in a village in the Puglian region. Where every person had cherished family recipes of sauces, pastas, fish dishes and a specialty dessert. Our Masseria had a display of baked goods, cheeses, meats, and fruits for breakfast every morning, all from the surrounding farmland or town. The small fishing villages of Savelletri, Monopoli, and Polignano a Mare gave us the best variety of what the Adriatic sea had to offer. As it is not flocked with tourists (but is home to where Justin Timberlake was married!) we got to make pasta, eat all types of seafood, taste wines specific to the region, and all made even more monumental by the company we were in for each experience.
Riding bikes through the countryside to visit working century old dairy and olive oil farms to learn the process that has stayed through generations was an experience I'm sure we all will not forget. Maybe not so much for the food and olive oil, but the pain our asses were in by the time we were finally done! Or the time we spent 5 hours to eat dinner where each course was accompanied by a different wine; that by the end we grew that much closer to each other over tears of laughter and fatigue. Either way, getting to learn where our food (and drink) comes from, makes you appreciate what you're eating even more than you thought could happen.
Our next stop was Rome and Florence. Obviously more well-known and not specifically for their food, but for culture and history. We stayed in a small Roman community just north outside the border of the Rome city limits (thank you Francesca and Largo Somalia main street!) The best and scariest decision we had made, as all we went by were maps and broken Italian to find our way to our apartment, to the bus and train, and of course...to eat. The first meal we had was breakfast, and you guessed it. Carbs. Having spent 11 days in Italy, at this point we had given up on caring about the carbs. We sat down for pastries and espresso, gearing up for a 14 mile, 12 hour, 3 bottles of wine, day through Rome. In retrospect, we should have had double the pastries and espresso to prepare us. It was the best experience and feeling to order in Italian and start up a conversation with an 83 year old woman next to us who shared the same love for long breakfasts, pastries, and unlimited espressos.
Florence was another story. Only there for a day, we ate fast and couldn't take in all the food that Florence had to offer. Living off of granola bars and nuts that we brought for the trip, we ran into a French festival and surprisingly ate Paella and rosemary potatoes and pizza. Anything to fill us up and refuel the carbo load we needed for the marathon back to Rome at 11pm. Oh, and have I been mentioning the wine? Just imagine that wine was at every meal...yes, if breakfast was consumed past 10am, you could bet there was wine involved.
Our last meal could only be summed up with one expression: Extravagantly Italian. We went all out, and why not, it was the last day in Italy. Besides the numerous wine that we had drank while visiting Villa Borghese and city center one last time, we went back to our authentic Italian village to Ristorante Campisi. Two bottles of wine, apps, pizza, pasta, streusel, and 3 hours later, we finalized our night and unbuttoned our pants to fit one last gelato in. Not just any gelato. Handmade, creamy, rich, authentic (yet somehow half of the flavors were vegan), gelato.
If anything were to stand out from eating our way through Italy, it would be the people we met along the way and the passion they have for their culture, heritage, and passion for life through food. When our group becomes one with the country and looks past any hesitations they may have had with eating (even if it means a whole fish, scales and head, is served to you without a clue on how to eat it), but learns to enjoy life and culture through the food and the people who made it, it becomes instantaneously satisfying. The trip is not only about yoga and self-discovery, but the culture, food, and people we encounter along the way. It makes the entire trip become well-rounded, more exciting, and absolutely more delicious than we could have anticipated.
Grow your mind and your tastebuds by joining us for more foodie adventures, not only in Baltimore, but in different countries and continents around the world!