Northern Italy quickly piques the appetite. No one can resist an eggy, custardy zabaglione from a rustic restoranti. It’s impossible to see a pizza al taglio seller and bolt by. And even anarchists wouldn’t dream of passing up a buttery crostata, washed down with a frothy cappuccino. It’s true – you haven’t experienced this part of the country until you’ve broken a crusty pagnotta with the locals. Here are the best places to do it:
With its German-Italian fusion, the food of Bolzano (Bozen) is truly unique. Neighbouring Austria means eateries here are a mix of Austrian, Italian and even Swiss influences. Gigantic salt-studden pretzels are a popular local snack, as are krapfen (jam-filled doughnuts). Fortunately, there’s a baker on every corner for you to get your sweet-tooth dosage.
For those hankering the Dolomites with a side serving of fancy South Tyrolean delicacies, Hotel Castel Rundegg is a sure-fire fix. The 12th-century castle is where locals and travellers flock for a gourmet treat. Diners with all kinds of dietary needs can tuck into hearty local dishes, whether you’re dodging meat or gluten.
Hotel Castel Rundegg
With all great Italian food, comes great wine. Brescia sits in the heart of vineyard heaven, otherwise known as Franciacorta. The region produces four million bottles annually, many of which you can sample in local restaurants, complemented with traditional Brescia food (don’t leave without a bowl of casoncelli (a kind of ravioli) with Bagòss cheese). Ancient trattorias live by the Slow Food movement – you’ll have a tough time coming across a bad one.
Head to the countryside and you’ll find Agriturismo L’Unicorno amid the vineyards and olive groves. Not only is it the quintessential Italian stay – a 16th-century farmhouse in the hamlet of Macesina – but the cuisine is wholeheartedly local. Dishes are drizzled with extra virgin produced from local olives and garnished with herbs fresh from the garden. Wash down with a glass of fragrant single-vine Grappa for the real la dolce vita.
You can’t go wrong with pasta e fasioi in Treviso. Served up in a creamy, velvety soup, this pasta dish is practically a birthright for locals. Traditionalists will only have it with raw red chicory lining the bottom, finished off with a sprinkling of pepper. In addition to the country cooking, there are fine examples of rich, sophisticated cuisine. The award-winning Hotel Villa Cipriani has the best of both, ranging from one-off traditional Cipriani-style recipes to precious dishes from the past. The 18th-century villa is open daily for lunch and dinner, or for a real treat, stay the night.
Puster Valley is an alpine wonder – not just visually, but edibly. So many South Tyrolean recipes stem from the valley and its farms, passed from generation to generation over the years. One of the most typical delicies – which you can sample all over the valley – are tirtlan. These pastry delights are filled with spinach and curd, then served in a barley broth. Staying in the valley is a cosy affair at Hotel Alte Goste, where South Tyrolean delicacies are prepared all day long by two passionate female chefs. And since you’re already dining in the candlelit wine cellar, you might as well sample the selection of reds…
Hotel Alte Goste wine cellar