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Enjoy Mouthwatering Cuisine in Croatia

Feast Through Croatia

While the country as a whole boasts food that will leave you wanting to lick your plate, each region has its own unique tastes and traditions. Despite what region you decide to visit, the Croatian food will not leave you disappointed, the only thing to decide is where to begin.

Try a Taste of Italy in Istria

In northern Croatia lies the heart-shaped peninsula of Istria. The region runs down the northwestern coast of Croatia but also includes parts of Italy and Slovenia. Istria has become a booming culinary hotspot recently, leaving many to proclaim Istria to be similar to Venice but at half the price. This region is best known for its wine and olive oil, the latter prized as the best in the world. The rolling hilltops and the endless sun provide the perfect environment to create intense flavor profiles. Because of its proximity to Venice, you will find many Italian influences. Manestra is a popular bean soup, similar to Italian Minestrone. Pasta and gnocchi are also prominent on many menus as well as a plentiful selection of fresh vegetables.
Like most of Croatia, Istria has a rich selection of flavorful seafood. Octopus salad is a favorite among visitors and locals and a delicious showcase of what the area has to offer. The dish is traditionally prepared with fresh octopus, onions, and herbs and will often include potatoes. A dressing of fresh lemon juice or vinegar adds acidity and perfectly balances the flavors of the salad.
It’s hard to visit Istria without discovering truffles. These pungent mushrooms are in appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Harvested only a few months of the year, you can’t leave without tasting this delicacy. Try this treat shaved over fresh Adriatic fish or frozen in a bowl of black truffle ice cream.
If you are visiting in the fall, be sure to catch the Zigante Truffle Days International Gourmet Expo and don’t forget to visit Zigante Tartufi. The expo’s host offers a variety of dishes throughout the year with the rare white truffle featured in the fall.

Enjoy the Bounties of the Sea in Dalmatia

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Squid Ink Risotto

When it comes to great Croatian food, traveling south is the place to go. In the south you will find the Dalmatian region. Dubrovnik is a seaport village located in the Dalmatian region in Southern Croatia. It is one of Croatia’s top tourist stops and once again a great place to find amazing seafood. While you really can’t go wrong with any seafood offering, the Crni Rizot is the dish you can’t leave Croatia without trying. The first thing you will notice about the dish is its bold, black color. Crni Rizot, also known as squid ink risotto is a creamy rice dish consisting of Arborio rice, squid ink, and typically squid or cuttlefish. The squid ink is what gives this tasty entrée its unique appearance.
The strong flavors of the risotto are best balanced with a nice red wine. The Dingac wine offers an excellent pairing and has deep roots in the region. Just be warned, because of the growing conditions, this wine can have a considerably high alcohol content.
At the north end of Dalmatia sits the island of Pag. This island is known for its salty sheep’s head cheese. The sheep of this island graze on rosemary and other herbs showered with salt deposits from the sea, hence the distinct salty flavor. There is such a salty influence on the island, that you will find a taste of it in many of the local foods. Just south of Pag lies the city of Zadar. Visit Lungo Mare for dinner on the Maestral Bay and enjoy what Alfred Hitchcock revered as the most beautiful sunset in the world.

Other coastal Croatian food specialties include:

Pršut i sir: Simply ham and cheese. The pork leg is salt-dried, seasoned, and air-cured for 12-18 months.
Mali Ston oysters: The town of Mali Ston is about an hour north of Dubrovnik, and their oysters are to die for.
Ispod Peke: Translated to “under the bell,” Ispod peke is a method of cooking in which meats and potatoes are slow-cooked under a terracotta lid, typically over coals.

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Octopus Peke

Meats and Traditional Flavors Provide a Hearty Feast Inland

Travel inland, and you will see a shift in Croatian food with recipes including more tastes from Turkey, Austria, and Hungary. The taste of punjene paprike will transport you to Hungary with the bold flavors of this dish. Fresh bell peppers are stuffed with mincemeat and rice and topped with a savory paprika-infused sauce. Sarma is another staple in Croatia. Though resembling traditional cabbage rolls, your nose (and your mouth) will detect a distinct difference — the cabbage is pickled.
Where coastal Croatia is known for its pršut, continental Croatia brings Kulen, a full-flavored sausage packed with intense spices and given a bold red appearance thanks to the generous infusion of paprika.
Visit the capital city of Zagreb, and you will be greeted by numerous outdoor marketplaces, with the most visited being the Dolac. Here you will find an endless selection of fresh local produce, dairy, meats, and bread. Visit with the locals and discover some of the freshest ingredients.
Zagreb is also the best place to try zagrebački odrezak, a veal schnitzel filled with melted cheese and ham. Try it at Pri Zvoncu.

Finish with Dessert

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Croatian Fritule

No visit to a new country is complete without sampling the desserts of the region, and Croatia has plenty to offer. Whether you are on the pebble beaches of Istria or dining in Krapina, your sweet tooth will have a cornucopia of options. The fritule is the Croatian version of a doughnut. This doughy treat, found on almost every table in Croatia during Christmas, is not often served at restaurants but can be found at local street stalls.
If you are looking for a decadent dessert, Rožata will delight. A Croatian custard, the dessert is infused with a Dubrovnik rose liqueur, giving it a sweet scent. Although it gets its name from the Dubrovnik region, Rožata is common in many restaurants throughout Croatia.
There is certainly no lack of diversity or flavor in Croatia’s food. Whether you are a seafood lover or enjoy a hearty meal of meat and potatoes, the options are limitless in this beauty by the sea.

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Destination Guide to Italy

Italy is a European country sitting on the Mediterranean Sea that has left deep impressions on the Western world, especially with its cuisine. Italy is home to many tourist destinations and landmarks including the capital city of Rome, the Vatican, and other major tourist cities such as Florence, Venice, and Milan. These cities combined attract about 48.6 million as of 2014, and the number of visitors increase each year.

Highlights of Italy

Tourists visiting Italy can also enjoy seeing masterpieces like Michelangelo’s “David” and Brunelleschi’s “Duomo.” Italy is also home to many historical museums which display pieces from as far back to the days of the Roman Empire when Italy was a global force in economics, culture, politics, and military strength. The same still holds true today as Italy is a powerful, affluent country whose citizens continue to enjoy a high standard of living.
Italy is home to plenty of other great works from great artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Titan, Raphael, and Botticelli. Most of these art museums and exhibits are located in Florence, the home of the Renaissance. The Renaissance movement swept throughout Europe during the late part of the Middle Ages and ended up expanding from Italy to Northern Europe, France, and England rapidly after the revolutionary ideas took root in Italy. The Renaissance brought a new mindset to Italy as it was characterized by another surge of classical scholarship and values.
Florence was also home to many of the prevalent artists of that time. These artists were able to create more realistic looking art than the artists of the Medieval period. Italy is a world-class destination for anyone with an appreciation of art who wants to see what has shaped the world of art today.

Destination Geography

Italy is a country located in southern Europe and shares a large majority of its coastline with the Mediterranean Sea. Italy is close to several other bodies of water including the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea as well as many lakes including Lake Como, Lake Orta, and Lake Iseo.
Besides being home to many bodies of water, by which many beautiful resorts were constructed, Italy is also home to many beautiful mountain ranges. Some of the more well-known mountain ranges include the Apennine Mountains, Mount Edna, the Dolomites, and Stromboli to name a few. The contrast between the sea and lakes and the stunning mountain ranges makes Italy a breathtaking sight to behold for tourists from around the world.
The Italian Peninsula is a boot shape that we have come to associate with the country. Several seas surround the peninsula including the Ligurian Sea, Tyrrhenian Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Ionian Sea, and the Adriatic Sea. There are several islands near the peninsula that are a part of Italy including Lampedusa and Sicily. Many of these islands also have historical sites dating back to ancient times that attract many tourists as well.

The Best Times To Visit

The weather in Italy can reach some extremes during the winter and summer, so most people prefer to visit in the more moderate seasons of either spring or fall. Whenever you decide to visit, be sure to take along plenty of appropriate clothing. In the wintertime, you will want a hat and scarf as well as boots, gloves, and a warm coat. In the summer, be sure to bring plenty of cool clothes that can withstand the heat while you spend your days exploring and don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen.

What To Know Before You Go

Cover Up In Religious Institutions

Out of respect, ladies will need to cover their shoulders and legs when entering some ancient religious sites and even some modern facilities. Be sure to bring along clothing to cover up when asked.

Most Places Accept Cards

Most tourist attractions throughout Italy will accept credit/debit card payments. But still, keep some cash on hand for those places that may not accept cards.

Food

Give some of the delicious cuisines throughout Italy a try. Gelato comes in many flavors, and some of Italy favorites include le creme, hazelnut, lemon, strawberry, and coffee.

Weather

Italy can have frigid winters and sweltering summers, making spring and fall the most pleasant seasons. The wettest months in Italy are from September to January and summers are the driest time. Italy never gets a ton of precipitation, however, November is the “wettest” month with only 4.7 inches of precipitation being the “average.” In July, only about 0.9 inches of precipitation is the norm.

Language Barrier

People at most tourist locations will speak ample English, as well as fluent Italian. Learning some basic Italian phrases such as the following before your trip will help you communicate with more natives and locals:
Buongiorno = Hello/Good Morning
Arrivederci = Goodbye
Per Favor = Please
Grazie = Thank You
Come Sta? = How are you?
Bene, Grazie = Fine, thank you!
Come Ti Chiama? = What Is Your Name?
Mi Chiamo = My Name Is…
Even these basic phrases will help you communicate as a tourist, especially with those who may not be in the tourist industry and may not be as fluent in English as you are as a tourist. That basic communication can aid you throughout your trip and make your experience interacting with the locals much more authentic.

Electricity Standards

Italy’s standard voltage is 230 V, and the frequency is 50 Hz. You will need a converter that converts the typical US 100-120 V of electricity into a 200-240 V over in Italy (and most of Europe). Plan accordingly to ensure that you are able to charge your electronics so you can use them throughout your trip.

Currency

The currency in Italy is the Euro as most other countries today.
Italy is the perfect destination for any traveler looking to eat great food, learn about ancient history and enjoy the Mediterranean coast. When you come to Italy, try some authentic Italian gelato, pasta or lasagna. Enjoy beautiful islands by the sea, learn about the history of ancient ruins and landmarks throughout the country and see all Italy has to offer.

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6 Local Dishes Around the World That Are Worth the Trip

Local Dishes Around the World!

An Italian dinner of pasta, tomato ragu, bread, and olive oil, speaks not only of the recipes passed on through generations but of the fertile lands that bore the olives in the country. In Japan, sushi is representative of the vast resources the country inherits from the sea. A meal in a new country is a way to experience and enjoy the tastes and traditions of the place you are visiting.
With food, you will almost always find the best dishes by going straight to the source. With decades, or even centuries experience cooking the same dishes, the locals have learned the insider secrets to perfect their cuisine. There are so many regional cuisines that are praised throughout the world, that traveling just to taste the foods of the world can be a worthwhile adventure. But with so many options and a wide range of flavors, where do you begin? Here’s a list of the best local dishes around the world.

Ceviche in Peru

You may have heard of ceviche before. To put it simply, ceviche

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Ceviche

is chopped raw fish that has been marinated in citrus and peppers. The fish “cooks” in the acidity of the citrus. The fish and citrus vary, but the flavor profile is the same — fresh, clean fish, the tangy acidity of lime or lemon, and subtle heat. Located off the Pacific Ocean, Peru has an abundant supply of fresh seafood. Popular options include sea bass, halibut, and tilapia. But as chefs continue to experiment, other varieties including marlin and shark are becoming popular as well. Lima is known to be the culinary hotspot of Peru, but there are great ceviche options throughout the country. Chez Wong is a must if you are in Lima. Also check out Jasusi in Máncora.

Chili Crab in Singapore

Be prepared to get your hands dirty when you dig into Singapore’s signature dish. You’re sure to find yourself licking your fingers as you try to savor every morsel of sauce. Chili crab is the perfect combination of sweet and spicy, providing an experience your taste buds won’t soon forget. The sweet and tender mud crab is smothered in a sauce composed of tomatoes, garlic, and spices. The degree of spice will vary from place to place, but it is generally believed, the spicier, the better. For authentic chili crab, a visit to Roland’s is a must, as they claim to be the place where the chili crab began. Few have been entrusted with the family recipe that makes this dish so special. Another favorite among locals is Jumbo Seafood, winner of numerous culinary awards and winner for best chili crab in 2006.

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Poutine

Poutine in Montreal

If you are looking for a comfort food that will stick to your guts, look no further than poutine. This local dish is comprised of crispy french fries topped with squeaky (as poutine connoisseurs like to call it) cheese curds and smothered in a rich brown gravy. This comfort food found its beginnings in Montreal, but can be found throughout most of Canada. Although the traditional variety is a favorite among locals, chefs throughout the country have found a variety of ways to spice it up. Be sure to visit La Banquise and try one of their 30 varieties including The Scooby, topped with steak, fried pickles, onions, bacon, and garlic sauce, or The Rachel, a vegetarian option topped with peppers, mushrooms and onions. Try Au Pied de Cochon, for a rich egg and cream infused gravy with a generous serving of foie gras on top.

Goulash in Hungary

You may remember goulash from childhood — ground beef, tomato sauce, noodles, a classic weeknight dinner. But that’s not the goulash we are talking about. Traditional Hungarian goulash (gulyás) is a local dish in Hungary containing a rich meat and potato stew. Though often made with large chunks of beef, it is not uncommon for veal or pork to be used as well. The meat is slowly simmered in a deep tomato broth, infused with smoky, Hungarian paprika. Potatoes and vegetables are added to create a warm, hearty dish that can be found on almost every menu in Hungary. If you are looking for an authentic experience, head to Budapest Bisztró.

Som Tam in Thailand

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Som Tam

Thailand is known for its soups and noodles. And rightfully so. Thailand is home to Pad Thai, Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup), and Pad Kee Mao (also known as drunken noodles). And while everyone loves a spicy noodle dish, there is another dish that travelers and locals keep coming back to. Som Tam is a green papaya salad. It can be found in street markets and in restaurants. Chilies, garlic, dried shrimp, fish sauce, and palm sugar are mixed together with a mortar and pestle. The resulting sauce is then combined with crisp, sour papaya. The sweetness of the sugar balances out the tart flavors and the chilies provide a nice heat. But be forewarned, the heat level will vary and some salads will provide quite a kick.

Pizza in Italy

When it comes to food, there are so many options to choose from in Italy. Italy is world renowned for its pasta, polenta, olive oil, wine — pretty much food in general. It’s hard to go wrong when choosing what to eat while in Italy. But perhaps the most iconic and arguably most delicious local dish to eat in Italy is pizza.
Pizza has been around for centuries, in multiple forms, flavors, and varieties. In Italy, pizza is at its best when it is kept simple. The best pizza is a showcase of its ingredients. Pizza Margherita is a classic. Crisp dough, a simple sauce, basil, and cheese are all that’s needed for the perfect slice. For a no-fuss traditional pizzeria, stop by L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples. In Rome, try La Gatta Mangiona and taste one of their seasonal favorites.

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An Insider’s Guide to The Most Fascinating Festivals in Italy

Tourists come from all over the world to celebrate Carnavale in Venice and to watch Siena’s famous horse race, the Palio. Italy’s lesser-known festivals offer unique experiences of the essence of Italy. They range from the unconventional to the sublime. Here are some Italian festivals you will never forget.

Opera Extraordinaire

The Puccini Festival is a festival in Italy that takes place in July and August attracts 40,000 music lovers to the open air theater in Torre del Lago. The theater is on the lake that inspired much of the maestro’s music and near the Villa Mausoleum where Giacomo Puccini lived and worked. Each year, several of Puccini’s operas are performed by world-renowned opera singers and conductors. An extraordinary experience is arriving at the theater by boat across the lake, imagining the composer’s ears tuned to the lap of water, the birdsong, and the rushing wind.
Torre del Lago is less than three miles from the magnificent beaches of Viareggio on the Tuscan Riviera and 11 miles from Lucca, Puccini’s boyhood home. Lucca is a walkable city surrounded by medieval walls that celebrates its famous native son with daily concerts in an ancient, deconsecrated church. His home, now a museum, houses a piano Puccini played when he was a boy. On display is Turandot’s elaborate, original costume. Manuscripts, letters, opera scores, and other memorabilia are stored in archival drawers, and walls are covered with paintings of ancestors and photographs. On one wall, the Puccini family tree shows they were a musical family back to the 1700s.

Happy Birthday to Rome

Rome’s Birthday (Natale di Roma), April 21, is a city-wide party and exhibition celebrating the founding of Rome by Romulus in 753 B.C. Fireworks explode over the Tiber River, the city twinkles with torches and colorful lights, museums are free, and restaurants outdo themselves with Roman feasts. This Italian festival also includes a costumed procession, involving more than 2,000 gladiators, legislators, vestal virgins, and priestesses, starts and finishes at the Circus Maximus. Historical reenactments, including gladiator, fights can be seen in every ancient piazza.
Reserve a table at Spirito Di Vino for ancient Roman dishes made with fresh ingredients and served in an ancient Roman building. A favorite is pork shoulder prepared according to the recipe of Gaius Matius who was a friend and cook of Julius Caesar. To walk on a Roman street, ask to visit their wine cellar.

An Epic Food Fight

Ivrea in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy is known for what may be Italy’s largest food fight, The Battle of the Oranges. In the three days leading up to Fat Tuesday, townsfolk dressed in medieval battle attire reenact the 12th-Century rebellion with citrus fruit instead of weapons. Participants of nine squads run through the streets hurling oranges or tossing fruit from “battle busses.” Each year, 500,000 pounds of oranges are splattered all over town. After the three days of carnage, one of the generals ends the war. A massive funeral for the slain is held on Fat Tuesday.
Spectators can wear a red hat to mark themselves as a bystander and noncombatant or stay safe from flying pulp by sheltering behind the nets that protect Ivrea’s buildings. Dessert lovers do not leave town without sampling the famed Cake 900, a chocolate cream sponge cake.
Surprisingly, Ivrea is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but not for its ancient history. The city was developed in the 20th-Century as a testing ground for Olivetti, the manufacturer of typewriters, mechanical calculators and office computers. UNESCO describes the city as “a model social project” expressing “a modern vision of the relationship between industrial production and architecture.”
Industrial advances have not erased Ivrea’s ancient piazzas and its skyline of stone towers and red-tiled roofs. The castle dates back to 1395 and has four stone towers and a large courtyard. It was used as a defensive post, a royal residence, and finally a prison until it was renovated in 1970 to host exhibitions and performances. The cathedral that dates back to the 4th Century A.D. is built on ruins of a Roman temple. Parts of the original structure survive, including the crypt. The church maintains most of its 12th Century Romanesque appearance.

Snake Handlers’ Parade

The small medieval town of Cocullo in the Abruzzo Mountains has an annual centuries-old festival celebrating St. Dominic whom locals believe protect them from wild animals and physical ailments. This Italian festival held in May is not for the faint of heart. It involves snake handlers competing from March to be named for catching the most serpents. Some snakes measure more than six feet long. They are kept alive and their fangs removed.
On May 1, following an early morning Mass in the town’s small church, locals ring a small bell using their own teeth to protect them against toothaches for the following year. Soil is blessed to be spread over fields as a supernatural pesticide and fertilizer. The wooden statue of Saint Domenico is taken out of the small church, and the snake hunters drape their snakes over the statue and his jewel-encrusted gold frame. The statue is paraded through the streets with the snakes writhing all over it in a procession that includes a brass band, clergy, and laypeople in traditional dress.
The few restaurants in Cocullo are booked by locals far in advance of the festival, but food vendors abound to feed the hoards of visitors. There are no reports of death by snakebite.

Venice’s Marriage to the Sea

On the last weekend in May, Venice celebrates its nautical prowess and closeness to the sea with processions of boats from St. Mark’s Square to the Port of St. Nicolo. The “wedding” ceremony dates back to the 1100s when a splendidly attired doge would ride an elaborately decorated boat and throw a wedding ring into the sea. The tradition continues with the mayor of Venice tossing the ring with these Latin words: Desponsamus te, mare, in signum veri perpetuique domini (We wed thee, sea, as a sign of true and everlasting domination).
In this Festa della Sensa teams of boats compete in river races, and thousands line the waterways jousting for a good view of the regattas and processions of boats and characters in historical costumes. The Festa culminates at the church of St. Nicolò, and a market of traditional foods and crafts is held in the nearby square.
Italy is known for its exuberant festivals, and one of the lesser-known Italian festivals could be the highlight of your European adventure.
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A History Lover’s Guide to Bologna, Italy

Bologna, Italy is a country of rich culture and ancient civilizations. Many localities not just centuries ago, but ages ago – literally. This makes it a history lover’s paradise – with plenty of places to gaze in awe at the majestic structures of years past.

A History In Brief

Bologna, Italy has origins tracing back to the Bronze age. After a population of unknown origin settled the area over three thousand years ago, they slowly began to develop their own culture.
By the Iron age, they were authentically known as the Villanovan Civilization and had greatly influenced the distinct culture you see today – not to mention left behind some of the historical sites you can witness.
As with all other great culture-rich regions, there were outside influences through the years leading to today. The first influence came from the Etruscans around the 6th Century BC. In 350 BC the Celts conquered the area and dubbed it Bologna, meaning “city.”
Two hundred years later the region was conquered by the Romans and officially adopted into what is now modern-day Italy.

Modern Notoriety

The ancient city of Bologna is modernly known as the center of Italian culture and artistic heritage. Both the Caracca and Reni Schools for the arts were founded there.
In 2000 the city was given the title of “European Capital of Culture.” In 2006 it was called a “city of music” by UNESCO.

Must-See Historical Sites

There are numerous examples of well-preserved architecture throughout the city which history lovers will not want to miss.
The amazing thing about ancient buildings, sites, or even artifacts is that they provide a living example of history. It takes the black and white pages of historical text and turns it into something substantial.
A word of warning: it can be very overwhelming for the first-time history traveler. In a good way, of course.
Quadrilatero
A bustling modern world sitting inside this old, compact Roman district. As you walk streets which have stood for centuries, you can peruse market stalls, cafes, and delis. You can find beautifully maintained examples of historic architecture anywhere you look.
Torre Degli Asinelli
Built in 1119, these twin towers are considered the region’s primary tourist attraction. Like the tower of Piza, these towers both lean considerably, thanks to a shifting layer of earth as the towers settled. You can even walk up one tower, although the other has been closed for quite some time because it is far too slanted to be considered safe.
San Colombano Collezione Tagliavini
A restored church with original frescoes and a medieval crypt, this place is a history lover’s paradise. Housed inside the beautiful building is a collection of musical instruments dating back to the early 1500’s. Unlike many other churches, photography is welcome here. You may also luck out and witness one of the unscheduled concerts hosted here.
Basilica di Santo Stefano
There were originally seven interlocking buildings built here, but now only four remain. Each building presents an opportunity to view religiously-themed art housed in historic architecture. The main building, for example, is called the Church of the Crucifix, where Jesus is depicted hanging on the cross while his mother watches. The solemn morbidity of the scene is an accurate depiction of the local religious beliefs.
Basilica di San Petronio
Although construction began over 700 years ago, this church remains unfinished. As it stands, it is the sixth largest church in all of Europe, despite sections of missing façade. One can’t help but wonder just how big the church was meant to be.

Must-Visit Museums

Lamborghini Museum
This unique attraction portrays the history of Italy’s infamous (and much sought after) luxury car company. Among the numerous cars on display, there is an original 350 GT from 1964.
Gelato Museum Carpigiani
Did you know that people ate frozen desserts all the way back to ancient times? No? Then you have to taste test – I mean, visit – this delicious museum. Not only will you learn about the ways people would make and eat frozen desserts, but you’ll also get to eat some yourself!
Museo della Storia di Bologna
This museum is perfect for people of all ages. The last 2,500 years of Bologna history is in a chronological showcase of interactive 3D displays. It brings the region’s history to life.

Must-Eat Indulgences

No trip to a city nicknamed “La Grassa” (AKA “The Fat One”) would be complete without indulging in some of the foods that have historically defined the culture. Some dishes are very local while others are Italian classics born from this region.
Tagliatelle al ragu
Known to the rest of the world as Bolognese, this is the culinary masterpiece which  the region gastronomically famous. The best place to get it? Trattoria Anna Maria. The food is always handmade, using authentic cooking techniques – all overseen by Anna Maria herself.
Seafood Pasta Dishes
Although the region of Bologna is very heavy in meat dishes, seafood has become an integral part of the diet also. Much of this is thanks to a Sicilian influence. Speaking of Sicilians, Da Maro restaurant operates a family of them. You can get a plate of pasta con le sarde or a variety of other seafood dishes – created with locally caught fish!
Tortellini
This is the most famous dish originating from the region, and the best place to get it is in the Trattoria Meloncello. This eatery has been around for over a century (which is how you know the food is good)! If the tortellini in brodo isn’t your thing, the gnocchi comes highly recommended!
Antipasti
Traditional Bologna fare features an array of delicious appetizers before the main course. At Ristorante Alice you can choose a bowl of antipasti filled with locally sourced cured meats, Pecorino cheese, chickpeas, marinated eggplant, and balsamic vinegar.
Between the fantastic historical sites, unique museums, and delicious culinary indulgences Bologna, Italy is a history lover’s paradise. Don’t miss the experience to immerse yourself in the rich culture of the region during your next Italy vacation!
 
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Jason’s Next Journey: Luxembourg, Germany, and Italy

Gearing up for our next big adventure in-country as they say.
We have some exciting insider looks coming your way while we’re filming our upcoming travel episode shorts and we’re getting really excited to share it with you. On this go round we’ll be visiting the duchy of Luxembourg, experiencing a river cruise on the Moselle and Main rivers through Germany, and capping it off with a visit to Italy where we’ll see Florence, Sienna in the heart of Tuscany, and the wonders of Rome.
Stay tuned, it’ll be a fast and furious good time.
For LIVE photos, video and updates, follow me on Instagram.

 

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Eating your way through Italy

Feast Through Italy

The food alone is one of the best reasons to visit Italy, as the list of mouthwatering delights is endless! Continue reading our “Foodie’s Guide” for a taste of Italy that will be the ultimate in culinary experiences!

Naples for Pizza

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Naples Pizza

Let’s start with the city where it all began. Pizza got its beginnings in Naples, and this amazing Italian creation has been a favorite for many years. By the late 18th century, the people of Naples were adding tomato sauce to their flatbread, and thus, this tradition got started. When you arrive in this incredible city, head straight to Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba for a slice that will knock your socks off! Established in 1830, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba is the oldest pizzeria in the world. Here, you will find traditional Neapolitan pizza, which has a thin, chewy crust covered with a robust tomato sauce and a light layer of cheese. You’ll see why eating pizza is an absolute must while in Naples!
Another staple in this Italian city is coffee. Known mostly for espresso, you’ll find countless cafe’s lining the streets of Naples where you can enjoy this hot beverage at it’s finest. Most often brewed by hand, you’ll want to do as the locals do, and quickly drink your espresso sweetened with plenty of sugar, then be on your way!

When in Rome

Pasta alla Carbonara

Whether you are spending the day in Rome or you will be there for a few days to weeks, the food is not to be missed! Roman cuisine is known for being simple and bursting with flavor. Famous for pasta dishes, as well as vegetable and offal stews, you’ll need extra time in Rome just to try all of the delicious food offerings. “Must-try” foods in Rome include the following: Suppli’, a deep-fried delight filled with mozzarella cheese, and covered in risotto, egg, and tomato sauce, Crostata di Ricotta, which is the Roman version of the traditional cheesecake, the ever-popular artichoke, and many more.
While artichokes are enjoyed worldwide, Italy is responsible for over two-thirds of the world’s production. Be sure to try thePasta alla Carbonara, which is spaghetti topped with a sauce made of pecorino cheese, eggs, black pepper, and bacon. Some restaurants to go to while in this fantastic city? Try Angelina, located nearby the Trevi Fountain, Glass, fine dining in the heart of Rome, or Salotto 42, which is convenient to the Pantheon.

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Gelato

Of course, no trip to Rome would be complete without gelato. The first gelato was made by the Romans when they decided to add fruit to snow from the mountains for a unique frozen dessert. Gelato, the Italian version of ice cream, is rich and decadent and comes in an array of flavors, including strawberry, chocolate, and lemon. The most popular flavor in the city? Pistachio!

Eating in Venice

Be prepared for Italian food as you’ve never had it before. Venice is known for specialty foods that you absolutely must try while there. The cuisine consists of flavorful dishes made with fresh fish and vegetables. Sarde in Soar, a sweet and sour dish made with fried sardine fillets marinated in vinegar, onions, raisins and pine nuts, dates back to the Middle Ages and continues to be a Venetian favorite to this day. With another staple of the region being rice, it only makes sense that Risotto is a specialty of Venice. One of the most widely served versions is seafood based risotto, made from squid ink that appears jet black. Don’t let the appearance of the dish startle you. This is by far the best risotto you’ll ever eat!
With the Venetian Lagoon being home to crustaceans, Venice is a seafood lover’s dream. Small green crabs, called Moleche, are a seasonal delicacy that is eaten after the shell is shed. These crabs are used in all sorts of fried dishes and salads.
No Venetian meal is complete without Baicoli, a dry, oval-shaped ship biscuit that is perfect for dipping into cream and enjoying with coffee. Most importantly, don’t forget the wine! The region has a varied landscape and is home to many red and white varieties. Some of the best wines to accompany all of the fresh fish in the region are Soave, Valpolicella, Amarone, and Orto di Venezia.

The Region of Tuscany

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Focaccia Bread

Arriving in Tuscany is an adventure in itself. Suddenly, you find yourself surrounded by an incredible amount of food that you must try before leaving. Like most regions of Italy, Tuscan cuisine is made from simple ingredients, such as legumes, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables. One of the local favorites, focaccia, found its way onto Tuscan tables over 2000 years ago. Focaccia is a bread is baked on hot coals or on a hearth. Eat it alone, dipped in oil and herbs, alongside a dish of pasta, or use it for a sandwich. No matter how you slice it, there is no wrong way to enjoy focaccia, and Tuscany is the best place to get it. Don’t forget one of Tuscany’s best offerings, the salumi and cheese.
When enjoying a meal in Tuscany, it is best to start with an antipasto with cured sliced meats. Tuscans are known for excellent soups, so fill your bowl with ribollita, a vegetable and bread soup, or the best tomato soup you’ve ever had. Pasta lovers can delight in tagliatelle al Tartufo, which is pasta covered in a truffle sauce, or pappardelle alla Lepre, wide egg noodles in a sauce made from wild hare. Whatever your preference, the pasta in Tuscany is not to be missed. Which restaurants to try? How about Bracali, a lovely restaurant with homemade cuisine, Caino, known for locally-inspired dishes, or Piccolo Principe, with an open kitchen and flavorful meals.

Bologna and the Emilia-Romagna Region

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Prosciutto

Also referred to as the “Breadbasket of Italy,” this region is famous for some of Italy’s most well-known pasta dishes. Dining in Bologna will allow you to taste some of the best lasagna, gnocchi, tortellini, and ravioli you’ve ever had. Eat like a local while in Bologna and the Emilia-Romagna region at one of the many porticoes that line the streets, and don’t forget to head to a local cafe for a cappuccino that you won’t believe. With the Italian nickname of the city being “The Fat One,” it is no surprise that this region knows what good eating is all about!
Along with the pasta dishes, don’t forget the prosciutto, made from cured and salted pork and sliced thin. Paired with cheese and olives, you’ll want to sit and eat this food all day! The perfect place to do just that? Dal Nonno, where you’ll get the best prosciutto in the region. All in all, the food in this region is something to indulge in and remember.
Now you know why Italy is known for being a country where great food is of utmost importance! Make sure you are ready to eat like never before when you visit Italy. Taste the local cuisines that every region is famous for, and see why Italy is the ultimate foodie’s dream!

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Don’t Leave Italy Without Exploring Tuscany

When you think of Italy, Florence is probably one of the first places that come to mind. Of course, you have to see Florence, and so it seems does everyone else. Enduring crowds is part of the Florentine experience along with being stunned and amazed at its glorious art and architecture and the gleaming gold shops on Ponte Vecchio that spans the Arno River. When you need some breathing room, it is time to explore the less crowded treasures of Tuscany.

Siena

Siena, just 30 minutes from Florence by train, is an ancient hill town famous for the Palio, the centuries-old horse race in the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo. The yellow-brown buildings that line the campo gave the name to the color “sienna.” Walking the ancient streets, you can see neighborhoods defined by the different flags flying from buildings. Each neighborhood has its Palio team, and competition is fierce through the generations.
The green and white marble 12th Century Siena Cathedral is one of the best examples of Italian Romanesque-Gothic architecture. Its Gothic octagonal pulpit is supported by lions. Inlaid in the floor is a mosaic labyrinth where penitents walk contemplating their sins. Its Piccolomini Library has frescos by Raphael and other artists from the 1500s, and the ceiling scenes shimmer with gold.
You can take a bus from the train station to avoid the arduous uphill walk. Or, try the series of escalators that take you from the station to the center of the city in less than five minutes.

Lucca

Lucca, an hour train ride from Florence, is a walkable medieval city surrounded by 800-year-old walls. The walls are so thick, they are topped by a park with benches, large trees, and paths. A favorite pastime is walking or biking around the city on the walls. The old Roman forum is the main square now lined with shops and restaurants. Old signage must be preserved, so a pharmacy sign is carved in 16th Century stone above the entrance to a shoe shop.
The town is best known for its native son Puccini who composed many of his famous opera here. He lived in a mid-19th Century apartment that has been made into a museum filled with his memorabilia and showcasing costumes from some of his operas. In the apartment, his family tree, drawn on a wall, goes back to the 1700s and includes several musicians.
An ancient deconsecrated church has free musical performances nearly every night, many featuring the music of Puccini. The 1846 Belle Epoch style Antico Caffé di Simo, Via Fillungo 47, serves great cappuccino and fresh pastries, and also served Puccini and literary luminaries such as Ezra Pound. A piano sits where the piano Puccini used to entertain friends was placed. At night the café is a wine bar.
The cobblestone streets can get crowded during the day because it is a popular tour stop. However, the village has too few hotel beds for most tours to stay overnight. Laws keep the town authentic, and large hotels are not allowed. In the evening, Lucca is quiet and peaceful.
During town’s annual Puccini Festival, you can enjoy one of Puccini’s operas in the outdoor theater on the lake where he composed some of his music. You can park across the lake and take a boat to the opera. During the ride, you experience the watery and waterfowl sounds that inspired the maestro

Lucca’s Countryside

With a car, and it needs to be a small car, you can drive along narrow twisting roads up hills to the hamlet of Celle in Pescaglia to see the ancestral house where Puccini was born. The Puccini progenitor Jacopo was born here in 1712. The house contains original artifacts and furnishings including Puccini’s crib and the bed where it is rumored he was conceived. Celle’s two-block-long main street has a small restaurant serving the rustic Tuscan food Puccini would have grown up on. The restaurant overlooks a bucolic valley.
A hamlet near Vettriano has an 1889 theater constructed in a barn. It is the world’s smallest historic theater still in use. It seats 99 because one more seat would require the installation of fire safety features that would spoil the ambiance. The only way to reach its two tiers of balconies is through the roof. Seats are padded kitchen chairs that retain the character of the times when the townsfolk had to bring their own chairs. Contemporary performances include classical plays and concerts. Puccini attended a performance here, and the townsfolk were so honored, they sang to him. He ungraciously replied, “If I knew you were going to sing, I would have brought my rifle.”

Pietrasanta

Pietrasanta, which means “sacred stone,” is 30 minutes from Lucca. The village is dedicated to sculpture and, to a lesser extent, other arts. The Carrara marble quarries are close to the town and have been mined since ancient Rome. Michelangelo lived in this village while he was searching for the marble he needed for his masterpieces. The Church of Sant Agostino was built in the 14th Century and has been deconsecrated. It is now a museum showcasing contemporary sculpture. Walking around the small town and its gardens, you will see displays of sculpture in surprising places and doors to artists’ studios invitingly open. Visitors enjoy their espressos at outdoor tables in the main piazza with a view of the white marble 14th Century Duomo, or main church, that has a marble rose window dating back to the 14th Century and lunettes with scenes of the Life of Christ over the three portals. The Eno-Trattoria Da Beppino. Via Valdicastello Carducci 34, serves hearty Tuscan food and offers indoor and outdoor seating.

Viareggio

Viareggio is on the Tuscan Riviera. It was a medieval fishing village developed as a seaside resort area in the 19 Century. The tree-lined promenade has boutiques, upscale shops, discos, restaurants, cafes, and art galleries. Pine forests on both sides of town offer a green respite. The town is best known for its “furnished” beaches. With a one-day pass, you can have a place of your own on the sand furnished with a blanket, beach chairs, and beach umbrella. Changing rooms, lockers, and showers are available plus a bar and restaurant.
Adventurous travelers find there is more to Tuscany than Florence and vineyards. Exploring little towns, finding hamlets you have never heard of, and enjoying a beach day enrich the Tuscan experience.

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Don’t Leave Rome without Visiting its Peaceful Places

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The glories of the Colosseum, Piazza Navona, and Vatican City are worth a few selfie-stick puncture wounds, but wandering off the tourist trail can bring you to quiet, fascinating, historic places where you have room to experience them. Get a good map, a bus/tram/Metro pass at tourist kiosks or shops with a large black T, and discover the essence of the Eternal City in peace.

Millenniums of Music

St Cecilia’s Basilica in the Trastevere section is rooted in the Third Century and tourist-deprived today. The courtyard with its fountain topped by an ancient Roman urn is surrounded by fragrant roses and a few benches. This is a serene place to enjoy a gelato or a few slices of carry-out pizza. Once rested and refreshed, venture inside. The interior of the church is a yawn of baroque, but the 9th Century mosaic in the apse depicting the Second Coming gleams and glitters. The altar, with its Guido Reni 1630 paintings, Saints Valerian and Cecilia and Decapitation of Saint Cecilia, and its 1282 Baldacchino by Arnolfo di Cambio are among Rome’s finest treasures. Stefano Maderno’s hauntingly beautiful 17th-century marble statue of St. Cecilia tells the story of this Third Century martyr. She lies on her side with her hands making the early Christian sign of “one God, three persons” and a slit across her neck showing her fatal wound.
Cecilia was a Roman patrician who converted to the forbidden faith and encouraged others to convert. She was martyred in AD 230, but the executioners did not find it an easy task. First, they locked her in her steam room for three days. She came out alive and singing, which earned her the title of the Patron Saint of Music. Next, they tried to decapitate her. As she was a Roman citizen, only three strokes of the ax were allowed. She was mortally wounded, but it took her three days to bleed to death. When her body was exhumed in 1599, it was incorrupt under a gold funeral shroud. Maderno did a detailed sketch of her body before it was reburied and then created a statue that is faithful to his sketches.
The church is built on the remains of the saint’s house, and visitors can pay a small fee to take a wooden flight of stairs down to the original Roman roads where the walls of her house still stand. There is little signage, but many marble and concrete slabs have Latin inscriptions. When you come back upstairs ask the nun on duty to see the “affreschi di Cavallini,” If no nun is in sight, ring the bell beside the door on the left side of the church. Pay a few Euro to see the top half of Cavallini’s 1293 fresco Last Judgment now in a dusty upper room. The 18th-century renovators plastered the bottom half but had to leave room for a balcony used by cloistered nuns thus saving this portion of his work that shows Christ, the apostles, and angels. If you visit in time for Vespers, you can sit in the church and enjoy the nuns singing. The church is a popular venue for concerts of classical and ecclesiastical music.

Christianity’s Ground Zero

Plan ahead to see one of Rome’s most hidden and guarded sites. The Scavi beneath St. Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican, offers guided 90-minute tours of excavations that are at Ground Zero of the Christian faith. The highlight of the tour is what are believed to be the bones of St. Peter, located right beneath the altar in the church above them.
Also known as the Vatican Necropolis, The Tomb of the Dead, the area was discovered in the 1940s when the Vatican commissioned excavations to prepare a burial place for the tomb of Pope Pius IX. Legend had it that St. Peter was buried beneath the altar, but few believed that to be true. The archaeologists found a burial ground (necropolis) dating back to the 4th century. They found the temple of Emperor Constantine who had ruled at that time and ancient graffiti that translates as Peter is here. The remains were forensically examined in the 1960s, and experts concluded the bones were from a man in his early sixties who lived in the first century AD. In 1968, Pope Paul VI declared them to be the bones of St. Peter. In 2013, Pope Francis exhibited the nine pieces of bone that are encased in a box inside a bronze display case for the first time to the public.
The tour includes the necropolis with its funeral monuments and Constantine’s temple as well as the boxed bones of St. Peter placed exactly where scripture reports Peter says they would be found: upon this rock, I will build my church.
This is one of Rome’s most exclusive tours. Only 250 people a day, in groups of 12, are permitted. Pre-booking a tour is the only way to see this historic site, so plan ahead, months ahead. Some visitors have had luck with just showing up and asking if there are any cancellations. Even if an available tour is in a foreign language, it will be worth it. Tickets in hand, you must pass the colorful, serious Swiss guards and will walk along part of the Vatican that is off-limits to unticketed visitors.

Travel through Time

Crypta Balbi is one of the most overlooked museums in Rome, right off Largo Argentina. This is a frantically busy transportation hub around an excavated square block of Roman ruins, one of the three sites proclaiming to be the place of Julius Caesar’s murder. The museum is rarely crowded, but it is one of the few places that display the layers of Rome in one location. It stands on the remains of the Theater of Balbus constructed in 13 B.C., which you can visit. Then, you advance in time as you move up through the exhibits. One section illustrates the transformations of the urban landscape from antiquity to the 20th Century and artifacts from homes and businesses between the 5th and 10th Centuries A.D. — the Dark Ages. The other section contains artifacts from other Roman museums along with those found on site. You can see what the historical center of Rome looked like in ancient times, in the Middle Ages, and through today.
While the Vatican Museum has priceless, famous works of art, they are difficult to fully appreciate because of the mobs of visitors. In Crypta Balbi, you have time and space to ponder such items as a 9th Century bishop’s chair made of bone and elaborately designed, lead and ceramic pilgrim flasks from the 6th Century, Medieval artifacts that furnish rooms authentically, a 3rd Century marble plan of Rome, and hundreds of other artifacts that bring to life Rome’s many eras.
In addition to the list of things, you want to do and see in Rome, leave time to simply wander. Who knows what wonders you may stumble upon.

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A Foodie’s Guide to Living It Up in Rome

Rome is a paradise for sightseers from all walks of life, with stunning fountains, ancient ruins, and a series of historic landmarks that make it one of the go-to destinations of Europe. But even though your eyes will have more than enough to contemplate during a trip to the Eternal City, it’s also a foodie’s wonderland thanks to a spread of options that offer both international delicacies and local favorites. Think about these culinary possibilities as you’re putting together the details of a journey to Rome.

Highlights of Roman Cuisine

Although pasta or pizza is often what springs to mind when you think about Roman food or Italian cuisine in general, there is a lot more going on than the staples that have made their way around the globe. An internationally famous delicacy, Roman artichokes pop up on the menus of some of the very best restaurants in the city for a reason, and they’re particularly mouth-watering when they’re in season from February through May. Fried zucchini is also one of the local favorites in Rome worth trying even if fried food isn’t typically your meal of choice.
When you’ve sampled some of the less-famous Roman classics, finding your favorite pasta dish is an age-old tradition in a city that almost has too many great options. Carbonara is the timeless Roman dish that remains the centerpiece of plenty of restaurants, although digging into favorites like cacio e pepe and fettuccine Alfredo (or its cousin fettuccine al burro) can be a life-changing experience at the best Roman restaurants. There’s certainly a time and place for Roman pizza as well, with many eateries boasting the best pizza in all of Italy – even if you do have to be little wary of a few of them. Washing it all down with a small cup of genuine gelato is just about impossible to top, and there are dozens of terrific stands and small shops throughout the city ready to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Rome is also a great place to be a little daring with your food choices, particularly in the old slaughterhouse district of Testaccio just south of the historic center. Meals like tripe in red sauce and stewed oxtail are a couple of the mainstays of cucina povera (“peasant cuisine”), which mostly relies on the leftover pieces of meat called offal. A very old tradition in Rome, offal-based food is served in some of the finest restaurants as well as more casual place throughout the city. Whether you’re an adventurous foodie or simply looking for quality dining experiences, however, you shouldn’t have a hard time ending up with an unforgettable experience touring the best food Rome has to offer.

Be Wary of the Tourist Trap

The classic tourist trap is found just about anywhere in the world there is an iconic landmark, and Rome clearly has no shortages of restaurants with elevated price tags near their most famous gathering points. One place to be especially aware of this is near the Coliseum, where there is a pretty amazing divergence of quality in a concentrated area. If you want a view of the Coliseum for a meal, even a simple one like a sandwich and a pint, you should be ready to fork over quite a bit of dough without a guarantee the food quality will match the cost.
But Rome is also a terrific place to go off-the-beaten-path to find a hidden gem, particularly during the day in the most touristy zones in the city. Instead of a full-service place where you’ll pay a premium to see a landmark you were just in, you’ll be in much better shape shooting down an alley and finding a place with counter service and locals on their lunch hour.
Highly rated places like Pizza Zizza or La Boccaccia–only a few minutes north of the Coliseum by foot–will let you grab a slice of legit homemade Roman pizza for a fraction of the price of a meal at a sit-down location loaded with other out-of-towners. The same also goes with the famous Pizzarium, which serves classic combinations of Roman pizza just outside the Vatican. Although Pizzarium doesn’t even have much real seating for the takeout side of the business, finding your own view and a quiet place to eat is part of the adventure of grabbing a midday meal in Rome. While there are many terrific places to splurge for an amazing meal in Rome as well, choose wisely when you’re within range of the most popular destinations in the city.

Finding the Ambiance

Unlike some of the other cuisine hot spots in Europe, the best restaurants in Rome don’t have stunning cityscape views. Instead, Rome is famous for its quiet, scantily lit alley restaurants that are perfect for spreading out the evening–particularly during the warm nights of summer.
A perfect place to delve into the romanticism Rome offers is to head over to Trastevere, a neighborhood just south of the Vatican that’s known for its cobblestone streets and ancient-appearing alleyways. There are certainly a few restaurants with inflated menus in the main part of Trastevere, but there is also a range of great restaurants serving both traditional and modern Italian favorites. Places like I Vinaioli, Checco er Carettiere, and Antico Arco aren’t exactly on the inexpensive side, but they offer an amazing combination of Trastevere ambiance and traditional bites.
You could take a cheap cab or Uber across the Tiber to/from the central Roman neighborhoods, but Trastevere is also at the end of a beautiful river walk perfect for walking off a plate of carbonara and bottle of Chianti. Trastevere even has a pub, the Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà, that is often mentioned along with the other best watering holes in all of Europe.
It’s not hard to find a bit of local tone right near the more central parts of Rome either. In the Celio neighborhood, a popular area within walking distance of the Pantheon, Colosseum, and Forum, you might have to skip over a few inexpensive restaurants, but you can also find quiet little trattorias serving authentic Roman cuisine right out on the streets.
For more serious foodies, the Michelin-rated restaurant Armando al Pantheon is an oasis in the middle of one of the busiest parts of the city, and diners get a chance to say that ate in a renovated pagan temple that dates to antiquity. Food halls, or open-air markets, are also picking up steam in Rome and give visitors an excellent sampling of local flavors. In the eastern part of the city, the Mercato Centrale Roma has three floors of vendors from all over the area and is a particularly great spot to feel the pulse of the city over lunch.
Though it can certainly feel a bit overwhelming to try to sift through the assortment of great food options in a city like Rome, you would have to go almost out of your way to have truly bad dining experiences given the number of quality choices. With an eye out for the restaurants to skip over and reservations well in advance for Rome’s top restaurants (like Armando al Pantheon), you’ll be well on your way to doing what the Romans do like a pro.