We took the night train across the border from France into Italy through a pass in the Alps. The dark of night hid the towering peaks then the rolling hills of Piedmonte. It took a mad sprint with heavy backpacks in the Milan central Station to make the last train to Lake Como. I barely set eyes on a single piece of Italy as I drifted off to sleep about 1am and dreamed of pizza and gelato. By sunrise the stirring of my mind (with a little help from my stomach) set me on a mission for an Italy binge.
Phase One – Italian Pizza
By the lake it is all glitz and glamour in Como, no place for the type of pizzeria I was looking for. A few blocks from the old city wall we found a place with a dirty exterior and the warm glow of a wood fired oven inside. Cheap and crowded, even early on a Tuesday, this was the pizza fix I was after. I ordered the “Pizza Tipica” (typical pizza) with a rich tomato base and mushroom and salami topping. It is all about the base, the crunch and the hint of smokiness from the oven.
In other countries you will find international restaurants set up by immigrants from across the globe. Italians are passionate about their local food history so other flavours can be hard to find. This means that immigrants to Italy soon turn to the local cuisine to earn a crust. My pizza was made and served by Egyptians and you will find people from around the world in the pizzerias of Italy.
Phase Two – Gelato and Coffee
Back towards the classier end of town for gelato, it needs technique and high quality ingredients to perfect. We chose a sleek gelateria with white marble and glistening steel lids hiding the gelato from view. One scoop of silky chocolate, the other salted pistachio served with a crunchy wafer biscuit and chocolate circle with the snap that comes from careful tempering. I thought I better seal the deal on this Italy binge with a strong espresso and small nutella filled cannoli.
With some serious digestion to do I walked around the lake and back to the apartment for a siesta. This eating experience was my base camp to the Everest that is an Italian holiday. A trip to Italy is a highlight for any food loving traveller, when the time comes for you to experience this wonderful country take my lead and get the basics covered before diving into Italy.
Words and Images by Wade Ranson