Sweet Italy, my love of loves.
Dear friends, I have regaled you with the highlights from the World Tour itself… but now, I will start from the very delicious beginning…
Arriving into Rome, I felt like I was walking into a dream.
I’ve had a lifelong obsession with Italian cuisine. I’m totally enamoured by the regionality, the seasonality and the simplicity of it.
The Italians were the original pioneers of fast food and 4 ingredients. Tomato, fresh Mozzarella, Olive Oil and Salt is all you need to create a dish so drool worthy, you would almost sell your soul for it.
Visiting the country of my ultimate food fantasies, knowing that my sole purpose was to eat, explore and write, it seemed so surreal to me, that I was constantly waiting for someone to pinch me and wake me up.
I caught the fast-rail from Roma Termini to Rimini. I had to change trains half way, and almost as if my guardian angel was accompanying me, I miraculously woke up from my unexpected and unwelcome micro sleep just as the train was pulling into Bologna Centrale.
I breathed an audible sigh of relief, because I’m fairly certain it would’ve been a seriously uncool situation, had I woken up 3 minutes later and realized I was on a one way track to Milan.
Heaving my already 28kg bag around was also now creating grave issues, as I encountered numerous stairwells and super high escalators.
But alas, this is what happens if you’re guided by the ethos, When in Italy, must dress fabulous! Therefore, inciting a need to travel with a wardrobe of shoes, accessories and clothes that would make Victoria Beckham look like a light packer.
Of course, I regretted my ridiculous thought process later when I needed to buy myself a Spaghetti guitar, Piadina stone, cookbook, food, wine etc… etc… and my bags ended up weighing about 15kgs more.
Note to self: New ethos; Travel light you damn fool, food trumps fashion.
Arriving into Rimini, I was warmly greeted by my personal driver Alessandro, with a sign card reading my name. I dangerously, could get used to this…
He took me to my hotel The Savoia, and although it was night and I couldn’t see it, I could smell the Adriatic.
I think I may be dead and now in Heaven… Did the plane crash?
The Savoia Hotel is lovely, reminiscent of a bygone era, but still modern. I’ll happily stay there again. Come to think of it, the whole of Rimini itself could be described like that. There’s something so cool and vintage about it.
After being shown to my super clean and inviting room, I dropped my bags immediately and set out for my first Italian meal.
I planned to eat on this trip. I planned to eat a lot.
I walked to the main street behind the hotel.
It was here, that I found my first meal of Prosciutto and Melon salad and a Piadina filled with Prosciutto, Rocket and a soft cheese called Stracchino which is commonly used in Italian street food.
I made a firm mental promise to myself, that when I looked back upon this trip I wasn’t allowing myself any meal regrets, and I’m a gal who takes her vows seriously.
Waking the next morning, the salty sea I could smell the previous evening was now in full view and right outside my window.
I’d been a travel agent for 8 years, and I’d never sent a single client to Rimini. I’d never even heard of it before this adventure. I now cannot wait to go back there with my family.
On a calm day, the sea is as flat as a millpond and you can barely make out where the water ends and the sky begins.
The Adriatic has an abundance of seafood, all of which are in plentiful supply at the large number of local, well priced restaurants.
If you’re down for a good time, Rimini has Italy’s largest and most well known night clubs or if you would rather just eat a great meal and finish with an even greater drink, the Grand Hotel is an establishment that’s hosted the likes of Frederico Fellini and can serve a killer cocktail.
After taking in the view, I set off on my morning pilgrimage to find coffee, and I can hilariously attest, that I’m now a true lover of the short black.
Please know, this is not through personal choice, but merely because I don’t know how to order coffee in Italy, and I kept being served them… What a beautiful mistake, because I now see that a delicious, fresh Espresso is one of lifes glorious, little gifts.
That afternoon I enjoyed my first delicious lunch (the first of many…), in the Savoia’s restaurant Soleiado, an award winning eatery that specializes in local seafood.
It was here that I met Valentina and Michela, I later met Francesca, and I like to think of these three women as my Italian fairy godmothers, for making this trip a reality and my dreams come true…
My dining companions and I, shared a platter of cold and hot seafood appetisers, and I also ordered a homemade Strozzapreti with Cuttlefish, Tomato and Basil pesto.
Strozzapreti, a type of hand rolled pasta, I was later told translates to ‘strangled priest’. Interesting name, not sure I want to know the origins of that one…
After lunch, our first port of call as media jurors was MEC3. A company that specializes in the supply of Gelato ingredients.
What started out as a small business between friends (The name signifies the initials of the three founders) has now become a global company with distribution centres over the world and the leading market share in gelato ingredient supply.
This factory looks and smells like a decorated cookie. Yes Sir, I’m liking this trip already…
At MEC3, we were also treated to a mid-afternoon treat of stacked, filled Brioche and a Brazilian Lime cake, washed down with glasses of Prosecco. Ohhh yes, I’m definitely liking this trip…
After the MEC3 factory, we were taken to IFI.
There we were being treated to a welcome dinner at the factory as well as a tour. I’m beginning to see that Gelato is serious business.
IFI are Golden Compass Award winning, world leaders in gelato refrigeration and innovative technology. Kind of like the Ferrari of fridges.
After visiting the factory, it was time to eat a welcome dinner, memorably served to us on the actual factory floor.
They set up a gigantic buffet, and as you know, I’d rather stab myself in the heart with a poison arrow than frequent an all-you-can-eat, but this friends, was different.
It was Italian.
Freshly sliced cured meats. Cooked as you waited Piadina. Prawns sautéed while we watched, terrines, cheeses, marinated stuffed vegetables.
And, I was beyond excited as soon as I saw the chef carving a whole leg of Prosciutto on a stand.
I was enjoying this.
Unfortunately though, I spent so much time gasbagging to my table companions, I didn’t realize that the buffet had been cleaned out by all the ravenous diners, until it was too late.
But then, out came the table service. A large plate of fresh ravioli with a rose sauce. Now we’re talking. After finishing my plate of pasta, I felt content. I was happy.
But then, out came the Veal wrapped in Kataifi with a side of Mediterranean vegetables.
OK, now I’m truly loving Italian hospitality, but if I keep eating like this I’m going to have to buy a new wardrobe when I get home, because my ass won’t fit into any of my jeans.
Having said this, I was truly amazed how the veal was totally enclosed in the golden pastry, yet somehow was still pink and cooked to perfection. Looking around the table, each plate of veal was exactly the same.
Sweet Jesus! The Italians sure know how to cook.
I decided to forgo dessert this evening, a decision I still don’t regret, because I needed to eat that veal.
Ahhh my first dreamy days are down, only 3 left to go. This is not the end, it’s only just begun…
Until Friday xxx