Italian cuisine is one of the world’s most-loved gastronomies, and for good reason. It’s healthy, delicious and varies from province to province, utilizing olive oil, fresh vegetables, herbs, cheese, pastas, meats and seafood to create a peasant-based food perfectly matched to the rich, red Italian wines. Some recipes date back as far as the Roman era, but the regional diversity didn’t begin until after the fall of Rome when the individual city states began developing their own styles.
Bars and Pubbing in Italy
Italians like nothing better than to spend an afternoon gallivanting in a local bar, sipping wine or Campari and catching up with friends. Watering holes are everywhere in buzzing Rome, all with their individual styles. For international people-watching, famous Via Veneto is the place, with a grand mix of visitors strolling, sitting and drinking, and for a typical Roman scene, the Piazza del Popolo is where the locals hang out. For a taste of home, pubs, especially the Irish variety, are popular with locals, as well as expats and travelers in Campo de Fiori.
To experience La Dolce Vita, Harry’s Bar (Via Veneto, Rome) gets going around 9:00 p.m. and closes late, but happy hour at The Fiddler’s Elbow (Via Sforza, Rome), the very first Irish pub to open in the Italian capital and kicks off earlier at 8:00 p.m. Cul de Sac, (off Piazza Navona) is a venerable establishment which hasn’t lost its charm or its amazing wine list and, for an arty, hippy environment, Bar San Calisto (Piazza San Calisto) reigns supreme.
The glorious Renaissance city of Florence has a huge choice of bars and pubs, with many set in the historic Old Town. Cheers Pub (Via dei Renai, Florence) in the center is atmospheric, old-fashioned, and great for socializing. Bar Ricci (Piazza Santo Spirito) is set in an historic square opposite the beautiful Santo Spirito church. For night owls, the Teatro Scribe nightclub (Via delle Seggiole, Florence) is exclusive, tiny and offers the best music in town until 6:00 a.m.
The lively Italian city of Naples’ nightlife centers on and around trendy Piazza Dante, buzzing Piazza Sannizarro and the suburban beachside promenade of Lungomare di Pozzuoli a 15 minute drive from downtown. In addition, there are watering holes and clubs scattered all over town, with Vibes on the Beach (Via Misena, Naples) and Nabila (Via Spaggia Romana, Naples) both hubs for dancing the night away on the sand. Great wine and even greater views are available at the Gran Caffe Aragonese (Piazza S. Domenico Maggiore) and, for an upscale evening, Tempiodi Bacco (Vico San Domenica Maggiore) is a trendy, ethnically decorated wine bar with good music.
Dining and Cuisine in Italy
Italians love to eat, and are immensely proud of their delicious cuisine. From local restaurants and pizzerias to upscale fine dining, food in Italy is high on the list of reasons for an Italian vacation. Rome has the best selection, with the iconic cucina Romana* (Roman cuisine) available at all price levels. Fortunato al *Pantheon (Via del Pantheon, Rome) is a favorite with Italian politicians for its classic pasta and meat dishes and daily chef’s recommendations, and Il Convivio di Troinai (Vicolo dei Soldati) is one of Rome’s best restaurants.
Florentine restaurants need to be chosen with care, as many cater to tourists rather than to those who appreciate great food. The usual rule applies – head for restaurants frequented by locals. Cibreo (Via A del Verrochio, Florence) is more than a safe bet as its upscale trattoria dishes are regarded as the best in town. Set in a 16th century artist’s studio, the Taverna del Bronzino (Via del Riote, Florence) offers affordable Tuscan dishes, a solid wine list and impeccable service.
The gritty city of Naples’ signature dish is pizza, which was invented here and is still the most popular, with traditional Italian-style pizzerias on almost every corner. However, Neapolitan cuisine also has rich, peasant-based recipes with seafood the main ingredient. Seafood platters are the specialty at Da Dora (Via Fernando Palaschiano, Naples) and the reason for its almost cult status with diners. For a pizza pie to die for, Da Michele (Via Sersale, Naples) was famous for 140 years before it was featured in Eat, Pray, Love, skyrocketing it to stardom. They also has a restaurant off Corso Umberto.