Food is at the very heart of the Italian way of life, with gatherings of friends and family around a table being the way in which the people here have always socialised. In Italy, to understand the food is to understand the people themselves. The way in which the Italians enjoy food fits perfectly with the slow, leisurely pace of our river cruises. Italy is a country where meals can regularly run from three to as many as six courses, with everyone enjoying the food and conversation in equal measure. |
From an antipasto of cold meats, seafood or olives, to the primo piatto of pasta, soup, polenta or risotto, to the secondo piatto – traditionally seafood, meat or poultry – the meal then moves on to cheese, fruit and dessert courses, before ending with coffee and a digestivo.
There is as little sense of urgency to an Italian meal as there is to one of our river cruises. Italy is a country where food should be savoured and enjoyed.
Regional Cuisine of Venice
Of course, while many of us think of ‘Italian cuisine’ as being one homogenous group, actually across the country’s numerous regions and provinces there are subtle differences. Because of its unique position (both geographically and historically), Venice has a very distinct cuisine that takes its influence from the many nations who visited the city during its time as an important transport hub at the centre of the world’s trade routes.
Spices from the Far East have become part of the city’s culinary tradition, as have items from the rest of Europe, brought here by sailors and merchants and assimilated in to the Venetian way of cooking and eating.
Key Ingredients and Dishes
Because of its geographical position in a lagoon, Venice is, quite literally, between the sea and the mainland – its food reflects this.
There is, of course, a great tradition of seafood, caught in the lagoon itself or further out to ocean. Seafood to look out for in the region include vongole (clams), cozze (mussels), gamberi, gamberetti, scampi and astici (different varieties of shrimp) and seppioline (cuttlefish), all of which are often used in soups or as part of a pasta or risotto dish. Probably the most famous Venetian seafood dish is actually made from imported cod. Baccala Mantecata is salted cod creamed with olive oil, garlic and parsley. It is often served with the local polenta for a light, delicious starter.
There is also a Venetian custom of eating meat reared either on the islands or the mainland, due to the limited space on the lagoon islands. Mainland meat is given a wonderful Venetian twist when it is served in traditional dishes like fegato alla Veneziana (Venetian veal liver and onions).
Of course with all the wonderful food you’ll want to enjoy some of the excellent wine produced in the region. The traditional wine to accompany a meal here is the light, refreshing Soave.
Take a culinary journey around this region on one of our river cruises. Italy and its wonderful food and wine awaits you.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury river cruises and barge holidays throughout Europe. If you're looking for the most exciting river cruises, Italy is an ideal choice. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
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