A timely post, really. We're not going to write too much on this blog about what we got up to while we were in Italy in April / May of this year - after all, we are a blog about our life in Turkey. However, regular readers will be more than aware that we love our Turkish food. You probably also know that tonight is the final of UEFA Euro 2012 and the teams in the final are Italy and Spain.
This evening, we'll head to Deep Blue Bar to watch the final. Alas, Turkey failed to qualify and England lost to the team we are off to support tonight. Tonight, we will stroll into Fethiye and give Italy our full support. We had ten special days there. It wasn't just an ordinary holiday. Our friend is from the town where we stayed and we were their guests...and we visited their family and local restaurants and we ate Italian food and drank Italian drinks...and we ate Italian food...
Gelato in RomeSo, after our recent rally cry in support of real chips, let's leave Turkish food to the side for just ONE post and allow us to give you a glimpse of what we got up to during our ten days in Italy with regards to making the most of all that is Italian cuisine. As you can see in the photo above, while we were in Rome, we indulged in the famous gelato. We're not massive fans of ice-cream, but everyone sent us recommendations (actually, they insisted) that we try Italy's ice-cream. We're glad we succumbed to peer pressure!
Italian beersWe love our Efes Pilsen - we love beer - so you won't be surprised to learn that we sampled the Italian beers like Birra Moretti & Peroni, and sampled them well. Whenever we leave Turkey, like the time we went beer sampling in Rhodes, we make the most of the variety of beers on offer to us. That's why we were a bit disappointed to be handed a can of Heineken on our flight from Istanbul to Rome!
Monte Cassino - the view from La Taverna Del Colle (the restaurant in the photo)But it wasn't until we left Rome to head slightly southwards and meet our friends in Cassino that the foodie indulgence really gained momentum. We were out of control, we had little choice in the matter...and we loved it.
Tempting supermarket selectionA trip to a bog-standard supermarket had us marvelling - slightly drooling, even - at the vastness of ham and other pig produce on display. We live in Turkey. Pork is hard to come by and, while we can get it if we really want to, we choose to wait for these rare, mouth-watering moments when we can become over-excited at the sight of a joint, chunk or slice of cured pork. Yes, our Italy experience was also a pork fest!
Yummy calzoneOur first night in Cassino was a meal in the local restaurant, Genarrio's. Main meal for us was calzone...filled with cured pork and cheese. This was perfection - and we would have eaten the whole thing, if we hadn't eaten a huge antipasti beforehand. But then, what were we to know...?
Seafood antipastiPreceding the over-sized calzone had been deep-fried anchovies (cooked in the same way as Turkish hamsi), an octopus casserole in a tomato and garlic sauce, a huge seafood platter each and lots of freshly baked, sublime focaccia. (Focaccia was to become a regular feature of our break in Cassino but we didn't realise this on our first evening.)
A restaurant feastAt another local restaurant, we ate bruschetta, an antipasti dish of varied salamis and prosciutto, aubergines, roasted asparagus, roasted peppers and a casserole of stewed kidney, heart and lung. Apart from liver, I don't do offal - but this was good, so good, we got seconds. This was served with, yes, freshly baked focaccia. THAT was just the starter. Main meal was a huge portion of gnocchi served in a super spicy tomato and meat stew. Of course we were all full to overflowing but the young waiter insisted we try their homemade Margherita pizza. It was divine...we did our best...we tried...but we were so full.
But let's put the restaurants to one side for a moment. We also ate at home a lot and we were also invited to May Day celebrations at our friend's cousin's house. What was the etiquette? What were we to do when we got there? The only advice our friends could give us was, "Whatever you do, don't accept seconds." Not because it's impolite to do so but because you might just pop if you do!
Just lots of Italian goodness!This collage is just a selection of the food we ate (and the beer and homemade wine we drank) while we were at our friend's. The funny thing is, most of it is the food that we ate during that one day of May Day celebrations! We just can't describe to you how many helpings there were of each dish. Think conveyor belt of food!
So, what did we learn from our time in the Lazio region of Italy? The stereotypical view of the Italian is that they love their food...well, the people we met more than lived up to that stereotype and we were more than happy to blend in and go along for the ride.