A Taste Of Italy That’s Distinctively Diverse

A taste of Italy that’s distinctively diverse

How the menu changes from region to region


Part of the reason we love Italy so much here at Tofino Expeditions is because of the exceptional food we get to indulge in during our Italian kayaking tours.

In fact, some days it feels as though kayaking is just the vehicle to get us from one meal to the next. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great vehicle – but a vehicle, nonetheless.

And, frankly, we’re okay with that. Because in Italy, food is just so much a part of the cultural experience. Plus, putting in a couple hours of paddling helps justify our daily gastronomic indulgences.

One of the interesting things that our wide range of trips to different areas allows us to do is appreciate just how localized Italian cuisine can be. Like spoken dialects, it varies from region to region. With influences from geography and climate to history and neighboring countries, the tastes of Italy are diverse, distinctive and delectable.


I left my heart, but not my appetite, in Cinque Terre

As is expected, in the Cinque Terre region a fresh seafood-based cuisine dominates. And one of the stars is the humble anchovy. Often people just think of anchovies as those salty, oil-packed things that add a savory umami-type flavor to foods of all sorts from pizza to spaghetti. But it can be so much more. When in Liguria you can have an entire anchovy dinner that features seven or eight dishes that are all radically different. My favorites include a delicate, filet done in a sort of ceviche-style with lemon juice and olive oil fried. They’re also great stuffed with vegetables and cheese.

And, of course, Liguria is the original source of pesto sauce, made with fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan and olive oil. Other favorites of this region include ciuppin soup made from fish leftovers and stale bread, flavored with white wine, onion and garlic; mesciua soup from beans, olive oil and farro (an ancient wheat); and fresh pasta pockets called pansòuti.


Tucking in in Tuscany

Tuscany is known for all of its sauces and pastas. And for its simplicity, as legumes and breads, cheeses and locally harvested veggies, mushrooms and fresh fruit are also heavily featured. High-quality beef from the Chiana Valley is used for the delicious Florentine steak. And truffles harvested in October and November make for special extravagance.

Its geography and climate have combined to make wine one of its most famous and common products, with chianti being arguably the most well-known internationally. But I find the limited-production dessert wines to be the best Tuscan treat. Pair a glass of the amber-colored Vin Santo with some cantuccini – Tuscan almond biscuits, which soak up the wine beautifully – and you’ll be transported!


Sumptuous Sicily

The Mediterranean’s largest island and landing spot for Greek, Roman, Turkish, Spanish, French and Papal conquests, Sicily’s culinary influences are layered and multiple.

Arab domination saw the introduction of melons, apricots, sugars and sweet spices, and their irrigation techniques suited for arid conditions allowed for lemon, orange and pistachio crops. French and German influences can be seen in the regional fondness for meat dishes. While the Spanish introduced assorted items, such as peppers, turkey, tomatoes, maize and cocoa. Greek colonizers along the island’s east coast shared olive oil, fish and beans. And North African influences in the southwest brought in couscous. Add in the island’s hot climate and rich, fertile volcanic soils and it’s no wonder that vegetables and fruit abound.

All of which combine to make a rich and varied menu that serves well with marsala, a red, fortified Sicilian wine that’s largely exported.


Save room for Sardinia

Another island, Sardinia gets much of its food from the sea but also has a very pastoral cuisine with plenty of interesting cured meats and great cheeses. Suckling pig and wild boar even make it to the roasting spit or get boiled in stews of beans and vegetables. Herbs like mint and myrtle are widely used. And dry breads, which keeps longer than high-moisture ones, go nicely with stews and soups.

Because of its changing geography, the wines vary. In the north part of Sardinia, the soil and rock foundations combine to create a very distinctive white wine. When you move further south on the island and it’s all limestone, the ancient red cannonau wines take the spotlight.


Delectably luscious Lakes District

Not to be outdone, the Italian Lake District, too, has its own unique flavor. Because of its location in the north close to the Alps and touching on Switzerland, the food features more milky sauces and a broad array of cheeses. And where there are dairy cattle, there are also meats. The other influence is, of course, the lake fish. Light, tasty and very appetizing, indeed. While desserts were a late arrival, what with a scarcity of fruits and sugars, they are still a nice treat and feature some of the historically more easily accessible items, such as in hazelnut flour, eggs and cream. And make sure to enjoy some of District’s the high-altitude, limited-production wines while you’re at it.


Have we whetted your appetite for Italian adventure? Join us on an upcoming trip and we guarantee you’ll be satiated and satisfied.

Want to know more about our Italian kayaking trips? Please visit our website and online catalog for further details. For more information about any of our trips, get in touch through our website, call (800) 677-0877 or email us at info@tofino.com.

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