No matter where you travel in Europe, you’re never far from great cuisine, but there are some destinations that are real culinary landmarks.
On top of the list, with many cheers, is with no doubt, this eternal paradise that, besides being a mesmerizing destination full of history, culture and art, stands out in this field as well.
It is true that when we say Italy we mean pizza and pasta, gastronomically speaking, but definitely this is not all that this seducing country has to offer. There is a huge diversity in its cuisine starting with the most famous dishes like ‘ciabatta’ or the toasted’ Panini’ and going further with ‘Lombardy risotto’, ‘gnocchi’, incredible cheeses, coffee and ice cream.
They are so proud of their traditional focaccia that, on the 22nd of May, in the little village of Recco, in Liguria, they celebrate the annual Festival of the Focaccia. In case you want to get a feel of the celebration and go there by boat, you can moor in the magnificent Marina di Varazze that offers access to many historic areas of the country.
This country benefits of a wide range of regional variations, so you will be pleasantly surprised by many different traditional dishes. If you visit the north you can enjoy rich, cream-based sauces, stuffed meats and polenta-based dishes, while in the south, you will be delighted by plenty of seafood.
The Italian dishes can be very simple, with many fresh vegetables and tasty bread-based soups like ‘pappa al pomodoro’ (a thick tomato soup) and ‘ribollita’ (Tuscan bread soup), or very elaborate like the famous’ tagliatelle al tartufo’ (pasta covered in a truffle sauce). If you want to get a real taste of the region you can enjoy some memorable food at the traditional ‘trattorias’ that are found all over the place.
Tuscany is famous for its cuisine rich in many herbs and flavours such as sage, rosemary and thyme. As a tourist in Sicilly you can try ‘caponata’ (eggplant with pine nuts sweetened with raisins); Rome has a more conservatory approach to eating and the dishes are usually less sophisticated and if you are looking to find more authentic ethnic cuisine you can find it in Milan more than in any other Italian city.
If you want to visit Spain be sure that you won’t go hungry as you can find traditional restaurants, food merchants and food markets everywhere. When I think of Spanish cuisine the first thing that comes into my mind is ‘paella’, the famous rice dish usually cooked with either seafood, pork, rabbit or chicken and seasoned with saffron.
‘Tapas’ are the small but enticing dishes that you can find on every table in Spain and each region has its own delicacies. Catalonya is famous for its bread rubbed with tomatoes and olive oil, Andalucia is the region which introduced the renowned ‘gazpacho’ to the world and Extremadura is specialized in cream desserts such as ’lechefrita’(fried milk). Madrid has some staple dishes like ‘cocidomadrileño’ (a powerful winter stew) and ‘callos a la madrileña’ (stewed tripe) together with roast suckling pig and lamb.
If you like seafood, Spain is the place to visit. There are plenty of shellfish dishes, squid, and calamari. A traditional delicacy in the eastern regions is the ‘suquet’, a tomato stew of fish, shellfish, potatoes and wine, spiced with saffron. Along the Costa del Sol you can try ‘fritura de pescado’, a squid and fish dish with lemon wedges.
Some of the best traditional products and dishes in Spain became world’s reference staples. The Serrano ham, ‘gazpacho’ and ‘paella’ are just a few examples together with the best seafood, wine and fruit in Europe.
The places where you can find the best traditional cuisine in Spain are the famous ‘chiringuitos’, very cosy establishments located on the beach and usually frequented by the natives. If you want to get a closer view of the Spanish traditions there’s no better way than having a boat trip. One of the best marinas to moor would be Port Torredembarra in Catalonia.
Spain is also famous for its rich variety of ‘fiestas’ many of which are dedicated to food. Saffron Rose Festival, celebrated in the last weekend of October in Toledo, Water and ‘Jamón’ Festival in Andalucia, ‘Fira de la Cirerad’ (a traditional cherry festival) en Roca, both taking place in June and, of course, the famous Tomatina Tomato Fight, in August are just a few examples.
‘Feta’, Olives, ‘Tzatziki’, ‘Gyros’, ’Souvlaki’… Yes you guessed! The bronze medal goes to Greece.
Flavourful and rich, the Greek cuisine is full of many health benefits. The traditional dishes are made using many locally produced ingredients such as olive oil, tomatoes, olives, nuts, honey, aubergine and courgette. In this lovely country you can find many features of the Mediterranean food but, this doesn’t mean that the Greek cuisine doesn’t have its own world famous dishes.’ Halloumi’, ‘feta’ cheese, the renowned ‘moussaka’ and the anise-flavoured aperitif ‘ouzo’ are only some examples.
Because of its climate, Greece is an ideal place for growing fruits such as figs, dates, apricots, plums and grapes, not to mention pungent herbs and spices such as oregano, sage, thyme ground pepper, sea salt and cinnamon. The wide variety of vegetables is a fundamental part of Greek cuisine bringing about many healthy dishes. This is why Greece is the world’s best place to go on a diet. As far as meat is concerned, sheep and goat farming is very popular. This is the reason for its abundant lamb dishes and cheeses made with goat’s or sheep’s milk such as ‘feta’ and ‘halloumi’. Greek desserts are rich in pastries and are often sweetened with honey.
Because of its numerous islands, a holiday in Greece means a fascinating journey into exquisite tastes and flavours and unexpected combinations of refined ingredients of endless variety. Moreover, each island has its own unique culinary paradise. A very good example is Kos, a real piece of heaven. Kos Marina is the ideal place to enjoy an unforgettable holiday and moor your boat.
The Aegean flavours are a blend of sun and sea like the famous ‘makarounes’ (hand-made fresh pasta with caramelized onions). The rich yet delicate gastronomic cultural traditions of the Ionian Islands bring a taste of the cosmopolitan with its famous ‘Bourdetto’ (scorpion fish cooked in a red-hot spicy tomato sauce) and sesame seed and honey bars. Cretan cuisine is an invitation to sample the art of living with the traditional pilaf rice prepared with rooster or beef or the famous “ofto”(roasted baby goat). On top of the Dodecanese cuisine are the exceptional sweets and desserts, such as ‘xerotigana’ (fried spiral pastries in syrup or honey) and ‘pastelaries’ (dried figs with almonds and sesame seeds).
It’s a fact that Europe is so much more than just ravishing history, glorious empires and fascinating landscapes. Visit its charming countries and enjoy some of the tastiest and most delightful dishes in the world!