At Essential Sailing, we love the history, culture and cuisine of the places we visit almost as much as the sailing to get there. Our Captain’s Blog brings you a taste of what to expect from our luxury crewed sailing holidays around the French and Italian Riviera. In this blog we savour the finest and healthiest of Italian cuisine.

Sit back and be inspired.

Italian cuisine is among the finest and (according to research) the healthiest in the world. Although certain staples can be found all over the country, each region has its own specialities, based on history, tradition and the best of local produce.

Relish Unbelievable Primi (First Course)

Pasta in Italian cuisine comes in a wide variety of shapes and with every imaginable accompanying sauce (condimento). Spaghetti alle vongole (with clams) can be found in most coastal regions. Pesto – chopped basil, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts – is a Ligurian speciality, while ragu (meat sauce) is common in central Italy, carbonara (bacon, eggs and pecorino cheese) in Rome, and pasta with sardines in Sicily. Rice is often used in place of pasta, especially in the north in dishes such as risotto all Milanese and with black squid ink in Venice (and also Sicily). Polenta is another particularly northern alternative to pasta, a thick porridge-like or even solid substance made from ground maze.

Enjoy Classical Secondi (Main Course)

Veal (vitello) and chicken (pollo) are common throughout Italian cuisine. Lamb (agnello) is more common in south central and southern Italy, while beef (manzo) is used in the north. In Abruzzo, goat is a speciality, especially in spring, and wild boar (cingliale) appears on many north central menus. Wide use is made in many areas of offal (liver, kidneys, heart and even brains and intestines) and horsemeat (or donkey in Sardinia), famed for its high iron and low fat content. Fish and seafood include sardines, mussels, clams, tuna and swordfish (the last two particularly in the south), while lakeside areas make good use of freshwater fish and eels.

Savour Delicious Contorni (Vegetables)

A wide variety of mushrooms (including the popular funghi porcini) comes in particular from central Italy where, together with truffles, they are gathered wild during spring and autumn. Rocket (arugula) leaves are used in salads and with cold meats, while deep-fried courgette (zucchini) flowers, in batter with a hint of anchovy and cheese, are common antipasto option. The Rome area is famous for artichokes, while the best tomatoes come from Calabria.

Delight in Creative Dolci (Desserts)

Apart from the ubiquitous tiramisu and gelati of Italian Cuisineyou’ll be tempted by such delights as torta a ricotta in the south and south central regions, cantucci (hard almond biscuits) served with sweet vin santo for dunking in Tuscany, and light, spongy panettone, a Milanese speciality.

Appreciate Superb Wines and Drinks

Almost anywhere you go in Italy, the basic wines served as house wine in restaurants range from reliably drinkable to good. Top-quality reds come from Piedmont (Barolo, Dolcetto and Barbera d’Alba) and Tuscany (Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti Classico). The best of the whites and sparkling wines include still Collio Pinot Bianco and light sparkling Moscato d’Asti from the northwest, and still Orvieto Classico from Umbria. Marsala and dessert wines are a particular Sicilian speciality.

The massive list of drinks to stimulate your appetite (aperitivi) includes Campari and Martini, while to help you digest, digestivi include grappas that range from firewater to silky smooth, and amari – thick, sticky concoctions made with herbs.

Richard Reeves is the founder of Essential Sailing and if you have been inspired to relax on a luxury sailing holiday, why not make this idyllic world your reality.

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