For the next six weeks, Italian chef Gino D’Acampo will be back on our screens in Gino’s Italian Escape. He’ll be touring the country learning about local and regional dishes, as well as creating a few of his own recipes.
Each episode will focus on a different destination. Handily, they’re all within easy travelling distance of each other, so would make a fantastic foodie-themed multi-centre holiday. We asked our experts to design a two-week itinerary that ticks off all of Gino’s destinations, to show you how you can create your own version of his Italian Escape.
Venice (2 nights)
Kick off your foodie tour in Venice. Two nights will give you a decent amount of time to explore its canals and piazzas, and to visit sights like St. Mark’s Basilica, Rialto Market and the Doge’s Palace. You could also do as Gino does and head over to the island of Burano, famous for its handmade lace (it’s a quick vaporetto ride from the centre of Venice).
Must-try dish: Cicchetti
Cichetti is Venice’s version of tapas – lots of little plates designed for sharing and nibbling. You’ll often find it served in the city’s bacari (backstreet wine bars). Look out for things like crostini, artichoke hearts, olives and wedges of gorgonzola.
Bologna (3 nights)
A 90-minute train journey will take you from Venice to Bologna, a foodie favourite nicknamed La Grassa (The Fat). It’s the capital of Emilia-Romagna, a region that’s famous for its cuisine. Three nights here will allow you to explore Bologna’s medieval churches, red-brick university (the oldest in Europe) and arcaded buildings, as well as giving you enough time to visit nearby Modena and Parma. Both are easily accessible by train and make great daytrips. Stock up on their local exports while you’re there – in Parma, it’s prosciutto (Parma ham) and Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese, and in Modena, it’s balsamic vinegar.
Must-try dish: Tagliatelle alla Bolognese
Bologna’s ragù sauce is the original Bolognese, with slow-cooked beef coated in a delicious tomato and vegetable sauce. Here, you won’t find it served with spaghetti – instead, it’s paired with ribbons of tagliatelle.
Florence (3 nights)
Another short train journey (40 minutes) will land you in Tuscany’s capital, Florence. It’s renowned for its art collections, housed in the world-famous Uffizi and Accademia galleries. Other highlights include its terracotta-tiled Duomo (skip the queues and climb the next-door campanile instead – you’ll get even better views from there) and the Ponte Vecchio bridge, which is lined with tiny jewellery shops. Set one day aside to visit the Tuscan city of Siena, where you can sip coffee in the famous Piazza del Campo, see the elaborately decorated cathedral and do as Gino does and pick up a panforte (a traditional fruit and nut cake).
Must-try dish: Bistecca alla Fiorentina
Bistecca alla Fiorentina, or Florentine steak, is a carnivore’s dream. It’s a giant T-bone steak from the Chianina cow (a Tuscan breed), which is cooked rare and usually shared between two – though you can attempt to try and finish it alone.
Rapallo (6 nights)
From Florence, head north to Rapallo on the Ligurian coast. You can take the train here (around 3-3.5 hours, depending on which type of train you take), hire a car and drive (two and a half hours) or we can arrange a private transfer. With six days on the coast, you’ll have time to relax on the beaches (Liguria has the highest number of Blue Flag beaches in Italy), sample freshly caught seafood and explore a bit more of Liguria – Rapallo is perfectly placed for daytrips to Portofino, Sestri Levante and the Cinque Terre.
Must-try dish: Trofie pasta with pesto
Gino cooks up one of Liguria’s signature dishes when he visits the area – trofie pasta with pesto. Trofie is a regional pasta, originating in Genoa. It looks a bit like a relaxed version of fusilli and goes perfectly with another of Liguria’s inventions: pesto.
Which dishes and destinations would your dream foodie tour of Italy include?
You can catch Gino’s Italian Escape on Fridays at 8pm on ITV1.
Bologna photo from Giacomo Boschi via Flickr