Eating out in Italy: I have a confession…

… I wasn’t crazy about the food I ate in Italy.

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There was nothing wrong with anything I had – every meal was nice.  But that was it.  It was all a bit underwhelming really, and not all that different from what I have eaten in Italian restaurants in the UK.

It is my own fault.  Eating out is an aspect of the trip that I did not really research much before arriving in Italy.  I had been on a school trip to Tuscany about 13 years ago and we stayed in a pretty average hotel in which I ate the best pasta of my life.  I figured that is just what it would be like in Italy – even the average places must prepare better Italian food than I could eat at home.

With hindsight, I can see how stupid that is.  I don’t know why I assumed that Rome and Sorrento would be different from anywhere else – there will be some hits and misses and not everything will be exceptional.

The biggest miss for us was falling into the tourist trap of eating in a restaurant near the Trevi fountain.  I would never normally do this, but we were tired and starving and there were so many restaurants nearby that all looked so inviting.  We picked one at random – it was expensive, the food was completely average and the service was appalling.  It was by far the worst meal out that I have had in a long time.

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The Trevi Fountain is lovely by night but I wouldn’t eat in the nearby restaurants again

Aside from that, we had no bad food experiences in Italy; we just didn’t have any memorable food experiences.  On the whole, I preferred eating out in Sorrento to Rome as it was a little bit cheaper and the food seemed to be a bit more authentic and full of flavour.

I am nowhere near done with Italy, and I will not make the same mistake again.  Other travellers have really great food experiences in Italy – I did on my first trip and I want it again for my next one.  With every adventure comes the opportunity to learn a lesson, and so here is what I will do on my next trip:-

1. My homework

I love reading up on places I travel to before I go and I will not make the mistake of neglecting eating out again.  I will read other travellers recommendations for excellent budget options and hidden gems.

2. Speak to the locals

If I could go back and relive the holiday I would ask the hotel staff for their recommendations, find out where they would eat and take advantage of their local knowledge.

3. Not be too tied to the hotel

After long days sight seeing, it is tempting to fall into the first restaurant you come to when leaving the hotel.  We did that one night and got lucky with one of the best meals of the holiday).  It is worth making the effort to go further for something special, and I have heard that the Trastevere area of Rome has some really good places to eat.

Although I wasn’t crazy about most of what I ate in Italy, there was one dish that really ticked all of the boxes for me about what I expected from Italian cuisine (i.e. simple, tasty combinations of fresh ingredients):-

Salad.

I’m no salad lover.  I tend to avoid it like the plague at home, but it was a good lunch option as the portions were huge and it was cheaper than ordering sandwiches or pizza/pasta.  I absolutely loved the simplicity and the freshness of it, just four or five ingredients combined together with a generous drizzling of olive oil and served with chunks of crusty bread.  I went mad for the salads in Italy and for weeks after arriving back in the UK, it was all I ate.

Has anyone else been underwhelmed by eating out in Italy?  Or are there any other destinations that failed to meet your food expectations?

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9 responses to “Eating out in Italy: I have a confession…

  1. Pingback: Focus always in your life | Marrone Fiore·

  2. I love Italian food but have never eaten well in touristy places – they know they don’t need to make the effort. Pizza in Naples was amazing, and if you’re a convert to salad I’d recommend Puglia. They call it the salad basket of Italy and all the ingredients are so fresh and big – the rocket is like a different type of food to the rubbish we get at home!

    • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. Rocket was one of the biggest revelations for me as I never eat it at home but it was totally different in Italy so thanks for the tip about Puglia!

  3. Same thing happened to me when I was in Rome. There were tourist traps EVERYWHERE. My friend and I walked for ages to try and get as far away as we could from the main attractions, but still ended up with mediocre food. We did manage to find a well-hidden restaurant in Amalfi that was fantastic.

    • I’m glad it is not just me that had that experience. I think I will definitely try to factor in some time in small town Italy when I next visit to try to avoid the tourist traps. Glad you stumbled upon something great in Amalfi!

  4. I live in Rome and eating out can be extremely hit and miss with lots of restaurant owners out to make a quick buck in my experience. Sad but true. In general I reckon it’s better to eat in smaller towns for good prices and authentic flavours!

    • Thanks for your comment – it is great to have a local perspective! I am definitely going to build in some time to visit smaller towns on my next trip to Italy for a more authentic experience!

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