An insider’s guide to this historic Italian city of grand piazzas and leftfield fun. Discover big thrills in its restaurants and buzzy markets and meet the makers of its party scene, in their hipster dens and arty abodes
Yes, it’s been harvested, ingested and digested. The process may have demanded some metaphorical Rennie but…. it’s here! My new book, From the Source: Italy, the debut in an innovative new Lonely Planet series, a glossy, photo-led hardback featuring 60 recipes that define Italian regions, and the stories behind the people who make them.
Can’t wait until British Bake-off? Then warm up with my top three Italian sweet treats… and find out where in Italy to eat them.
Tiramisù: the ultimate pick me up pud’
A Holy Trinity of ingredients go into tiramisù whose name derives from the Italian words “tira” (pull/lift) “mi” (me) su (up): Savoiardi biscuits, espresso and mascarpone. And for the original recipe, make for the pretty, canal-lined city of Treviso where this dessert is said to have been born, at the hands of a pregnant woman in need of an energy boost; now served at Le Beccherie restaurant.
A classic bake from the north, torta alle nocciole is packed full of top-notch hazelnuts from the hilly Langhe region of Piemonte, and a cream of premium gianduja chocolates creating a soft cake with an almost mousse-like texture. And for a recipe that has an extra crunch, with an almost biscuit-like finish, visit Stratta, one of the jewel-like 19th century pasticceria that line Turin’s Parisian-style boulevards.
This distinctive cupola-shaped cake may look regal but has modest origins, a way for families to sweeten-up dough with candied fruits. Made popular in 20th century Milan, still today each December Milanese newspapers publish top tens featuring the best spots to buy the panettone that will crown the Christmas table. My pick? A tough one but it’s probably Pasticceria Marchesi, a sugary landmark since 1824, lately acquired by Prada.
It’s Friday evening in Kent and I’m nose to snout with a rhino. It’s a whopper, this prehistoric beast, its horn-heavy muzzle mere centimetres from my face, albeit behind a hefty fence. Beyond the paddock…
There’s a film crew in town. A cavalcade of trucks packed with wires, cameras and other bits of kit dwarfs Matera’s Via Madonna della Virtu, a road that runs a halo-like ring around the city’s Gravina Ravine.
Leave Your Baggage Behind, in Colombia, get Lost and Found at Brazil’s Carnival, Face a Fear in South Africa and Chuck out the Checklist in Bali… just some of the essays I’ve contributed to this Lonely Planet life manual for the adventurer in all of us.
‘You only live once; but if you do it right, once is enough.’ – Mae West
It’s early morning in the snow-topped mountain town of Oukaïmeden and business is decidedly slow. It seems Celia, my skiing buddy, and I are a little late for a winter sports break in Morocco. Today there’s more sun than snow, so we’ve taken the chairlift – Africa’s highest – to the 10,688ft peak of Jebel Attar to recce the runs.