When you think of Italian food and wine you think of little tavernas in winding streets with tables outside and lots of families eating and drinking together. Food and wine in Italy is a celebration of the Italian lifestyle and its something that you can enjoy in your home in homage to the nation.
When you think of Italian food, you think of spaghetti Bolognese, other types of pasta and lots of olive oil. There are thousands of ristoranti (restaurants) throughout Italy – each with its own individuality and with special dishes and wines that are local to them. These are the most formal type of place to eat. These are best to visit when you are not in a hurry as they can be a bit more upmarket than others but are family-run. Here people like to take their time when eating so you need to have time to have a leisurely meal. A little less formal than a ristoranti are the trattoria and osteria, where local speciality food and wine are served. In addition to these more serious eating places there are panineria which is a sandwich bar, where a quick meal and a glass of wine can be had at any time of the day and of course the pizzeria.
Although everyone loves Italian food, figuring out what kind of meal to have and where to have it can be difficult. Italian cuisine varies from region to region but, in spite of regional differences, Italian food in general is often characterized as being flexible and innovative, in fact many dishes are built on the seasonal food that is available at the time.
When it comes to wine you often think of heavy Italian red wine. However wine in Italy is much more than the traditional Chianti.
Its climate, soil and very old traditions of viticulture make Italy a natural wine growing and drinking nation. Of course wine has been a seriously important part of Italian culture for many years and the variety of wines available reflect this. The wines are as personal as a name, are all very different in taste and colour and as much a part of Italian life as almost 3,000 years of tradition can make them. The Etruscans of North-Central Italy, who created one of the peninsula's earliest civilizations, left evidence of how to make wine. The Greeks who soon after established themselves in the South gave Italy the name Enotria (the land of wine). Wine growing has been part of the Italian way of life for centuries and it is in the cultivation of the grape where you will find most Italian farmers. Viticulture is as important as it ever was to the Italian culture and economy and because of this a large part of the population is engaged in the vine and wine industry.
But of course the Italian love of food and drink does not stop at wine. There are also aperitifs and liqueurs that are popular and even a great line in fizzy water!
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Fiona Muller has been writing for over 20 years. She is a qualified journalist and has worked in food and drink writing for the last few years, especially Italian food and wine. For a great selection of Italian wines, go to laithwaites.co.uk
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