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A culinary gap year journey through Italy’s regions: part one

They say Rome wasn't built in a day, which was definitely a good thing as its culture is one of the richest and well known in the continent. Cuisine, in particular, is as important to Italy as its beautiful works of art. 

Many regions across the country have produced dishes that are iconic and synonymous with the area. With so many different dishes, it's little wonder that the country traditionally eats a multi-course meal.

So before you head off on your gap year, it's important to see what culinary delights you'll want to try and in the different regions. Let's take a look.

Bologna - Ragú alla bolognese

First mentioned in the book of the writer, Pellegrino Artusi, in 1891, the  sauce has since become a staple of not only Italian diets, but many countries across the world. Though it may be a dish you are familiar with, the time it takes to construct the sauce from scratch is often overlooked as it appears in jar form in most supermarkets.

The process of making a ragu involves many different cooking techniques and other ingredients such as pancetta, milk and nutmeg.

A classic ragu sauce with tagliatelle

A classic ragu sauce with tagliatelle 

Bologna itself is a beautiful city with amazing architecture like its many piazzas like the stunning 15th century Maggiore square where you find the San Petronio - the 15th largest church in existence. If travelling through, why not spend a few hours people watching over some fine red wine and a delicious ragu?

The stunning Maggiore Piazza

The stunning Maggiore Piazza

Milan - Risotto alla Milanese

Introduced to the country via interactions with the Arab world, rice has become an important component of Italian cuisine. It was sold in abundance in Venice where a risotto dish emerged. However, arguably the most famous dish of its kind is Risotto alla Milanese.

This variation of Milan's Lombard region consists of arborio rice or other short-grain rice, onions, white wine, chicken stock, saffron and parmesan. It's a very simple dish with a huge payoff. Done well, it's enjoyable; done perfectly, however, and it's a revelation. This is why it must be tried in Milan.

Risotto alla Milanese

Risotto alla Milanese 

Considered one of the four fashion capitals of the world, there is a sense of class and style to Milan that cannot be matched by many municipals. If you want to brush up on their culture, The Museum of Ancient Art is a must, or you can just perambulate around Milan's inspiring Gothic architecture, with Milan Cathedral being the city's most pronounced example. 

Milan Cathedral is an awe-inspiring feat of architecture

Milan Cathedral is an awe-inspiring feat of architecture

Prosecco, Trieste - Prosecco

Like Champagne, sparkling wines are often named after their place of origin, In this instance, a village near the north-eastern port city of Trieste is where the grapes needed to make this wine grow.

It is possible to trace the routes of the drink to the 16th Century where it was noted by a traveller as a standout Italian wine. Considered a cheaper equivalent to its French sibling, Prosecco has since become a popular and highly regarded beverage. In Italy, it is customary to drink it as an aperitivo before a meal commences.

A glass of prosecco is the perfect aperitif

A glass of prosecco is the perfect aperitif 

The city of Trieste is underrated as a place to visit in Italy. Its Piazza Unità d'Italia is stunning day or night, and its Ponterosso Square or seafront is a calming place to spend sunset as ships return to the harbour - a great locale to gently sip an ice cold glass of fizz.

Canal Grande and St. Antonio Church in the background

Canal Grande and St. Antonio Church in the background