Italy is not only known for its range of great food, there are many varieties of drinks that the Italians enjoy too. In the last four weeks we have been fortunate to try quite a few of them.
Let’s start with coffee… Italians have been drinking coffee since before it was fashionable. Espresso is the ‘proper’ way to drink it here, short and strong, but we prefer the cappuccino style, which was always available too. There is no upgraded sizes, all small cups around here. There are many ‘bars’ (not cafés) that serve coffee during the day, and alcohol in the afternoon and evening. We were happy to find that coffee was cheaper here than back home in Perth, usually about $2 each. They even have vending machines everywhere serving espresso. There is certainly no instant coffee, every place we have stayed has provided an espresso coffee maker with ground coffee ready to go. Our regular of one a day has increased – when in Rome they say.
There is not a big beer drinking culture in Italy, and there are not many varieties to choose from. Peroni is the Italian beer known around the world, and the most commonly found. The other one is Birra Moretti. The best beers we tried were their new craft range, dedicated to different regions of Italy. You can also find a few German beers in the supermarket (that’s where you get beer, there are no bottle shops).
Both red and white wines are made all over Italy. Tuscany is a wine region we stayed in where the specialty is a red called Chianti. Another we tried was Sangiovese, which Clare found went down very smoothly.
Walking around the streets of Italy we started to notice everyone in cafes drinking a bright orange drink. This is their aparitivo: a drink enjoyed before a meal. The Italians do this before lunch and dinner!
The most popular aparitivo, particularly in the north of Italy, is Spritz, made with Aperol, an orange coloured spirit, mixed with Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine), poured onto ice, a splash of soda added, and topped with a slice of orange. It has a slightly bitter taste, but is very refreshing on a hot day. It is so popular you can even buy pre-mixed versions of it in the supermarket!
Another aparitivo that we were fortunate to make as well as to try, is called Hugo. Our host in Cittadella showed us this traditional beverage they make. The syrup is made from the flower of the elderflower tree, combined with lemon rind and sugar, it is soaked for two days, then strained. This syrup is then used to mix with prosecco and sparkling water, or just with water for the non-alcoholic version. It was very delicious before our Mother’s Day lunch!
Chinotto (pronounced kin-otto) is a cola type carbonated soft drink that is distinctly Italian. It is made from a type of citrus fruit. Though it looks like cola, it is not as sweet, having a bittersweet taste.
Saving this one to last, just like at one of our last meals in Italy, when our host brought out a bottle of his finest grappa at the end of the meal. This very strong spirit is made from the leftover grape skins from the wine making process, and tastes like it too.