A Travel Blogger’s First Experience with Fresh, Home-Cooked Italian Cuisine

A Travel Blogger's First Experience with Fresh, Home-Cooked Italian Cuisine

In February 2015 I was offered the job of a lifetime; to use my skills in theatre and drama to tour Northern Italy teaching at a different school, in a different location each week. The best part of this job was that for each school I worked at, I was hosted by a family of one of my students or teachers!

As you can imagine, this was a once in a lifetime experience. I saw some amazing cities, from Verona to Venice, Milan to Marotta. I also met some beautiful people and enjoyed beautifully authentic, home-cooked meals made for me by the families I stayed with or the quirky, rustic Italian restaurants in a far-off village somewhere like Emilia-Romagna.

My embarrassingly clichéd idea of Italian food was based around the two “P’s” (Pizza and Pasta). Which, to an extent is very much at the heart of Italian dining (although the Pizza’s in Northern Italy are far from a Dominoes Deep Crust! And Spag Bol doesn’t exist!) 

But after learning to avoid faux pas such as cutting my spaghetti or coffee with milk after dinner, I settled into Italian dining most comfortably. I learnt to love herbs such as sage which is amazing after being crisped-up in the oven or pan. I tried horse meat for the first time (which was an interesting experience, being such a horse lover). I learnt how to make gnocchi from scratch and which cheeses go best with pasta and how to store them. I found a love for authentic homemade tortellini and which pizza toppings are my favourite to top the crispy stone-baked bread (Quatro Stagioni or anything with rocket, goats cheese and prosciutto).

When I was by the sea in Marotta-Mondolfo, I stayed with a family who owned a sea food restaurant, so one evening we indulged in a fishy feast, something I had never experienced before!

I learnt a lot about “real” balsamic vinegar when staying in Modena. I had no idea that the runny, tangy stuff we buy in the supermarket is not real balsamic! Real balsamic vinegar is thick, sweet and €20-€50 a bottle!

Surprisingly, I enjoyed the best kebab in the whole world overlooking Lago Maggiore, just outside of Milan. I was exploring by myself for the day and found myself in this little kebab cafe near the train station. I took my meaty sandwich to the lake-side and tasted one of the best things I have ever tasted in my life! It was a delicious doner kebab filled with salad and sauce.

I even got to sample the delights of an Italian “school dinner” with my frequent in-school dining experiences with the children. In Italy, Lunch is considered the main meal of the day and usually consists of two courses. The main meal is often carb-based with a meat option. For example, chicken and potatoes with vegetables or salad plus some fruit and bread rolls on the side. And if I was lucky, I’d even get dessert.

Speaking of dessert, I haven’t even mentioned the dreamy, creamy Italian gelato that I often still lust for! From Kinder Bueno flavour in Marotta and Rome, to Vanilla in Venice, I love the Italian ice cream. There are often many flavours to choose from and are extremely inexpensive when compared to a similar shop in London!

After three months of travelling, the most surprising discovery for me, was a new found love for coffee. I had never ever liked coffee before Italy. I had tried it and disliked it from a very young age. However I felt that if there was going to be anywhere I liked coffee, it would be Italy! I found that the “macchiato” was my favourite with a little sugar. I took home some bags of proper Italian coffee along with a moka pot and little espresso cup set! 

What an adventure for my career and taste buds! I can't wait to re visit Italy and maybe head further south for a different kind of cuisine. 


Read more about Eboni's travels on her site here, or get social with her on Facebook l Twitter l Instagram l YouTube

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BonAppetour Hosts: Alessandro Ricchi

BonAppetour Hosts: Alessandro Ricchi

Possessing an ardent passion for cooking, Alessandro has earned a HACCP certification, and is a graduated sommelier registered under the Worldwide Sommelier Association.

 As a child, he used to watch on as his grandmother and mother prepare meals in the kitchen. After graduating with a degree in law, he went on to become a practitioner for a short period of time. He soon came to the realisation that this was not where his passion lies, and decided to make a career switch to pursue his love for cooking. 

1. What do you like most about being a BonAppetour host?

Being a host at BonAppetour helped me in managing my home restaurant. Before meeting Rinita and her team, I tried to become a host through my own means and spreading the word through social media. I encountered many difficulties and met with few positive results. I tried other home restaurant platforms, but they proved to be unprofessional.

The turning point came when I joined BonAppetour. Their advertising channels and social media marketing strategies helped to garner more attention for my home restaurant, and I received more bookings for dining experiences. My collaboration with BonAppetour has provided me with many opportunities to meet people from diverse cultures. What I find extremely rewarding is getting to know what authentic Roman and Italian cuisine means to other people.  

2. Where do the locals go to eat in your city?

There are many places to dine at in Rome. The problem is that many of them are tourist traps, often selling food of poor quality at high prices. I recommend that travellers approach the Romans, and ask them where they go to eat at. Of course, now that there are home restaurants, this serves as the best answer to the needs of travellers, for they can enjoy authentic and traditional dishes prepared with top quality ingredients. 

3. What are some places that locals like to hang out at?

For shopping, we head to Via Cola di Rienzo and its surrounding streets, where prices are affordable and there are plenty of shops to visit. For dining, we usually go to Trastevere or Testaccio. These are two ancient neighbourhoods of Rome filled with restaurants and pubs, and are now popular with tourists. 

The locals head to public neighbourhood markets to shop for fresh food. There are many of these in Rome, with the market of Piazza Vittorio, as well as the recently renovated Trionfale Market being famous spots. The public parks are perfect for taking a relaxing stroll or for an invigorating run. I would recommend Villa Doria Pamphili, Villa Borghese and Villa Ada, for these are the most beautiful parks. Those who wish to go to the beach can take a thirty minutes journey to Ostia or Fregene. The sea water at these coasts are not very clean, but there are many bars and discos along the beach. 

4. Did you always have a passion for food and cooking? Tell us more about your experiences and background with cooking.

I developed a passion for cooking from a young age. This passion was transmitted from my grandmother, Iolanda, and my mother, Maria Pia. Curious about the ongoings in the kitchen, I began to experiement with culinary pursuits as as child with my grandmother, discovering more about homemade pasta, gnocchi and Roman cuisine. From my mother, I learnt about the traditional cuisine of Abruzzi, and developed the desire to create new recipes. Even back then, it was clear that I had a passion for cooking. However, for some time, this passion was accompanied by a strong interest in academic pursuits. 

After graduating with a degree in law, I carried on as a practitioner. However, I could not deny my passion for cooking, and decided to take up a diploma by the Chef of Hotel, and continued on to work as a chef in a famous international hotel chain. I have attained the HACCP certificate, and am a sommelier with the Worldwide Sommelier Association. 

For me, cooking is always a pleasure. It is relaxing and rewarding. I am always happy when guests taste the dishes, especially when the items are my creations. In fact, I love experimenting and creating new recipes. Sometimes, I start with a traditional dish and add a modern twist, while at other times I design a new dish from scratch. 

5. Which are the dishes that you love cooking the most?

I love cooking traditional Italian dishes, especially first courses, homemade pasta, as well as meat and fish mains. Most of the time, I cook dishes originating from Rome, Tuscany and Abruzzo, as well as typical Roman pasta dishes such as carbonara, gricia, amatriciana and cacio e pepe. I also enjoy making changes to traditional recipes, and experimenting with dishes to cater to special food requests made by vegetarians, vegans or individuals with food intolerances and allergies. 

Find out more about dining with host Alessandro here.

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Kid-friendly Travel: Top 10 Things to Do in Rome

Kid-friendly Travel: Top 10 Things to Do in Rome

Beautiful Rome is home to myriad tourist attractions and activities. As a traveller in the city, you will be faced with the problem of having too many things to do, and too little time on your hands. Vacation makers travelling with their kids will have to fit in the demands and interests of their little ones as well. This makes it an even greater challenge to plan a fun-filled and well-scheduled trip…until you discover these ten travel attractions and activities!

1. Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours

Hop on a bus, and discover the sounds and sights of Rome on four wheels! Starting from €25, these tours allow travellers to hop on and off the buses for an entire day. You and your little ones will enjoy cruising along the roads of Rome, keeping your eyes peeled for fascinating sites in the Vatican City, Pompeii, the Colosseum, and the Roman Forum.


2. Learn to Cook Italian Dishes

If you and your family have an insatiable appetite, joining in a cooking class in Rome is a must-do on your travel itinerary. You will gain intriguing insights into the food and culture of Rome, and learn a wealth of cooking tips from your cooking host. Reap the fruits of your labour at the end of the session, by sitting down to enjoy a delectable meal together. The best part about this experience is that you can replicate the dishes and flavours in the comforts of your home, long after you have returned from your sojourns abroad.  

3. Indulge in Gelato

A smooth and creamy gelato is a universal treat, ideal at all times of the day, perfect for the young, young-at-heart and the not-so young-at-heart. Find out where to have the best gelatos in Rome, and make your way there to savour a serving (or two) of this decadent treat!

4. Explora: The Kids Museum

Let your little ones have a taste of what it is like to be an adult, filled with grown-up responsibilities. There are four sections in the museum displaying different activities and games for children up to the age of twelve. 

5. The Pantheon

Cultural buffs will not want to miss out on a visit to the magnificent Pantheon, an ancient Roman temple dedicated to the gods of Pagan Rome. You will set sight on an array of intricately-carved statues, beautiful Roman architecture and imposing pillars. A tour of the grounds of the temple will take about an hour, making it an ideal spot to slot into gaps within your travel itinerary. 

6. The Piazzas (Italy’s City Squares)

Cities throughout Italy are filled with a variety of vast piazzas, or city squares. Arm yourself with a picnic basket, grab a cup of coffee from one of the nearby coffee shops or bars, and enjoy a leisurely picnic session at the piazza. Once your kids have had their little tummies filled up with a spread of Italian delights, let them run free and play around in the commodious piazzas. 

7. Technotown

Similar to the Explora, Technotown is an appealing attraction for your children to explore and play at. In this innovative technological environment, the young and young-at-heart can try their hand at playing virtual football, watching 3D animation, as well as constructing and flying a motorised airplane. 

8. La Bocca della Verità (The Mouth of Truth)

Venture near the Church of Santa Maria, and you will find a huge marble face called the La Bocca della Verità. Play the game of truth by slipping your hand into the open mouth, and voice a statement aloud. Legend has it that individuals guilty of telling tales will have their hands bitten off by the highly perceptive marble face.

Regale this tale to your little ones, and watch as they nervously slip their hands into the hole. However, fret not, for there is little cause for worry – we have not heard of any cases of unfortunate visitors who have had their hands bitten off…yet. 

9. The Trevi Fountain

Holidaymakers cannot miss out on the oft-performed routine of tossing a coin into the sparkling waters of the Trevi Fountain. A note of caution – keep a wary lookout for pickpockets lurking around the Spanish Steps. Travellers, young and old, visiting this renowned site during the summer will enjoy the cooling breeze as they relax by the fountain area. 

*Update: As of June 2015, the Trevi Fountain is under renovation works. 

10. Eat With a Local

Make this trip your most memorable one yet, by joining in a social dining experience with the locals. Step into a Roman’s home, and tuck into a feast in an authentically Italian setting. A night of food, fun and engaging conversations await, leaving you with fond feelings and deep insights into the city. 

Travellers venturing to Rome in the summer should not miss out on a picnic by a picturesque castle, while a meal offering a classical selection of Roman dishes is perfect all year round. Your kids will love the experience, and delight in striking up a conversation with the affable hosts.

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Table for Two: Romantic Meals in Rome

Table for Two: Romantic Meals in Rome

Traversing through romantic Rome with that special someone? You'll want to make a booking for a table, perfect for only two…


When a restaurant offers an unobstructed view of the majestic Colosseum, there is no doubt that it cinches the top spot for providing one of the best views of the city. Dining becomes a magical experience here at Aroma – take a sip of your wine and nibble on the starters while you watch the sun set behind the structure, painting the sky in a wash of mesmerizing hues. The innovative menu will not fail to please either – the mint-flavoured roasted scallops is a great dish to kickstart your dinner, continuing on with mains such as a tender veal fillet or a rich panzerotti.


Restaurant All’Oro

Situated within The First Hotel, elegant All'Oro charms diners with its classy setting and sumptuous offerings. The chef often adds in playful tweaks to spice up a traditional Roman fare and is known to camouflage his dishes, masquerading them as another. One example would be the coda alla vaccinara , an oxtail stew that appears as a Ferrero Rocher chocolate. During the summer, be sure to reserve the small terrace located above the hotel's rooftop terrace. There, you can dine in an intimate setting that seats six while feasting on alluring panoramas of the city. 

La Matricianella

A dining experience at La Matricianella brings back memories of the olden days. The restaurant's quaint setting is reminiscent of scences right out of a 1950s postcard featuring customers dining shoulder-to-shoulder, tables covered with checkered cloths and friendly waiters who address you by name. You will find a selection of traditional Roman delights and Roman-Jewish dishes on the menu. Crowd pleasers include the fried antipasto, artichoke alla giudia, and meatballs. Booking is recommended, for the tables at this popular restaurant gets filled up at a rapid rate. 

Home-dining Experience with the Locals

If dining out at a restaurant does not sound quite like your cup of tea, opt for the unique experience of eating with the locals. At Alessandro's, you will enjoy a Roman feast overlooking the Vatican City. Amiable and affable, Alessandro's charming hospitality will set you and your partner at ease. Your meal will likely include starters such as crostini romani, a pasta dish, a second course such as a tender meat loaf or pork steak, crisp salads and a tantalizing dessert. We understand that some of us are die-hard fanatics of meats and grilled items, so a barbecue experience close to the Pope will suit the carnivorous palates of these diners to a T.

Travelers with a taste for Neapolitan cuisine will find an irresistible spread at Simona's. The Gold of Naples promises to be an unforgettable dining experience, featuring a five-course meal of dishes such as Rustico Napoletano, scaloppine al Limone, zucchine alla scapece and torta caprese. Ooh la la!

On certain days, with certain people, only a very special meal will do. When the occasion calls for this, you will not go wrong with a rooftop dining experience in Rome. A decadent dinner, gregarious host and a beautiful view over the picturesque city make for a very memorable night. 

Find more home-dining experiences in Rome here

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