Pizza, pasta and gelato all jump to mind when I think of my favourite Italian food memories. Understandably. But Italy is so much more than that. Situated on the Mediteranan coast, Italy’s sunshine and warm climate brings with it mouth-watering olives, focaccia and cured meats. The coffee culture is unlike any other and of course, there is wine. It’s no wonder I put on a cheeky few kilograms when I spent six months living in Milan a few years ago. When I headed back in 2019, I could not wait to dive head first into everything that Italy has to offer.
The five cafes below are some of my favourites from my 2019 visit to Italy. Not necessarily for their authenticity, but for a range of different things.
California Bakery. A firm favourite back when I lived in Milan, I was so excited to show off this cute little spot to the others when we were there. New Zealand does brunch so well, sometimes I forget that it’s not the norm. If California Bakery remained true to its form I knew we could count on a yummy meal here. It hadn’t changed much, right down to the pigeons hovering around the umbrellas outside, waiting for any chance to snap up some tasty tidbits. Eggs, avocado, granola and of course cake (soooo many cakes!), we were all treated to a delicious (albeit slightly expensive) meal. The service was how I remembered it: really good!
Sforno. Certainly the most authentic feeling bakery I visited while in Italy, this little gem is nothing short of rustic. It is located on the other side of the bridge to the Uffizi Museum and the Duomo, which was conveniently right near where we were staying. It is only small and seating is limited, but in most cases people tend to just buy their loaves or croissants and take them away with them. We dined in, helping ourselves to the delightful bottomless coffee (which ironically ran out, it wasn’t us I promise!) and indulging in pastries and tarts. Of course, we also took a baguette for the road.
Mama’s Bakery. Also located in Florence, it’s actually not far from Sforno. It is far more spacious, has a whole lot more seating and it’s menu is far more diverse. It isn’t going for the same authenticity, rather it’s just a trendy cafe serving up tasty coffee, smoothies, sandwiches and bowls to name just a few of the items on its menu. On our last day in Florence, Andy and I weren’t catching a train until the evening, so once we checked out of our Air BnB we headed to this cafe for some delicious snacks and free wifi time. It was a perfect place to kill a few hours and not feel like we were outstaying our welcome.
Adoro Cafe. Extremely modern and a tad overpriced, Adoro Cafe in Trieste has an amazing selection of drinks and food. It is the kind of cafe I would expect to see back in New Zealand and if we had longer in the city I have no doubt we would have gone back more than once. It was spacious and well lit. We scored a great seat in the window and spent our afternoon sipping coffee, watching people on the pedestrian lane outside.
Jazzin Gelato. What would this list be without at least one gelato spot? This was up there with my favourite gelato in Italy this trip – and I didn’t even mean to save the best for last! There were so many flavours to choose from, thankfully I was allowed to sample a number before committing. Fortunately, there was no queue when we went, although I’m sure that wouldn’t always be the case.
This feature wouldn’t be complete with the inclusion of two other amazing memories from my time in Italy. When we were in Milan we stayed with friends, Marco and Marika, and as always, they spoiled us to bits. One night we were treated to the most sensational dessert platter from a place down the road – so many different desserts in a multitude of shot glasses. We ate them all.
The second memory is the night we headed down to Navigli, which is the buzzing little area by the canals. We went out for a traditional Milanese meal and I once again got to try Milanese saffron rice with schnitzel. It was yum, but different in the sense that there were no vegetables on the plate. Italians sure have a different diet. The only accompaniment was bread (and it was delicious). It was such a fun time and a delicious meal – the perfect way to cap off our stay with Marco and Marika.