We have just been on a holiday to the Amalfi coast in Italy and the thing that really left an impression on me is the simplicity of certain aspects of Italian life. Before I continue let me assure you that the grass is not greener on the other side and this is by no means a moan about life in sunny South Africa. It’s just that there are several things that I would really love to transport over here with my magic wand.
In no particular order:
– Every 500m there must be a smallish bar/pastisserie serving unctuous creamy espresso coffee and chocolate croissants
– Nearby is a deli which slices charcuterie and makes delicious panini
– Next door to that is a green grocer selling local produce that tastes as good as it looks and trust me when I say the tomatoes in the south of Italy are the best I have ever tasted. When you buy some the lady behind the counter puts a handful of basil leaves into the packet for your salad or sugo that night.
– Pizza is simply cheese, tomato and one or two toppings and the base has flavour and texture
– The menu has seasonal items such as artichokes which are not available when the season is over
– Restaurants that are serving frozen seafood tell you in advance that the fish is not fresh
– Chefs are secure enough to serve the simplest dishes relying on the quality of the ingredients to shine through – one perfect example of this is insalata di pomodoro which is a tomato salad and comes without dressing and usually just a sprinkling of dried oregano. The beholder is presented with olive oil to add at his discretion.
– Gelato is one of the major food groups
– People in the street are dressed with style and panache and you can just tell that they take pride in their appearance
– Supermarkets are few and far between and exist to provide shampoo, nappies, deodorant and other basics
Its not all a bed of roses as I mentioned initially. Transport strikes occur regularly and randomly. Parking is a total nightmare and bus drivers must have some of the highest stress levels in Europe. Space is in short supply and at a premium and as a result everybody grows some fruit and vegetables in every possible square metre of land. The Chinese have invaded and the markets are flooded with cheap imports and knock offs that must be killing the local textile industry. The cost of living seems to be comparable to Cape Town which either makes us expensive or them cheap. It was a wonderful trip, full of great experiences and I just have a feeling that when I return things will be the same, the quality of the food will still be excellent because the simple things are appreciated.