A tavola—to the table—is an Italian phrase you will learn, and learn to love, quickly on any trip to the country. Italian cuisine is the country’s most beloved cultural export, with Italian olive oils and wines among the best of the world, and its pasta and pizza favorites of diners around the globe. On Ponant's eight-day Epicurean Delights of Southern Italy and Sicily cruise about the new Le Jacques-Cartier, the cuisine takes center stage (although there will be plenty of time to experience Italy's other attractions with stops to explore Greek and Roman ruins, wander the streets of its medieval villages, and admire Renaissance masterpieces).
On this sailing with Ponant, you'll be accompanied by two experts who will introduce Italy's history, culture, and, foremost, cuisine. Included on the itinerary are five unforgettable culinary experiences that will help you understand Italian cooking from the raw ingredients to a perfectly plated entrée at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Learn how Buffalo Mozzarella is Made
One of the most famous ingredients in Italian cuisine is buffalo mozzarella, or mozzarella di bufala, a soft cheese made from the milk of water buffalo. A specialty of Campania, the mozzarella has been nicknamed "white gold"—it's a key and savory ingredient in many Italian dishes. While there are producers throughout Italy, and now the world, on your Ponant cruise you'll visit a dairy that has been making it for generations. You'll see the buffalo whose milk is used to create the cheese before then meeting the artisans who turn it into cheese. Afterwards you'll sit down to a lunch featuring, of course, mozzarella di bufala.
Enjoy a Tasting at a Winery
Few wine regions can boast histories as long as Campania, the region of southern Italy with its capital in Naples. It was here, on the slopes of Mount Falernus, that vinum Falernum was produced. The most celebrated wine of ancient Rome was praised in verse by Virgil, Martial, Horace, and others.
In the 1960s, the owners of Villa Matilde were determined to recreate the wine of the Romans, growing grapes in the same rich volcanic soil. Over the last 50 years, they have combined millennia-old techniques with the latest advances in viticulture to create award-winning wines. After a tour follow the path of the wines from the vine to the bottle, you’ll sit down to a four-course lunch and wine tasting.
A Michelin-starred Meal with Ocean Views
Much of what makes Italian cuisine appealing is the honest simplicity of its home cooking, with pizzas, pastas, and sauces made following recipes that have been passed down for generations. That is only one side of Italian cuisine, however, the country is also home to some of the world's most celebrated chefs.
At Naples's Palazzo Petrucci, you'll enjoy an exclusive meal created for the guests aboard Le Jacques-Cartier. Take in the sunset views from the palazzo’s seaside location while enjoying canapes and a glass of sparkling wine. You'll then sit down to a five-course meal, with wine pairings. The restaurant's chefs will introduce each dish by Chef Lino Scarallo, who is known for combining the flavors and colors of the Mediterranean in sometimes surprising and always delicious ways.
Visit a Fish Market
Your hosts on the Epicurean Delights sailing know that part of the fun of your culinary adventure is not only sitting down to delicious meals, but also exploring the markets where home cooks and acclaimed chefs shop for ingredients. In the small seaside town of Gaeta, a fish market excursion includes wandering the harbor and seeing the boats returning with their daily catch. You'll also wander the stalls of the market and see the astounding variety of fish and shellfish from the warm waters of the Mediterranean. At the end of your outing, you'll sit down to a dinner featuring some of the bounty from the sea.
Sample Street Food
Whether it is a slice of pizza or a scoop of gelato, some of the most memorable dishes you try in Italy may also be the most humble ones. Sometimes the best seat in the house is a bench overlooking a piazza busy with Italians enjoying a sunset stroll. Your hosts on the Ponant cruise include opportunities to sample some of the best street food in Italy. In the magical Sicilian town of Taormina you can snack on arancini. These rice balls, which often also include mozzarella, fresh peas, parsley, and other ingredients, are one of Sicily's signature dishes. If you have a sweet tooth, you may be more interested in another Sicilian specialty, cannoli. Sweet fried dough is wrapped around a creamy filling which typically includes ricotta. It's perfectly designed as a quick snack between Taormina's iconic Roman landmarks.
When you are ready to embark on a culinary odyssey through southern Italy and Sicily, visit Epicurean Delights of Southern Italy and Sicily to learn more about this delicious adventure and book your stateroom.