The 2010 La Dolce Vita show is set to honour all things Italian this week. We’ll be there of course – look out for our Graham and Green-styled stall, G1. In greedy anticipation, we’re playing foodie Top Trumps with six of Italy’s regions, highlighting their signature plate-toppers and suggesting where to sleep off the calories…
Countryside Rolling hills, Roman ruins
Country Life Walk like an Etruscan
Style Italy’s landlocked heart lies dead centre between Florence and Rome – a bucolic blanket of hills, peaks and plains.
Eat Wild boar, mountain lamb and game are typical meats of the region. Umbria’s ricotta cheese is salted and rolled in bran – perfect for crumbling over pasta. Castelluccio lentils – DOC regulated – are from the high-altitude plains of the Monti Sibillini and, like puy, make a really toothsome soup with some nuttiness. Truffles, aka tartufi, are highly prized in Umbria.
Sleep Bed down in Palazzo Senecca, a peaceful palace with a restaurant and spa, tucked away down narrow Norcian streets. Or make Locanda Palazzone – a volcanic-stone vineyard barn overlooking Orvieto – your boutique basecamp, and picnic in the glorious grounds, planted with beds of lavender and roses.
Coastline The shapely heel of Italy
Coast life Trulli, madly, deeply
Style Located in Italy’s sunny south, Puglia has a unique character and charm, little known to outsiders; the Italians who flock here in the summer keep this laid-back playground of blue sea, golden sands and olive groves strictly a family affair.
Eat Enjoy an abundance of sun-ripened fruit and vegetables and delicious olive oil. Definitely try the local pasta, orecchiette (or ‘little ears’). The region produces huge amounts of wine, too: Salice Salentino, a full-bodied red, is one of the best.
Sleep Stay at Masseria Cimino, a romantic, tiny terracotta farmstead set among coastal olive groves, ornamented with artfully rusted farm tools, dried plants and flowers, and jars of preserves. Or head to La Sommità, a converted 16-century palace in Ostuni, with a spa and a restaurant specialising in excellent Puglian cuisine.
Countryside Ancient towns, fertile slopes
Country life Pleasures for every palate
Style If the slopes dotted with cypress trees and olive groves don’t win your heart, the aromas and flavours of the flourishing farmlands will.
Eat Peasant fare at its finest: fagioli-filled soups and stews, cold-pressed olive oil, pecorino cheese, mushrooms and wild boar from Maremma’s pine forests. The sweet-toothed should try a slice of Panforte di Siena: a spicy, chewy calorie bomb of almonds, honey, cocoa and candied peel.
Sleep Retreat from the restaurants to JK Place’s private perfection, perched on a Florentine piazza. Or try Riva Lofts, a dreamily rustic boutique B&B on a leafy Arno riverside, filled with contemporary artworks and an array of vintage chairs ranging from Louis XIV to Mies van der Rohe.
Countryside Vineyards, villages, volcanoes
Country life Exotic architecture, passionate people
Style Bustling cities, miles of coastline, and world-class wining and dining – this Southern Italian island showcases Med living at its most vibrant.
Eat Feast on pasta and risotto, freshly baked focaccia and tasty seafood, such as grilled swordfish or stuffed squid, all in one sitting. This is also the land of the sweet fortified wine, Marsala, named after the city on the west coast from where it originates.
Sleep Stay at Azienda Agricola Mandranova and you’ll be thrust into the heart of Sicilian family life – with its emphasis on conviviality and the cucina. Casa Talia is an intimate, seven-room B&B overlooking ancient Modica, styled by two Milanese designers. Then there’s Le Lumie, set in a secret courtyard, with just three understated modern rooms, each elegantly colour-themed.
Countryside Prosperous foothills
Country life Farming and feasting
Style Until the 19th century, folk in this aristocratic province spoke French and, geographically, it has a multiple personality too, with its rolling farmland punctuated by perfectly preserved mediaeval villages and energetic industrial towns.
Eat Ditch diet thoughts and revel in a serving of Castelmagno cheese melted over gnocchi, washed down with a full-bodied Barbera, Barbaresco or Barolo, or the ubiquitous Asti Spumante. Try bônet, a local pud made with amaretti biscuits.
Sleep Welcome to La Villa, a cheap-chic palazzo in Monferrato vineyards, surrounded by spectacular scenery and some of the finest restaurants in Italy. Each room in the 17th-century building has been decorated with impeccable taste, blending historic features with modern essentials.
Coastline Emerald sea and rocky mountain
Coast life Yachts and fishing boats
Style This Mediterranean island has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and if you venture inland you’ll find breathtaking countryside.
Eat As an island culture poised between Italy, Spain and Tunisia, Sardinia has the fresh, tasty food that you’d expect, from home-style simple produce to Michelin-starred cuisine. The north of the island is famous for its shellfish in particular.
Sleep La Coluccia occupies a gorgeous whitewashed building a few metres from its own private beach. It’s the perfect spot to soak up the sun poolside or bliss out in the spa, and the billionaire’s playground of Costa Esmeralda is within easy reach.
As if all this wasn’t enticement enough, sign up for Smith membership before 11 March and you’ll receive a pair of free tickets to La Dolce Vita (worth £28). Join us at the exhibition and you could win one of three Mr & Mrs Smith prizes (two-night weekend stays in Italy, including accommodation, breakfast, dinner in the hotel’s restaurant on one night, return air travel from a London airport, and transfers or car hire in Italy), along with a host of other treats…