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Eating Up Italy: Voyages on a Vespa [Paperback]

Matthew Fort
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Jun 2005

Italy’s tumultuous history can be traced through its food. In an epic scooter trip from the Ionian Sea to the far north, distiguished food writer Matthew Fort explores the local gastronomy and culinary culture of a country where regional differences are vibrantly alive.

In no other country is food so much a part of everyday life as it is in Italy. Matthew Fort's plan is a simple one: to travel by scooter from Melito di Porto Salvo – the southernmost town in Italy and where Garibaldi landed in 1860 to begin his conquest of Naples – to Turin in the north, eating drinking, talking and noting as he goes.

Passing through Calabria – rich in spices, Arabian-influences of almonds and dried fruits, as well as Spanish chocolate (Fichi al Ciocolatto, mostacciolo) – and on to Campania – from where the historic Nepalese pizza has become infamous – Fort discovers the rich connection between historical tradition and cuisine. The Italian genius for combining abundance and thrift is evident from the economy of the mountainous and sparse landscape of Molise, where much use is made of pastas and chillies, and adjoining lush Abruzzo, with its delicious cheeses and risottos.
Fort travels on to Emilia-Romagna, where much of what we have come to love in Italian food can be found: prosciutto di Parma, mortadella, ravioli, taggliatelle and zamponi…In Piedmont, the wine-and-truffle country stretching from the shadow of the Alps through arable flatlands, the cooking of France and Northern Europe fuses with that of Italy. This enticing sum of parts – the dishes, producers, ingredients, consumers and eating occasions – make up nothing less than a contemporary portrait of the country.

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Eating Up Italy: Voyages on a Vespa + Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons: Travels in Sicily on a Vespa
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (20 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007214812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007214815
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 92,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


'Elizabeth David meets Jack Kerouac – around the table and on the road, this is a brilliant insight into Italian gastro-culture.'
Giorgio Locatelli

‘Lemon blossom and freshly baked bread waft up from every page. The most intensely greedy, fragrant and sensuously written travelogue I have ever read. A glorious, glorious feast.’
Nigel Slater

'A beautifully written, humorous account of a talented food writer controlling what seems to be a midlife crisis by travelling around Italy on a Vespa.' Jamie Oliver

About the Author

Matthew Fort has nursed a passion for the whole of Italy and its foods since his first visit at the age of eleven. Whilst pursuing a career in advertising he started writing about food in the Financial Times and eventually became Food & Drink editor of the Guardian in 1989. As well as continuing to hold that post, he writes for Esquire, the Observer, Country Living, Decanter and Food Illustrated.

Customer Reviews

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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful and Delicious 15 Oct 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Matthew Fort's epic scooter ride up the thigh-boot of Italy is a truly delicious read. Every aspect of the fascinating and varied Italian life he encountered is amusingly reflected upon in his lightly erudite prose. I thought his acknowledgement of feeling homesick (unlike Thesiger et al) was particularly endearing and the description of his amateurish Vespa riding in Naples most entertaining.Mr Fort was the restaurant critic for The Guardian, a foodie professional, but the gusto with which he describes the various meals he was presented with en route shows a boyish enthusiast peeping through the culinary afficionado. The recipes, which are added to each chapter-ending, are splendidly simple but totally mouthwatering.What Mr Fort has managed to do is deftly mix an amusing travel diary, rich with incident & character, with a gourmet's guide to the regional idiosyncrasies of Italian cooking. YUMMY!
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars food from fort 10 Aug 2004
By A Customer
Are you, like me, tired of all these remorselessly microscopic, one-theme books? You know, three times as much as you ever wanted to know about socks, and their previously unregarded, unrevealed and crucial impact on world civilisation and culture, that sort of thing? Do you ever pine for a bit of grand discursion, an anecdote here, a fascinating fact there; for an amiable companion rather than some zealot of minutiae or lazy hack padding out the best they came up with at lunch with their publisher? I must say I didn't hold out much hope about Eating Up Italy: Voyages on a Vespa. Another foodie boring on about fancy sausages, I thought. And on a Vespa: a miserly, fit sort of foodie to boot, I thought. And he writes for The Guardian. What a splendid surprise, then, to come across Matthew Fort, fat and flabby and over-50 by his own account, and a mesmerisingly entertaining man to travel with the length of Italy. A man, true, obsessed by food far too much than is good for him or his poor Vespa; but a man, too, who can convey that passion, make the sex life of the snail a thing of fascination, and, yes, even make fancy sausages interesting: read his encounter with the five sausage butchers of Salmona if you don't believe me. Add to this some memorable facts - did you know that Goethe was a foodie, or what excess carried off Cavour? - and accounts, particularly of scootering in Naples, accomplished with wit and not a little confided wisdom. Fort even tells us why the Italians talk so much, a condition he clearly shares and relishes. There are well laid-out recipes for the stuff he so lovingly describes, although I felt "sauce of castrated lamb" also lost something in the translation. Va voom bene!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easily the best of its kind 3 Jan 2010
Matthew Fort has assembled a kind of culinary Ark of Italian country cuisine in this book; it is an important book because, like Elizabeth David, he detects the tendrils of homogenisation creeping into Italin food and society, and that they will, leach away these simple guiding principles of Italian cookery.
Thios is definitely not a book of recipes - there are plenty of recipes but it is a book about the philosophy of Italian peasant cooking. It is utterly delightful but, for you to make his efforts wothwhile, make a few of the recipes and reaffirm his words
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5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect reading while in Italy 22 Oct 2013
By DillyD
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book to take on my short walking holiday in Italy. We were based on the Amalfi Coast which Matthew didn't visit during his travels, but we flew in to Naples and were collected by a taxi before a nerve jangling journey to our first hotel. So, reading Matthew's description of driving his moped around Naples was both resonent and hilarious, I tip my hat to anyone who can drive those streets!
Reading the excellent descriptions of ingredients, meals and landscapes, while eating Italian meals or after walking through similar landscapes, was wonderful. The book really did add something to my holiday. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in Italy or food even if you're not visiting the country, because it captures the essence so well that you can imagine yourself there.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Charming book 16 July 2013
By azone
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For people who know Italy well or those who want to be introduced. It's a recipe book with a difference.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very good read 25 Feb 2013
By Atir
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Now then , I believed that spaghetti is spaghetti. No, not so. - But I do admire the author for his courage to travel in Italy on a "Vespa". - Although it is unlikely that I'll try to eat any snails; castrated sheep might be a bit difficult to find but assume lamb(!) might do. It's nice to have the recipes for the some of the meals Matthew Fort consumed. - The last stretch of the journey, from Ancona to Turin, seems a bit rushed. However, don't read the book in public places.....
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5.0 out of 5 stars Kept me awake! 19 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I started reading this in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep and it kept me reading for at least the next two hours. I was meant to be reading something a lot more heavy going, but succumbed to the easy style of Mr Fort and thoroughly enjoyed the whole book. I am now going to buy his Sicilian one and no doubt will be reading that into the early hours! Granted I am a foodie, but I think anyone would enjoy his self deprecating manner and unsentimental insights into the country. What a relief to read of built up agglomerations and tatty seaside developments instead of the usual tourist gush.
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