Gino D’Acampo is back with a new Italian adventure (Gino’s Italian Escape: A Taste of the Sun starts at 8pm, September 5, on ITV). This time he visits the north to sample the culinary delights of Venice, Florence, Liguria, Siena and Emilia-Romagna. “It’s probably going to be one of the very few times people are going to discover Italy and learn about Italy through the eyes and voice of a real Italian person,” says D’Acampo, “I’m going to show you something that nobody’s ever showed you before.” Ahead of the series, he guides us around some personal favourite holiday spots…
BEST PLACE TO RELAX: SARDINIA
The best place to go in Italy for a summer holiday is the island of Sardinia. I first went five years ago, and couldn’t believe it was only two hours away from where I grew up. It’s a paradise island – the beach, the sea, and magnificent food. You’ve got the ocean and the mountain – the best of both worlds. Since finding Sardinia, I don’t have to travel any more. It’s also my favourite place to fish. I love the relaxation and the contact with a rod, the world and the water. Mainly I go with my best friend, Marco. We like to do naked boys’ trips… It sounds kind of weird, but that’s what we do. We get into the boat, and as soon as we find a place, take all our clothes off completely. When in life do you get the chance to spend 24 hours without your clothes on, unless you’re stuck in a hotel room? My boat is quite big, there are rooms, a kitchen, a toilet – we’ve got everything that we need!
(Image: Gino fishing in Italy, aged 10)
BEST PLACE TO EAT: BOLOGNA
As a chef, this is where I like to escape. Wherever you go, there’s good food everywhere. I’ve never been to a city that is as food-oriented as Bologna. If there’s one thing you must try when you visit, it’s a ham called mortadella, which is at its best here. Mortadella has the texture of spam, but it is very, very thinly cut, it’s very velvety to the touch, salty and then sweet, and it’s got a lot of grease in the middle. It’s magnificent.
If you want to go for a romantic break, or a quick break in Italy, it has to be Venice. You will be really blown away by it all. Venice is incredible. Although you may have seen it in pictures, you can’t grasp how beautiful it is until you visit. Don’t waste your time on a gondola – go for a walk, instead. While here, you must experience cicheti, the local way of snacking. These little nibbles are usually served with alcohol, and could be toasted bread with cream of artichoke and a grilled prawn or toasted bread with a few rocket leaves, a little mini steak, and balsamic glaze. It’s the coolest way to enjoy a drink.
This is the city that everybody should see before they die, no doubt about it. Rome is the capital of Europe; it’s as simple as that. You need to see what the Romans did 2,000 years ago. They were so advanced compared to the rest of the world. They showed us how to make roads, toilet seats, how to do irrigation, and more. When you see the Colosseum you won’t believe it was built so long ago. Plus, the people are fantastic in Rome, and the food is great. One thing you must eat here – pasta alla carbonara. They don’t use cream, they use pig cheek and pancetta, and it tastes completely different. The hotels are not very expensive and the transport is second to none, but the best way to see it all is to walk because you need to smell, you need to see, and you need to feel… just don’t go around touching Romans!