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Italy Highlight: The Food

Before I share sightseeing highlights from our adventures in Rome, Cinque Terre, and Florence, I first wanted to share some photos of the food! As you guys know, Italy is famous for food, and our trip’s eats definitely lived up to the hype. Florence won out for best food and restaurants, but there were gems everywhere we went. Here are some of the highlights in each category!

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Gelato

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One of my favorite treats in Italy was, of course, the gelato! It’s famous and it’s EVERYWHERE.

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I sampled options in all the cities, and I have to say the best gelato was from when we visited Lucca, a small town along the drive from Rome to Cinque Terre. The gelato place was right off the main square on one of the side streets and SO good! I had the pistachio. :)

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Pizza

Yum. Enough said.

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Espresso and Cappuccino

The coffee in Italy is so amazing. We had cappuccinos or shots of espresso every day at breakfast and occasionally in the afternoon as a sightseeing pick me up, too. Tip: get coffee standing up at the counter instead of taking a seat at the café – prices are WAY cheaper!

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Salad!

Yes, I did eat some healthy stuff while I was there. :) The mozzarella, tomato, and basil salads were to die for, as were some of the normal salads – I had a few fabulous ones made with arugula (which they call “rocket”).

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Seafood & Pasta

The fish, especially in Cinque Terre, was incredible. I enjoyed tuna:

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Anchovies (mmmmm Matt though this was SO gross, ha):

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And lots of dishes with mussels, too!

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The pasta was also incredible – I didn’t take a lot of photos of it but I had it often in the evenings!

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One of the best dinners we had while we were in Italy was at a place called Acqua Al 2 in Florence. A ton of people recommended it – there’s actually a location here in D.C. because it got so popular, but everyone said it was still worth going to the original. The lighting was too dim to get food photos, but it was phenomenal – Matt and I shared a salad sampler, pasta sampler, and meat sampler. I still dream about the balsamic steak. Can’t wait to visit the DC location soon!

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The other highlight, of course, was the wine. Matt and I got wine almost every night at dinner; we usually went for the house red wine (“vino rosso”), which was always the cheapest and still really delicious, too.

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One of my AnneTheRD clients asked me before I left how I planned to balance all the delicious food in Italy with healthy living. The key for me, and what I told her, was staying active and also not overdoing it on portion sizes. Matt and I did a few HIIT workouts in our hotel room (FitnessGlo workouts and also the NY Times 7 Minute HIIT workout – love this! We usually did it twice in a row), got in a lot of hiking at Cinque Terre, did a TON of walking around all the cities, and I got in 3 runs while in Morruzze for the wedding, too. Regarding food, I ate whatever I wanted, but just watched the portion size. I never ate so much I felt stuffed or uncomfortable, or ate when I wasn’t hungry. The other thing to remember is it’s vacation! You can get back to healthier eating when you’re home – keep active and don’t overdo it so much that you arrive home feeling like crap, but don’t stress about only eating healthy, either. Enjoy the experience and that includes some indulgent food!

And speaking of clients, I am heading out the door! I’m partnering with a big office in the area to offer nutrition counseling to their fitness center members. I’m planning to spend one or two days a month there and just schedule as many appointments on those specific days as I can. The fitness center is happy because their members are getting what they’ve been asking for (on site nutrition counseling), and I’m happy because I have not only a space to see people, but also a whole new target market! Today is my first day (although I was there a few weeks ago to participate in a health fair) and I have three clients lined up back to back this morning. Should be good! Have a great day, everyone!

How do you balance indulgent food with staying healthy while on vacation?

Comments

  1. 1

    Yum! Pistachio gelatto is my favorite.
    Anytime I’m traveling, I make sure to pack a lot of healthy snacks from home (granola/protein bars, nuts, dried fruit) to have on hand so I don’t have to rely on a not-so-healthy option. And exercising is key!

  2. 2

    Oh my goodness all of this looks so fantastic. Genuine Italian pizza, pasta, and gelato? Sign me up! I’m so jealous. :)

    Honestly, I don’t really try to stay healthy on vacation. It’s vacation, and I know that once I get back home, I’ll be able to clean up my diet. Might as well enjoy all of the good food!

  3. 3

    My husband and I took a week-long trip to London this spring and I was pleasantly surprised that, with all the eating we did (meals + snacks + treats!), I didn’t gain any weight. I absolutely contribute this miracle to 2 things: 1 – WALKING (my husband joked that we would “walk somewhere to walk around”), around parks and historical sites, shopping, and just between tube stations and our destination of choice, and 2 – LIMITED ALCOHOL. Because neither of us had flown a red-eye or overseas like that before, jet lag hit us pretty hard and we were much more drawn towards interesting juices and smoothies than the beer and wine we’re used to wanting here in the States. I definitely think each of us only having 2 drinks over the course of the entire week made a difference in how our bodies reacted to the increased food and less steady sleep a vacation often provides. Glad you had a great time in Italy — we hope to go there to eat + walk someday, too!

  4. 5

    Congrats on the new gig!

    This isn’t a criticism, rather something to ponder. I don’t think that letting go on vacation necessarily works for everybody for a few reasons. First, some of us can gain weight RAPIDLY – I can put on 7-10 lbs in 3 days, even while remaining very active, and it will take me 2-4 months to get rid of it. That’s just a matter of how my endocrine system functions (or, rather, doesn’t). As much as I’d love to loosen up and enjoy one dinner out without thinking about the impact that it will have one me, I’ve realized that I simply can’t do that without having to implement and even stricter diet for weeks to make up for just one meal.

    Second, I’m also not sure that the moderation approach works for everybody for all things – in particular, sugar, which as been shown to have addictive properties. I recently did two 30-day streaks with no sugar or added sweetener – which meant no honey, no fruit juice, etc – and believe that I might actually have a sugar addiction so severe that I need to stay away from it entirely the way that some people need to stay away from other addictions, like alcohol. If we don’t use the moderation approach for alcoholism, why are we so against using total abstinence for sugar or other foods?

    • 6

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment! You’re right – what works for me might not work for others! It’s all about knowing yourself and your own body. :)

  5. 7

    I’d die for that gelato… omg, I bet it was amazing!

  6. 8

    When I was in Italy I LOVED the gelato. In fact I’ve been craving some for a while now! Also, the pizza–it’s so unique and hard to find anything to compares to it in the states. I’m super envious of the trip–my trip was when I was young and I realize now that I didn’t really appreciate as much as I should. I’d love to go with my husband some time soon.

  7. 9

    My boyfriend and I traveled to the same 3 places in Italy a couple summers ago! Isn’t Florence incredible!? I definitely made sure to try and fit in some produce while we were over there. It’s easy to overdose on carbs and meats, but my favorite was having a fresh salad at lunch. Perfection!

  8. 11

    I hope you’re having a great day at work! It sounds like a perfect situation!
    I love, love, love that first gelato picture. It’s so perfect. The gelato and coffee were definitely my two favorite things when I was in Italy, by far.
    Did you two rent a car when you were there, or did you travel by bus?

  9. 13

    Pistachio gelato is by far the best one! Great choice!

  10. 14

    OMG I’m drooling at my desk! Do you have any other restaurant recs in Florence? I’m leaving next week for my Italian adventure :)

    • 15

      A lot of people recommended Coquinarius (lunch or dinner), Cafe ZaZa (dinner), and La Giostra (dinner, very expensive) – wish we’d been able to make it to those, too!

  11. 16

    The pasta with the mussels looks to die for. Yum!

  12. 17

    Crazy timing- I just did a very similar post on this, for how I stayed healthy while in China! And you and I have very similar approaches- enjoy everything, try and stay healthy but don’t stress about it too much!

    All of that food (and the drinks) looks incredible! I just ate and I’m still drooling looking at my computer screen!

  13. 19

    I remember in Italy, the gelato being an appropriate serving size too which makes it nicer to indulge! A small scoop is all you need. I also remember ordering hot chocolate (I was a kid) and it came unsweetened. Having to add enough sugar to make it sweet has really stuck with me. Visually seeing how many sugar packets are in a hot chocolate. Yikes!

  14. 21

    We went to Acqua al Due on our honeymoon, after half a dozen or more recommendations. That was six years ago and Brent still talks about the blueberry steak :) Did you wander around the corner for gelato at Vivoli? Real chunks of chocolate!

    • 22

      Yes, we did try Vivoli one of the other days! Honestly, it was good but not amazing. The place in Lucca was way better!

  15. 23

    Congrats on your new clients – sounds like a great opportunity! I love your mindset when it comes to vacation eating. I find I’m usually up and walking around on vacation so that balances out some of the treats. I also think that some of my healthy eating habits carry over on vacation because that’s what I’m used to. I don’t crave fried food for every meal on vacation because I don’t do that at home. Overall, as you said, it’s all about balance!

    • 24

      Yeah, I totally agree. I definitely wasn’t going crazy at every meal because I genuinely LIKE healthy food and veggies! I probably kept two of the three meals out of the day healthier and then indulged more in the third.

  16. 25

    I love your “healthy living on vacation” ideology! I just got back from vacation as well, and one evening (after a big lunch earlier in the day) we were a little hungry, but not too hungry, and the the most appealing thing on the menu was dessert…so we ate dessert for dinner! I knew I’d feel too stuffed if I ate a meal plus dessert, but I also knew there was no way I was going to pass up Guinness chocolate pudding, and we had spent the entire day walking/hiking, so we just went for it! I guess that’s my idea of wild and crazy risk-taking :)

  17. 27

    Best. Post. Ever. So jealous. Drooling right now looking at these photos.
    PS there is good food and wine in France too.. you should visit… heh… :)

  18. 29

    Great foodie photos! Would you believe I’ve never tried gelato?! I’m going to change that– even if it means just picking up a container next time I’m at the grocery store.

  19. 31

    I love Italy and these photos are amazing. I gain weight extremely easy, but I noticed that when I studied abroad (yes, that was 13 years ago), I didn’t gain any weight that semester nor did I lose. I think it was all the walking. I lived really close to the Belgium border (I lived in the Netherlands) and it was fun to me to say that I walked to another country. I rarely took public transportation in town (unless it was late at night coming home from the bar) and I never dieted. It was just a different lifestyle than I’ve ever lived here.

  20. 33

    Oh wow. Just wow. It all looks so amazing!

    And thanks so much for actually not posting the dimly lit photos from dinner. They wouldn’t have done it justice, I’m sure. And I’d rather dream about how wonderful it all was :)

  21. 35

    Acqua al 2 is one of my favorite restaurants in the entire world! The pasta sampler is divine. The gnocchi and rigatoni with eggplant are my favorites. So glad you got to enjoy it.

  22. 36

    Yum all that food looks to die for!

    I try and order salads or balance out an unhealthy dinner by having a healthy breakfast and lunch or vice versa depending on what meal is going to be the unhealthy one.

  23. 38

    everything looks wonderful! this post definitely reminded me of the delicious food i had in rome when i studied abroad two years ago. the best gelato i had was from this little grocer by the coliseum — lavender + honey flavored :).

  24. 40

    staying active and watching portions are the way to go! the best (and cheapest) way to see a new city is on foot either walking or running…plus you can scout out new areas for food! we try to pick throughout the day, rather than eating big meals. we get to sample more stuff that way, and find that we don’t overeat.

  25. 41
    Anel Perez says:

    I’ll be honest, sometimes I tend to overdo it over vacation!! I do, however, stay active especially if there is sites and mountains to explore! I love your suggestions (eat whatever you want in small portions and don’t eat when you’re not hungry) I will have to try them out next time! All the food looks amazing! Especially the pizza; I love pizza!! Thanks for sharing!!

  26. 42

    Thanks for the tips and suggestions! Brian an dI will be on our honeymoon in Cinque Terre, Florence, and Rome and we have been making our plans and trying to figure out food :) Non food question: Did you bring your computer with you? Did you find it to be a hassle if you did?! I can’t decide what I want to do about bringing mine while we are traveling!

    • 43

      I brought mine but I seriously only used it like once (for the FitnessGlo workouts)! I didn’t blog or check emails while I was there besides just checking in briefly on my phone. The only reason I brought it was basically to offload photos onto it so my memory cards in my cameras didn’t get overloaded! So, if you’re not worried about that, I might not bother lugging it around!

  27. 44

    The hubs and I will forever say that the food that we had in Italy during our week of cycling through Tuscany was the best food we have ever eaten. High quality ingredients, simple prep. Amazing!! I’m glad you got to enjoy the food!!

    You guys should seriously look into doing a bike tour. I’m sure you would love it!

  28. 46

    So funny you linked to the 7 minute workout! My husband’s friend sent him that workout to do the other day and he ran through it twice and really liked it!

  29. 48

    Italy is one place I would love to go.

  30. 49
    FlyoverBelle says:

    Lucca! Acqua al 2! Ah, memories. This makes Italy move to the top of the list of places-I-need-to-take-my-spouse. :D

    We are just back from vacation as well. I am much more rigid in my approach to food on vacation than you are, and I wonder whether that is the right approach for me? I do think that I am one of those people – as reflected in other comments on this post – who does better abstaining from things that are truly addictive for me (ahem, ice cream…unfortunately…) but at the same time, I probably could have loosened up more. Where I really did was regarding bread. I had not been eating much in the way of bread before we left, and I did significantly bump up my bread intake while there. And I enjoyed it. While I did, and I don’t think it’s necessarily *bad* for me, I do think that I won’t indulge quite so much here at home… Anyway, just fascinating to hear about others’ approaches to vacation eating. Thank you for sharing! And good luck with your new gig.

  31. 50

    I also have some thoughts on eating while traveling internationally!

    We went to Ireland and France last summer, and pretty much followed your advice – eat whatever you like, in reasonable portions, and be active. And, I know different approaches for everyone, but I’m not a slender gal (and neither is my SO) and I tend to put on weight very easily when eating a diet heavy in carbs/sweets. That was not the case in Europe!

    1. I found the portions in Europe to be generally much smaller than in the US. Or, it was just a main dish without all the sides, etc. Worst case – split a dish with your traveling partner, knowing you can always get some street food, ice cream, snack later on.

    2. We walked A TON! I did no such accidental 12-mile runs, but most days were 20k+ steps on my pedometer and I also had some 30k and even a 40k day. We were also traveling for a wedding and my significant other had a pair of pants that was slightly too snug, so he brought those pants and a new pair that was a bit bigger. The wedding was at the end of the trip and we’d walked SO MUCH that he lost a few pounds and was able to fit into the smaller pair before the wedding.

    3. Eat when you’re hungry. Since we were on the go most days, it was easy to forgo mindless eating and only eat when we were hungry. Sure, this lead to some less than healthy choices, but I do not regret late-night Nutella crepes or the random cookies we ate at the Grand Trianon.

    I think it would be easy to overdo it if you were on a less active vacation such as a cruise or a bus tour. However, we managed to lose a few pounds in Europe, even after eating enough baguette, butter, croissant, scone, gelato to make Dr. Atkins roll over in his grave. The problem was coming back – we still had massive appetites but we weren’t walking 40k steps a day anymore – we both put 3-5 lbs back on after a few weeks back in the states! oops.

    Anyways, looks like a fantastic trip!

    • 51

      Great thoughts! I found #3 to be true for us, too – definitely did a lot less snacking simply because we were distracted by all the walking and sightseeing, so we really only ate when we needed to!

  32. 52
    Paula Sparkle says:

    Thank you for mentioning that Acqua al due has a DC restaurant – can’t wait to try it
    back in DC!

    We did a three city tour in 2011 – Venice, Florence, Rome (Pisa, Siena and Padua visits).
    Walked like crazy everywhere and did a couple of workouts in the hotel.
    Stuck with smoked salmon, fish, salads vegetables, a little pasta, a little bread and a lotta pizza and wine! – the grilled vegetables were amazing and they sold them lots or places – everything was olive oil, not butter, so that might have helped.

    I did my own tomato contest – every city I bought a couple tomatoes and compared them – it was really fun – when I only bought two from a guy in Florence, he couldn’t believe it –”Mumma Mia! Due?” I guess everybody’s buying bushels for big family dinners :) Nevertheless Florence won – his were the best!

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