If you have a food-forward approach to vacationing, Europe is marbled like a side of fine beef with regions worth exploring. But where exactly should you take your tastebuds for that great 2015 belt-busting road trip?
For Rome food writer Elizabeth Minchilli (elizabethminchilliinrome.com), Umbria tops a menu of Italy options that runs from prosciutto-popping Emilia-Romagna to pecorino-flavoured Tuscany.
"Umbria is blissfully untouristy and great for discovering by car," she says. "Base yourself in medieval Todi, then branch out daily to villages and towns, like Bevagna, Spoleto and Orvieto. Sample the Sagrantino wines of Montefalco and the cured meats and black truffles of Norcia – it's all rustic, traditional dishes here."
Also consider the olive harvest. "The annual Frantoi Aperti takes place over four weeks from the end of October – and the area around Trevi is especially known for quality," says Minchilli, adding that a GPS is vital for navigating the region's signage-scarce roads.
France, of course, also lures the ravenous. But while Burgundy and Normandy sate many visitors, Auvergne-based Andrew Rossiter (about-france.com) suggests the underrated Franche-Comté region for the esuriently curious.
"Starting from regional capital Besançon, head into the mountains via the small town of Ornans on the banks of the river Loue – it's overlooked by Restaurant Le Courbet, listed by Michelin in their Bib Gourmand category: quality restaurants offering great value," he says.
From there, point your belly toward Pontarlier and – at the junction of the N57 and D48 roads – stop at the gourmet Fromagerie Napiot store for regional wine, ham and Comté cheeses. And don't miss the town of Gilley. "Its must-see is the Tuyé du Papy Gaby – a traditional ham and sausage smokery."
From Pontarlier, Rossiter suggests driving 50 kilometres east to the town of Arbois, known as the capital of the Jura vineyard area and for its Michelin two-starred Restaurant Jean-Paul Jeunet.
Rapacious road-trippers are often lured to Catalan in Spain, Portugal's Porto and England's seafood-loving Cornwall, but there's more to eating Europe than well-known epicurean countries.
Ireland-based Kristin Jensen (edible-ireland.com) suggests trying the Emerald Isle. "The new 2,500 kilometre Wild Atlantic Way is the world's longest coastal touring route," she says, and it's ideal for weaving between great, locally loved dining hot spots.
"There's Harrys Restaurant in the Inishowen Peninsula; Ard Bia or Kai Café in Galway; and Out of the Blue in Dingle. But my favourite is Shells Cafe in Strandhill, County Sligo – a charming oceanfront café for seriously good food washed down with Kinnegar craft beer."
And what about timing? "Summer has events every weekend, but September's Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival is a highlight for that magical combination of oysters and Irish stout," says Jensen, adding that John and Sally McKenna's Where to Eat and Stay on the Wild Atlantic Way book is a handy trip-planner.
Germany is also worth face-planting your appetite into, according to Wiesbaden-based food writer Christie Dietz (eatingwiesbaden.com). And there's much more than sauerkraut to discover here, if you know where to go.
"The German Wine Road [in the Pfalz region] doesn't have the breathtaking scenery of the middle Rhine, but it's less-travelled by tourists and has some of Germany's best restaurants and wineries tucked into tiny villages," she says.
Suggested stops include the Raumland winery in the village of Florsheim-Dalsheim plus the walled town of Freinsheim for its annual culinary wine hikes and Von Busch Hof restaurant.
"To some extent, must-try dishes here depend on the season. In late-spring, you can't move for white asparagus, served simply with butter, ham and potatoes – or atop a slice of stuffed pig's stomach, a local specialty called saumagen that shouldn't be missed."
As for festivals: "It's difficult not to time your visit with a food or wine event in Germany. But this region is renowned for its wine festivals, including one of the world's largest – September's Durkheimer Wurstmarkt in Bad Durkheim."
OUR READERS WRITE
- Southwest France, including the Bordeaux region. And northern Spain’s Basque Country. Cider, tapas, fish, oh my. @Emilycgb
- Northern Portugal: superb seafood accompanied by vinho verde and other unknown Portuguese wines. And of course port. It’s also so untouristy compared with the Algarve – and Porto is a dream. @catherinemack
- Go to Bologna and book the italiandays.it food experience. See firsthand how Parmigiano cheese, prosciutto and balsamic vinegars are lovingly produced, accompanied by delicious food samplings and an unforgettable cucina contadina lunch. Nancy Miotto
- Croatia: Truffles, olive oil, wine – the people are wonderful and the food is delicious. A crossroads between Italian, Slavic and Turkish. @kattancock
- Check out the Galway Food Festival April 2-6. Loads of different events going on in the food village and around town. Judy Nurse
- Scotland. Sample fresh seafood and smoked fish and – if they’re in season – the raspberries and strawberries. There’s so much locally grown food there. @chowandchatter
- Fly into Lyon and start there – the food capital of the world. Drive south through Provence for fantastic Mediterranean food, then east to Piedmont in Italy for fabulous wines and food to match. Cross the Alps on your way back to Lyon, where the only thing as astounding as the views are the cheese dishes. Jim McGarvey
- The Basque Country. The amount of Michelin Guide restaurants is incredible. @Txotx_Basque
- I like Carinthia in Austria. They’ve got great schnitzel, kas noodles and it’s only a 30-minute drive to Italy and Croatia. @Jody_Robbins
- Flanders in Belgium has wonderful food and beer scenes to enjoy – and the countryside is idyllic. @travelling_mom
- The Loire: Winding roads, fairy tale castles, beautiful rivers plus astonishing cheese and wine en route. @nikkibayley
- Granada [Spain] for it’s delicious tapas; Marseilles for seafood; Firenze for trattorias; and Norfolk’s gastropubs. @Chiqee
- Popular but for a reason: when driving around Tuscany/Umbria, I always end up with a car full of joy from markets, wineries, etc. @ryanvb
- Bologna/Emilia-Romagna. The origin of so many international foods. @travelingjourno
- Basque Country in Spain. We have guides there offering insider access to private cooking clubs plus delicious tapas tours @Tours_By_Locals
- Iceland. You can do the Ring Road in about a week and get some incredible food in the different towns: lobster, fish, sheep/lamb, hot dogs(!) and sky [a traditional dairy product]. For something super authentic, go for Thorrablot [a midwinter festival]. Actually, it would probably be really cool to drive around the whole country and try to experience feasts in different towns @lindsontheroad
- My vote is for the Croatian coast. Driving-friendly, gorgeous and beyond delicious. @AnyaGeo
- Puglia [Italy]. Olive oil capital. @LisaHillPR
- Arles and the Camargue [France] are the sleeper hits of Provence for fantastic regional cuisine. And for Greece: Corfu, Crete, Tinos and Mytilini (Lesvos) – the best Greek or Greek-fusion food you’ll find anywhere. @alexisaverbuck
- Europe is definitely a foodgasm waiting to happen. Can you say tapas in Barcelona? @AirCanadaVac
- West Cork [Ireland] is world-renowned for local artisan food and beautiful scenery. A great place to start is to look at the Taste of West Cork Food Festival @TourismWestCork
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