Italy stories for kids
This summer, on a family trip to Piedmont, Italy, my taste buds were blessed by the most delightful foods—made from fresh ingredients and aromatic flavors. I had hazelnut cake for breakfast, pasta for lunch, pizza for dinner. To top it off, I enjoyed a cone of creamy gelato every night. You may think you know these cliché Italian foods but tasting them in Italy it was like I was experiencing each one for the very first time.
Piedmont is covered in hazelnut trees. The hazelnut is a sphere with a rough brown exterior and it’s about the size of your thumbnail. The nut within this sphere tastes sweet and earthy. In Italy, they use hazelnuts as an add-on to desserts or to flavor pastries, gelato and cakes.
Italy stories for kids
At the hotel where I stayed, there was a long breakfast buffet loaded with juices, fresh fruits, bacon, sausage, nuts, cheese, bread, and cereal. Even though the other items on this winding train of treats looked delicious, I always went straight for the moist, earthy, sweet hazelnut cake. Cut into a wedge and lathered in Nutella (that’s right, more hazelnut), I never wanted to eat anything else for breakfast.
Now moving on to lunch—because Italy is all about the food. One of my favorite dishes was pasta. Surprised? You may think you’re familiar with pasta, but have you seen the Italians prepare it? In North America our pasta is most often dried and then packaged, so it lacks the freshness of truly homemade pasta. In Italy, you can taste the ingredients—each and every one—because it’s usually prepared on site or bought locally.
One day my family stopped at a very tiny family-run restaurant. Inside the restaurant there was room for only two tables. The rest of the space was occupied by a small register and the kitchen. Talk about quality over quantity!
In Italy they also make sauces differently. Some were thick tomato while others were just oil partnered with mouth-watering cherry tomatoes. Fresh tomato sauce that doesn’t come from a jar or a can has this overwhelming flavor of sweet garden goodness. The sauce was so delicious on its own that Italians never even bothered to sprinkle cheese on it. As I sat savoring my pasta, I looked out at the magnificent views. This was easily one of my best dining experiences while in Italy.
To conclude a rather long day of walking around Piedmont, we visited a pizza shop. Located in a large outdoor mall, I thought it was interesting the way they served it in quarter slices. Taking my first bite it was nothing short of delicious, and so fresh, just like everything else I had tried in this beautiful country.
Italian pizza is meant to be enjoyed by all. They offer a wide variety of doughs, sauces and toppings. The dough might be airy, crunchy, or bubbly. In North America our pizza can be thick or thin, and is often dripping with grease but here, the dough is just the right thickness with a floury crust. Toppings include eggplant, onions, sausage and cheese. In Italy, fresh cheese is put on after a pizza has come out of the oven so it’s not melted. This heavenly pie can be enjoyed in quarters, thirds and halves. Full pizzas are quite often shared by many people, but no one will stop you from eating the whole, delicious pie should hunger strike.
After giving my body time to recover, my taste buds were craving some gelato for dessert. Italian gelato is nothing like the ice cream we grew up with. Flavored with fresh ingredients like raspberries, pineapple, hazelnuts, pistachios, and pecans, you won’t find any of that funny fake flavor here. No cotton candy or brownie blast.
Gelato store fronts abound on almost every street corner, the Italian flag waving proudly over a menu board displaying the latest and greatest flavors. Gelato shops are so tiny that more than one family would struggle to fit inside, but everyone walks out happy—adults and children alike, enjoying their favorite scoop of gelato in a freshly baked waffle cone.
I didn’t know before my visit to Italy just how delicious some of these foods could be. Italy brings food to life in a way that touches all five senses and I hope I can find a way to keep that magic alive here at home. Buon appetito!
This story is part of a new series launched in 2023 thanks to support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Big Writers, Little Ears features real and make-believe stories written by big kids, just for you—our younger listeners. Learn more »