What’s on offer? Take your pick. Among the sleepy villages and walled, medieval towns are some of the best examples of Italian cuisine. Tuscans are particularly fond of their selection of breads and olive oil, so start your meals with some fettunta to experience bruschetta the Tuscan way.
Places to eat? Whether you visit the cities of Florence and Siena or smaller villages, such as the beautiful San Gimignano or Volterra, you are bound to discover an unassuming eatery that produces the most delicious pizza, pasta or risotto, all accompanied by flowing local wine. Of course, some restaurants stand out more than others, and perhaps none stand out more than the fabulous Enoteca Pinchiorri – whose three Michelin stars proudly promote it as the finest restaurant in the region. Expect a superb tasting menu, Italian classics utterly perfected and one of the best wine lists in the world.
Where to stay? While you’d be very well served positioning yourself in a city hotel, where you are a just short stroll away from all the culture, wine and food you could possibly want, we would suggest that nothing is more Tuscan than staying in one of the beautiful villas that dot the verdant hills across the region. Our pick is Borgo Pignano: a luxury retreat that gives stunning views of Tuscany from its hilltop setting. It runs its own farm and produces its own fresh ingredients, from olives and vegetables to honey produced by their own bee colony, which gives foodies the perfect opportunity to experience true Tuscan tastes. Or if you fancy visiting Tuscany as part of a broader trip, try the Rome to Monte Carlo cruise, with Oceania Cruises, that visits Florence and Pisa on its tasty travels around the Mediterranean coast.
What’s on offer? The very best of French cuisine is often found in Lyon, the long-established capital of national – and perhaps global – gastronomy. Look out for freshly made bread with Cervelle de Canut (a cheesy accompaniment) as well as the local cured meats and wines.
Places to eat? Such is the depth of gastronomic quality in the city, that you can simply head into any eatery and you are bound to find a menu full of delicious, simple and often surprisingly cheap dishes, all to be washed down with a gorgeous local Beaujolais. In particular, keep an eye out for bouchons – Lyonnaise idiosyncrasies that specialise in heavy, meaty dishes and a familial atmosphere – which encompass all the best parts of Lyon’s food culture; unpretentious, but delicious.
Where to stay? In Lyon, it’s best to stay right in the centre of things, so that you only face a short stagger back from whatever restaurant you have just frequented. Hotel Le Royal is a great bet, boasting quietly elegant rooms, a great city centre location and its own cookery class, so that you, too, can learn to cook like Lyon’s best.
What’s on offer? Just as it sits across two continents either side of the Bosphorus, so too does Turkey have culinary roots in both the Mediterranean and Middle East. Of course, kebabs are hugely popular and utterly delicious, but also look out for their fabulous cheeses, and be sure to have some baclava for dessert.
Places to eat? The heart of the Turkish food scene, as with most things in the country, lies in Istanbul – with its bustling marketplaces offering delectable spices and ingredients. It’s also got the best selection of restaurants, with Yeni Lokanta a highlight: serving up fresh takes on traditional delicacies. Another excellent spot for a foodie tour of Turkey is the seaside town of Alaçati, a very popular destination within the country, but relatively unknown elsewhere. It hosts the Vanishing Tastes Festival every summer, to celebrate long-established local cuisine that has been forgotten by recent generations.
Where to stay? Istanbul was once the beating heart of the Ottoman Empire, which has left its mark on the city with a series of luxurious villas, palaces and mansions remaining as relics of imperialism. Live like a sultan at Les Ottomans: a boutique hotel that used to house the grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire, and is favoured by Hollywood’s elite when they come to the city.
What’s on offer? Thai food has exploded in popularity in the UK in recent decades, and for good reason. Boasting spicy curries, flavourful sauces and a street-food tradition to rival anywhere in the world, Thailand is a foodie’s paradise.
Places to eat? As it is such a popular holiday destination, some of Thailand’s superb culinary tradition has become diluted by the surge of tourists demanding pad thai or a green curry – two dishes that are rightly loved, but sometimes fall into the trap of mass production. Of course, there are a huge number of places that have either not been discovered by tourists yet or simply refuse to cater for the lowest common denominator. Nahm in Bangkok is a fine example, a restaurant consistently ranked among the top 10 in Asia, that plays with the tastes and textures of Thai cuisine while keeping the fresh flavours that makes the local food such a treat.
Where to stay? If you’re heading all the way out to Thailand, you might as well make the trip one to remember. The Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok is a study in 19th century grandeur, boasting a beautiful exterior on the river, elegant rooms and some of the best service you’ll find. It houses a two Michelin star French restaurant, as well as one of the best Thai eateries in the city.
What’s on offer? Indian food is a well-loved staple over here, but you haven’t really experienced all that India has to offer to foodies until you’ve been there yourself. With an incredibly rich array of regional curries with delicious, fresh spices, Indian food in its home setting is truly different to your local takeaway.
Places to eat? India’s culinary contribution is still so regionally diverse that it would be difficult to highlight any one area. One suggestion we would have is to try the Delhi institution, Moti Mahal. Allegedly the inventor of butter chicken, a dish that features on the menus of Indian restaurants the world over, Moti Mahal first began making the dish in 1947 after The Partition of India. The dish went global after getting rave reviews around Delhi, so head to Moti Mahal and see what all the fuss was about.
Where to stay? For a stay in Delhi, try The Claridges – a peaceful haven in the middle of bustling New Delhi. A mix of contemporary features and stately, mid-century architecture makes you feel like you’re in the lap of luxury, and with a selection of great in-house restaurants to choose from, you’ll be in foodie heaven.