The Trip to Italy: How to recreate Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan’s gastronomic journey through the European countryside

  • MailOnline Travel visit the restaurants and landmarks from the 2014 hit film
  • From pasta in Pisa to cocktails in Capri – the ultimate foodie break revealed
  • Italy’s Amalfi coast, Rome, Pievescola and more visited on tailormade tour

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Millions watched The Trip to Italy not for the Michael Caine impressions really but for those drop dead gorgeous views of the country, and for the food, mostly for the food. Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan were ostensibly following in the footsteps of romantic poets Shelley and Byron but in reality the actors were eating their way around a country famous for its food and the show must have given the tourist board a massive boost. It certainly made me determined to see more of Italy. To find out if such a trip was manageable and affordable without being paid for by TV wigs I sought the assistance of Citalia, the Italian Discount Holidays © Holiday Specialists who have 85 years’ experience of arranging tailor-made trips, and here are my findings.

Bagni Di Pisa1

Nestled in northern Italy’s tumbling olive groves lies the luxurious 18th century restored palace Bagni Di Pisa

The hotel’s many thermal pools are rich in sulphur, calcium and magnesium and pumped out at 37 degrees

A seven-minute walk from San Giuliano Terme station, this hotel is four miles from the Leaning Tower of Pisa

In keeping with the grand ethos Rob and Steve become accustomed to during their trip, Bagni Di Pisa is an 18th century restored palace and the ancient summer residence of Grand Duke of Tuscany. Nestled in northern Italy’s tumbling olive groves think soft Tuscan hills, marble bathtubs, antique furniture, and 17th Century artwork just 10km from Pisa airport. We learn we’ve just missed Elton John and Billy Idol and that the poet Shelley was a guest back in the day at the 60 room five-star residence. No surprise given the splendour of our room which has two floors, an iron spiral staircase with original frescoes decorating a ceiling dripping in chandeliers.

The beautiful hotel boasts a large spa with natural hot springs and a pool set in San Giuliano Terme, Italy

The spa programmes at the hotel have been developed to solve several problems caused by a bad nutrition

As well as an incredible spa and the hotel’s many thermal pools rich in sulphur, calcium and magnesium pumped out at 37 degrees – the indulgent five course dinner at the Restaurant Dei Lorena is what we talk about for days afterwards. Although there is a healthy option carefully selected for those on the spa’s weightloss programme, we steadfastly avoided that. We opted instead for the five course feast featuring heavenly tomato and cheese ravioli, full-fat mozzarella, Parma ham and a spicy fish soup packed with everything from mussels, clams, lobster and prawns to seabass and bream.

Relais La Suvera, Pievescola2

Located in stately medieval stone buildings, this hotel is close to the 17th-century Villa Cetinale’s gardens

Perhaps our favourite stop was this extraordinary five-star villa in South Tuscany once belonging to the descendants of the King of France before being donated to Pope Julius II in the 16th Century – the ornate collection of furniture and art here is testimony to the status of the owners. If you’re a history, architecture or art buff – La Suvera is the place for you. There’s also a heated pool, a spa with an ancient medieval cistern and a well-equipped gym if you need to work off all that pasta.

Stay in one of 35 rooms or suites in the Papal Villa, the converted farmhouse or stables. Steve and Rob enjoy a cocktail in the hotel’s gardens and then breakfast here after Rob has roped in a staff member to help him audition for a new Mafia drama in episode 3. Each room is adorned in the name of a historical figure, perfect for anniversary vacations or honeymoons

Steve and Rob enjoy a cocktail in the hotel’s gardens and then breakfast here after Rob has roped in a staff member to help him audition for a new Mafia drama in episode three

Enjoy the exact same spot in Bar Limone that they did overlooking the incredible Tuscan countryside of vineyards and olive groves or take a stroll across the grounds viewing a church, a museum revealing the castle’s history, endless fountains and ancient aviaries.

The food here is a major player with the bar and restaurant serving delicious evening meals the highlights of which included tagliatelle with homemade pesto and the best aubergine parmigiana we have ever tasted. When you have the added option of pairing the meals with organic, estate-grown wines there really isn’t much reason to move. If you should wish for a change of scene there’s a village with the family run Ristorante Locanda Antica Pieve (www.ristoranteanticapieve.eu3), eight minutes away complete with a framed newspaper cutting telling us the chef once served as Nicole Kidman’s private cook.

The standard of the food lends the claim some gravitas, here we enjoyed exceptional homemade ravioli, gnocchi , antipasti and delicious gelato.

Hotel Donna Camilla Savelli4, Rome

Set in a converted 17th-century convent in Trastevere, this hotel lies a minute’s walk from a local bus stop

The area is streaming with live music and bars which are perfect for people watching in Rome

If you’re seeking rooms in the Eternal City and want to do it style without breaking the bank, the four- star Hotel Donna Camilla Savelli Rome features a Fully Restored 16th Century Monastery and is situated in the Trastevere area, basically the Soho of the Italian capital. Even though this was my fourth trip to Rome it was by far the best thanks to the area which I can’t stop recommending to every poor soul I hear heading that way. We were completely spoilt for choice for where to eat and drink and enjoyed gigantic and deliciously cheesy pizzas for ‘ 7 as street restaurants compete for the trade of hordes of tourists and locals along the main Via Della Scalla, a long winding street with a square at its centre.

Sofia said: ‘We were completely spoilt for choice and enjoyed gigantic and deliciously cheesy pizzas’

The hotel is in walking distance is the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum and Fontana dell’Acqua Paola

For art buffs the Rafael frescoed ceilings and walls of renaissance Villa Farnesina (above) is a well-hidden gem

If you’re bar hopping most places bring you a board of generous antipasti to go with your drink. The area’s also teaming with live music and perfect for people watching. Grazia & Graziella, Taverna Della Scala and Il Tarallo Allegro all enjoyed our custom. The hotel offers a roof terrace and is within walking distance is the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum and Fontana dell’Acqua Paola which affords incredible views across the city. Of course Rob and Steve enjoy an indulgent dinner at Oliver Glowig’s Michelin starred restaurant in the picturesque Villa Borghese if your budget stretches that far.

For art buffs the Rafael frescoed ceilings and walls of renaissance Villa Farnesina – a short walk from the hotel is a well-hidden gem that will give you respite from the crowds and room to admire the painted floors, walls and ceilings. Take refuge in the beautiful lemon gardens after (villafarnesina.it5)

Minori Palace6, Amalfi Coast

The historic and picturesque town of Rapello is just a few miles away from Minori Palace on the Amalfi Coast

The Minori Palace offers 44 bright rooms with furnished balconies, a nice bar area and a hall

The picturesque little town of Minori is an ideal base to explore the Amalfi region. The historic and picturesque town of Rapello is just a few kilometres away, the beautiful coastal town where Greta Garbo found refuge in the Thirties, before Gore Vidal made it his home.

There is a local bus that will take you along the winding roads that are a riot of colour -though having experienced this I would recommend one of the pricier taxis. Taking a stroll in the stunning grounds you will see the ‘Terrace of Infinity’ a natural balcony providing a breathtaking but stomach-flipping view of the Amalfi mountainside

Once here you’ll find Villa Cimbrone that Steve and Rob visit in episode 5 and which has played host Virginia Woolf, DH Lawrence and Winston Churchill among others. Climb some steep steps to access it while admiring spectacular views of the Amalfi Coast snaking below, enjoy a two-course meal for two for around ‘ 80 at the restaurant.

Then take a stroll in stunning grounds and see the ‘Terrace of Infinity,’ a natural balcony providing a breathtaking but stomach-flipping view of the Amalfi mountainside and Tyrennhian Sea below. The structures date back to at least the 11th century AD and provide the perfect selfie spot.

The Capri Palace7, Capri

Capri, an island in the Gulf of Naples, is known for its rugged landscape, beach resorts and high-end shops

Suites offer private pools, Egyptian-cotton counterpanes on four-poster beds, sound systems, and plasma TVs

Skip the crowds of day-trippers and get an early morning ferry from Naples or Amalfi to Capri (around 40 60 minutes). Ride around Anacapri in an open-top taxi marvelling at the luxury all around you. If sumptuous dining is what you’re after The Capri Palace (

Leading Italian specialists Citalia (01293 731 753, www.citalia.com9) can arrange an Italian road trip taking in Liguria, Tuscany, Rome, the Amalfi Coast and Capri, on a B&B basis. Starting from 1,189 per person including return flights from Gatwick, resort transfers and 10 nights car hire.

Based on departures 2 May 2016.

The BBC Trip To Italy is out now on Blu-ray.

References

  1. ^ Bagni Di Pisa (www.citalia.com)
  2. ^ Relais La Suvera, Pievescola (www.citalia.com)
  3. ^ www.ristoranteanticapieve.eu (www.ristoranteanticapieve.eu)
  4. ^ Hotel Donna Camilla Savelli (www.citalia.com)
  5. ^ villafarnesina.it (villafarnesina.it)
  6. ^ Minori Palace (www.citalia.com)
  7. ^ The Capri Palace (www.citalia.com)
  8. ^

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