MAPPED | An Italian road trip in South Africa for hungry travellers
Italy - Vespas cruising down cobbled streets while tomato and garlic aromas entice pedestrians to indulge in extraordinary pasta dishes washed down by sun-kissed wine.
Many a movie and book have created quite a romantic image of one of Europe's most popular destinations - one that you might dream of visiting up until you have a look at the rand/euro exchange rate.
But you don't have to say addio to your dreams of Italian road trips - in South Africa we are blessed with world-class Italian offerings straight from our soil.
Take on this epic road trip through the eastern parts of Western Cape and you'll be saying 'Mamma Mia' in no time.
BUT IF YOU WANT THE REAL DEAL: Treat yourself to a foodie road trip filled with traditional Italian treats
Start your journey in Cape Town - the Mother City with a small community of Italian ex-pats, many of whom have started up restaurants focused on cuisine from their homeland.
Look for an Italian villa-inspired stay on Airbnb to book into and shop some imported Italian products at Olive Branch Deli at the Lifestyle on Kloof Centre.
For the evening your first stop must be The Cousins Trattoria restaurant, most famous for their signature pasta - Tagliolini served with cream, mushroom and thyme tossed in a wheel of Grana Padano cheese.
The next day take a trip to Hout Bay - on the way stop at Llundudno Beach where you can pretend to laze on the sandy shores of the Mediterranean - although the water won't be as warm! You can also snack on your mezze food bought from the deli.
Either for lunch or dinner head to Massimo's. This pizzeria was opened in 2009 by owner Massimo Orione serving up wood-fired, authentic Italian-style pizzas. But its most impressive feat is that in 2019 it was named the best pizzeria in Africa by 50 Top Pizza.
Hit up the N2 all the way to Somerset West where two wine farms specialise in Italian cultivars on the slopes of Sir Lowry's Pass.
Idiom Vineyards grows four varietals - Sangiovese, Barbera, Zinfandel and Nebbiolo. Only a handful of South African wineries produce the latter one, originally hailing from the Barolo region in north-west Italy.
Right next door is Morgenster, which produces olive oil alongside their wines. Their range also includes Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, as well as a Tuscan Blend and white Vermentino.
For lunch or dinner stay on at Morgenster where you can pair your Italian-inspired wines with the award-winning Milanese cuisine from 95 at Morgenster. You can break up the pasta and pizza with a raw Carpaccio dish or grab a board of fine cheeses served with focaccia.
You can easily do both in one day or stretch it out over two days.
The closest stay to the wine farms is Erinvale Estate Hotel and Spa in traditional Dutch buildings on a golf course.
Take the R44 and make a quick stop at Wilderer Distillery at Spice Route. Besides gin, they also specialise in the Italian-origin grappa, a grape-based pomace brandy. They have four varieties to taste - Shiraz, Pinotage, Muscato and Fynbos Grappa.
After the brief stop head to the N1 and drive to Rawsonville for a hands-on experience making your own pasta at Picardi Place. In an intimate setting you'll pick fresh ingredients with a specialised chef, make pasta from scratch and then enjoy your work with a glass of local wine - but remember to book in advance.
Picardi Place also has accommodation available if you're looking to relax with mountain views.
Enjoy more Italian cultivar wine at Rawsonville's Merwida Winery where you can indulge in a glass or two of Barbera wine grown in the soil of the Breedekloof.
After your Rawsonville tryst drive through the Breede Kloof Valley past the picturesque town of Tulbagh to the quaint dorpie of Riebeek Kasteel.
You might not think that you'll find Italian perfection in this small platteland town, but it probably has one of the best Italian restaurants in the whole of Western Cape - Mama Cucina. Even the simplest dish is heavenly bliss and you'll easily believe you're in a small Italian town.
The town is also famous for olives and olive oil, another stalwart of Italian cuisine, so hit up the Olive Boutique or the Kloovenburg Wine and Olive Estate. Some of the olive oil graders working in the region are also Italian-trained.
If you want to time your road trip just right, plan to be in the area fro the annual Riebeek Valley Olive Festival. In 2020 it will be taking place from 9 to 10 May and will host masterclasses in olive oil tasting, wine appreciation and long table lunches.