HomeAway travel expert
Gastronomy is no longer exclusively a pursuit of the elite. You only have to look at the increasing popularity of cooking shows on television - MasterChef, Junior MasterChef and The Great British Bake Off, to name a few - to realise that the general public is more conscious than ever of the delights of good food. Gastronomic tourism is booming as a result, with more and more people visiting local markets, farms and vineyards to gain insight into the origins of their favourite dish, whilst allowing the chance to fully indulge in the finest produce and wines on the market, directly from the source.
Culinary tourism provides visitors with both an authentic culinary education and a far greater understanding, appreciation and connection to a destination. If you are a huge fan of a particular culinary delight, from champagne to Parma ham, exploring the region of origin is the finest way to attain magnificent recipes and a fascinating insight into the history, production and ideal preparation of the dish. Wherever your tastebuds take you, be sure to check out HomeAway’s selection of rental properties in the area: but first take a look at our favourite destinations to get your palate tingling.
Top five destinations for gastronomic holidays
Gastro holidays in Tuscany
The Italian province is widely renowned for its alluring architecture and contribution to the Renaissance movement, but for gourmet lovers these aspects play second fiddle to the food. Tuscans have stuck religiously to a tried and tested, uncomplicated means of cooking, drawing on local fruit and game as their key ingredients. The traditional Florentine steak is the region’s most notable dish, naturally complemented by a glass of gorgeous Chianti. Pasta fans must try the pappardelle, a thicker variant of spaghetti ideally seasoned with porcini mushrooms and wild boar sauce. To finish your meal, indulge in a cantucci, a light almond biscuit dipped in Vinsanto. Time your visit accordingly and you can visit Florence’s famed “Taste Firenze” festival in March.
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Gastro holidays in France
It would be frankly impossible - and unfair - to break down the culinary treasures of France to just one region, so rich is the range of unique and sublime dishes throughout the country. The dining culture here is one of class and sophistication, so it goes without saying that the food itself meets the same standards. Coastal areas such as Normandy and Brittany are renowned for their locally caught lobster, crab and mussel cuisines; whereas, in Lyonaisse, you will find dishes borne of the fresh fruit and vegetables that bless the region. And, of course, no meal in Francais would be complete without a glass or two of champagne. The prices will make your eyes water, but for a one-off taste of the greatest gourmet France has to offer, treat yourself to an evening in Restaurant Le Meurice, Paris.
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Gastro holidays in Portugal
Anyone who counts seafood amongst their favourite types of cuisine will cherish a trip to Portugal. The charm lies in the fusion of Mediterranean sensibilities with an Atlantic coastline, making for an incredibly unique dining experience. One of the favoured dishes is arroz de polvo malandrinho, octopus served with rice and local beans from the Algarve region. Another is bacalhau, utilising the wealth of codfish caught just off the surrounding shores. The Portuguese also have an acclaimed sweet tooth, assuring that dessert is invariably a course to look forward to. The country displays a particular penchant for pastry, with leite-crème, arroz doce and pudim fla just some of the traditional favourites. The northern region of Minho boasts arguably the finest selection of traditional restaurants, not least Solar do Arco in the city of Guimares.
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Gastro holidays in Belgium
Much like their French neighbours, the Belgians are rightly proud of their country’s gastronomic heritage. Moules-frites is largely considered to be the main national dish - succulent mussels steamed with onion and served with Bintje fries. Waterzooi is a popular stew, comprising either fish or chicken boiled with a selection of local vegetables and accompanied with a side of French bread. Belgian waffles, or gouffres as they are known, are of course the best option for afters. They are positively delicious topped with some of the chocolate the country so famously produces, but equally so with lashings of sliced fruit and cream. Visit Liege in May and you can experience Epicuriales, the country’s largest outdoor gastronomic event.
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Gastro holidays in India
Indian food is not usually regarded as the pinnacle of fine dining on these shores. Not so in the country of origin, where chefs tend to take more pride in their output. Anyone who has scoured a menu from their local takeaway will be aware of the regions and their corresponding dishes; Punjabi biryanis, Kashmiri Rogan Josh and the like. The taste and preparation, however, could scarcely differ more. Everything is lovingly tended to with a rich blend of local herbs and spices, with nothing less than perfection considered acceptable. Whereas many curries here are slathered with thick sauce, Indian cooks prefer to adopt a more subtle (and healthy) approach with a selection of vegetables.
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More great homes for gastronomic breaks