By Victoria Cosford

"L'appetito vien mangiando!" or "Appetite comes when you are eating." Vicky arrives in Tuscany to review the language and tradition of Italy, yet quickly falls in love with charismatic chef Gianfranco and begins to benefit the paintings of Italian cooking in his trattoria. On Sunday nights, after benches are stacked on tables, they discover the nation-state via automobile, passing glassy lakes and historical hill cities. This colourful and intoxicating gastro-memoir takes you behind the curtain of romantic eating places and bars in Tuscany, Umbria, Elba, and Perugia. Interspersed with recipes, humor, and heartbreak, it's going to go away you entranced and with a hankering for tagliatelle and cakes.

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Logistics: To get from Pisa to Orvieto, you'll first catch a train to Florence and then get on a Rome-bound train from here. Be careful at Rome's Termini train station, which is a breeding ground for scam artists. Keep your possessions close at hand, and only get into a licensed taxi at the taxi stand. DAY 8: ROME Rome took millennia to build, but unfortunately on this whirlwind trip you'll only have a day and a half to see it. In the morning, head to the Vatican Museums to see Michelangelo's glorious Adam at the Sistine Chapel.

Driving, in short, is the best way to see Italy. Among the countless beautiful drives, these are three of the most memorable: the legendary mountain ascent on SS48, the Grande Strada delle Dolomiti , takes you through the heart of the Dolomites, the famous Passo di Sella, and into the Val Gardena, passing unforgettable, craggy-peaked views. Every time the A1 autostrada tunnels through the mountains, this smaller SS1, Via Aurelia, stays out on the jagged coastline of the Italian Riviera, passing terraced vineyards, cliff-hanging villages, and shimmering seas.

It helps to know a little geography, as many signs indicate the town the road leads to, but not what the road number is. HIKING THE HILLS Even if you don't fancy yourself a disciple of Reinhold Messner (the favorite son of the Dolomites and the first man to reach the peak of Everest without oxygen), you'll find great summer hiking aplenty all over Italy. The Vie Ferrate (Iron Paths) are reinforced trails through the mountains of Trentino–Alto Adige , once forged by the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies; they're a great way to get off the beaten path in the Dolomites.

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