Today's Featured Contributor is Roksana Bialczak, a food junkie who spent a semester in Milan, Italy, seeing and tasting as much as she could. In her post, Roksana shares tips on finding the best food in any travel destination.
When you first arrive in a new city, it is sometimes difficult to organize your thoughts and actions while taking everything in at once. Overwhelmed by the idea of “so much to do, so little time,” you may at first struggle to figure out the transportation systems while becoming acquainted with the city’s unfamiliar geography. Then there’s a sense of anxiety about the inevitable impending language barriers you are about to be faced with. Somewhere in the midst of all of this you're probably thinking, "what should I get to eat?" For me, not only is that the most important question, but it is also a loaded one.
With a plethora of touristy hot spots and restaurants, you will have no problem finding a quick and easy place to get your fill. But why not start your tour of the city early on and indulge in some local eats instead? It will help focus your scattered thoughts and give you energy to tackle the rest of the day. Local food is almost always better than the food served at tourist spots—and likely cheaper too!
These are the four best ways to discover hidden foodie gems:
1. Ask the Concierge or the Hostel Front Desk
Most times they have all the information you would ever need. Ask them to tell you what THEIR favorite place to eat is and what the traditional food of the city is. Odds are they have lived in the city for quite some time and can narrow down a few places for you to try. Not only can they advise you on the best places to visit, but they can also warn you of the culinary disasters that you must avoid. While some may not give you the best advice, others will take out a map and circle what may seem like an obscure alley in the outskirts of the city. Those are usually the ones that are spot on. From personal experience, I have found that asking for the less touristy places to visit elicits a more genuine response.
2. Make Friends
Whether you meet people in your hostel, on the street or at the bar, they can be another resource for you to gain a local perspective on eateries. Obviously it is important to use your judgment when talking to strangers. Remember to trust your gut! If you are friendly and willing to explore the city genuinely, people will often be excited to help you make the best of your stay. People who love their city will enjoy helping you fall in love with it too! The quickest way to anyone's heart is through their stomach. They may even invite you over for a home-cooked meal!
3. Ask Your Cab Driver
This is a trick I learned while in New York City, but I would bet that it works almost anywhere. Cab drivers know the ins and outs of the city better than most of the locals, mainly because they drive around all day and night. If you have to take a cab anywhere, simply ask the cab driver what their favorite place to eat is or what types of foods are unique to their city. Tell them it does not have to be fancy or touristy--just delicious--to ensure that you get the most culturally satisfying culinary experience possible.
4. Check Out the Supermarket
Some of the most tasty and authentic meals I have had were the ones I purchased at grocery stores. Supermarkets carry the products that most locals use for their every day home cooking. Sometimes it’s more fun to stop by a cheese market for some brie and a boulangerie for a baguette and head to the Eiffel Tower for a picnic in the park. It also doesn't hurt if you can wash it all down with some French wine.
There is always so much to learn, so much to do and so much to discover in a new city. Learning about a city through its food is a fascinating way to explore its traditions and history. Every city is unique in its own way; exploring the different types of cuisine is a sure way to make your travels memorable. You may not remember the name of the church that you visited in Rome, but you will certainly remember the way the tiramisu gelato melted in your mouth that day. Buon Appetito!
Roksana Bialczak recently graduated from Fordham University. During her junior year, she spent a semester abroad to learn something about life outside of the classroom. Her semester in Milan, Italy allowed Roksana to spend most weekends flying or training through Europe gobbling up as much as she could about each city and its cuisine--pun intended. Now that she is working a 9-5 job and cannot rewind the clock to those five months, Roksana relives them by sharing what she learned. Want to learn more about Roksana? Connect with her on LinkedIn!
Are you an expert when it comes to knowing the ins and outs of a specific destination, how to pack for an extensive stay abroad, or other travel related content? Do you have a passion for meaningful travel and the experience to prove it? Then GoAbroad would love to feature you as a Featured Contributor! Please see the required guidelines here.