How to stay slim on an Italian eating holiday

Caterer Annie Orchard, an Australian with Italian heritage, conducts small-group food tours around the Veneto in northern Italy, which include foraging for mushrooms, shopping for salumi and long lunches. In between, she runs her provedore in regional Victoria, which she opened in 2004. See annieskitchen.net.au

STEP ONE

Limit your carbs. Italy's not all about pizza and pasta, and Italians don't gorge themselves on it. When they do have pizza, it's often on a Sunday night, they're not eating it every day of the week.

STEP TWO

Buy your food from the markets, so you're buying fresh from the source in season. Here, you'll also find bread and cheese that's made locally, and not mass-produced, highly processed food. I like "pocketknife lunches", where you pop a pocketknife in your bag and shop for lunch at the market. I pick out fresh tomatoes, a local cheese, perhaps some mortadella and, if it's May, punnets of strawberries to finish your picnic. When you're eating like that, you don't put on weight.

STEP THREE

In Italy, the main meal of the day is lunch, and a full, formal lunch includes antipasto, primi (pasta or risotto), secondi (meat and vegetables) and dolce (dessert). Restaurants are usually happy to give half-serves of the primi, so enjoy those beautiful, big lunches, and have just a salad for dinner. And stay away from the restaurants in the tourist areas – just a few blocks back, and you'll find simple restaurants with fresh, local food. Order an organic prosecco, fresh ricotta with salt and pepper, ripe tomatoes and today's bread. Perfect!

STEP FOUR

In Italy, pasta is served as a primi, or entrée – it's not a huge main course, as we often have in Australia. You'll find it cooked al dente ("to the tooth"), so it's quite firm to the bite. This means you're not cooking all the fibre out of the pasta. Overcooking pasta leaves it sitting like a starchy brick in your stomach, so you feel bloated. Have your pasta or risotto at lunchtime to keep you going for the rest of the day, instead of at night, just before bed.

STEP FIVE

Italy is not an early-morning country, so at 7am there's nobody on the streets of Venice when I'm out for my morning run. If you're not a runner, a lot of the major towns have bike-hire services on the streets, and cycling is the best and quickest way to see a city. Anywhere in Italy, just find a river and follow the track alongside it. My family is from the Veneto in the north of Italy, and I start and end all my tours in my adopted hometown, Bassano del Grappa, which looks up to the Venetian Prealps. Walking, cycling or running across the Ponte Vecchio and along the river soothes the soul (and keeps you trim).

Upcoming tours to the Prosecco Hills, Dolomites & Friuli Venezia Giulia run May 15-23, 2020, followed by a food and photography tour, June 6-12, 2020.

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