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TOP 15 FOOD AND WINE DESTINATIONS IN THE MEDITERRANEAN

Find out why the best places to eat in the Mediterranean can't be missed.




Imagine yourself dining al fresco in the Mediterranean, with the sea breeze rolling in around you. Spending days sipping sangria in Barcelona, munching on crispy calamari in Italy or indulging on Croatian cuisine with a dramatic coastline as the backdrop. There's nothing like Mediterranean food and wine. And with cruises to the top food destinations in the Mediterranean, foodies can rest easy knowing that they'll start and finish each day with a delicious meal no matter where they're headed.




1. TAPAS, TAPAS, TAPAS

Spain Traditional Tapas Couple Enjoying Wine and Appetizers

From unique dining experiences to bustling markets to hole-in-the-wall eateries, the streets of Barcelona are lined with delicious food, no matter where you turn. Fresh juices, sweet ice pops and cones of Iberico ham can be found in the buzzing La Boqueria market, where most transactions are cash only. And in the tiny tapas restaurants of the El Born area, where small plates are key, succulent lamb skewers with mint sauce, roasted aubergine with honey and fluffy Spanish omelets are paired with traditional dishes like patatas bravas — roasted potatoes with a spicy sauce. But, the most famous of tapas in Barcelona is the "bomba," a melt-in-your-mouth potato ball that is filled with meat, deep-fried, and then dipped in a sweet but spicy sauce, can't be missed.




2. PAELLA PLEASE

Spain Local Chef Cooking Paella

If you're looking for something a little heartier, fresh paella topped with succulent prawns and steaming mussels can be found down by the beach in Barcelona. Native to the region of Valencia, paella has become Spain's most famous dish. And why's that? Well, the flavor is out of this world. Cooked in a giant cast-iron skillet, the saffron rice and savory sausage is stir-fried together with succulent seafood to create a super satisfying meal that's usually shared by two.

Getting thirsty? Wash your meal down with a glass of ice-cold cava sangria, a specialty that's made with sparkling white wine, brandy, peach liqueur, grape juice and topped with fresh fruit. And if that's not your thing, you could always go classic with a fruity glass of red sangria.




3. THE CHOICE IS CHURROS

Spain Churros and Hot Chocolate

Spain may be known for its savory selections, but the sweet ones can't be left out. And that's where the churro comes in. The long, crispy, deep-fried pastry was created during the 16th century. It's debated whether the Spanish, Portuguese or Chinese came up with the sweet treat. Dusted in cinnamon and sugar, churros are served with a cup of hot, melted chocolate. Dip it in, and enjoy the inexpensive pastry that locals and tourists enjoy. And if you thought this was a dessert, don't be fooled. You can dine on this delicacy during breakfast, lunch, snack time or dinner. Head to Las Ramblas, one of the most popular streets in the city, or the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona for the best selection of the delectable pastry.




4. BEAUTIFUL BIFANA

Portuguese Bifana Juicy Pork Sandwich

Imagine a light and crusty bread roll filled with sauteed strips of juicy pork. Seasoned in garlic, spices and white wine, bifana is anything but boring. Topped with yellow mustard you'd find at a fast-food joint, the traditional Portuguese sandwich is best served with an ice-cold beer. And if you're feeling like you need more than just the tasty sandwich to fill your stomach after a busy day of exploring, pair it with a delicious bowl of soup. Find them in Lisbon, Porto and everywhere in between. The tender pork sandwich proves that the best places to eat in the Mediterranean don't need to be fancy.




5. PASTEIS DE NATA

Lisbon Pasteis de Nata Traditional Desert

Flaky pastry dough surrounds the sweet, rich yellow custard that makes up the world-famous pasteis de nata, a traditional Portuguese dessert. The egg tart, dusted with cinnamon, is best enjoyed as a sweet breakfast and served with coffee or tea.

Invented in Belem, near the center of Lisbon, pasteis de nata is said to have originated in a monastery before the 18th century. The monks had leftover egg yolks from the eggs that were used to starch nuns' habits, so they cooked up the bite-size pasteis de nata. The best way to really enjoy the Portuguese pastry is to visit the monastery before heading to the nearby bakery for a few treats. Then, head to the water for views overlooking Belem Tower while you give them a taste.




6. PIZZA FOR ONE

Italy Traditional Pizza Margarita

From a simple Margherita (mozzarella and tomato) to a capricossa, topped with a raw egg that's cooked from the heat coming out of the cheese, Napoli is the place to try a pizza. Pizzaioli, a person who makes pizza, is a prized job to have in the Italian city and some of them are serving up the best pizza in the world. While there are over 800 pizzerias in the city that were the birthplace of pizza, there are 100 to choose from that ensure that the art of pizza-making and the ingredients used has stayed true to tradition. Odds are if you see a line out front filled with locals, it's one of them. Indulge in mouthwatering pies eaten at communal tables and washed down with a local beer or glass of red wine. One thing is for sure, the pizza in Naples is out of this world.




7. OODLES OF NOODLES

Italy Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Grated Cheese

Work up an appetite wandering down the cobblestone streets of Rome's Trastevere district. Once a quiet, local area, Trastevere has become a bit more mainstream but still holds on to its charm. Leave the bustling piazza behind and venture off the beaten path. Tiny trattorias line the small alleyways and serve up some of the best Cucina Romana in the whole city. Dine on pasta dishes like spaghetti carbonara, pappardelle with wild boar and Fettucine Alla Sarda (a rich mushroom sauce). Wash down your savory pasta with a glass of full-bodied red wine and finish your meal off with some tiramisu, that has been cooked to perfection.




8. LOAD UP ON LIGURIAN CUISINE

Mediterranean Portofino Lingurian Cuisine Pesto Pasta

One of the top food destinations in the Mediterranean, Portofino is home to Ligurian cuisine. Known for its delicious pesto made with basil, pine nuts, garlic and fresh Parmigiano, the area is a foodie's dream. Enjoy fresh pasta dishes smothered in pesto sauce or focaccia drizzled in olive oil, straight out of the oven. Bite into a piece of branzino baked under a blanket of salt or enjoy Frito de Misto, mixed fried seafood. Fill your belly up after exploring the colorful winding streets of Portofino or taking a dip in the sparkling sea.



9. TAKE ME TO TUSCANY

Italy Pecorino Cheese Package

From bold blends of red wine in the Chianti region to fresh pecorino cheese, Tuscany has a unique cuisine that is second to none in the Mediterranean. With access to La Spezia Port, Florence is the epicenter of a Mediterranean wine experience. Visit vineyards in the rolling hills of Tuscany in the morning before heading into the city center for a cup of ribolita, a hearty minestrone soup, or a hearty panini filled with cured meats like prosciutto crudo and salami on Via Dei Neri. Finish off your meal down the road with a refreshingly sweet scoop (or two) of gelato. For a sweet and salty pair, go for the pistachio and salted caramel on a homemade cone.




10. GET CHEESY

Greece Tiropita Cheese Puff

Baked cheese. Fried cheese. Cheese balls. Feta cheese. Kefalotiri cheese. Feta wrapped in pastry dough and served with honey drizzled over it. Spanikopita (spinach pie with cheese) and tiropita (cheese pie). The options for cheese in Greece are endless. Enjoy small plates of cheesy goodness during every meal, no matter what time of day it is.

For a truly mouthwatering experience, order a tiropita cheese puff, which is cheese baked in cheese. Enjoy them throughout your adventurous day in the islands, paired with other traditional Greek dishes like keftedes, which are meatballs served with creamy sauce, or moussaka, which is minced beef layered with sweet eggplants and cooked in a creamy tomato sauce.




11. SEA-FOOD AND EAT IT

Italy Seafood Mussels Wine Sauce

Endless choices of seafood await you in Greece. From steamed mussels cooked in a white wine sauce to shrimp and pasta dishes to octapodi kokkinisto, which is octopus cooked in tomato sauce, you won't run out of options. Pair a fresh catch of fish with a glass of sweet heliophilous wine by the beach in Mykonos, or enjoy a marinated squid caught in the surrounding waters of Argostoli coupled with a dry white Robola wine. Dine al fresco and enjoy the contrast of the whitewashed city of Oia against the blue of the sea while you fill yourself up on tasty Greek food before exploring even more.



12. DOZENS OF DESSERTS

Greece Kataifi Dessert Pastry Whip Cream

From crumbly Amygdalota almond cookies served with a cup of Greek coffee to flaky baklava made with layers and layers of phyllo dough to kataifi, a rolled-up pastry that is baked and then soaked in sweet syrup, desserts are a staple in Greek cuisine. The desserts utilize ingredients you can find around the islands like honey, nuts, cream and fruit and have been around for centuries. So, do as the Greek do and finish off your meal with a sweet treat and hot drink at one of the many local taverns in the Greek isles.



13. MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN

Croatia Punjena Paprika Baked Pepper with Ground Beef

Mediterranean food and wine meets its match in Croatia. Influences from the Balkans, Italy and its access to the sea makes Croatia a hot spot for tasty foods. From crni rizot (black risotto), arborio rice cooked in squid ink and topped with juicy octopus tentacles to punjena paprika, baked peppers stuffed with savory ground meat, to the sweet rozata egg custard, which resembles a Spanish flan, the chances to have a seriously satisfying meal are vast. Pair your meal with a refreshing glass of crisp white wine from regions like Istria or Pokuplje.



14. DALMATIAN DELICACIES

Split Pasticada Beef Fillet with Wine

Spend a day exploring Split or Dubrovnik and the Dalmation coast and enjoy typical Mediterranean food. Indulge in the catch of the day cooked in olive oil, garlic and rosemary and served with tender green vegetables. Taste the "Queen of Dalmatian cuisine," pasticada, a beef fillet marinated in wine vinegar for days before being braised for hours in both its own juices and red wine and then served with gnocchi. Wash it down with a glass of plavac mali wine, a red, which is made from grapes grown on one of the 79 islands on the Dalmatian coast.



15. TURKISH DELIGHT

Turkey Doner Kebab Pita Lamb with Veggies

Sis kebab, doner kebab and lamb kofte can be found in many places around the world, but it tastes even better in Turkey. Sis kebab is meat served on a stick, a doner kebab is slow-cooked meat carved and served in a pita or wrap, and kofte is a type of meatball. These choices may have become a bit mainstream, but there are so many other tasty Turkish plates to try. Start off your meal with some meze like grilled eggplant salad or a traditional dish called cicek dolmasi which is fried squash flowers stuffed with raisins and rice. After you've got your share of savory food, satisfy your sweet tooth with one of the many Turkish desserts. From the spongy texture of the kunafeh cake, to the tender bite of the Ayva tatilisi, made with quince fruit, and the notable baklava, there is something for everyone to choose from.


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