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One of the real highlights of our Summer staycation was our day in London that felt like a trip to Italy thanks to Eataly.

Google describes Eataly London as an ‘Italian food shop’. But it’s so much more than that. It’s an immersion in the sights, smells and tastes of the very best Italian cuisine.

Eataly is now a permanent fixture next to Liverpool Street station and the largest Italian marketplace in the world. It’s the very best place to eat, shop and learn about the country’s obsession with quality food. So if, like me, you love to learn about and taste Italian gastronomy, there really is no better place to go.

We started with an Italian coffee and eyed up the delicious pastries and cakes before heading round the marketplace. Every Italian ingredient you can think of was there, with fresh vegetables, marvellous fish and meat counters, not to mention around 75 different extra virgin olive oils that are such a staple of the Italian diet. Or, of course, you could simply buy a jar of pasta sauce.

With 123 types of dried pasta, from 27 different producers, you’re ridiculously spoilt for choice. The biscotti were to die for, and it was wonderful to learn more from the knowledgeable, mainly Italian staff. You can see them making fresh pasta of all shapes and sizes, as well as delicious pizzas and cannoli. For me, it was impossible not to buy some of the super fresh snacks, that you can sit down and enjoy it with a refreshing drink (or even two).

Go upstairs and you can watch the cheese experts making fresh mozzarella in front of you. The term mozzarella originates from the word ‘mozzare’ which means ‘to cut’. It consists of the manual cutting of the stretched curd, worked with the thumb and forefinger. I also learnt that burrata, the creamy cousin of mozzarella, originated in the small town of Andria in Puglia, a region in Southern Italy. Traditionally, burrata would be wrapped in blades of asphodel, a leaf native to Puglia, and used to measure the freshness of the cheese.

Another discovery was Treccia, a hand woven mozzarella cheese with a unique shape. There was also bocconcini, which comes from the Italian word for mouth, meaning they are bite size mozzarella, a cheese made from pulled mozzarella curds. The word stracciatella means ‘rug’ and means to stretch, while ricotta is made from the whey generated from the production of mozzarella. ‘Ri-cotta’ means cooked twice.

Alive with Flavour is so much about the learning, so of course I loved watching a class taking place in the Eataly Culinary School. They were making ravioli and some delicious smells of sauces bubbling were coming from the door. Not only can you learn how to cook Italian food but you can prepare and taste Italian wine, beer, and cocktails. This coming week alone there’s an Italian wine masterclass for beginners, a pizza cooking class and a fresh egg pasta cooking class.

Everywhere you turn there is a stool to pull up to enjoy an Italian beer or glass of wine. I also loved the look of the fine dining restaurant on the second floor and the piazza which is due to open this month. If you enjoy an Aperol (and frankly, who doesn’t?) there is the Aperol bar outside. Or try an Italian cocktail inside or al fresco. There is so much choice and such a relaxed ‘vibe’ to the whole place.

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