It’s autumn and the sun is still shining bright in northern Italy.
The days are hot. My shoulders are tanned. And in between visits to Modena’s famous balsamic vinegar producers and Vignola’s markets bursting with the region’s beloved cherries, I find myself retreating to the countryside just outside Parma where I’ve booked a night in a quiet B&B called Villino di Porporano.
Tucked away down country roads that wind alongside a burbling stream, the B&B is exactly what I hoped for: a bright, elegant room, a walled green garden full of shade trees and a stone terrace lined with brick columns and dotted with charming patio tables hidden away far from the tourist crowds.
I fall asleep that night deeply content, with the palpable relief of a woman who feels she’s exactly where she wants to be.
And then things get even better.
Because when I wake to the soft sunrise light peeking through the windows and I make my way down to the terrace, I find more than just wooden trellises wound round with vines and soft, pink roses peeking around columns.
I find patio tables set with crisp white linen, juice glasses and sugar bowls. I find a kind-eyed Italian woman asking for my coffee order (cappuccino, please). And I find a table laid out for a breakfast spread like none I’ve ever experienced before.
I’m excited the moment I see it—spread out with fat, sugar-dusted croissants, alarm-red tomatoes, juicy slices of orange melon and bright white bowls full of homemade jams—but it isn’t until I dig in that I realise just how remarkable the meal truly is.
Every dish is the best version of itself. The tomatoes burst with flavor. The thinly sliced prosciutto melts on my tongue. The miniature pancakes are soft and fluffy like clouds. The French toast is thick and lightly sugared. And the fresh-squeezed orange juice tastes sweet and bright.
I go back for seconds, then thirds. I close my eyes. My God, what have I been missing all my life? How could I not have known food could be this good? This perfectly flavoured? This deeply satisfying?
I clean one plate, then another. And I wish desperately that I’d booked a longer stay—a whole week of breakfasts, a whole month even.
I’ve spent months upon months exploring Italy. I’ve sought out the world’s best pizza in Naples, wintered in mild-weathered Sicily, tasted real cannoli, taken pasta-making lessons with Italian mamas, wandered the hill country around mystical Assisi, set foot on the ancient roads of Rome and still I’ve never had a breakfast to equal Villino di Porporano’s.
Even years later, the memory stays with me, fresh and bright and calling me back—one of a handful of meals I’ve had in my life that still loom large in my memory, one of a handful of places that I know someday I’ll make it back to.
Because the truth is that it’s not just the best breakfast I’ve had in Italy.
It’s the best breakfast I’ve had in the world.