Journeys Magazine

Now You Can Have an Italian

An Italian – style road trip in South England that is.

Last week I sunk my teeth into a homemade calzone, savoured the rich texture of a real gelato and washed it all down with a delicate espresso. I finished the day with my toes in the ocean and a vest-top suntan.

There is no place like home…when it’s sunny and you know the right places to go. You’re about to find out about how I went about an Italian-themed road trip – from London to Dover.

Let’s do it.

Al Forno Pizzeria & Ristorante

It may have cost over £25 to get my hands on the tastiest calzone I’ve had outside of Italy…but I was starving! It was well worth spending some pocket money.

Al Forno is here:

1-3 Townend Parade High Street
Kingston upon Thames

The restaurant sits right facing the Thames and is just due minuti from the Old Market Square in Kingston upon Thames.

Everything is home cooked – the ham, ricotta and mozzarella calzone (with an extra topping of anchovies) made up the perfect lunch for a hungry road tripper like me, who had yet to have any breakfast!

This hearty Italian meal marked the beginning of our trek to Dover and there was method in our munching – we didn’t plan on eating later on because we wanted to stay on the beach until sundown.

Caffé Vergnano

I didn’t realise this café was even a chain until today, when I Googled the address – which is here if you’re interested:

62 Charing Cross Road

The venue is so, I don’t know, real.

We dropped in on our way through London-London (we thought we’d be a bit touristy for my Scottish friend Rachael) and I was amazed at how authentic the place felt. That’s probably because it is actually authentic.

Yes, I know, we hadn’t planned on eating any more but we all instantly regretted not having a dessert back in Al Forno and so gelato was definitely on the cards. Needless to say, it was pretty sweet.

And they use the most spectacular old-school machines to make the coffee.

I have an uncle who travels to Modena in Italy every year. He is super fussy about his espresso but I think even he would have a smile on his face in Caffé Vergnano.

It’s about half an hour from Al Forno to Central London. If you’re pushed for time, you’re probably best having dessert at Al Forno and heading straight to Dover via the M25/26.

Advice time

If you’re coming in for a holiday from out of town (or even overseas), I’d always suggest looking into car rentals at Holiday Autos first.

Rachael flew in from Aberdeen and the car she booked was waiting for her at Heathrow. We ran it to Dover and back with far too many beach accessories in the boot – and it was smooth all the way.

There always seems to be a deals on for UK bookings and when the weather is as nice as it has been, it works out much cheaper than flying out to Rodi Garganico.

Shakespeare Beach

Now, I say Rodi Garganico because the beach we aimed for and reached in Dover reminds me so much of a stretch of sand in Puglia that I fell in love with a long time ago, when travelling with the folks.

I’ve done some scouring online and found a couple of images for you to get what I’m talking about…

The way the track runs right alongside the sand in Dover is lovely and I’d have liked to ride in on the train (but wow – we really felt the benefit of the car on the journey back).

When civilization lines up parallel against some blue waves like that, it feels more European than British to me (if that makes sense). There is nothing better than hot sand under your feet and the cool spray of the sea against your skin.

It was cool to see Shakespeare Cliff while we were there but it didn’t quite fit with our Italian-theme to focus on Britain’s favourite son. Plus, we had only travelled here for two very basic things – to swim and sunbathe.

It felt amazing to hop into the sea from a British shoreline without shivering to the bone. The only downside was that we had arrived so late and the sun was dropping fast.

So, I can’t recommend Dover’s beaches enough but my best advice would be to head out as early as possible. We didn’t leave Caffé Vergnano until about 14:30-15:00!

If you’re not so much of a road tripper and want to chug in by train, I’d compare tickets on National Rail and pick the cheapest – easy.

But like I say, you really appreciate the legroom of a car when you’re travelling back to London and so the Holiday Autos car hire from Heathrow Airport (with a discount code if possible) is definitely the comfiest option.

For me, it’s amazing to know we can actually enjoy a slice of the continent here in the UK.

Yeah, it’s never going to beat the real thing. But when the sun is burning down on you like you’re in the Mediterranean why not live like an Italian for the day?

What kind of road trips have you enjoyed at home?

I think this country is more amazing than we all give it credit for. How about you? Put your thoughts down in the comments and I’ll get back to you.

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