Part 2: Hotel Breakfasts
Before we actually arrived in Italy, just back at home in Temecula imagining ourselves there, I didn’t think a hotel breakfast was that important. I mean, so what, right?
Wrong! Breakfast at the 7th floor rooftop deck guest lounge at the Hilton became a much-anticipated grounding daily ritual for us.
Before our trip I kept hearing how Italians don’t eat breakfast. At most they grab a quick caffe or possibly caffe and cornetto (Italian croissant; more on this in a sec.)
Because I find grocery stores fascinating, I went in a few while in Italy and saw shelves of American style breakfast cereal. (Not as many varieties as an American grocery store has, but multiple shelves worth.) Sorrento is a major tourist town, especially for the British, but I saw evidence of breakfast at grocery stores in Naples, too. I also saw commercials on Italian TV for “breakfast bars” which are cookie-like soft biscuits. These commercials usually featured a family sitting in a garden in the middle of the afternoon, but they referenced “colazione” which is breakfast.
Also, yogurt is huge in Italy. (So is the Greek yogurt trend, just like here in the US.) In addition to “Italians don’t eat breakfast,” I kept hearing, “Italians don’t snack,” so when are they eating all this yogurt? I assume breakfast? Or maybe they do snack?
Anyway…we are daily breakfast eaters and Il Settimo aka the 7th floor buffet did not disappoint.
It wasn’t the biggest, but somehow it really just hit the spot.
First off, the beverages:
Il Settimo is always open and drinks are always out. (Breakfast, tea, and happy hour are only out at set hours.) The drinks assortment seems created by Hilton to appeal to international guests but with an Italian twist. They had a machine that was the commercial version of Nespresso. I really, really want a Nespresso machine now. Every time I’m in Bloomingdales I walk right past their Nespresso counter thinking, “This isn’t for me,” but maybe it is for me!
I’m a tea drinker, and haven’t been a coffee drinker since my mid 20s, but I trained myself to drink coffee specifically for this trip so I could enjoy caffe life.
In Italy, caffe is what we call espresso in the US. It is like a very strong espresso, even from a Nespresso machine in a hotel lounge. Americano is caffe with water added, so it’s similar to a cup of American coffee, but it’s still way stronger and tastes different because it’s not made by drip. I like macchiato which is caffe aka espresso with a little bit of steamed/foamed milk. Latte is milk and if you ask for a “latte” you’ll get JUST the milk, no coffee.
I also keep hearing that Italians don’t drink any coffee drinks with milk after 12 pm so I decided to go native and stuck to plain caffe if it was afternoon.
When I was a student in Aix-en-Provence I loved to drink something they call a “noisette” which is a macchiato. This was a very liberating discovery for me since I was nervous about drinking Italian strength espresso. Knowing that at 15 I drank tons of noisettes, I knew I could do it!
So anyway….the drinks. The Nespresso (which had settings for caffe, Americano, latte, hot water for tea, and chocolate which is very thick and rich, unlike US “hot cocoa.” I never had it but apparently in Italy ONLY kids drink chocolate. I remember reading an article about an Italian actress being interviewed in California and she had a bad cold so she wanted a cup of chocolate as “comfort food” and when the hotel brought it she said, “It tastes like water! Take it away!”)
Il Settimo always has out still and fizzy waters (senza gas or frizzante; I talked to waiters a lot during this trip with my very basic Italian), a big selection of bottled juices in oddly European flavors like pear, carrot-orange, mulberry, etc., and my favorite, a selection of Schweppes bottles like ginger ale, tonic water, seltzer, and Limone.
Limone! Why is this not super popular here in the US? Limone is similar to lemonade, but slightly carbonated, and with some bitterness to it. We saw a few different brands during our time in Italy, including canned varieties that are in a lot of bars and restaurants and say, “Made with 100% Italian lemons!” so I’m thinking this is a very iconic Italian drink. I am partial to Schweppes Limone because the bottle is more appetizing than the can.
They also have a giant carafe of red wine plus bottles of a variety of white wines, sparkling wines, and champagne. Beer too. We saw tons of people drinking beer during our trip, both Italians and tourists. This could be because it was summer.
Oddly, there was always, 24 hours a day, bowls of Marcona almonds and potato chips (“crisps”) set out near the wine.
Breakfast always featured cornettos, which are Italian croissants. The cornettos at our Hilton breakfast tasted just like French croissants but during our trip we also had cornettos that had a different type of pastry, rather than the layer upon layer of thin pastry that flakes. There was always at least one other type of pastry too, like things with custard, or fruit etc.
We saw many types of yogurt while in Italy but the brand we ate the most was Yomo, which is Italian. At the hotel in Naples they had Parmalat, which is a huge Italian brand, and also a very “rustic” looking Greek brand whose label I couldn’t read in litle bottles with clumpy fruit on the bottom.
I rarely eat yogurt at home but had yogurt daily on this trip because it just seemed so delicious. Also as vegetarians in Italy we needed all the protein sources we could get!
Il Settimo also had a juicer with baskets of picked-on-property oranges. They had “eating” oranges in a fruit bowl but I like the juicing oranges better, hard as they are to peel.
They had chafing dishes of eggs, bacon, and other warm dishes clearly designed to appeal to Sorrento’s many British tourists (they even had H-P sauce out.)
Finally they had platters of meats and cheeses with an assortment of breads, so I’d usually have whole grain bread with fresh jam topped with a slice of provolone.
Our last morning in Sorrento, it was almost harder to say goodbye to the breakfast buffet than the actual hotel itself. Nothing was super fancy about it, but it was all just so incredibly beautiful, appetizing, and easy. It felt very “on vacation.”
Our hotel in Naples also offered a free breakfast buffet on the roof (with amazing views!) but this buffet was much more like an Italian idea of “what they (tourists) want” without giving us what we actually want. There were lots of heavy, sweet desserts, like dense flourless chocolate cakes (!?) and tons of pastries. They had trays of meats but no cheese tray. The cornettos weren’t flaky like croissants and were stuffed with sweet fillings.
We left at 3:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning and of course it was too early to have breakfast on the roof. Lufthansa gave us a GIANT plastic wrapped croissant (probably the size of three Italian cornettos) filled with chocolate.
I just bought a bunch of Yoplaits because I need to remember how much I enjoy eating yogurt for breakfast. I am wistful about that Nespresso machine but I’m sure I won’t buy one after all. Some things are “vacation things” and this just may be one of them.
Coming up: Part 3