Sun-drenched Italy grows a wonderful cornucopia of healthy and delicious vegetables (the general word is verdura), often going by a confusing array of regional names. Actually finding some to eat in a trattoria, beyond a few lettuce leaves as a contorno, can be a thankless task. Whenever we travelled around Italy, as much as we loved the food, we'd return crazy for spinach or broccoli. Piles of it.

Plus it ain't only what you do, it's the way that you do it. Once in our little Umbrian hamlet of Rosciano we were caught in the act of eating dinner by a sweet elderly signora who was bringing us yet more persimmons. She glanced in the door and saw our plates on the table, with the meat, spinach and rice all sharing space, anglo-american style. 'Tutti nella stessa piatta!' ('All on the same plate!') she breathed in horror. Within an hour the entire village of 52 knew, and our reputation was ruined forever. The plus side, however, is the village adopted the children to feed them properly, Italian style, so we were off the hook.

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