After a long summer day of sightseeing, perusing local markets, enjoying vibrant festivals or merely lapping up the sunshine next to the pool, the ideal of a big heavy meal is hardly appetizing. However, enjoying the best of Europe’s gastronomy does not have to involve rich sauces, thick pizzas or piping hot schnitzels. Keep your cool while dining on these delicious and light seasonal specialities either on the terrace of an authentic local restaurant or prepared by you or your private chef at your luxury villa rental.

Greek mezes including horiatiki and tzatziki. Photo by Ania Mendrek / Flickr

Greece

With some of Europe’s hottest summer temperatures, the Greeks have perfected the art of summer dinner. Of course you’ll have to try an authentic version of one of their most famous culinary exports: horiatiki, more commonly known abroad as Greek salad. Their delicious salty cheese also features in other summer dishes like piperies gemistes me feta (peppers stuffed with feta) and garides saganaki, (shrimp with tomatoes and feta). Find a hidden outdoor terrace overlooking the sea and order up a variety of above along with some sardeles ladolemono or tiganites (marinated or fried sardines) and briam (mixed boiled or baked vegetables and tomato sauce), tzatziki (yogurt and cucumber dip) and melitzanosalata (eggplant and parsley dip), a glass of local white wines like a fruity Malagouzia or crisp Assyrtiko and you’ve got your perfect Greek mid-summer night evening.

Where to stay in Greece.

Panzenella

Italy

Bella Italia can get very hot in summer, as such Italians tend to go for cold dishes at mealtime. This can often consist of an assortment of grilled antipasti with cheese and cold cuts. Since succulent tomatoes are abundant in summer, seek these out in whatever form you can. Scan menus for a simple friselle con pomodori, dried bread with fresh tomatoes, basil, olive oil and salt or the similar panzanella. Recommended by our experts at the Borgo Finocchieto, an enchanting medieval villa complex near Siena, this traditional Tuscan dish starts out with the same base as friselle con pomodori, however, is drizzled with vinegar and can include red onion, cucumber, celery or even parma ham and eggs. Rice salads are also very common as well as lighter pastas like “spaghetti allo scoglio’, served with mussels, clams, and shrimps. Stay cool throughout the day with an obligatory gelato, granita or spritz.

Where to stay in Italy.

Salmorejo. Photo by Martin Alvarez Espinar / Flickr

Spain

The Spaniards also know how to keep cool in summer through their cuisine. One of the country’s best known dishes, gazpacho, is ideal for those sweltering long days on the Iberian Peninsula. Made from tomatoes, red peppers, garlic, onions and virgin olive oil, this chilled soup is both refreshing and satisfying. You might also come across salmorejo, a more simple cold soup consisting only of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and crushed dried bead and can often be topped with ham or crumbled hard boiled egg. You could also subsist extremely well on a range of cold tapas like boquerones (anchovies, marinated or fried), octopus or other seafood to be sampled alongside some sparkling cava or tart Rias Baixas white wine.

Where to stay in Spain.

Maltese pastizzi. Photo by Charles Haynes / Flickr

Malta

In the heart of the sunny Mediterranean, the islands of Malta embrace summer to its fullest, especially via their summer village festivals. During these lively events of folklore, fireworks and processions, you can expect to find some tasty street foods such as imqaret (date pastries) and qubbajt (nougat). Keep well sated at midday over a dish of kapunata, made from fresh tomatoes, capers, aubergines and green peppers. Other summer favorites include pastizzi, a savoury pastry filled with ricotta or mushy peas, ross fil-forn, (baked rice) and imqarrun (baked macaroni).

Where to stay in Malta.

Pissaladière. Photo by Merle ja Joonas / Flickr

France

The French love their salads and these are even more popular in summer. If you are holidaying in the Loire Valley, you have to try some of their delicious goat cheese in a chèvre chaud salad or down in the Cote d’Azur a salad Nicoise (with tuna, eggs, tomatoes, capers and anchovies), is a must. While in the south you may like to order a pissaladière (a golden onion, anchovy and olive tart), ratatouille with fresh summer vegetables or bouillabaisse, a fish soup from Marseilles. Alternatively enjoy many light meals or picnics by stopping off at a local farmers’ market for some homemade paté, rillettes, tapenade, cheese and array of seasonal fruit like apricots and flavor popping mirabelle plums.

Where to stay in France.

Eaton Mess. Photo by Kari C / Flickr

England

While England isn’t as hot as many other European countries, it is still a popular destination in summer and one with delightful season specialties. The classic cucumber sandwich is perfect for a light leisurely lunch in a bucolic English country garden. In the evening you could sample some seasonal English Lamb with new potatoes or fresh citrus and mint marinated courgettes. For a more elaborate dish you could opt for some summer roast beef with watercress or sautéed scallops with herby dressing and roasted artichokes drizzled in a tarragon vinaigrette. With the abundance of tart fresh berries, finish off with an Eton Mess (berries with meringue and cream) and one mustn’t forget to sip on a refreshing glass of Pimms.

Where to stay in England.

Grüner Veltliner wine. Photo by Armine Gruber / Flickr

Austria

Known for its heavy meat dishes, which locals do also often eat in summer, the land of green valleys and the sound of music does have a few delectable seasonal dishes. For example, you may spot chanterelle mushrooms on menus, perhaps served roasted or in local antipasti plates along with smoked cheese. For a classic summer salad, try a rindfleischsalat, a beef salad with potatoes, red onions, radishes and lamb’s lettuce. It’s an excellent time of year to enjoy Austria’s many wonderful white wines like Grüner Veltliner, Niederösterreich Riesling, or Vienna’s Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC.

Where to stay in Austria.

Cart with Swiss foodstuff. Photo by Sandstein / Wikimedia Commons

Switzerland

Switzerland is absolutely stunning in summer and makes for a perfect escape, particularly for nature lovers. Freshwater fish is a summer highlight, you could even cast a line into one of the country’s pristine lakes yourself or try to find some freshly caught perch on the menu of outdoor restaurant terraces with the view of the spectacular mountains. Locally grown strawberries, cherries and apricots are the perfect snack on an afternoon of hiking or hopefully you can happen by a kiosk selling artisanal ice cream made from the milk of those cows grazing in the clean, green meadows. On summer evenings the Swiss tend to dine on a light ‘café complet’, comprised of a loaf of Swiss bread, creamy local butter and cheeses, a variety of cold cuts as well as jams, honey and a hot beverage of tea and coffee.

Where to stay in Switzerland.

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