There are as many ways of preparing bruschetta as spaghetti, but basically it's a slice of stale bread, with something on top. The bruschetta can be just bread with some oil and garlic or a slice of bread with some very elaborate stuff on top. Like with all Italian food, each restaurant makes a point of preparing in completely different ways dishes with the same name - better check, don't assume anything.

The best bruschetta I had was also the simplest: a slice of bread, olive oil and a slice of fresh tomato on top. But the kind of tomato you only find in Italy: red, ripe and firm, grown on real soil, under real sun. The gourmet restaurant was a nameless pizzeria, on the outskirts of Rome, near a bus stop - you would never set foot in it, without a local to take you there.

Where to eat? You must have read and heard a lot about Italian food. So, how come that you are only getting mediocre, tasteless, expensive stuff?

Probably because you are a tourist. If you go after the "tourist restaurants", exaggerated versions of real Italian eateries, you will get lousy food and clobbered, too.

The secret is: follow the locals. No restaurant would dare serve rubbish to an a local: they would get endless grousing and a terrible reputation - they would be out of business within a very short time.

When you travel by car, avoid the restaurants with a majority of foreign or out of town cars parked in front. Look for the ones with local registrations - they are likely to be good.

If you walk, look inside. If it's full of Italians, it's probably OK. If it's full of tourists - go elsewhere.

If you can, ask a local where can you eat well - it usually works.

Italians love foreigners and make a lot of money on tourism - but they also know that they can get away with serving them expensive junk - so they usually do.