- From pizza and pasta to tasty desserts, Italy is a haven for food lovers
- Enjoy your Italian holiday or escorted tour all the more with delicious local cuisine
- Discover 10 of the best Italian cities for foodies and what to eat while in Italy
Planning a holiday to Italy, perhaps an escorted tour? The country is a foodie’s paradise, so make sure you know the best places to visit and what to eat while in Italy. Pizza, pasta, cheese, delicious desserts – and espresso coffee and gelato too. Buon appetito!
What to eat while in Italy – 10 local dishes to try
Eat pizza in Naples
You’ll find pizzerias around every corner in Italy, but for an authentic Italian pizza, head for Naples. The city is the birthplace of the margarita pizza, created in 1889 and named after Italy’s first queen – Margherita of Savoy. Its toppings of red tomatoes, green basil leaves and white mozzarella represent the colours of the Italian flag. So how do you find the best place in Naples to eat a pizza today? Easy, just see which establishments have a queue outside. It can take up to 90 minutes to get a table in the locals’ favourite pizzeria, Sorbillo in Via dei Tribunali, but it’s well worth the wait.
Eat lasagne in Bologna
When it comes to the best Italian food by region, Emilia-Romagna has to lift the trophy, being famous for its pasta, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, prosciutto and balsamic vinegar. Visit the city of Bologna, and you can tuck into a hearty dish of lasagne, the version here is like no other. Lasagne sheets are layered with ragù, thick béchamel sauce and plenty of cheese – the traditional recipe avoids tomatoes – and then slowly baked in the oven. Enjoy with a glass of the best-known fizzy vino of the region, Lambrusco.
Eat tiramisu in Venice
There is some debate among Italians as to where the delicious dessert of tiramisu originated. Some say a confectioner in the Veneto region first made the dessert; others claim Friuli-Venezia Giulia should be credited for the sweet treat. Don’t worry too much though, just savour the famous ‘pick-me-up’ pudding in Venice – you’ll find it served in cafés and restaurants all over the popular European tour destinations. Made with sponge cake, coffee, cocoa and creamy mascarpone, a slice (as the name suggests) will provide a delicious sugary boost – just what you need after a day’s sightseeing.
Taste balsamic vinegar in Modena
Modena, again in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, is world-famous for its balsamic vinegar and no holiday here would be complete without visiting a local producer, to learn more about the centuries-old process of creating the perfect bottle – and to partake in a tasting session. Unlike the type sold at supermarkets, traditional balsamic vinegar is delightfully complex and depending on the barrels in which the grape concentrate is left to age; you’ll note flavours of oak, chestnut and perhaps cherry. Buy souvenirs to take home – once upon a time, the vinegar was considered an exquisite gift.
Eat cacio e pepe in Rome
If you’re wondering what to eat in Rome, most traditional family-run restaurants will have a simple yet scrummy dish on the menu – cacio e pepe. It’s an easy pasta recipe to follow, as cacio e pepe is made with just cheese and black pepper. The creamy sauce is then stirred over a bowl of what Romans call tonnarelli or spaghetti. If in the city’s Testaccio district, dine at Da Felice – locals have been enjoying classic Italian fare here since 1936. Waiters will whip up the pasta at your table, ensuring ingredients are perfectly combined.
Eat arancini in Palermo
One of the best places in Italy for foodies is the island of Sicily, where you can devour a wealth of gastronomic delights. Good food is not just found in top Palermo restaurants though, street market stalls also sell tasty bites, including arancini rice balls. Typically stuffed with meat, tomato ragù and cheese, these quintessentially Sicilian snacks are a firm finger-food favourite among locals and visitors alike. Often they’re a savoury accompaniment to an evening’s drink in a bar – there are seafood varieties too – and if you have a sweet tooth, look out for fruit arancini drizzled in chocolate.
Eat orecchiette alla Pugliese in Bari
The signature pasta dish of Puglia, the region that sits on the heel of Italy’s boot, orecchiette translates as ‘little ears’, and that’s precisely how these quirky pasta shapes look. In the old town of Bari, an Italian port city, seek out a plate of filling orecchiette alla Pugliese – it’s made with broccoli, garlic, anchovies and breadcrumbs. Another version swaps the fish for sausages, while a vegetarian option blends basil, garlic oil and lemon zest. Look out too for the region’s celebrated cheese – Canestrato Pugliese, a sheep’s milk cheese, is a favourite to grate over pasta.
Eat ham in Parma
Parma ham or prosciutto di Parma is another speciality and what to eat while in Italy, especially if in the delicacy’s namesake city of Parma, in the northern Emilia-Romagna region. Four ingredients are essential for the production of the cured meat – Italian pork, sea salt, air and time. The animals’ diet is a specially regulated blend of grains, cereals, and whey from Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. By law, the curing process has to take at least one year, but sometimes it could be up to three. If sharing a Parma ham platter with friends, and eating with warm bread, start with the lightest meat first.
Eat ribollita in Florence
If you like nothing more than slurping a bowl of warm soup on a winter’s day, then note that one of the best cities in Italy for a hearty potage is Florence. Tuscany’s famous ribollita is a thick vegetable soup made with cabbage, kale, carrots, onions, cannellini beans and bread – poor Italians feeding a hungry family used the latter as a substitute for meat. At traditional trattorias throughout the Renaissance city, ribollita (meaning re-boiled) appears on menus as a first course instead of pasta. Make sure you turn up hungry!
Eat truffles in Perugia
One of the most expensive and coveted food in the world is another item on our what to eat while in Italy list. Truffles, grown in the wild forests and mountains of Umbria, are a much-sought-after ingredient and chefs in Perugia use shavings of the delicacy to sprinkle over pasta, risotto and grilled meats. Savour some precious truffles at the elegant Al Tartufo restaurant – the family-run eatery claim they were the first to bring them to the historic city centre. If you prefer your truffles to be chocolate, you’re in luck – Perugia is also home to the Baci chocolate factory.
Explore Italian cuisine on holiday to Italy
As you can see, you don’t travel to Italy just for the stunning landscapes and historical treasures. While enjoying a holiday to Italy, follow the example of the locals, and take time out from sightseeing to indulge and appreciate a long leisurely lunch or divine dinner. As the saying goes, when in Rome…
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