Every destination around the world boasts a unique culinary identity; whether it be tapas in Spain, pizza in Italy or bratwurst in Germany, enjoying local cuisine is one of the best ways to get to know a new destination.
Italy in particular is renowned for its glorious food. Authentic Italian pasta, glossy home-grown olives, the freshest Alpine fish and mouth-watering desserts are just some of the dishes the region boasts. Good food is at the heart of Italian culture, bringing family and friends together, giving them an excuse to catch up over a delicious meal. The food is as spectacular as the landscape, from the stunning natural backdrop of the Italian lakes to the inspiring coastal views of Sorrento and the bustling magic of Rome.
One of the best things about a holiday to Italy is that you’re guaranteed to eat well, with fine cheeses, cured meats, risottos and filled pastas on every menu, but with so many amazing foodie hotspots to choose from, it can be difficult to pick just one to visit.
Italy definitely offers a foodie experience like no other, so to help you choose your next destination. Here's our top foodie suggestions for each region.
Spaghetti Carbonara in Rome
When in Rome, you should do as the Romans do and try some of the capital cities traditional cuisine. From the humble trattoria to the grander ristorante, Rome offers a great choice of places to eat and drink.
Food in Rome is known for being simple, flavoursome and satisfying. Throughout the ages, chefs in Rome have tried to stick to century old traditions and most meals are still prepared with a few simple ingredients used in creative ways. Roman cuisine continues to be full of character and reflects the Lazio region’s local delicacies. If you ask anyone from Rome, they will tell you that spaghetti carbonara belongs to Rome.
Over the years, other countries have added their own ingredients to the popular dish but the traditional carbonara that originated in Rome is still made with only the simplest of ingredients: fresh eggs, pecorino cheese, guanciale (cured pig’s cheek) and high-quality dried pasta. Contrary to popular belief, there is no cream in the traditional carbonara dish in Rome...so you can afford to eat even more of this tasty dish!
Risotto in Lake Como
When it comes to Italian food, it’s the ingredients that make it so special, from fresh herbs to home-made pasta and fresh fish. Every town has its own family recipes and secrets that are passed down from generation to generation.
The Lake Como region is renowned for its freshwater fish and one type that is popular with local fisherman is perch (pesce persico) which is a delicate, lean, white and flavoursome fish.
Lake Como boasts an array of mouth-watering local dishes but we suggest that you try the Risotto with Perch (Risotto con pesce Persico) which is sure to get your taste buds tingling.
This dish is a perfect combination of local resources (perch fish) and the famous Lombard regional dish (risotto). It has a rich, buttery texture and is best accompanied with a dry white wine while you enjoy the stunning lakeside views.
Pizza in Sorrento
When we think of Italian food, our mind instantly arrives at pizza. However, Italian cuisine is incredibly varied region by region. You can order a pizza anywhere in Italy but you’ll experience the best pizza in the Sorrento region.
Nowadays, you can order almost anything on a pizza but a traditional pizza typically has a few, high quality ingredients. In the late 1800s it is thought a Neapolitan pizza maker, Raffaele Esposito, produced the Pizza Margherita, a hot flatbread topped with red tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil to represent the Italian flag. This simple pizza is both one of the original forms of modern-day pizza and the most popular and is a must-taste in Sorrento.
The food is as spectacular as the landscape and often it’s how you eat it that really makes for an authentic experience. Pizza is best bought from little street stalls and eaten immediately standing in the closest piazza. The city is has street-side pizza stalls, where you can buy them by the slice, but if you fancy a more relaxed experience, there are also plenty of eateries where you can settle in with a glass of wine and a whole pizza and watch life pass you by.
Olive Oil in Tuscany
Olive Oil has always been a popular commodity, the Greeks, the Romans, even the Egyptians cultivated it and appreciated its many uses. In Italy, olive oil is so much more than just something to drizzle over your salad…it’s a lifestyle for many Italians and an essential ingredient for every meal!
Tuscany is considered the classic olive oil region of Italy and the creation of olive oil is almost a sacred process here. The regions of Lucca and Chianti boast some of the most well-known olive oils of the region and if you ever get the chance are a must-taste!
Lucca is located close to the coast and the oils in this region tend to be yellow, light and fluid. The olive oils of the Chianti regions however tend to have more of a green colour, and are often spicy with hints of pepper. Italians drizzle olive oil on pastas, meat and even vegetables to add flavour to their meals and just a few drops does the trick.
Cannoli in Sicily
Sicily produces many beautiful regional dishes thanks to its abundance of fresh seafood and vegetables. It is famed for pasta dishes such as pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines) but one of its most popular (and scrumptious) dishes is actually a dessert.
Sicilian cannoli are tubes of deep fried pastry filled with a sweet creamy filling, usually ricotta, and dusted with powdered sugar or crushed nuts. They can be bite-sized or as long as your hand, and there are many different types of filling and toppings - all delicious and all very good with a sharp espresso.
It is thought that cannoli were originally prepared as a part of the Carnevale festival that is celebrated in the region in February, although nowadays the dessert is enjoyed all year around. The Ballarò market in Palermo is a favourite spot for cannoli and there are many specialty Italian pasticceria that produce the authentic dessert.