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What should I eat when visiting Italy?

The answer to that question should be everything. Italian food is in the top three world cuisines. Fact. And you really can’t say you’ve eaten proper Italian dishes unless you’ve eaten them where they were created. The regional variances also mean you can travel the length and breadth of the country and find something new. With some recipes dating back to antiquity, Italian cuisine is famous for taking simple (and cheap) ingredients and turning it into something spectacular on a plate. While the seafood and meat here are unbelievable, if you’re vegetarian you’ll always find something fabulous on the menu to eat.

The best places in Italy for Italian food

When it comes to saying what city has the best food in Italy, we’re bound to provoke arguments - in fact when we asked our in-house Italian experts to reveal the best Italian cuisine from their region there were some lively disagreements.

 As each city, town and village across Italy will lay claim to being the best. So we’ve decided to take you on a culinary journey from the mountainous Alps at the top to the toes of the boot in the south, selecting the most iconic dishes, so you can make up your own mind.

We selected for you also the best 4 dishes ever to not to miss at all, look the map and book!

Reggio Emilia - Tortellini 
Naples - Pizza 
Palermo - Cassata 
Cagliari - Seadas

The best places in Italy for Italian food 

When it comes to saying what city has the best food in Italy, we’re bound to provoke arguments - in fact when we asked our in-house Italian experts to reveal the best cuisine from their region there were some lively disagreements. From spaghetti and spritz in Venice, to risotto in Milan or chocolate on the Swiss border in Piedmont, everyone had their favourites.
Each city, town and village across Italy lays claim to being the best. While the Sardinians will fight for a suckling pig dish, the Sicilians are more likely to vote for arancini. So we’ve decided to take you on a culinary journey from the mountainous Alps at the top to the toes of the boot in the south, covering places like Rome (Lazio), Abruzzo, Puglia and Tuscany along the way too. We've selected the most iconic dishes, so you can make up your own mind. 

Our top four are on the map so why not book a visit to try them for yourself?

Reggio Emilia - Tortellini
Naples - Pizza
Palermo - Cassata
Cagliari - Seadas

North East
Veneto
The coast, canals and carnivals mean that Venice is probably one of the most visited places in Italy. And while it might be more famous for its architecture and romantic gondola rides, the food here is pretty wonderful too.

Baccalà Mantecato

Nothing sums up Venetian cuisine more than this ancient dish. They’ve been serving up this delicious salted and creamed cod for more than a thousand years. Usually eaten with grilled polenta. 

Bigoli

This thick spaghetti-like pasta has also been around for hundreds of years, it’s value lies in its ability to soak up the lovely thick sauces made in the region. 

Spritz

The drink originated in Padua while it was part of the Austrian Empire, and is based on the Austrian spritzer, a combination of equal parts white wine and soda water.

North Central 
Lombardy

Fashion, finance and fun are the main reasons people visit Milan, the capital of the region. But head here and you’re on the doorstep of the Alps and celebrity hotspot, Lake Como.

Risotto alla Milanese

Who doesn’t love risotto and this version uses saffron to flavour the rice and make it look even more mouth-watering. It’s probably best eaten with the wonderfully-named “bone with a hole”. 

Polenta Uncia

This rural winter warmer associated with Como, is traditionally made in a copper pot, and while uncia means greasy in English - a better translation is rich, as it features lashings of butter.

Pizzoccheri

Another cracking veggie dish, this flat ribbon pasta is brownish and served with greens and loads of butter. 

North West
Piedmont

Bordering France and Switzerland, the name literally translates from Latin as the foot of the mountains. The biggest city in the area is Turin (Torino), which is hugely popular with tourists looking for awesome architecture and some fine dining and wine. 

Polenta e brasato

This rich and delicious braised meat is the perfect winter warmer.

Bagna càuda

Not for the faint-hearted this garlic-heavy fondue-type dish has been around for centuries. But it's great for vegetarians (if not for vampires) as the main dippers are carrots, celery and fennel. 

Gianduiotto

Kind of like an Italian Toblerone, this hazelnut chocolate was created in Turin and something to bring back home from your travels. 

North West (coast)
Liguria
To the south of Piedmont is the crescent-coastal region of Liguria, better known as the Italian Riviera. And it's only a stone's throw from Monaco if you fancy a trip over the border. But you should have plenty on your plate here as Genovese cooking is amazing.

Focaccia with rosemary

While asking you to travel to eat just bread would normally be a hard sell, when it comes to the Genoa focaccia just take our word for it. This is delicious - buy it straight from the bakers and consume it while it's still sizzling.

Trofie al pesto

This is the Genovese pasta and if the season Spring was a plate, this might just be it. Vegetarians will be in heaven as they take the simple pesto pasta and elevate it here as the trofie retains all the nutty and creamy sauce.

Pansoti con salsa di noci 

This is a sumptuous ravioli dish, with the pasta stuffed full of herbs and cheesy goodness. The thick, white and creamy sauce has a little bit of a bite with the addition of walnuts. A classic plate from the region.

Emilia-Romagna

Probably one of the poshest parts of Italy, there are amazing ancient cities featuring renaissance architecture and in Bologna, you have the oldest university in the world. To the east, you have some wonderful seaside places once you’ve had your fill of sightseeing.

Tortelli D’Erbetta

Translated to ravioli with herbs, this is one of the most loved dishes in Parma, and is always busted out on June 23rd to celebrate the feast of St John. Sounds simple, tastes divine.

Piadina romagnola

A kind of combination of a flatbread and a pancake, it’s best bought straight from a street food van. And the good news is, you can choose which filling you want - savoury or sweet.

Gnocco fritto

In fact, the bread you’ll eat your Coppa Piacentina with could well be this - and it's often fried into little parcels in the region.

Center
Tuscany
The part of Italy that looks like Instagram invented it, the lush countryside and vineyards have had the Brits falling in love with Tuscany for hundreds of years. Florence, famous for its Renaissance architecture and art and Pisa (yes, for that tower) are among the city break highlights here. And it’s also a hit for Italian foodie holidays.

Pappardelle al Cinghiale 

Now you don’t see wild boar on the menu very often, so this is a must-try when in Tuscany. Cooked in a rich red wine sauce and doused over the flat pasta, this will have you worrying about whether you have room for pudding.

Bistecca alla fiorentina 

If you’re going to have steak in Italy, make sure you have it here. They use meat from a local breed, the Chianina cattle, which when served rare will have you dreaming of this dish for days. 

Panzanella 

Stale bread with vegetables. Ok, doesn’t sound the most appetising, but again with the olive oil and fresh ingredients, this is summer on a plate (the winter version is decent too).

Lazio
The centre of the ancient Roman Empire, if you’ve been anywhere in Italy, chances are you’ve headed here to visit Rome. The city of a thousand sights is one of the world’s best open-air museums, but the rest of the region is well worth a visit. And when it comes to Italian food, there are some great local specialities to try.

Cacio e Pepe 

This no-frills pasta dish should only really be tried in Rome. Just pepper, cheese (has to be pecorino) and pasta, the beauty comes with the serving - with the waiters adding just a little water to your dish to make it into a melt-in-the-mouth moment.

Carbonara 

You’ll have eaten this before, you might have made it. But you’ll realise you haven’t properly experienced it until you try it here. For the authentic taste, it must have guanciale (not bacon) and there shouldn’t be any cream in sight. 

Amatriciana 

One of the classic Italian pasta dishes, again so simple and yet so sweet. Tomatoes, guanciale and pecorino romano are the key ingredients here and you can find it throughout Lazio.  

Abruzzo
To the east of Lazio on the Adriatic Coast is the region of Abruzzo. If you love the great outdoors, this is the place for you as it’s full of national parks (they even have bears) for walking, kayaking and other active pursuits as well as lovely quiet beaches. A trip here is a great chance to work off all those calories you’ve consumed. 

Arrosticini 

These tasty traditional lambs (or mutton) skewers are cooked on a brazier (basic barbecue) and are a typical street food here. You can have more than one, we won’t judge.

Peperoncini 

You’ll probably know the region is famous for its extra virgin olive oil, but did you know this is the place to try chili peppers in Italy? Look out for diavoletti on the menu, this translates as little devils. And while they won’t blow your head off, they’re pretty spicy.

Timballo

If you love your layers, you’ll love this local variation on lasagne. It can be meaty or vegetarian and they’ll use the ingredients that are in season. Whatever the filling know it will be packed to the rafters with flavour.

South East

Apulia (Puglia)

The heel of the boot is one of the sunniest parts of Italy, and it’s a bit sleepier and authentic than the more touristy Amalfi Coast. You’ve got coastline for days and there are loads of pretty ports and towns to visit including the famous whitewashed stone huts with the conical roofs (Trulli) in Alberobello. The ingredients here are always mega fresh, and the locals will always claim this is where the best food in Italy is.

Panzerotti 

If you’ve ever wondered what an Italian version of a Cornish Pasty was, then this is as close as it gets. It’s also a little like a calzone, but it’s essentially fired dough stuffed full of mozzarella and tomato.

Riso patate e cozze 

This is an exceptional mish-mash of potatoes, rice and mussels - sort of like a gratin. You’ll find every family and restaurant will do it slightly differently.

Pasticciotto Leccese 

If you’re looking for the perfect excuse to eat cake for breakfast, you have it here. These pastries, while coming from Lecce, have little regional variations all over Puglia and are best eaten warm straight from the oven.

South West

Campania

One of the most beautiful and dramatic coastlines in the world, millions of people have this region on their travel bucket list. You’ve got the cool capital of the area, Naples, you’ve got the picture-postcard prettiness of Amalfi and Sorento. And then there are the eerie ruins of Pompei in the shadow of Mt Vesuvius, a must-visit. It also tops the list for many for foodie holidays to Italy.

Pizza 

Let’s get this over with. You haven’t had pizza until you’ve had it in Naples. It might be a bold statement but we’re sticking by it.

Parmigiana di melanzane

If you ever want to persuade someone to turn vegetarian, this might be just the dish to do it. Aubergines have never tasted this good.

Pastiera Napoletana 

They have a sweet tooth down south, and this is another cake that is a staple of Easter. Kind of a cake/quiche combo, its main ingredient is ricotta.

Southern Italian Island

Sicily

The toe of the boot, and in fact the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily has some incredible beaches and amazing monuments. It also has an active volcano in Mt Etna, which is an unusual UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll find a different side to Italy on a visit here.

Pasta alla Norma 

A Catania speciality, this is named after the local composer Vincenzo Bellini’s opera of the same name. The addition of salted and baked ricotta really “raises the curtain”.

Arancini 

Not to be confused with Arancine which are from Palermo, are delightful crispy rice balls with different combinations of flavours. 

Cassata

This super sweet cake is a Sicily staple and most good restaurants will be serving it up for dessert. They take a normal sponge cake and then add layers of ricotta cheese, moisten it up with fruit liqueur and then smother it with marzipan.

Italian Island

Sardinia

The second largest island in The Med is in fact an intriguing mico-continent, so-called because it has everything from sandy beaches to rugged coastline and loads of forests and unspoilt nature to explore. They also have some tremendous food to enjoy on your holidays to this beautiful island. Here’s what you should try.

Culurgiones 

In 2015 this Ogliastra dish received the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status, which celebrates local cuisine. This potato-filled type of ravioli is very special. You’ll find loads of regional variations to the filings.

Suckling pig or “porcheddu” 

You’ll find this delicious melt-in-the-mouth dish across the island. It’s often cooked on a fire with the skill lying into when to turn the spit to get the perfect crackling.

Seadas

We couldn’t forget dessert, and this is one of the most famous on the island. These are little pastries stuffed with cheese and covered with honey and lemon and sometimes a bit of sugar.

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