Italy may be famed for pasta and pizza, but each region has its own specialities, all served up with pride.
As you travel through the beautiful Italian countryside and explore the glorious cities, you’re bound to build up an appetite. Make sure that eat the best of the region with our guide!
This unctuous, slow-cooked dish of veal shanks braised with vegetables, white wine and broth hails from Milan in northern Italy. The Milanese often serve osso buco with saffron risotto, but other famous accompaniments are creamy polenta and gremolata (a chopped herb condiment). Ossobuco means ‘hollow bones’ and each dish is normally served on the bone. Make sure that you try the marrow when enjoying this dish – to leave it behind would be a culinary crime!
Few meals are as comforting as risotto. Many regions of Italy produce this creamy rice dish, but it has a traditional home in Venice. Seafood risottos such as al nero di seppia (cuttlefish and ink) are popular here, as well as risi e bisi (rice and peas) and vegetarian variations. For an authentic experience, head to Trattoria da Romano in Burano, the only restaurant in Venice with a wood burner and see how a seafood risotto should be prepared and served.
The Cinque Terre is considered the birthplace of pesto. The basil that grows here loves the temperate Ligurian climate, and when mixed with parmesan, pine nuts, garlic, and oil, makes the most delicious sauce. You can eat pesto on bread, pizza and gnocchi but the most famous accompaniment is pasta. A short, twisted pasta called trofie allows pesto to perfectly cling to it and if you see it on a menu in the Cinque Terre then order it!
If you’ve always struggled to eat the harsh, salty, tinned sardines that you find at home then get ready to be converted in the Cinque Terre! This region is famous for serving up fresh sardines on the day they are caught – an absolute treat for fish lovers and foodies alike. Try them butterflied, marinated or salted, or simply cooked under a grill or in a pan. Their delicate, fresh, salty taste is perfectly accompanied by the stunning sea views of the region. Perfect!
If you consider yourself a lover of meat and a connoisseur with steak, then you must head to Florence in Tuscany. Florentine steak is a thick T-bone cut that is cooked at a high temperature over a certain kind of wood. Don’t ask for a medium or well-done steak here. Your steak will be expertly charred on the outside and rare on the inside – no exceptions. Chianineria – Trattoria Dall’Oste is considered one of the best steak houses in Florence and it has even sent a steak into space!
Though it is a peasant’s dish, what this famous Tuscan bread soup lacks in grandeur it makes up for in flavour. Essentially a thick stew, vegetables such as onions, kale and beans are cooked before adding in chewy Tuscan bread. Ribollita means ‘cooked twice’ in Italian and this dish is delicious when it’s reheated the next day.
One of the most expensive ingredients in the world, Tuscany sits on a goldmine of these delicious morsels. Both black and white truffles can be found in the region, each with a distinct flavour reminiscent of mushrooms. Try them in pasta dishes, used in risotto or added to an omelette. Tuscans harvest truffles at different times of the year depending on the region and some areas even have festivals to celebrate this prized ingredient!
If you want a pasta dish cooked correctly then come to Italy. If you want to try carbonara cooked correctly then go to Rome. This dish contains four main ingredients other than pasta: guanciale (cured pork), eggs, pecorino Romano and black pepper. Contrary to popular opinion, carbonara does not contain cream! We guarantee that one taste of a carbonara here will ensure that you never eat it with a cream sauce again.
Never tell an Italian that Supplì and arancini are the same. Yes, they are both stuffed and fried rice balls but there are differences. Arancini can contain many variations of ingredients however Supplì contains rice mixed with a tomato sauce and stuffed only with mozzarella. Arancini have a teardrop shape, whereas Supplì are oval. Supplì are a delicious snack or part of antipasti and they deliver a true taste of Rome!
The birthplace of pizza, Naples is a foodie’s mecca. The pizzas here are exquisitely simple, perfectly pairing delicious local ingredients with traditional cooking techniques. To make sure you try the best in the city, look for the approval of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. This regulatory body determines whether an establishment honours the Neapolitan tradition. If a restaurant passes the test, then they will display a Pizza Vera sign above their door.
As you can imagine from its coastal position, Sorrento has fantastic seafood. Shellfish are particularly good here and the famous dish of Spaghetti e Vongole (spaghetti with clams) is a local specialty. You can also try dishes such as spider crab soup, octopus casserole and calamari. As with any tourist destination, it is worth searching for the best seafood restaurant for your budget. Avoid restaurants around popular squares and stroll off the beaten path to find the best dish!
Though this article is about food, we couldn’t include Sorrento without mentioning Limoncello. This syrupy liqueur is a testament to the exceptional quality of the local produce. This fresh, citrussy drink is best enjoyed chilled after dinner. An excellent way to complete a meal!
Explore Our Italian Tours
Amalfi Coast Tour from NaplesExplore the stunning cliffside towns of Positano, Amalfi & Ravello, with guided commentary on board
Rome Day Tour with Vatican & ColosseumSpend the day exploring the highlights of Rome with local guide including Skip the Line tickets
Tuscany Day Tour – Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa and Chianti Winery LunchSee the best of Tuscany, including a wine tasting class and a delicious Tuscan style lunch
Venice Food Tour with LunchEnjoy typical Venetian dishes, local produce and delicious wines as you explore with a friendly guide