Discover the Best Food Regions in Italy
12 September 2017
Despite the well-worn stereotype of Italy as a land consisting mostly of pizza and red-sauce based specials such as lasagne and spaghetti bolognaise dishes, it is often claimed that there is no such thing as definitive Italian cuisine, such is the culinary diversity spanning its twenty regions.
Harbouring distinct characteristics and terrain, from the alpine enthused north to the sun-drenched southern reaches of Sicily, visiting each town and village in the country will see signature dishes and popular national staples cooked in vastly different ways, ensuring a visit to Italy is as much a culinary journey through the ages as it is to observe its iconic architecture and historical treasures.
Find out more about the best regions to visit for dining when planning a trip to discover more about an inspiring nation once at the epicentre of the Roman Empire as it channels those ancient pleasure-seeking leanings.
Opulent palaces juxtaposed with charming villages form the alluring aesthetic of a west-coast Italy region known for its friendly way of life in the face of modern business almost as much as it is renowned for the most gloriously authentic ragu based dishes on the continent.
There is the westernised iteration of pizza and pasta, and then there is Campania’s capital Naples’. Providing wood-fired pizzas enhanced ever since tomato was added to flat Italian bread in the late 18th century, evolving to pizza as we know it today, while pasta based dishes are equally appeasing in the region due to the prime climate conditions for wheat growth, ensuring vermicelli, spaghetti and bucatini based meals are truly tempting.
Home to the alluring cultural and historical strength of capital Rome, Lazio’s gastronomy remains endearingly rooted in the rustic roots of its countryside.
Even the finest restaurants and street food hangouts in Rome are proud to display the agricultural roots of the region, mostly through its staple of spring lamb with salt-cured anchovies reflective of a bygone era when shepherds moved their flocks through central Rome itself. Further favourites across the wider region include spaghetti carbonara and the tender treat of whole roast pig, otherwise known as porchetta.
Travel Counsellor Liz describes dining in Rome as a food lovers dream: 'Eating out in Rome is great. There is a vibrant cafe life and there are excellent restaurants. If you like pizzas, pasta and ice cream this is the place to come! We had an excellent meal at Sagra del Vino da Candido, a family-run restaurant offering traditional Roman cuisine. This was in addition to the wine, cocktails and delicious coffees we had sitting out in the sunshine.'
The largest island in the Mediterranean resting just off mainland Italy is a sun-drenched feast for the senses, particularly when you indulge your all-important taste buds. Home to imperious active volcano, Mount Etna, rich volcanic soil is a compensatory perk to imminent eruption when it comes to sourcing fresh ingredients for cooking on the island.
Exotic fruits such as blood oranges, lemons, almonds, and olives are in plentiful supply, complementing an abundance of succulent meats such as pork, lamb, veal, and rabbit comprising many central Sicilian dishes also famous for the meatball as an undeniable Italian classic.
The ethereal rolling hills of Tuscany as a muse for its world class art scene, mirrors an otherworldly culinary destination inclusive of the terracotta hued Renaissance backdrop of capital Florence.
A decidedly gourmet destination, the streets of Tuscany are brimming with seasonal produce locally and sustainably sourced, while conversations with locals often turn to discussion of food and wine as a driving source of the city’s passions. The Tuscan region is particularly famous for its fine wines, seeing a wealth of wineries allowing you to taste some of the most famous labels in Europe first hand.
Dominated by the unique water spectacle of Venice, cuisine in the Venetian region has evolved with the influence of international trading over hundreds of years to include rice, salted codfish, beans and polenta as constants in the diet of locals.
Seafood lovers will find plenty of variety and quality when dining in the region, with freshwater fish and baccala available throughout inland eateries, alongside a range of meats and even horse based dishes.
Similarly, if you prefer succulent game, this can take the form of goulash due to an inland Austro-Hungarian influence, while wine and cheese lovers should head straight for the inner highlands where you will find some of the best cheeses in Italy, which can be suitably washed down by a glass or two of Bardolino or Valpolicella wines.
Comprising a truly multi-faceted culinary journey matching its varied mountainous and flat plain terrain, the Piedmont region sits on the cusp of the French and Swiss borders, offering visitors a definitive rural Italian experience when visiting as the dense fog descends over the region, and pleasing food based aromas fill the autumnal air. The white truffles in the providences of Alba and Mondovi are particularly sought after, while stuffed pastas made with cheese or mixed meats make for some of the most interesting dishes during a Piedmont getaway.