Italy really is the land of amazing food! Italian food is known all around the world, with incredible dishes and such a beautiful focus on the time spent with loved ones around a dining table. Each region has its own specialties, even down to the city, and you can eat well all throughout the country. You will never go hungry there and always be satisfied! You’ll learn as well that food is intertwined with the culture in so many ways. On top of the food, there are some amazing places to visit while you are walking around in-between meals!
…but before we get into the food and landmarks, an important note is that to understand the food and local culture best, it is incredibly helpful to learn some of the Italian language. If you are planning a visit or indulging in Italian food and the culture from home, you can start with online Italian courses via apps like Babbel for example, to give you some insight and knowledge around descriptions and expressions, as well a greater ability to converse with locals. Tu sei pronta? The Italian language is one of the most beautiful aspects of Italy and it’ll also help you when touring around whether you are alone, with a group, there are endless benefits.
The best time to visit Italy is from May to July for warm, sunny summer weather and again from September to beginning of November for some beautiful fall foliage. August ideally is avoidable due to the number of tourists, along with businesses being closed for Ferragosto. But usually depending on where you go and the season, you’ll find beautiful weather everywhere. The north of Italy transforms into a magical winter wonderland where you can go skiing and check out the wintery side of Italy! You also will want to check new travel updates to make sure your local government deemed it safe to visit and ensure there are no testing or quarantine guidelines to follow upon arrival/departure. Above all, don’t forget some extra masks!
Now, here are the best spots to see and eat in Italy:
Only in Rome can you eat real Carbonara and Cacio e Pepe. Carbonara is a pasta dish made with egg, and Cacio e Pepe is a pasta dish made with cheese and black pepper. More specifically, Cacio e Pepe is made with Roman Pecorino cheese (cacio) and black pepper (pepe). While they sound like relatively easy dishes to make, trying it at home can certainly be a challenge and nowhere does it like they make it in Rome!
Florence is famous for La Fiorentina, or a Florentine T-bone steak. It is typically from a Chianina cow from the area and served rare. You’ll often seen it titled Bistecca alla Fiorentina on menus, priced per weight and to serve for 2 people. You can’t forget to try the distinctive breads in Florence, such as the kind with no-salt or Sciachiatta!
Pizza and mozzarella are the specialties in Naples. While flat crust pizza is a Roman specialty, classic Naples pizza has fluffier crust. The classic pizza is the Margherita pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil, named for the Italian Queen Margherita. Mozzarella, a crucial ingredient for pizza and so enjoyable by itself, is a must try here.
Two incredible foods to try in Bologna are ragù and tortellini. Ragù is a meat-based tomato sauce that is a favorite in Bologna and that you will see in just about every restaurant. While some people abroad may consider ‘spaghetti’ a pasta with a meat based red sauce, tagliatelle al ragù in Bologna is the closest to and what you’ll want to order here!
Truffles are widely-found in Italy and a luxurious staple in Turin. Grown and picked in the wild, there are the rare white truffles and more common and slightly less aromatic black truffles. Truffle season is in the fall, so if you want to truffle hunting and experience them at their best, this is the time to experience truffles in Turin and the Piedmont region!
In Catania you’ll find arancini, fried rice balls, all over restaurants and markets. It comes in either a cone or circular shape and has many different filling options. For example, you can get one filled with ragù and cheese for a classic option, or one filled with vegetables.
Cannoli, a type of dessert famous all over the world, is another specialty in Catania. It is a fried pastry with ricotta on the inside, and you can get a classic, a chocolate flavor, a pistachio flavor, and so many more. This is a must try while in Italy for the best experience!
Some of these foods will hopefully be interesting to you and encourage you to learn how to cook Italian food and take your new recipes back to the UK! Gnocchi, gelato, granite, oh my!