Italy is famed for its gastronomic scene and is one of the best countries in the world to visit if you’re a foodie. From the aromatic Neapolitan pizzas to the delicious gelato of Florence, you’ll never grow hungry with the endless options. In this blog post, we’ll explore the best foodie cities across Italy, each region has its own unique culinary cuisine. Bologna, affectionately known as the “foodie capital” of Italy, takes center stage with its legendary tagliatelle al ragù. But the culinary wonders don’t stop there – read on to uncover Italy’s famous food and the best foodie cities to try them all.
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Best Cities for Food in Italy
- Bologna: This might be the foodie capital of the world! Bologna is famous for really amazing food like tagliatelle al ragù (Bolognese sauce) and tortellini. It’s also home to delicious cured meats like mortadella and prosciutto.
- Rome: Another food hub in Italy famous for dishes like cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper pasta), supplì (fried rice balls), and authentic Roman-style pizzas.
- Florence: Florence is a great city for food lovers. You can enjoy bistecca alla fiorentina (Florentine steak), ribollita (Tuscan bean soup), gelato and even fine wines.
- Naples: Naples is the birthplace of pizza. It’s truly a must-visit for any food lover. You can’t leave without trying Neapolitan pizza, sfogliatella (shell-shaped pastry), and seafood dishes with the Amalfi Coast so nearby.
- Palermo: Palermo is Sicily’s top destination for food. You’ll find the cuisine is highly influenced by Arab, Greek, and Spanish cultures. Palermo is known for arancini (stuffed rice balls), panelle (chickpea fritters), and fresh seafood dishes.
Best Traditional Italian Food to Try in Italy
Italy is known for some of the best food in the world. Here are some of the most popular foods to try and what cities are best for food lovers. Get ready for the ultimate Italy food guide!
1. Neapolitan Pizza from Naples
Recommended by Lisa Garrett of Travel to Lyon
Ah, pizza! This perennial favorite should need no introduction. While countless varieties of pizza have evolved over the centuries, the granddaddy of them all is Neapolitan pizza, a must-try food in Naples.
While you can find pizza all over the world, Italy is credited as being the birthplace of pizza (thank you, Naples!). So, you’ll definitely want to visit Naples to sample this iconic food favorite.
The key to a great Neapolitan pizza (pizza Napoletana) is to keep it simple and let the ingredients shine. Dough, fresh tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. Add basil for the classic pizza Margherita. The crust is extremely thin, and the pizza is cooked for a short amount of time at very high temperatures.
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele is one of the oldest (and most popular) pizzerias in Naples. It became even more of a ‘must-eat’ pizzeria when it was featured in the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” starring Julia Roberts. There are only a few classic pizza options on the menu here.
Gino e Toto Sorbillo tops many lists of the best pizzerias in Naples. The original location in historic Centro Storico has the best pizza, but if you are on a schedule the lines are shorter at the waterfront location (plus enjoy views of Castel dell’Ovo). You’ll find more pizza varieties at Sorbillo, and the dough is amazing!
2. Cacio e Pepe from Rome
Recommended by Lavina D” Sousa of Continent Hop
By far the most well-known Roman dish is Cacio e Pepe. Its simplicity illustrates the beauty of Italian cuisine. This dish originates from Rome, the capital of Italy, which is also one of the best places to eat.
In English “Cacio e Pepe” actually means cheese and pepper. Among the things that you have to use while preparing this are Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper, pasta which most of these times is either tonnarelli or spaghetti and a little amount of paste water.
People love to eat in Rome because of famous dishes like Carbonara, Amatriciana, and artichokes made in the Jewish way. However, Cacio e Pepe is without a doubt a culinary masterpiece in Rome. Enjoying Cacio e Pepe in Rome is a must for anyone visiting Italy in summer.
People who want to try real Cacio e Pepe in Rome can choose from a few top spots. Roscioli serves a delicious version of the dish along with a great selection of wines and cheeses in a cosy space that shows off its quality and attention to detail.
Flavio al Velavevodetto, located in the Testaccio area, serves traditional Roman meals in a unique setting framed by walls of old Roman pots, making its Cacio e Pepe a must-try.
Also, Da Enzo al 29 in the beautiful Trastevere district is a cosy and authentic place to eat. Their Cacio e Pepe is famous for having the right balance of sharp pepper and creamy cheese. This makes the city an essential stop for any food lover.
3. Arancini from Sicily
Recommended by Caroline Muller of VeggieWayfarer
The Mediterranean island of Sicily has more to offer than pristine beaches, UNESCO heritage sites, and stellar hiking up an active volcano. In fact, it is considered one of the best places in Italy for… street food!
The smell of fried spleen is part and parcel when visiting a traditional Sicilian market, yet this albeit exotic delicacy is not the most well-known food of Sicily. That title is reserved for a small ball of fried rice that goes by the name Arancini.
Traditionally the Arancini is filled with one of two stuffings: butter or ragu. In recent years the vegetarian favorite à la norma filling – fried aubergines – has also began to trickle into the many rosticeria where one goes to enjoy this delicacy.
The very best way to enjoy an arancini is to stay in Palermo and head out for a night on the town, when the hunger pangs strike in the wee hours of the morning there is no better way to still them than with a crunchy, gooey fried arancini. The historical center of Palermo is dotted with little traditional family-run rosticeria where €1 is all you need to get your arancini fix.
The discerning traveler might notice the difference in shape and pronunciation of their favorite snack takes on when heading to nearby Catania. A bitter rivalry exists between the two cities over which city has the “authentic arancina”, the proper shape and naming.
4. Cannoli from Sicily
Recommended by Jackie of Jou Jou Travels
Cannoli is a famous Italian dessert and a staple of Sicilian cuisine. These delicious treats consist of fried pastry dough shells filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and sometimes sprinkled with chocolate chips, candied fruit, or pistachios.
Palermo, Sicily’s capital, is the best place to try cannoli but you can find it all over Italy of course! Palermo is known for its street food culture and bustling markets. You can find cannoli being sold in just about any bakery or even as street food.
For the best cannoli in Palermo, try Pasticceria Cappello, a historic pastry shop known for its amazingl desserts and traditional Sicilian sweets.
Another must-visit spot is Pasticceria da Josè, a gelato shop also serving up cannoli.
5. Polenta from Como
Recommended by Zoe Elliott of Together in Switzerland
While traveling around Northern Italy to places like Como, you’ll find there are lots of delicious Italian dishes to choose. However, one local dish in Como that has to be on your list during your Lake Como Itinerary is polenta.
It dates back to the 16th century and is authentic for the Lombardy region! It was once however classed as a dish for the poor, eaten warm together after a long day fishing or hardworking on the local farms.
In Como for dinner, Polenta is often eaten with local meat or fish, such as the delicacy of Misultin which was once caught very easily in the lake, but these days regulated. Polenta and Misultin together are classed as a match made in heaven. It is popular on restaurant menus to serve it also with cheese!
Polenta is a gluten-free dish and also easy to make at home. It is simply ground cornmeal (that you can get in different thicknesses) with Polenta looking like it’s a cake mixture, but also something you can fry.
The best Italian restaurants where you can find polenta being served near Como include La Polenteria (with many combinations), Osteria del Gallo, and Ristorante Sociale. When you try it, It can be quite filling so don’t order too much with it.
For those who like to drink with complimenting choices, red wine is best matched with Polenta. You can ask the restaurant what their suggested choices are for your Polenta dish!
7. Risotto from Milan
Recommended by Jackie of Jou Jou Travels
Risotto alla Milanese is a classic Italian food made with Arborio rice. This dish is most famous in the Northern region of Lombardy, particularly the city of Milan.
Risotto is often made with ingredients like saffron, mushrooms, or seafood and has a creamy texture.
Milan is known as Italy’s fashion and design capital but it is also one of the top foodie destinations in Italy and the world.
For an great place to try saffron risotto in Milan, head to Ratanà, a nice restaraunt with a garden setting and a good wine list. To complimenet the velvetty richness of the risotto, a white wine is always a good choice. Another popular spot to try risotto is Trattoria del Nuovo Macello.
7. Pesto from Genoa
Recommended by Jackie of Jou Jou Travels
Pesto, is an Italian sauce made from fresh basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil, This amazing sauce originates from the coastal city of Genoa. Situated in the Liguria region of northwest Italy, Genoa is one of the best foodie destinations in Italy.
While Genoa has a variety of delicious specialty dishes, including focaccia and farinata, pesto stands out as its signature creation. Usually, pesto is eaten with pasta, particularly trofie or trenette. It also serves as a delicious spread for crackers and paninis. Or, you can find it on pizza, the combinations are endless!
Il Genovese and Antica Trattoria dell’Acciughetta are two of the best restaruants to try pesto dishes. Additionally, you should make a stop at Mercato Orientale, a food market where you can sample homemade pesto and other local products. You can also take home with you a jar of pesto to enjoy.
8. Prosciutto from Parma
Recommended by Jenoa of The Travel Folk
Parma is a small city located in northern Italy. It is the home of one of Italy’s most famous cured meats – Prosciutto, also known as Parma ham.
Prosciutto is a cured meat made from a pig’s hind leg. The meat is cured with sea salt and the entire curation process takes between 1-3 years.
The best place to try Prosciutto is directly from a producer. Book a day trip from Parma and visit a local factory with an expert guide who can explain the entire process. Foodies should book this tour where you get to visit both a Prosciutto and Parmesan cheese factory.
Prosciutto is typically served as an appetizer in Italy. You can order it as a charcuterie board from most restaurants in Parma and around the Emilia Romagna region. Additionally, it’s often eaten with torta fritta, a fried bread that pairs well with the savory flavor of Prosciutto.
The best place to try a sampling of Prosciutto and other cured meats is from Officina Alimentare Dedicata in the heart of Parma. This is one of the best restaurants in the city with delicious homemade pastas as well.
Another fantastic option is to get a sandwich from Da Pepen in Parma. They have a huge menu with different sandwich options, including some with Prosciutto. There is often a line here, so be prepared to wait.
9. Tagliatelle al Ragu from Bologna
Recommended by Jackie of Jou Jou Travels
Tagliatelle al Ragu, a famous Italian dish originating from the city of Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It is the quintessential dish representing Italian comfort food.
This iconic dish features ribbon-like egg pasta served with a rich and hearty meat sauce, typically made with ground beef or pork, tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery, and red wine.
Bologna, is the culinary capital of Italy, so this is the number one place you should go if you’re a foodie. Bologna is the birthplace of many Italian dishes including tortellini, mortadella, tigelle, and balsamic vinegar.
If you want to try the best Tagliatelle al Ragu in Bologna, Osteria dell’Orsa is one of the most popular places to go. Expect a queue here but it’s well worth the wait!
Another great place to try Tagliatelle al Ragu is Trattoria Anna Maria, a charming family-run restaurant.
10. Tiramisu from Treviso
Recommended by Helene at Masala Herb
Tiramisu is one of the world’s most favorite Italian desserts, and that is for a good reason. The creamy dessert was said to have originated in the Veneto region and, to be more precise, in the Le Beccherie restaurant in Treviso.
Although a food dispute has emerged over the years between the Veneto and the Friuli region, and both regions firmly claim to have invented this creamy dessert. The name Tiramisu means “a pick me up” and was originally a dish to give nursing mothers and pregnant women a quick energy boost.
From there it emerged to be much more than just that. Ladyfinger cookies are soaked in cold coffee and layered with a creamy and sweet marzipan egg blend. The classic Italian Tiramisu is then topped with cocoa powder before it is served cooled. More recipes also include some liqueur, but the original recipe is said to not include any alcohol.
If you want to taste the original in Treviso, plan to stop at the le Beccherie for a slice of perfect Tiramisu goodness. On your Tiramisu discovery journey, head also over to the Camelia Bakery and the Gelateria la Romana to try their version of this iconic Italian sweet dish.
11. Cicchetti from Venice
Recommended by Paul D’Souza
Cicchetti are typical small bite-sized snacks that you can only find in Venice city. Different types exist, and they are usually enjoyed with a glass of wine or a typical drink from Venice, such as the Aperol Spritz Veneziano in a typical Bistro-like tavern called a Bacaro.
Some must-try Cicchetti in Venice include fried Croquettes such as the Arancini ragu e piselli or the Arancini prosciutto e Formaggio, which is like a ham and cheese stuffed fried sandwich. Furthermore, marinated olives, boiled eggs, various mini sandwiches, meatballs, meat patties, and fish patties count as Cicchetti delicacies.
You’ll love hanging out at the Pane e Vin Bacaro in Venice, while discovering the different flavorful types of Cicchetti served with a proper Aperol Spritz drink. Bacaros in general make for a good start to learn about Venetian food, which developed and shaped into what it is today, thanks to the trade and influences of the Venetian city-state during the Medieval and Renaissance periods.
Seafood and fish have a special place in the heart of the Venetians, and special dishes, such as the black spaghetti dish made from squid ink, are often while served in local Bacaro joints. Italian food enthusiasts will definitely appreciate the food in Venice.
12. Focaccia Bread from Polignano a Mare
Recommended by Jackie of Jou Jou Travels
If you’re a lover of food, Polignano a Mare is one of the best places to visit in Italy for its amazing Italian cuisine. One of the must-try foods in Italy is focaccia bread and the best region to get it is in Puglia, Italy located in the southern boot of Italy. Apulian focaccia bread is a traditional flatbread often paired with a drizzle of local olive oil, sea salt, and other toppings such as tomato, mortadella, pistachio, burrata, and more.
In the picturesque town of Polignano a Mare, you’ll find some of the best foccacia bread but you can get it all over the region of Puglia. Just look for a local bakery for this quick snack. An absolute favorite place to get it has to be the famous La Focacceria in Polignano a Mare. You’ll find lines out the door waiting to eat this stuff! Other places to try focaccia bread in Puglia would be in Alberobello at La Lira or in Bari at Bakery Santa Rita.
Foodies should definitely check out the street food tour in Polignano a Mare where you can try the focaccia bread among other local specialties.
13. Pecorino Cheese from Pienza
Recommended by Lisa of Rome Travelogues
A considerable number of traditional Italian traditional dishes include cheese as a main or complementary ingredient. One of the most famous cheeses in Italy is Pecorino di Pienza, which is part of the Tuscan Pecorino DOP (A protected designation of origin) consortium.
The history of sheep’s cheese production in the Val D’Orcia region of southern Tuscany is very old, dating back as far as several centuries before Christ. Pienza is a town with Renaissance architecture surrounded by picture-postcard hills. The town of Pienza is considered the Italian capital of sheep’s milk cheese, as here both at home and in trattorias you can enjoy it in so many combinations.
Among the most delicious are: pecorino with pears, pecorino romano cheese, pecorino with broad beans, and pecorino with arugula. The dairies of Pienza produce this cheese in many types of seasoning. One of the most satisfying ways to enjoy pecorino is by frying it, as with the fried pecorino from the Sette di Vino tavern in Pienza. In typical Tuscan appetizers, slices of pecorino cheese of different ages flank sliced cuts of cold meats on typical wooden cutting boards, in the dish known as “tagliere toscano.”
Another dish you’ll find in Pienza is pecorino pie with vegetables, made with lightly aged cheese. If you want to try your hand at pecorino cooking, then buy small wheels of cheese to take home. You will find them in the many shops in the historic center of Pienza, like the Consorzio Agrario di Siena.
14. Fregola con le Arselle from Sardinia
Recommended by Claudia Tavani of Strictly Sardinia
Fregola con le Arselle (fregola with clams or fregula con cocciulas in Sardinian) is one of the most traditional “pasta” dishes to try in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia. Fregola isn’t really a pasta though. First of all its shape and consistency is more similar to cous cous. Secondly, the fregola is not cooked like other kinds of pasta, but directly with the sauce (a bit like a risotto).
A perfect fregola con le arselle is meant to be slightly brothy and must be eaten with a spoon. Traditionally, fregola con le arselle is made by lightly frying a bit of garlic and dried cayenne pepper, then adding the already cooked clams (which must have been properly soaked before to remove any sand) and the roughly chopped peeled plum tomatoes. Once the sauce is boiling fregola pasta is added. There is no cooking time really: you will have to bite into the fregola to check when it is ready.
Many restaurants in Cagliari offer fregola on their menu. The best restaurants to try it will be in the Marina District, which is right by the harbor. As this is a very traditional food, your best bet to find it is in local trattorie. Many restaurants nowadays offer a more contemporary version of the dish with other ingredients or altogether different recipes. Ristorante Italia or Bistrot 100 are both great restaurants to try seafood fregola con le arselle.
15. Panettone from Milan
Recommended by Ada of Beyond the Yellow Brick Blog
At Christmas time, you’ll find Italian groceries and bakeries bursting at the seams with stacks of panettone. This traditional Christmas cake lightly flavored with citrus and often studded with dried fruit or chocolate chips hails from Italy’s northern city, Milan.
While it might date back as far as Roman times, panettone can definitively be dated back to at least the late 16th century. Its use of “luxury” ingredients, like lots of eggs and candied fruit, has long associated panettone with the holiday season.
Often gift-wrapped or paired in a gift box with a bottle of prosecco or Moscato, this airy, eggy cake is a yeasted cake, so it might remind you more of bread than a cake.
Not only is it delicious to eat yourself, but it also makes an excellent souvenir or holiday gift to bring back from your travels.
Since this is a take-and-eat sort of treat, the best way to sample panettone is to buy a cake at a grocery store or bakery. You’ll find no shortage of artisanal panettones in Milan. Some favorite Milanese bakeries for panettone include Pasticceria Pavé and Pasticceria Marchesi.
Another convenient spot for Milan visitors to pick artisanal panettone is Peck delicatessen. This gourmet grocery store is located just a block away from Milan’s famous Duomo Cathedral. For budget travelers, you can find panettones of all sizes and price points in any Italian grocery store.
16. Gelato from Florence
Recommended by Samantha Oppenheimer of Find Love and Travel
The answer, in my opinion, is Gelato!
Gelato originates from Florence but you can find the delicious dessert all over Italy. Florence and Rome offer the best gelato in Italy.
Gelato is similar to ice cream in texture but uses less cream and more milk. It is usually served at a slightly warmer temperature than regular ice cream but still makes for a fantastic summer dessert.
Gelato truly captures the Italian essence. With rich flavors and a creamy texture, this is one of those desserts you’ll find yourself craving long after your trip.
You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to places to find gelato, but here are some of the best options.
Gelateria del Teatro is praised online for having the “best gelato in Rome.” Fassi Gelateria is a traditional dessert shop that has been open and serving this Italian frozen dessert since 1880! Fiordiluna has a minimalist approach to Gelato with flavors that often only include two ingredients, which is great for a healthier option. Trying one of these spots is a must during your Rome itinerary.
Alternatively, you can even try out a Gelato tasting tour and taste all different kinds of flavors and interpretations of this dessert!
Best city in Italy to try it: Florence & Rome, although all of Italy has excellent Gelato.
Best Place to Try It: Fassi Gelateria (Google Maps)
Best Tour: Rome: Espresso, Gelato, and Tiramisù Tasting Tour (Click here to book)
17. White Truffles from Alba
Recommended by Kat Weiss Butler of World Wide Honeymoon
Italy is known for its cuisine, but different regions and even towns can be quite unique to another. Alba, located in the Piedmont region in Northern Italy, is very special for its white truffles.
These truffles are so popular that in the fall when they are in season, there is a whole International Alba White Truffle Fair that takes place. It falls between October and December, and around this time you can go truffle hunting to find this treasure!
There are also cooking classes, dinners, cooking shows, and other events that take place during the International Alba White Truffle Fair. It is also during this time of year that you can find white truffles in several restaurant dishes across the city.
A popular dish is the tajarin al tartufo bianco. This is a pasta dish that is mixed with butter, pepper, and, of course, white truffle.
To elevate your experience of Piedmont even further, this area is a well-known wine region producing the “King of Wine,” known as Barolo. Pair that with some truffles for an other-worldly experience.
During your time in Piedmont, head to Piazza Duomo, where they have a menu dedicated to the white truffle during truffle season. Another restaurant to try during your visit is La Piola for seasonal and regional cuisine.
18. Gianduiotto Chocolate from Turin
Recommended by Natalie Deduck of The Best of Turin
Turin’s chocolate is worth traveling for! The first capital of unified Italy has many attractions, and Gianduiotto is among them.
What makes a GIanduiotto so special? The flavor, texture, and unique shape made it an icon of the city. Inside the brown, gold, or silver packaging is a smooth mix of fine chocolate with Langhe hazelnut, which grows only in the Piedmont region.
One bite and you are hooked. Trust me! Gianduiotto was created in 1865 by Caffarel Chocolaterie, and since then the delicate bonbons crafted with the best ingredients and local nuts have made Turin a chocotale famous destination.
When I tried Gianduiotto for the time my question was: how and why did they create such an amazing chocolate in the feet of the Italian Alps?
And the answer is: In 1590 Emanuelle Filiberto of Savoy, a member of the royal family, served hot cocoa to celebrate the transfer of the Ducal capital from France to Turin. Since then the royals have been drinking hot chocolate.
But with the shortage of pure cacao, the chefs needed to be creative and that’s how they decided to ground hazelnuts and mix with the chocolate. Soon, other spices, sugars, and ingredients started to be mixed too.
That’s how Turin chocolate became famous, not only for Gianduiotto but other mouth-watering bonbons like Cremino, Nocciolati, Tartufo al Cioccolato, and Tris di Nocciole.
Oh, Turin also has a Chocolate Festival that happens in November. You can find all the info about the Turin Chocolate Festival, what types of chocolate to try, and where to eat in this Turin Chocolate Guide.
19. Granita from Sicily
Recommended by Merry Allison of Virginia Vacation Guide
Granita is a famous Italian dessert most associated with Sicily in Southern Italy. This flavored dessert made with finely shaved frozen ice, fruit, and sugar. It often comes in a wide variety of flavors, including lemon, almond, strawberry, pistachio, and banana.
Granita varies in consistency throughout Sicily. It tends to be made with very fine frozen ice in Taormina, which makes it similar to sorbet. Granita in Palermo tends to be made with thicker chunks of ice. It is also often served with brioche bread for an extra surcharge. This makes it an excellent and filling afternoon treat.
The dish can be commonly found at any restaurant around the historic town center of Taormina. One of the most popular spots to find it is at Bam Bar and it’s also one of the top things to do in Taormina. The restaurant is colorfully decorated and has indoor and outdoor seating, which makes it a great spot for lounging on a sunny afternoon. You can also find excellent granita at the Taormina cafe Crema e cioccolato.
Best city in Italy to try it: Taormina
Best Place to Try It: Bam Bar Taormina (Google Maps)
20. Bistecca alla Fiorentina from Florence
Recommended by Jackie of Jou Jou Travels, Photo: George Groutas
Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a famous steak from Florence, Italy. This delicious dish is a thick-cut T-bone steak, typically sourced from local Chianina cattle and is super tender and flavorful.
Florence, known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, is one of Italy’s premier foodie destinations. Other standout dishes Florence is known for include ribollita (a hearty vegetable soup), pappa al pomodoro (tomato and bread soup), and lampredotto (a tripe sandwich).
Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed reading all about the famous foods in Italy! Leave a comment below with your favorite.