What to Eat in Italy, Region by Region
When in Rome, eat as the Romans do (try the local favorite spaghetti alla carbonara). Here's a quick "hit list" of favorite items to seek out in some of Italy's major cities and regions.
White truffles, creamy cheeses (like Fontina and Gorgonzola), and top-quality wines (including Barolo and Barbaresco).
Nurse an aperitivo (pre-dinner drink — Aperol or Campari spritz, perhaps) with elegant finger foods, followed by saffron-flavored risotto alla milanese or ossobuco (veal shank in lemony sauce).
Big, hearty canederli dumplings, apple strudel, and Gewürztraminer wine.
Cicchetti (bar snacks), Prosecco cocktails like the Bellini, and weird sea creatures pulled from the lagoon.
Cinque Terre (Italian Riviera)
Pillowy focaccia bread, pesto on trofie pasta, anchovies (come on — give them a try), and biscotti dunked in the sweet Sciacchetrà dessert wine.
Prosciutto di Parma, mortadella (the original "bologna"), Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, top-quality aceto balsamico tradizionale, and fresh-made filled pastas.
Florence and Tuscany
World-class red wines such as Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Chianti Classico, or a "Super Tuscan"; rustic pasta (such as pappardelle or pici) with a hearty sauce such as anatra (duck) or a ragù of wild boar (cinghiale); and bistecca alla fiorentina (top-quality, rare-grilled T-bone).
Rome and Lazio
Rich, flavorful pasta dishes like spaghetti alla carbonara, cacio e pepe, amatriciana, and arrabbiata, plus deep-fried goodies including supplì (little fried balls of rice and mozzarella).
Naples and Amalfi Coast (Campania)
Real Neapolitan pizza, fresh mozzarella (preferably di bufala — from water buffalo milk), flavorful tomatoes, sfogliatelle (crunchy, fried, filled pastries), and the lemon-infused liqueur limoncello.
Tasty-but-challenging street foods (from the deep-fried rice balls, arancine, to pani ca' meusa — spleen sandwich); incomparable agrumi (citrus fruits); plus granita (sweet slushy ice), cannoli, and other sugar-bomb desserts.
Top-quality pecorino (sheep's cheese), the crispy shepherd's bread pane carasau, and slow-roasted suckling pig.
Rustic pastas; spicy salumi (such as capocollo, soppressata, 'nduja, lucanica); soft, milky cheeses (provolone, burrata, caciocavallo, scamorza); and spicy foods liberally seasoned with peperoncino rosso (hot red pepper).
Polenta; rice (often in the form of risotto); buttery, creamy cheeses (mascarpone, Asiago, Gorgonzola); and bollito misto (a mix of boiled meats and interesting sauces).
Hungry for more Italian food? Check out our newest book Rick Steves Italy for Food Lovers.