Lemons so sweet you can eat them like oranges, decadent gelato that’s impossible to resist, melt-in-the-mouth mozzarella made that morning…there’s no end to the wonderful stories about the delights of Italian food. But when you’re visiting Italy for the first time, where do you start?
One of the things to remember is that each of Italy’s regions have specialty ingredients and dishes, and it’s worth seeking them out. Heading to Central Italy (Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, Lazio)? Make sure you visit the wineries. Travelling to Emilia-Romagna or Southern Italy (Campania, Basilicata, Abruzzo, Molise, Puglia, Calabria)? These regions are famous for their culinary traditions so prepare to gorge!
We’ve compiled our Travel Counsellors’ five favourite nibbles and tipples to help get you started on your Italian foodie journey. From Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to truffles from Bologna and Prosecco from Veneto, there are endless foods to taste whilst you’re there. Make sure you tuck in and enjoy every morsel this magnificent country has to offer.
Burrata from Puglia
Imagine a perfectly poached egg as a bright orange yolk magnificently oozes out. Tear open a gently wobbling ball of burrata, and out oozes a mouthwatering concoction of salted fresh cream mixed with slivers of mozzarella. That milky hued ball may look like traditional mozzarella di bufala (mozzarella made from water buffalo milk) from the outside, but slice open the soft “shell” and that rich creamy mix will tell you otherwise. It’s a delight that you’ll immediately devour!
Pizza from Naples
Wander through the bustling streets of Naples and you’ll stumble across the best pizza you’ve ever had. Keep wandering, feast on another pizza – it’ll soon become the best you’ve ever eaten. Welcome to Naples, home of the pizza! Even if you’re not a fan of pizza, we think the soft chewy dough, perfectly crisp crust and piping hot tomato might just change your mind…
Our tip? Stick to simple flavours and try a margherita (mozzarella and tomato) or marinara (tomato, garlic, olive oil and oregano). And whilst you’re there, delight your taste buds with a pizza fritta – a deep-fried, stuffed pizza that’s a street food classic!
Even if you’re not a coffee aficionado, make like a local and embrace Italian coffee culture. And that means drinking your caffè whilst standing at the bar, and only ordering a cappuccino – or any other milky coffee, for that matter – in the morning!
Other coffee rules to follow whilst you’re there? “Un caffè” is a single shot of espresso, so you don’t need to order “an espresso”. Your morning coffee won’t come in a huge cup – it’s about quality over giant vats of caffeine – so drink your shot quickly at the bar, gobble a sfogliatella (a moreish, clam-shaped, flaky pastry filled with sweet ricotta) and carry on with your sightseeing. Craving a cappuccino? Have one for breakfast. And don’t order coffee with your lunch or dinner – drink un caffè after your meal instead!
Prosciutto di Parma
Pork, sea salt, and air. Parma ham is crafted with a mere three ingredients but the artisans who create it follow a strict set of rules governed by the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma. And it’s this process that creates the melt-in-the-mouth texture and distinctive, sweet flavour. The nutty, wafer thin slices are so delicious, it’s a struggle to stop eating them!
What’s makes the ham so moreish? It’s all down to the way it’s made, from the breed of pigs to the curing. Only specific breeds of pig can be raised for prosciutto di Parma, and their diet is regulated – cereals and watery, milky whey that’s left over from the production of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Then, there’s salting, resting, curing for at least a year…the process to create Parma ham is a long one. And this makes prosciutto di Parma a perfect morsel to delight your inner foodie!
Barolo from Piedmont
Opulent notes of rose, red berries, and tar, a deep ruby hue, and a rich, fragrant taste with powerful tannins. You’re sipping a Barolo, one of Italy’s finest wines.
Nestled on rolling green hills in the chalky, limestone soil are rows of vines, full of the black Nebbiolo grape which ripens under the Autumn sun and is transformed into a wine loved by enthusiasts worldwide. Whether you’re a wine-lover or not, if you’re in Piedmont, book on to a wine tour and experience the powerful, floral notes of this exceptional wine.
Here, we’ve chosen a few of the delicacies we think you should eat while you’re in Italy. We know that there are many more scrumptious nibbles to try though! What else should we try when we’re next in Italy? Let us know in the comments below!