Delicious Italian ingredients
Delicious Italian ingredients

Italy: a food-lover’s guide

Italy and food are two words that were made for each other.

Italy and food are two words that were made for each other.

Italian food needs no introduction, so we won’t waste your time conjuring up mouth-watering images of freshly baked Neapolitan pizzas, tender steaks and creamy burratas.  

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(Disclaimer: we don’t recommend reading this on an empty stomach)



Let’s start with an obvious one: let’s be honest, we all knew pizza would feature somewhere on this list.

Pizza, as we know it, originated from Naples, and is one of Italy’s most popular culinary exports. 

Everyone has their own favourite pizza, but the original pizza ⁠– mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil ⁠– comes from Naples and is is known as the Neapolitan.

Although you can enjoy delicious fresh pizza almost everywhere in Italy, we recommend heading to its birthplace, Naples.

Whilst Rome is often regarded as the heart of Italy, Naples is the known as the soul of Italy, thanks in no small part to its enduring link to the humble but mouthwateringly delicious pizza.

READ MORE: Sorrento and the Bay of Naples 

Italian pizza
Pizza is one of Italy’s most famous and popular culinary exports

Carbonara is another of Italy’s most famous dishes. The name refers to the sauce, which is made from egg, hard cheese (usually pecorino or parmesan) and pancetta. Carbonara sauce can be served with pasta or spaghetti.

Although its origins are disputed, many people believe that carbonara was invented during World War Two. The story goes that when the Americans liberated large cities, including Rome, they found many of the residents were starving. The Americans quickly distributed rations of powdered eggs and bacon, and the carbonara was born.

READ MORE:  Escorted tours of Rome

Spaghetti carbonara
A delicious, fresh carbonara
Caprese salad

Simple but delicious, the Caprese salad consists of sliced mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. The salad is then seasoned with salt and pepper and drizzled with olive oil.

You’ll find a Caprese salad in most menus in Italy – it is best enjoyed with some fresh bread.

The colours in the salad – red, white and green – are the same as the colours of Italy’s flag. Each of the individual ingredients has a special place in the culinary heart of Italy, as does the Caprese salad.

READ MORE: Top five countries for foodies

A colourful Caprese salad
Fiorentina steak

One for the meat-lovers, the bistecca a la Fiorentina (Fiorentina steak) is a popular regional delicacy from Tuscany. The steak is typically from chianina cattle – an ancient Tuscan breed prized for its tasty meat.

The steak – almost always a porterhouse, on the bone – is prepared in advance using sage, rosemary and olive oil. It is traditionally cooked on charcoal, served rare and shared.

READ MORE: Tuscan food and wines: a gourmet tour

Bistecca a la Fiorentina – Fiorentina steak
Milanese risotto

The Italians are famous for their risotto, and one particular variety stands out: risotto a la Milanese (Milanese risotto). The dish is cooked with stock, oil, butter, saffron, wine and cheese.

Easily recognisable thanks to its distinctive yellow colour, Milanese risotto dates back to the 16th century, and the marriage of the daughter of master glass-maker Valerio of Flanders.

Valerio called his future son-in-law ‘Zafferano’ because he liked saffron so much – he’d even suggested colouring the glass of Milan’s Cathedral with it! For the wedding, his friends prepared a dish of rice colored with saffron.

Although intended as a joke, the dish was very popular with guests. Over time, it became made with risotto rice, and the Milanese risotto was born!

READ MORE: Grand cities of Italy

Milanese risotto
Colourful Milanese risotto
Spaghetti frutti di mare

With such a long Mediterranean coastline, it is little surprise that seafood is an integral part of the Italian diet, particularly on the coast.

‘Frutti di mare’ literally means ‘fruits of the sea’. This particular dish can include all different types of seafood, such as mussels, clams, prawns, scallops and squid.

The seafood is cooked slowly in a sauce made of garlic, tomatoes, white wine, lemon and olive oil – and is best enjoyed with a cold glass of white wine!

READ MORE: Portofino, Florence and Tuscany 

Spaghetti frutti di mare
Spaghetti frutti di mare – spaghetti cooked with mussels and prawns

This delicious dish is another incredibly simple but mouth-watering tasty example of Italian food, like the Caprese salad.

Buratta is made from mozzarella and cream – I mean, how could it not be delicious? The cream, along with stracciatella (buffalo cheese) is folded into the mozzarella, and then sealed, giving it a rich, creamy centre.

One of the great things about buratta is its versatility: it can be served with a salad, on bread, in stew, for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

READ MORE: Escorted tours to Italy

Buratta and tomatoes
Buratta served on a bed of fresh tomatoes

After a long, hot day’s sightseeing in Italy, there are few finer pleasures in life to sitting down to enjoy a tasty gelato.

If you’ve never tried a gelato, just imagine normal ice cream, but creamier, silkier and smoother.

In every Italian town square and city street, you’ll find a gelaterie. Traditional flavours include coffee, chocolate and pistachio. However, in most gelateries you’ll find an extensive range of flavours. Expect to find everything from limoncello to tiramisu, which brings us neatly to our final entry.

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A delicious selection of fresh Italian gelato

Last but by absolutely no means least is the rich and indulgent tiramisu.

This decadent desert consists of ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a mixture of whipped eggs, sugar and mascarpone cheese, and then dusted with cocoa. Variations of the dish include soaking the ladyfingers in brandy.

The name ‘tiramisu’ roughly translates to ‘pick me up’, a reference to two of the main ingredients of the dish, both of which are caffeinated: coffee and cocoa.

READ MORE: Puglia and the South

Tiramisu, a classic Italian dessert
Tiramisu, a classic Italian dessert

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READ MORE: Why you should travel on an escorted tour 

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