From artisan gelato to fresh homemade pasta, Italian cuisine is renowned the world over. But beyond the pizza, pasta, and ice cream, there’s a never-ending gastronomic journey to discover including superb cheeses, succulent roasts and legendary desserts. If you’re wondering what to eat in Italy, it’s probably because there are so many great options that you simply don’t know what to choose!
I’ve been visiting Italy for many years now and whenever I go and in whichever part of the country I am in, I know I am going to eat well. And I love joining food tours, run by locals wherever I am in Italy. They’re a great way to learn about a new city and its culinary scene.
In no particular order, here are my top 10 of things to eat in Italy (including, of course, pizza, pasta, and gelato).
What to eat in Italy — My Top 10 Favourites Dishes
1. Focaccia, Puglia
Back in 2012, I spent a wonderful few days sampling the delights of Puglian cuisine at the stylish Borgobianco Resort & Spa, near the pretty coastal town of Polignano a Mare. During my stay, I ate some amazing food, but what sticks in my memory most is this simple dish of traditional focaccia bread, with a crisp crust and a moist, light, airy centre, served with Caciocavallo cheese. If you’re trying to figure out what to eat in Italy, then this is a good start!
Looking for a hotel in Puglia?
Recommended for you: A taste of Sicily
2. Suckling Pig, Sardinia
Slow roasted suckling pig is probably Sardinia‘s best-known dish, and I’ve tried it a number of times. It is always excellent, but at the boutique hotel, Su Gologone it was superb, melt-in-the-mouth heavenly, with deliciously, crispy crackling. It’s spit-roasted with myrtle and rosemary by a one-hundred-year-old fireplace in the candle-lit dining room with the smell of the local herbs permeating the air. For more edible delights, check out my post, An edible journey around Sardinia.
This rustic inn, tucked away in the mountainous interior of the island of Sardinia, is one of the most characterful hotels I’ve ever seen. Copper pots and pans are displayed on cobalt blue and white-washed walls, traditional tiles and textiles adorn many a nook and pottery hens, many a cranny. The impressive guest list includes Madonna and Richard Gere. I was only here for one night, but while working my way through a gargantuan traditional Sardinian feast, a couple at the neighbouring table mentioned that their friends in Rome regularly come to Sardinia just to eat here (although I expect they enjoy the stunning scenery and beautiful beaches too).
Don’t forget your travel adaptor
Worldwide travel adaptors are perfect no matter where you are travelling from or to. Buy this one from the US or this one from the UK. It’s pretty much the only one you’ll ever need.
3. Wild Mushroom Fettuccine, Modena
In 2013, I visited Modena to learn more about traditional balsamic vinegar. While there I had one of the most delicious pasta dishes I have ever eaten, at the Gran Caffe’ in Piazza XX Settembre. And the secret ingredient that made it so good? Truffle. My own version of this dish can be found in my online magazine, Travel With Kat.
Recommended for you: Pairing Italian food and wine
4. Salami, Rome
In Piazza Campo de Fiori in Rome, you’ll find a fabulous food market every morning except Sundays. I’ve sampled various tasty treats in the area including the coppiette from the butcher’s, Antica Norcineria Viola, which is reputedly an aphrodisiac. However, when it comes to taste, their pig’s liver salami made with orange zest and wine wins hands down — it’s superb. A must on any Italian Charcuterie Board.
5. Zuppa Gallurese, Sardinia
During another superb Sardinian feast, this time in the delightful Agriturismo Tenuta Pilastru, one of the many courses was Zuppa Gallurese, which is not, as its name suggests, a soup at all. This seriously delicious dish reminded me of a kind of cheesy savoury version of the traditional English dessert, bread and butter pudding. While similarly made from layers of bread, there’s certainly no butter in this dish. I know this thanks to Anna, who gave me this recipe.
Day old bread is cut into slices and layered into an ovenproof dish with each layer topped with slices of very young caciocavallo or provolone cheese, plus some grated Sardinian pecorino and a mixture of herbs (thyme, mint, basil, and parsley). About 1 liter of homemade broth is added (preferably made out of 3 different types of meat e.g. lamb, veal and chicken) and it is put into the oven until the top is crisp and brown.
6. Fritto Misto, Rimini
A selection of deep-fried seafood and vegetables served with fries and a slice of lemon washed down with a cool beer was the perfect (if a little pricey) lunch at a beach-side cafe in Rimini a couple of years ago. Definitely a dish I’d look out for again.
Looking for a hotel in Rimini?
7. Tiramisu, Tuscany (and my kitchen)
In April 2014, I spent a long weekend learning to cook with the expert Tuscan chef Alessio, from Flavours Holidays. Everything we made was superb and the Traditional Tiramisu was so easy to make that I had a go when I got home. It was just as delicious as it had been in Tuscany, and even more so the day after it was made. You can find the recipe in my post Authentic Tiramisu.
8. Pesto Spaghetti, Liguria
Pesto, from the Liguria region of Italy, is another favourite of mine. It’s made from basil, pine nuts, parmesan or pecorino cheese and garlic. You can find the recipe in my post about the beautiful town of Portovenere and the Cinque Terre.
Looking for a hotel in Cinque Terre?
9. Pizza Bianca, Rome
How can something so simple be so moreish? Lightly toasted on top, soft and chewy on the inside and crispy on the bottom, this simple flatbread is delicious. My favourite place to buy it is at Antico Forno Roscioli in Rome.
Looking for a hotel in Rome?
10. Gelato, Bologna
You can find superb artisan gelato all over Italy. But, if you walk into a shop and find bright green pistachio (it should be a pale grayish brown) or bright yellow banana (bananas are cream, only the skins are yellow) or indeed anything out of season, such as strawberries in winter, turn around and try elsewhere.
Looking for a hotel in Bologna?
If, like me, you’re a real lover of gelato, you should pay a visit to the Carpigiani Gelato University on the outskirts of Bologna. I spent a fabulous morning there one summer learning all about the history of gelato in their museum. I even learned how to make it and, of course, I had to sample numerous flavours, in the name of research you understand.
Do you have a favourite dish from Italy? What do you think I should add to my list of what to eat in Italy? I’m sure there are plenty more that I’ve yet to discover. Have you been on a wonderful Italian food tour? I’d love to hear about it.
Love it? Pin it!
Don’t forget your travel insurance!
My travel insurance company of choice is World Nomads. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities from air guitar to spelunking! Many of the sports and activities that are covered as standard are not commonly included in other insurance policies. You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from over 130 countries.
Join my 'Behind the Scenes' newsletter
Delivered monthly to your inbox with all my behind the scenes news, latest posts and giveaways exclusive to my subscribers.
I love to taste different kinds of food items. Thanks for sharing this.
I’ve got to say, the Zuppa Gallurese sounds rather odd, with the meat broth and all, but I have to remind myself of when I first heard about salted caramel and thought it couldn’t possibly taste as good as it does!
I’ve just had dinner but am starving now after reading this! Italian food is amazing – gelato, pesto, pizza, it has to be my favourite cuisine from around the world, and lots more foodie ideas to add to the list for my next trip too.
I must say just looking at your photos is making me hungry – you can’t go far wrong with gelato and pasta!
The finest fresh ingredients and what is in season together make the simplest dishes the best by far.
I experienced this on my Italian cooking weekend with Taste Trails Rome. Roman and Sabine dishes to die for , both traditional and with a Modern twist washed down with fine local wines and where World class extra virgin olive oil is used , sublime.
Thanks for sharing. I am always thinking what to eat if I plan a trip to Italy 🙂
Your photos really made my mouth water! I’m a huge food connoisseur and I’ll be traveling to Italy in a month! I’ll definitely keep this article bookmarked so I can be sure to try all the food out when I’m there (:
I do hope you find it useful although there are so many fine things to eat in Italy. Look for where the locals go and you are unlikely to go wrong. I’ve recently posted an article about food in Sicily so do check that out too. The links attached. Have a really fabulous time.
Though most of the food here I can no longer eat, I can certainly remember that each of them were delicious. If you’re a meateater and heading to Italy, you’re in for a treat.
Oh my goodness, I just loved this post. I am going to Sardinia very soon and your blog has given me ideas for my trip and a very intense hunger. That suckling pig has my name on it. The inn looks so quaint.
Have a fabulous time and do feel free to give me a nudge when you are back and start writing about it. I’d love to read your posts. Where on the island are you staying?
Thank you! Our base is in the Cala Gonone area but we have a hire car, so we shall be exploring. Any tips for that area? I’ve already booked the place with the suckling pig, I couldn’t go all that way and miss that place.
Oh yes, drive the SS125 to Santa Maria Navarrese. The views are spectacular but time it so that the sun is behind you. I sat in the back seat some of the way to take pictures as we went. There’s space to pull in at Baunei with a lovely view to the coast. Once at Santa Maria you can catch a boat from the harbour to a lovely beach or simply enjoy the little beach there and have a meal before driving back again.
So pleased you’ll be staying at Su Gologone (or if you’ve just booked for a meal, go early and enjoy an aperitif on their terrace, fabulous setting). They also serve a delicious local red wine. I wish I could come too!
I love red wine, I will definitely try that too. Thank you so much for all that information, it has been duly noted. I will blog about it when I get back, if I can fit on the plane after all the good food and wine.
Ah yes please to all those delicious dishes and amazing locations, I could almost lick the screen, but I’m sure the effect wouldn’t be the same 🙂
Some how I think not but I know just what you mean!
Fritto Misto is right up there on my list. I had the most delicious courgettes and carrots deep fried in the lightest, crispest batter in Tuscany this year. So wonderful. Of course, you know about my gelato addiction…. 🙂
Indeed I do and it’s high time we tried some more very soon!
Thanks for the food list! These look really amazing. I may be in Italy end of the year and I will certainly try out a number of these. The Wild Mushroom Fettucini and Fritto Misto are calling out to me 🙂
That’s great. Do let me know what you think if you try any of these. I’d also love to hear about it if you find anything you think should be added to the list. The end of the year seems a long way of but looking forward to a trip is half the fun, enjoy!