The Ultimate Food Guide to Italy
Published on: October 25th, 2018
Last modified: July 28th, 2023
Italy’s food is rightly world renowned. From authentic Italian pizza making in Rome to wine tasting your way around Chianti, Italy is a feast for the culinary senses.
It’s no surprise that the land that birthed pizza, pasta, mozzarella and limoncello (to name but a few) is a haven for foodies.
Our travel experts have put together this food guide to Italy, to help you eat your way around the country.
Cooking classes and market tours
Sometimes, the best way to fully experience a country’s cuisine is by cooking it yourself. There’s no shortage of cooking classes across Italy and each region offers something slightly different, so there’s always something exciting happening. On the Amalfi coast, the charming town of Ravello is where Italy comes into its own. Candy coloured houses spill along the coast, overlooking the sparkling water below. Some of Europe’s finest restaurants can be found here, and the rustic Neapolitan food in this region epitomises authentic Italian cuisine.
There’s no better way to experience the Amalfi coast’s food scene than with a cooking class in Ravello. At the beautiful Villa Maria restaurant, you’ll be able to pick up some Italian kitchen secrets to take home with you. The lesson begins in the organic garden where you’ll pick your ingredients alongside the chef. Then, you’ll get stuck into making a starter, pasta dish and main course. The best bit about this experience is getting to enjoy the fruits of your labour alongside a delicious dessert cooked by the expert team.
In Rome, the Campo de’ Fiori food market is perfectly stocked with fresh, seasonal produce that is perfect for Italian cuisine. Wander through the market with a chef before preparing a delicious Italian meal in an intimate cooking class. Throughout the day, you’ll get a unique insight into the culinary traditions of southern Italian cuisine. Of course, no discussion of Italian cooking classes would be complete without a nod to Tuscany. In Cortona, learn how to make a four-course Tuscan meal; starter, pasta dish, main course and desert. You’ll be rewarded for your hard work at the end of the day, when you sit down to enjoy the food you’ve made alongside a glass of wine.
Alongside France, Italy is one of Europe – and the world’s – top cheese producers. From parmesan to Gorgonzola, any of Italy’s cheeses go perfectly with a crisp glass of wine in one of the country’s many vineyards. Across our Italy tours, there are plenty of foodie opportunities to learn the authentic Italian art of cheese-making. On the Amalfi coast, visit a buffalo farm in Ravello – see the famous buffalo mozzarella being made and of course, get to taste some of the delicious produce. In Puglia, meet a local cheese artisan at their Fasano based farm. They will demonstrate the art of making fresh burrata and let you try your hand at twisting a knot of mozzarella or two.
Although pizza and pasta take centre stage in Italy, sweet treats shouldn’t be forgotten about. In southern Sicily, the charming town of Modica specialises in chocolate. Chocolate is an ancient art form here and is still made the same way as it was by the Aztecs in Mexico. In Modica, you’ll visit a local factory and try some of its delicious creations; you’ll even get a chocolate bar to take away with you.
On the mainland, chocolate goes hand in hand with wine in the Langhe area. After you’ve driven through vine-clad hills and visited a prestigious winery, stop off in Cherasco for a wonderful chocolate tasting in a renowned pastry shop. This region is famous for the production of Baci di Cherasco, or Cherasco kisses, that were invented as a way of using up surplus hazelnuts left over from the production of nougat.
Wine tasting and spirits
When it comes to wine, Italy has its own sublime specialities scattered across the country. For travellers looking for the perfect Italian escape, wine tasting in Italy is often at the top of their bucket list. In Lecce, Li Veli winery is one of Puglia’s most renowned wineries. A family-run operation that has been around for 40 years, this is an incredible place to explore the history of wine in Puglia. You can enjoy a fascinating tour and tasting of beautiful wines here, before settling down for a spot of lunch.
In Verona, Valpolicella wine region offers a traditional Italian vineyard experience. This hilly, agricultural corner of Italy is famous for wine production and has been producing wine since the ancient Greeks were around. Recioto dessert wine and Amarone – each made from dried grapes – are both specialities here. Several other light and fragrant styles are also produced in this region. You’ll visit a local winery to learn all about the processes and techniques used in the production, and enjoy a tasting.
If you’re in need of something a little stronger, limoncello is Italy’s national liqueur. This authentic Italian drink shines in Sorrento, as lemon is the symbol of the city. Wall paintings and mosaics uncovered in Pompeii and Herculaneum suggest that citrus trees have been cultivated in this region for millennia. While you’re in the area, tour a local factory producing limoncello before getting a taste of the traditional digestivo.
Authentic Italian food: the best of the rest
The best foodie experiences in Italy are the ones that combine a variety of tastes. Tuscany is a stand-out destination known for its wonderful food, wine and beautiful countryside. One of the best ways to explore this region is on a culinary adventure. Start in beautiful Florence with a gelato tour; in Italy, gelato is much more than just ice cream. On this educational tour, you’ll learn how gelato was invented, see how it is made in a traditional gelato parlour and taste test various flavours.
In the hills of the Val d’Orcia National Park, visit the picturesque hilltop towns of Montalcino and Montepulciano for real-deal wine tastings. In Moltacino, Brunello wine is the order of the day while Montepulciano specialises in Vino Nobile wines. Both towns have great opportunities to visit wineries, where you can enjoy exceptional tastings.
Then, move on to the Tuscan countryside, where you can get acquainted with an enviable culinary tradition, fine Chianti wines, beautiful towns and warm locals. One of the best ways to combine food with meeting locals is on a tantalising truffle hunt at a local farm. Head into the forest alongside trained dogs who will help you sniff the best truffles out. A local farmer turned guide will also be on hand to explain the techniques used to truffle hunt. After a successful forage, you’ll sit down to a well-deserved truffle tasting and light lunch.
Nothing is more authentically Italian than pizza, and nothing is more romantic than learning how to make Pizza Romano with your loved one. You’ll be welcomed by a native expert and taught how to knead the dough and create the topping before popping it into the oven. The best thing about this foodie Italian experience? You’ll get to share your creations once they’re finished!
Foodie romance continues in Venice, where you can dine at Venissa Ristorante. Nestled on the small island of Mazzorba, this restaurant is surrounded by vineyards and the lagoon. This idyllic Michelin-starred establishment features a menu inspired by the fishermen of Burano and the opportunity to dine at a private table surrounded by the vines.
Perhaps the height of Italian food heaven is an experience that combines a variety of Italian staples. On the Amalfi coast, combine a pasta factory visit with mozzarella and limoncello tasting to be truly immersed in Italy’s delicious cuisine. The Campania region has been celebrating handcrafted pasta for decades and you’ll be able to learn all about it on a private tour of a local factory that has been producing pasta since 1848. Here, the pasta is extracted through bronze – a traditional method that has been used for centuries. You can also visit the oldest mozzarella cheese factory on the Sorrentine peninsula and enjoy a limoncello tasting to round off your day.