Any great food lover is sure to talk about how their taste buds were tickled in Europe. But it should be no surprise we’re partial to Italy, whose rich culinary history is full of fantastic food, from high-end restaurants to street food vendors. Today, we highlight five of the most popular cities in Italy that food enthusiasts surely should visit… and five less-traveled cities that are gastronomically awesome.
The Tuscany region proves there is much more to Italian cuisine than just pizzas. Extra-virgin olive oil, bread and grilled meats are important parts of Tuscan cuisine, and Florence — the region’s capital — is a great place to sample other specialties such as Florentine chicken (which includes celery, spinach, onion and cream cheese) or calamari inside stewed squid. Ribollita, a vegetable and bread soup, is also a popular dish you must try.
Cuisine in the northern Lombardy region revolves around cheese, especially locally produced gorgonzola and mascarpone. You’ll also want to try risotto, cassoeula (a meat and vegetable stew), and the traditional panettone cake.
Pizza was first created in Naples, and you’ll want to visit the Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, one of the oldest family-run restaurants in the country. Mozzarella is produced locally and used in many dishes. Also check out spaghetti with clams, braciole (with is thin layers of meat rolled and stuffed with herbs and simmered in tomato sauce), fried peppers, stuffed calzones, fresh fish and some of the best coffee around.
Pasta is the most popular specialty of Rome. Try delicious bruschetta with spaghetti alla carbonara or cacio e pepe (which is homemade pasta tossed with pecorino romano cheese and black pepper).
Venice’s location near the sea means most of its dishes involve seafood. Baccala mantecato (codfish served with polenta) is a well-known specialty.
This city’s nickname, La Grassa (“the fat one”) hints at the culinary feasts that awaits. Try the famed for its tortellini, tortelloni (the larger version), Bolognese sauce), and mortadella (cured pork).
This city boasts the best restaurant in Europe and the second-best ranked restaurant in the world — the elegant Osteria Francescana. But if the expensive prices are a deal-breaker, try the more affordable but equally delicious offshoot, Franceschetta58.
Hailed as the country’s epicenter of cuisine, the city of Parma is known for savory Prosciutto di Parma and Parmesan Reggiano cheese. Wheels of cheese are aged for a minimum of 12 months before heading going to markets around the world. The left-over whey from the cheese is fed to the pigs destined to become the prized ham with a distinctive creamy flavor. Parma’s inventive food culture is also a reason it was the first city in Italy to win UNESCO’s Creative City of Gastronomy.
Puglia is surrounded by farmland that produces tons of tomatoes, olive oil and wheat fields that provide durum flour to make pasta and bread. Their cuisine centers around fresh seafood, vegetables and legumes, and handmade pasta made without egg.
This city is a cultural melting pot, known for French-style fondues and meats stewed in fine wine. You won’t find a lot of pasta, but try the risotto, polenta and potato dumplings. Also be sure to try fine truffles and chocolate.