What is the Best Region in Italy for Food?
If there’s one thing Italy’s known for, it’s food. Italian cuisine is loved and enjoyed all over the world, and a highlight of many people’s trips to the country is getting to enjoy their favourite dishes in the original location they were created.
From classic examples like pasta and pizza to more specialist dishes such as squid ink risotto, arancini and Florentine steaks, there’s a huge range of flavours to explore and enjoy. The regional cuisines of Italy are each distinctive and delicious, inspired by local ingredients, the climate and the history of the towns and cities in each area and the people who once lived and worked there.
With so many different regional foods of Italy on the menu, choosing which part of the country to visit for a gourmet experience can be difficult. Everyone has different preferences, and what may be a gastronomic paradise for some palettes may just not cut it for others.
That’s why we’ve created this guide to the best food regions of Italy, highlighting which flavours and cooking styles you can enjoy at their best in every area.
Puglia, also known as Apulia, is found on the ‘heel’ of the boot of Italy and is known for its beautiful, rural countryside and charming seaside towns. It’s one of the more up-and-coming holiday destinations of the country, and the local cuisine is one of the reasons that more and more tourists are now coming to stay in the area.
Whilst the food from Puglia was once looked down on as simple – the result of decades of poverty in the area – it’s now a highly respected Italian food region that is known for its seafood, olives and vegetables. Along the coast, you’ll find plenty of fresh fish in all kinds of dishes and shellfish like mussels firmly on the menu, especially in the city of Taranto.
Inland in Puglia, the climate lends itself to particularly plentiful wheat production. Bread and pasta feature heavily in many of the area’s signature dishes, with loaves from the village of Altamura known as being the only bread in the world with a DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) status.
For a detailed experience of the cuisine of this region, we offer an ‘8-Day Luxury 5-Star Foodie Tour of Rome, Amalfi Coast, Sorrento & The Region of Apulia’ that is ideal for guests who want to enjoy everything Puglia has to offer.
As the largest region in Italy, Sicily has a lot going for it when it comes to signature dishes. The island is known for its particularly volcanic and fertile soil, which along with a Mediterranean climate, provides the perfect growing conditions for citrus fruits, vegetables like peppers and eggplants, and of course, grapes.
If you’re not a big fan of heavier, heartier flavours then Sicily should be top of your list of the best places to visit in Italy for food. With fresh seafood, sun-soaked vegetables, creamy cheese like ricotta and lighter grains like rice and couscous all featuring heavily in local cooking, Sicilian food has a distinct edge that separates it from more traditional Italian dishes.
Desert is also a much bigger deal in Sicily than it is in other regions, so if you’ve got a sweet tooth then it’s one of the best places to eat in Italy. The most famous sweet treat from the island is probably cannoli – a thin tube of fried pastry that is stuffed with creamy ricotta and other sweet ingredients.
We offer an ‘8-day Wine and Food Tour of Sicily’ if you’d like a holiday dedicated to discovering the unique flavours of this beautiful island region.
If you’re serious about exceptional food then the best region in Italy to visit is undoubtedly Emilia Romagna. Located in the northern part of the country, some of the world’s favourite ingredients originally came from this region and it is also the birthplace of one of the best Italian dishes of all time.
What makes Emilia Romagna such a special gastronomic destination is that it is home to Bologna; the food capital of Italy. This city has been nicknamed La Grassa (the fat lady) because of just how much outstanding food is on offer here, including the iconic ragu pasta dish known as spaghetti bolognese.
Other iconic food from the region includes Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar from Modena and delicious cured meat from the city of Parma. Emilia Romagna is also famous for its wine, with famous varieties including the unique, sparkling red Lambrusco.
To experience a carefully curated tour of the gastronomic highlights of this region, we offer a ‘7-Day Emilia Romagna Gourmet Foodie Journey’ that includes tasting experiences of all Emilia Romagna’s signature ingredients.
Many travellers think of Tuscany as the best Italian wine region, but it’s also an area of the country that is famous for its food. The delicious red and white wines produced in vineyards all around the region are perfectly complemented with rich, bold and hearty dishes that you’ll find served in even the most remote towns and villages.
There’s an emphasis on rustic dining in Tuscany, especially in the countryside, so you’ll find a lot of bean and bread-based dishes as well as plenty of soups and stews. Pasta dishes are also very popular, particularly using strong cheeses.
What really stands out in Tuscany however is the selection of meat on offer. From cold, cured meat platters to hearty sauces and the famous ‘Florentine steak’ that is cooked over coals and seasoned with rosemary and sage, this is one of the best Italian food regions for carnivorous food lovers.
To better appreciate the finest offerings of this famous part of Italy, we offer a bespoke ‘7-Day Wine & Food Tour of Tuscany from Rome’ that features plenty of chances to taste the wine and food that this region is so well known for.
If you’re a big pizza lover then you’ll find Campania to have perhaps the best regional cuisines of Italy. The area is home to Naples; the birthplace of the Neapolitan pizza that is characterised by its thick, doughy crust and which has influenced pizza makers across the world. Buffalo mozzarella also came from this region, which again makes it an ideal place to visit if you want to go all out on margaritas.
The Amalfi Coast is another foodie highlight of Campania, with lemons being the signature ingredient of the area. There are fresh and zesty citrus flavours in almost everything, and limoncello is enjoyed no matter where you are staying.
In contrast to the now-glamorous coast, this region was once poverty-stricken which led to the creation of famous dishes such as spaghetti all vongole which is still enjoyed all over the country today. Campania’s location by the coast means that the seafood from the area is also excellent, and the Mediterranean climate means that fruits and vegetables are in abundance, particularly in the summer months.
Piedmont translates to ‘at the foot of the mountain’ and it is the mountainous landscape and climate that characterises much of this region’s local food. Positioned right at the edge of Italy, Piedmont is bordered by Switzerland and France and has certainly been influenced by the rich cuisine of its neighbours.
The most popular food in Piedmont tends to be luxurious and decadent, with ingredients like white truffles, cream and butter featuring heavily in hearty gnocchi, pasta and polenta dishes. It’s one of the best places to eat in Italy, and if you’re a fan of cheese then you’ll absolutely love the ‘fonduta’; an Italian take on fondue that features truffles and egg yolks to make it even more delicious.
Of course, Piedmont is also an exceptional Italian region for wine, with a wide range of different grape varieties grown on the slopes of the hills and mountains.
Umbria is a landlocked region of the country, known as the ‘green heart’ of Italy. The regional cuisine is influenced by the Etruscan history of the area, with an emphasis on simple, seasonal flavours of ingredients that come from the rich, dense landscape.
Similarly to nearby Tuscany, the food in Umbria is characteristically rustic, often called cucina povera or peasant cooking. Grains and vegetables feature heavily in the best-known dishes, along with plenty of olive oil that is produced all over the region.
A signature ingredient that places in Umbria are known for is truffles, producing the largest quantities of this luxury ingredient than any other Italian region, so you can expect to see it in a wide range of different local dishes. Antipasti is also very popular in Umbrian locations, making the most of whichever ingredients are in season when it is served.
When it comes to the regional cuisines of Italy, Veneto might not have initially come to mind when thinking about the country’s best locations for food. But it’s a brilliant foodie location to visit if you also want to enjoy some of the finest art and culture that Italy has on offer.
Veneto has both coastal and mountain scenery, meaning that the variety of food that comes from this area is quite wide. What makes it stand out from many other Italian regions is that pasta is not the staple carbohydrate; rice and polenta are much more frequently used instead.
The seafood in Veneto is fantastic, especially when you’re staying right beside the coast. Risotto, shellfish and olive oil all feature frequently, and the famous Italian dessert tiramisu supposedly came from the region. You’ll also see the much-loved peach bellini cocktail on offer all over Veneto, as it was said to have been originally invented in a bar in Venice.
Liguria is another of the best coastal food regions of Italy, with seafood known as being a staple part of the local diet. But never fear if you’re not that big a fan of fish; it’s other ingredients from this area that really make it stand out as a top foodie destination.
The soil around Liguria is very rich in minerals, so wonderfully fresh herbs are grown and cooked with all over the region. The signature ingredient that these herbs are used in is pesto alla Genovese; a deliciously flavoursome sauce that is used in a huge range of different dishes from pasta to pizza.
Focaccia is another staple in Ligurian diets, so if you’re a fan of this dense, flavoursome bread then you’re in the right place. Ravioli pasta is also said to have been invented in a town in Liguria, so you’ll find plenty of variations on this classic Italian speciality in almost every restaurant.
No matter what your preferences are, Italy is a haven for food lovers. The range of different dishes on offer is vast, with Italian regional cooking varying dramatically depending on what ingredients are on offer and which other cultures have influenced the local diet over the years. Whether you just want to try classic dishes in their birthplace, or you’re looking to test your tastebuds with regional specialities, Italy is the perfect place for gastronomic discovery.
If you’re looking to plan a food tour of Italy and want expert advice on which region you should visit, get in touch and speak to one of our experts for personalised recommendations and help planning a unique tour of the country.