If there’s anything we value more than finding a good vintage boot in Italy, it’s gotta be All The Food.
In fact, we practically design our tours around the best food in Italy. Dinners overlooking volcanoes and specific panini stands in spots like Sicily, because it is 110% one of the main reasons to visit.
And while most travelers to Italy know all about pasta, pizza, and Fiorentina steaks, there’s sooo much more Italy serves up on handpainted porcelain that you gotta try.
From Italian “sushi” by the marina to a super-specific cheese that sells out every single day, we’ve got the local intel on under-the-radar dishes that most foodies will love sinking their teeth into.
Bookmark this list of the best food in Italy for your next trip, or to inspire you to book one ASAP!
1. Stracchino Cheese
Silky soft and creamy, you don’t normally find this gooey goodness outside of Italy. It’s made with the absolute best cow’s milk (the kind that features extra butter) and is the mama cheese that births other greats like gorgonzola. When in Italy, you gotta order a pizza with stracchino –– it’s unreal.
Best stracchino cheese moments in Italy happen in: Lombardy
2. Cantuccini ft. Vin Santo
Originally used as an emergency-fuel snack for soldiers in the Roman Legion, fishermen and sailors, typical tradition post-dinner in Tuscany calls for cantuccini (next-level little almond biscottis) with Vin Santo (holy wine, AKA dessert wine) — the perfect way to end your meal on a sweet note. Notes of honey, almond and summer evenings.
Best cantuccini and Vin Santo moments in Italy happen in: Tuscany.
A classic Ligurian snack and street food (also known as ceccina in Tuscany), this chickpea pancake is simple and perfect when it’s fresh out of a wood-fired oven. Soft and custardy on the inside, crisped with olive oil and sometimes rosemary on the outside, it’s a great brekkie or light lunch option. Preferably with a side of creamy burrata!
Best farinata moments in Italy happen in: Cinque Terre, Liguria.
Oooh, baby. A good tagliolini or risotto with a sprinkle of truffles at sunset in Siena is one of our happy places. In Italy, you can try to get your hands on the rare white truffles (which smell heavenly) or the go-to black truffles, which are plentiful. It’s a special thing to be in a country where they aren’t totally in short supply, which means way more opportunities for you to enjoy them! And if you’re into it, you can even try to go truffle hunting with a pro to show you how they scope out the best ones.
Best truffle moments in Italy happen when you visit: Umbria, Tuscany, and Piedmont in autumn (that’s when they’re extra-fresh).
5. Bufala Mozzarella
Made from buffalo’s milk, this melt-in-your-mouth cheese is all kinds of divine deliciousness. We dig it so much, we even make a special trip to a buffalo farm in Salerno on our Southern Italy tour (locals visit from as far as Naples to try it), where fresh products stocked in the morning are wiped out by the afternoon! Being unpasteurized, it’s as natural as you can get and a total treat for foodies.
Best bufala mozzarella moments in Italy happen when you visit: our Southern Italy tour.
6. Porcini Mushrooms
Typically served with tagliatelle, this meaty mushroom is usually found dried elsewhere in the world — but not in Italy! Nutty, earthy and often fried with thyme in Italy, it’s known as the celebrity mushroom around here. In fact, people who used to gather them centuries ago frequently lied to their neighbors about how much they had foraged for during the day so that they wouldn’t have to spill the intel on where they’d found them!
Best porcini mushroom moments in Italy happen when you visit: Any spot in Italy that serves it up with a good tagliatelle.
7. Fresh Ricotta
Made from sheep, cow, goat or buffalo’s milk whey left over from production, ricotta is basically a dieter’s cheese heaven: it’s actually super low in fat and has tons of protein! There are a few types of ricotta in Italy: traditionally fresh, or salty. Our reco: try fresh ricotta as soon as you get it, because it’s the kind that will go bad if you take it home and refrigerate it for later. It’s not salted or ripened, so it’s got this lovely clean flavor that’s perfect with anything from lasagna to cheesecake.
Best ricotta moments in Italy happen in: Campania, Puglia, Sicily, and Sardinia — but tons of street markets and local stores all over Italy serve up fresh ricotta if there are farms in the area that produce it.
8. Raw Scampi
Italy’s version of sushi = raw scampi! Except way better (according to our tastebuds) and something totally delish and delightful. In fact, it makes for some remember-forever meal moments in spots in seaside villages, where you’ll find it on a couple of menus. If you can’t, you just gotta meet a local and ask them to invite you over (seriously)!
Best raw scampi moments in Italy happen in: Cinque Terre
Fair warning: this sounds super gross, but it’s seriously tasty. Bottarga is salted, dried fish eggs! Back in the day, fishermen would cure the eggs to ensure they didn’t waste any parts of the fish they caught. And because it produced such a fab taste and took so long to create, it quickly turned into a hard-to-find delicacy. It’s usually made of tuna roe and can be grated onto pasta and other foods.
Best bottarga moments happen in Italy when you visit: Sardinia or Sicily
If you asked us what a staple of our Sicily Tour is on the daily: granita in our bikini would be the answer. You eat granita with a spoon, and it’s served in a cup like a slushie (or in a brioche for breakfast in Sicily). There’s nothing like an ice-cold granita when you need a break from the heat on the beach, or you’re lazing around under a striped umbrella. Here’s the catch, though: there are tons of syrupy fake ones with artificial flavors floating about Italy, so you need to seek out the *real* granita made with fruit and nuts (usually called “Sicilian style”) to enjoy the authentic version.
Best granita moments in Italy happen: On the beach, or strolling through markets in Sicily. Check out our Sicily tour for more.
There you have it: the definitive guide to the best food in Italy that go beyond the usual suspects.
Save this post for your next trip to Italy, or send it to your foodie bestie to tempt them to plan one with you!
Want more intel on what to eat in Italy?
Here are a few blogs you’ll love:
- Our Fave Italy Foodie Moments
- Don’t Order Pasta in Italy. Do This Instead
- Eating in Florence: 4 Things You Should Know
- The Best Restaurants in Cinque Terre: The Definitive List
- Restaurants in Rome: 20 Top Choices from Food Critics, Travelers and Locals
- Restaurants in Venice: 20 Top Choices from Food Critics, Travelers and Locals
- Restaurants in Florence: 20 Top Choices from Food Critics, Travelers and Locals
What have you tried on our list of the best food in Italy, and what’s tempting you? Share with us in the comments!