top of page

Italy: 10 Foods to Try During Your Trip to Italy

Ask any foodie where they dream of traveling to, and a few cities always come to mind: Japan, Mexico, and - come on - Italy. Italians are known for their deep cultural love for a meal, served in multiple courses over long conversations and drinks. Restaurant owners will come over to your table to have a full conversation about their family establishment that has dishes passed on throughout generations. Italians live and breathe food. Depending on the region you are planning on visiting, Italian dishes will vary. I promise, during your trip you can easily fall into many tourist traps in regards to restaurants, but this list will help you stay on track and make sure you grab some of the best dishes the country has to offer...

1. Pizza

Anyone that knows me knows that this has to be my number one. I mean, the dream is to eat pizza on a piazza in Italy, looking out at the stringed lights and bustle of the streets. Do not leave Italy without having some pizza. I suggest grabbing a pizza for a dinner to split, restaurants (unless they are touristy) don't often sell full meals for lunch. That being said, there are many “by the slice” shops that make for a great grab and go lunch while you're touring, and there is no shame in that. P.S. Italians eat pizza with their hands! So put down that fork and knife and dig in.

2. Pasta Variations

Yes, “pasta variations” is as specific as I am going to get, because the list goes on and on. Every menu will offer some sort of delicious pasta variation, with different noodles and sauces depending on the region and mood. Don’t be afraid to try regional dishes and taste some favorites.

P.S. Typically a restaurant will only offer parmesan if they believe the dish should have it, so I wouldn't necessarily ask for it if it isn't offered. Italians are picky about what dishes deserve cheese.

Lasagna might be considered a pasta, might be seen as more of a casserole in some Americans eyes, but I’m not here to argue. Eat the lasagna. There are different variations with meats and vegetables inside, so make sure you know your allergies and preferences before ordering!

3. Seafood

We can all picture the shape of Italy. Basically, an Italian boot shape. Just think about how much coastline that is. There won’t be a city in Italy that isn’t just a few hours from the coast, so you are pretty much guaranteed fresh seafood dishes. That being said, different regions are known for different dishes. Make sure you do some research of the region you're visiting to know which seafood dishes to really splurge on!

4. Osso Buco

What is osso buco?

Italy is also a great spot to feast on some meat dishes, and there is probably none more iconic than the Italian dish osso buco.

Osso buco is cross cut veal shanks, cooked with a myriad of veggies, broth, and white wine. It’s often served with risotto or polenta, depending on the region you find yourself in. If you’re a meat eater, you’ll love this rich dish. Plus, one of the best and more decadent aspects of this dish is the bone marrow.

5. Wine

Wine. Yes, you’re right, this is pretty much on all of my lists. But we all crave some good Italian wine, right? You’ll visit areas that are hills of olive trees and vineyards, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Bars are open all day, and Italians don’t serve soft drinks with meals very often. So, unless you are in a touristy area of town, I wouldn’t expect this. In addition, water isn’t often served automatically either. If you inquire, expect to be asked if you want still or sparkling, and expect it to come in a glass about half the size of one you might expect in the US (with no ice). So, why not just grab a nice wine and ignore all the fuss? You won’t regret it!

P.S another fun thing to consider is a wine tour through the Tuscany wine region.

Highly recommend AirBnB Experiences for this.

6. Olive Oil

As mentioned above, you might find yourself traveling through hills and regions full of olive trees. I might suggest going to an olive oil tasting, just as you would visit a vineyard for a wine tasting. At dinner in Italy, olive oil isn’t naturally served with bread (and neither is butter), it’s just not an authentic Italian thing to do. That being said, if you want to try some, don’t be afraid to ask! Taste some good olive oil and enjoy your meal with friends and family.

7. Fresh Bread (Focaccia) & Bruschetta

When in doubt, more fresh bread. Focaccia is definitely one to try. And I’m a sucker for bruschetta.

What is focaccia?

A classic Italian bread, often described as similar to a pizza style (and referred to as “pizza bianca”). There are typically herbs and spices added directly to the bread that you can see and taste, making it flavorful and a great addition to a sandwich or to eat on its own.

What is bruschetta?

Sure, bruschetta is more of a bread dish, and a common antipasto (appetizer). It really thrives on its delicious toppings of fresh olive oil, salt, herbs, tomatoes, and sometimes cheeses and meats. Think of an open faced sandwich, and you're on the right track.

8. Coffee

Caffè, cappuccino, caffè latte, caffè macchiato. All of these might sound like familiar Italian words, and that is because Italians live for coffee. That being said, they traditionally treat it a little differently than Americans do. One of my favorite memories from spending time in Italy is sitting at Piazza San Marco in Venice and sipping on some coffee at a cafe as it began to drizzle. When in Italy, definitely take some time to relax and rest your feet at some delicious cafes. You’ll find pastries, drinks, and coffees galore. Typically with a good view.

It’s important to know a few things about coffee in Italy before you explore though, Italians are pretty picky about drinks and when to enjoy them...

Caffè, or caffè normale: The most common, hence “normal coffee.” But no, it is not the same as drip coffee or “Americano” as they call it (and are sometimes offended by). It's essentially an espresso shot. Yup, an espresso shot, often taken standing up at a bar on the way to work, or in the afternoon as a pick me up.

Cappuccino: Equal parts espresso, equal parts foamed or steamed milk. Typically only enjoyed during breakfast (but not after the meal).

Caffè Latte: One part espresso, two parts steamed milk, often with some foam on top. Also only enjoyed in the morning.

Caffè Macchiato: An espresso with a splash of frothy milk, this one - if you don't like pure espresso - can be typically acceptable to enjoy all day long.

9. Gelato

As a rule of mine, it’s essential to eat gelato everyday. Gelato often gets confused with ice cream, but in fact, they are different. They generally use the same ingredients, but ice cream typically uses more cream, while gelato typically uses more milk and doesn’t add egg yolk, making it less fatty and more full of flavor. In addition, you’ll see that gelato is typically stored in metal containers to regulate their temperature more accurately. It’s the perfect snack to add to your day as you tour museums and cathedrals. There are endless flavors to enjoy, so why not taste test them all. When in Rome, right?

10. Tiramisu

What is tiramisu?

Well, for one, my favorite dessert. Anything coffee flavored will be a winner for me. Tiramisu has different variations but is generally ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a mixture of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese, and coated and flavored with cocoa. You might be thinking, cheese? No, it doesn’t taste like cheese, think more like cream. It’s fluffy, delicate, and unbelievably delicious.

Extra: Digestivo

The last time I traveled through Italy, it poured down rain the first few days. But if you’re anything like me, you find a way to explore regardless. The rain finally cleared a bit and we found a table outside at a restaurant that had cleared out with the storm. We were basically the only ones there, and right away hit it off with the waiter as we sat outside with the drying cobblestone patio. As we finished our meal (or thought we had finished our meal) he started bringing us rounds of digestivo, on the house. Often amari (grape brandy infused with herbs and such) is served as a digestive after a meal, which is an excellent way to finish off your time at the dinner table and celebrate your time together. This isn’t a unique experience, it is a lovely tradition for Italians, one that I highly suggest participating in.

So you know exactly what to pack for your eating adventure

Any more suggestions? Let us know!


bottom of page