Italy’s fabulous cuisine is one of the main reasons to visit
Travelling around Italy is a mind-boggling culinary journey. It might suffice to remember the film “Eat, Pray, Love”, the real-life story of Liz Gilbert (played by Julia Roberts) and her journey to self-fulfilment, where her indulgence in Italian cuisine had an incredible curative effect. Each region’s culinary specialties are part of their soul, and essential to the experience of any traveller, proven by the fact that tourists on holiday in Italy spend a third of their budget on food and typical products, for a total of 26 billion euros. Here are just a few highlights.
Basilicata – a beautiful discovery for food lovers
The cuisine of this region is a delightful explosion of genuine flavours, spicy scents and vibrant colours; traditional Lucanian dishes are increasingly appreciated in the food and wine industry and can be found not only in Italy, but also all around the world.
From traditional hand-made pasta to meats – mostly lamb, goat, pork and veal – from flavoursome vegetables, used in many recipes, to colourful and scented fruits, the other great regional speciality flourishing in the immense citrus groves found throughout the region.
Another typical dish of Lucanian gastronomy is baccalà, dried salt-cured fish used in different recipes and best enjoyed with the famous crusco peppers of Senise, which bear the protected geographical indication label (IGP).
Campania – where cuisine reflects an eventful history
Campania has a long and eventful history. Here, several civilisations and cultures came and went, each leaving traces on the region’s art, architecture and culture, but also its cuisine. The Campania Region is the first in Southern Italy for traditional certified food and wine production. This is the homeland of pizza, mozzarella, espresso coffee, white Falanghina wine, red Aglianico wine and Limoncello, just to mention a few. The Mediterranean Diet was conceived in the Cilento area, and the “Art of the Neapolitan Pizzaiolo” is on the Unesco World Heritage list.
Flavours and colours of raw ingredients here have for thousands of years been equated with the Campanian sunshine. Wine Trails have been established throughout the region: these lead to wineries open to the public, vineyards, traditional restaurants and handicraft shops and allow visitors to sample typical products both in historic towns and amidst the beauty of the natural environment.
Abruzzo – from agro-pastoral delicacies to seafood specialties
With Mediterranean ingredients and aromas, characterised by the flavours of the earth and the mountains, Abruzzo cuisine stands out for its ability to be both poor and noble, magnificent in its simplicity. Flavours here are the expression of a land rich in biodiversity, between vineyards and olive groves as far as the eye can see, producing quality wines and olive oil. One of the most famous and best-loved specialities of the region is the Abruzzese arrosticini, lamb skewers typical of the Apennines. Delectable cheeses, such as caciotta and mozzarella are produced in Abruzzo. All this, along with the region’s renowned wines, olive oils and of course the local saffron, make it a food lover’s paradise.
Emilia Romagna – where visitors can learn the chef’s secrets
Emilia Romagna is home to a number of cooking schools, offering guests the opportunity to hand-make and fill pasta, and learn all about the DOP products of the region. Many cooking schools are located in the picturesque hills and plains surrounding the major towns of the region and guests can sleep overnight in the farms, following the hearty dinner that they have created. Guests can embark on a trip through the picturesque countryside and art cities of the region, along the ancient Roman Road, known as the Via Emilia, to sample every culinary delight from the bubbly Lambrusco and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar in Modena to the nutty Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in Reggio Emilia and the sweet prosciutto ham in Parma.
Puglia – a story of seasons, biodiversity, and top-quality ingredients
It’s all about originality. Polignano a Mare, the area between Fasano and Bari, boasts the world’s highest rate of consumption of raw fish. This dish is revisited in a unique Japanese/Apulian version. So begins the culinary revolution of the new Puglia – a revolution enjoyed elsewhere in the world, where the panzerotto, the typical fried dough filled with tomato sauce and mozzarella, has become a street-food must.
Food is a serious thing in Puglia, as shown by the long series of gourmet events throughout the year. Some are original, like Libando, in May, a major national event dedicated to quality street food in the heart of Foggia; others are historical, like the “open wine cellars” in late May.
Piedmont – where tradition meets creativity
From traditional trattorias to historic cafes and 46 Michelin-star restaurants, Piemonte is the birthplace of “Slow Food”, the international organization founded in Bra, province of Cuneo in 1986 to promote and protect “good, clean and fair” food. The quality of the produce is exceptional: chocolate and hazelnut, rice cultivated in the vastest rice fields of Europe, exquisite artisan cheeses, including the alpine Toma and Bettelmatt, as well as Castelmagno, Robiola di Murazzano, Bra, Ossolano and the famous Gorgonzola. In the region where vermouth was born, there are 18,000 wine cellars, with a treasure of 18 DOCG and 41 DOC wines (many of which produced in the “Vineyard Landscapes of Langhe Roero and Monferrato” UNESCO).
San Marino – a land of fine tastes
Over the years, the Republic of San Marino has preserved a rich and varied gastronomic tradition highly appreciated all over the world. Among the products of the Consorzio Terra di San Marino, which safeguards the smaller agricultural producers in San Marino, there are wines, meat, extra virgin olive oil, cheese, honey and the delicious Tre Monti and Titano cakes, handmade in San Marino since 1942. Fresh pasta is one of the most authentically traditional dishes of San Marino. Tagliatelle, pappardelle, stringhetti and tagliolini were and continue to be served with meat sauce, sausage, peas, sea campion (plants collected from the fields), beans and game.
Tuscany – keeping it simple
Tuscan cooking is characterised by simple food, without heavy sauces. Cooking is done with olive oil, which is also used as a salad dressing, poured over bread, or added to soups and stews. Beans are a staple. Sage, rosemary and basil are popular spices. To exalt tastes, on Tuscan tables, extra virgin olive oil is always present. Here, visitors will find the beans of sorana, ricciarelli of siena, lardo of colonnata, chestnuts from the mountains around Pistoia; not forgetting cheese, honey and cold cuts, or the boar of maremma, the beef of chianina, calvana or mucco pisano cattle and the certified organic products. Bistecca alla Fiorentina – an Italian veal or heifer steak – is one of the most popular dishes of Tuscan cuisine.
Trentino – a vineyard with a view
Trentino has the perfect proposal for autumn weekends: a chance to experience the rituals of the grape harvest up close and learn about the stories, traditions and culture of winemaking in the mountains. The wineries of Trentino are special places where visitors can discover the stories of the region’s winemakers and taste great tipples. In Trentino, agriculture has forged a strong bond between mankind and the environment, creating a virtuous relationship that has given rise to a diverse ecosystem of carefully tended landscapes dotted with small vineyard plots. There is a selection of wineries in Trentino, famous for Trentodoc or Teroldego Rotaliano spumante, that are open to visitors, but some also offer the unique experience to stay overnight.