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Unmissable Food and Drink Experiences in Italy

Charlotte Boswell

As one of the world's most loved and iconic cuisines, Italian food has been strongly influenced and shaped by history and tradition as well as the excellent quality of local produce available throughout the country. From pizza and pasta making classes to truffle hunting and wine tasting, here is our list of the top ten unmissable food and drinks experiences in Italy.

Feast on Sicily's street food

Perfectly placed in the heart of the Mediterranean, Sicily is a melting pot of culture, history, natural beauty and of course, food. Palermo’s street food is world renowned. Traditionally providing filling and cheap meals to locals, a visit to Sicily wouldn’t be complete without sampling their delicious street delicacies. Explore Palermo’s bustling food markets which are filled with vibrant and fresh produce, local vendors and a rich array of sounds, smells, sights and tastes. Sample authentic snacks such as sfincioni, Sicilian style pizza, arancini, deep-fried rice balls, panelle, chickpea fritters, stigghiola, offal kebab and fried fish. For something sweet you need to try the famous Sicilian cannoli – fried pastry tubes filled with a sweet and creamy ricotta filling – all washed down with a lemon granita.

Featured in 'Sicily in Depth'

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Street food market in Palermo

Go truffle hunting in the Italian countryside

One of the most enchanting culinary experiences Italy has to offer is truffle hunting.  Travel to the Italian countryside where you will be part of a white or black truffle hunt. Led by an expert trifulau and their faithful dog tabui, who provides the sense of smell, enjoy a walk through the beautiful woods whilst learning about the art and tradition of truffle hunting and discovering these hidden delicacies. Later you will be able to taste some of the world’s finest truffles paired with traditional Italian food and wine – an exquisite experience. With the cooler days and leaves changing colour, Autumn marks the start of truffle hunting season. Although this is the recommended time to embark on truffle hunting, some areas of Tuscany offer the activity throughout the year.

Featured in ‘A Gastronomic Journey Through Italy

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White truffles in Langhe

Enjoy wine tasting in Chianti

Aside from its wonderful food, Italy is also synonymous with wine and there is nowhere is better to spend a couple of days sampling some of the country’s finest bottles than in beautiful Chianti. Set in the rolling hills of Tuscany, Chianti is world renowned for its natural beauty, manicured vineyards and of course, its famous red wine. Spend a day visiting the region’s excellent estates and farms where you can meander amongst the verdant rows of vines and learn about the wine making process. After a tour of the winery, sample some of Chianti’s best vintages. Savour the depth of this Tuscan red wine predominantly made from the Sangiovese grape. We would also highly recommend lunch at one of the area’s historic castellos where you can enjoy traditional Italian dishes paired with wine whilst overlooking the spectacular countryside.

Featured in ‘Rome, Tuscany, Florence and Venice in Luxury

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Local winery in the Chianti Hills

Take a cookery class in Puglia

The heel of Italy is known for its superb cuisine and food has long been an important part of the Apulian culture. Historically, this southern region was very poor so the term la cucina povera was coined when describing Puglia’s cuisine, meaning ‘food of the poor’. Due to the fertile soil, sun and low cost, vegetables have traditionally played the major role in Apulian cuisine, however, today meat and fresh seafood is frequently incorporated too. During a trip to Puglia, we would highly recommend taking a cookery class where you will enjoy a hands-on morning learning about traditional Apulian cuisine and sampling your delicious creations. Typical dishes you may make include orecchiette, ‘little ears’ pasta, baccalà alla salentina, baked salted cod with pecorino cheese and tomato, panzerotti, stuffed and fried dough and pasticciotto, creamy custard and cherry tarts.

Featured in ‘Images of Puglia

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Vegetable market in Bari

Visit Italy's famous Food Valley in Emilia-Romagna

Italy’s iconic Food Valley is located in the beautiful region of Emilia-Romagna, which is often described as the food capital of Italy. Starting in the beautiful Bologna – home of the famous Italian meat ragú sauce – explore the city’s bustling food markets, sample dishes in the atmospheric side-street trattorias or maybe even get hands on at a local cookery class. Continue to the UNESCO-listed city of Modena, famous for its historical cathedral, charming alleyways and of course, balsamic vinegar, where you can enjoy tastings and pick up a bottle or two. The enchanting university town of Parma is another must-see in the Food Valley. Known for its Prosciutto ham and Parmesan cheese, visit a cheese farm where you will learn the process behind this famous hard cheese and be able to sample different ages parmesans.

Featured in ‘A Gastronomic Journey Through Italy

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Duomo cathedral in Parma
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Sample cicchetti and spritz in Venice

An archipelago of 117 small islands connected by bridges and canals, Venice is an enchanting and romantic city full of spectacular architecture and intriguing history. After exploring the city’s maze of alleyways and cultural sites, there is nothing more rewarding than stopping at a local bar or trattoria and taking a seat at one of the old wine barrels as you watch the world go by. Order some cicchetti, Venice’s version of tapas which often consist of crostini topped with vegetables or meat, delicious morsels of seafood, plump olives and local cheese, all washed down with a traditional spritz. Enjoy an iconic Aperol Spritz or a classic Bellini, prosecco topped with white peach puree which was founded in Venice in the famous Harry’s Bar in 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani.

Featured in ‘Classic Italy by Rail

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Traditional spritz and cicchetti in Venice

Master the pizza in Naples

As the birthplace of the modern-day pizza, Naples should be a pilgrimage for any pizza lover. Home to the Neapolitan pizza, this classic dish was supposedly first created in 1889 and named margherita after Italy’s 19th-century queen consort. Renowned all over the world, the margherita pizza consists of tomato, mozzarella and basil, a nod towards the colours of the Italian flag. With over 800 pizzerias in the city, the best indication for a good pizza is the length of the queue of locals outside! It is also possible to take part in a pizza cookery class where you will learn pizza cooking techniques from a pizza master and be able create your own pizza. Sample your wood-fired creation and wash it down with some vino rosso or a local birra.

Featured in ‘Southern Italy – Ancient Ruins, Islands and the Amalfi Coast

pizza making class naples
Pizza making class in Naples

Learn to make pesto in the Cinque Terre

The classic and delicious Italian sauce of pesto originated in Genoa in the coastal region of Liguria. To the south of Genoa lies the beautiful Cinque Terre. Located on the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre is made up of five picturesque villages that cling to the dramatic cliffs in a kaleidoscope of pastel colours. Whilst visiting this region it is highly recommended to experience a pesto making class in the Cinque Terre’s most picturesque town, Manarola. Take a gentle hike to Nessun Dorma, a beautiful spot perched on the top of the cliff overlooking the turquoise sea and colourful homes and learn how to make traditional pesto. Combine garlic, basil, parmesan, pine nuts and oil to make this authentic sauce whilst enjoying a spritz and soaking up the breathtaking views. Later taste your creation alongside focaccia and charcuterie boards.

Features in ‘Rome, Florence and the Cinque Terre by Rail

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Pesto making class in Manarola

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