From fine dining and street carts to aperitivo and family-run kitchens, it's no wonder Italian cuisine is world-renowned. You’ve got your pizza and pasta, gelato, coffee and limoncello, but what are some truly authentic and regional specialities that you can dig your teeth into when travelling through Italy?

Well, we’re glad you asked. Here’s some of our favourites from a few of Italy’s acclaimed food regions.

Must-try dishes in Sicily

Caponata is an eggplant vegetable saute

Caponata

A Sicilian staple, caponata is an eggplant dish caramelised with celery and capers and bound together in a sweet and sour relish. It's a perfect starter, piled liberally on top of bread.

Involtini di pesce spada is a swordfish dish from Sicily

Involtini di pesce spada

Sicily loves its seafood – swordfish, in particular. This 'involtini' (roll), is a piece of locally-caught swordfish stuffed with breadcrumbs and either baked or fried. Buonissimo.

Cannoli is a ricotta cheese dessert from Sicily

Cannoli

This indulgent tube-shaped Italian pastry originated in Sicily and comes with a range of fillings, none better than Nutella or crema di pistachio (pistachio cream). A perfect end to a meal, or for a sweet snack on the go.

Watermelon granita

Granita

Eaten at any time of the day, granita is how Sicilians cool themselves down in the unrelenting heat of summer. It’s a sorbet-like mix of ice with flavours like coffee, lemon, raspberry, kiwi and Nutella. In Sicily, the granita is thicker than usual, so it’s eaten with a spoon.

Must-try dishes in Tuscany

Panzanella is a tomato and bread salad

Panzanella

Never throw away your stale bread, just make it into panzanella. This salad is full of classic Italian flavours – tomatoes, onion, basil, balsamic – all tossed together. Works well as a side or as a fresh and light plant-based lunch. 

Bistecca alla Fiorentina on wooden board

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

The mother of all steaks, this Florentine T-bone has true carnivores in its sights. The Bistecca alla Fiorentina comes from a local breed of cow – the Chianina – and is served simply with salt and pepper and some herbs. It’s cooked rare, the traditional way, and melts in your mouth if done well.

Tortelli di patate pasta on plate

Tortelli di patate

Tortelli is a type of pasta similar to tortellini, only bigger! Originating in the northern valley of Mugello in Tuscany, these parcels are packed full of a spiced potato mix, and can be served with a simple burnt butter and sage sauce, or with a hearty ragu.

Castagnaccio slice of cake on plate

Castagnaccio

You can’t go past a piece of cake to finish off a meal. Castagnaccio is one of only a few gluten-free sweets common to Italy – made with chestnut flour and studded with walnuts, pine nuts, raisins and rosemary. Top it off with a sweet wine, such as a vin santo, and you’re set.

Must-try dishes in Lazio (Rome)

Baked artichoke on a plate

Carciofi alla Romana

This Roman speciality has one hearty vegetable at its core – the artichoke. It’s usually a side dish and is made from a rounder and less thorny artichoke called the mammole.

Cured pork meat

Guanciale

Cured meats vary by region in Italy, and one of Lazio's claims to fame is guanciale – a pork cheek product. Similar to pancetta or bacon, it can be sliced thinly, fried and scrambled with eggs or tossed in a salad, but is most known for its use in a traditional carbonara recipe.

Traditional dish of cacio e pepe: pasta with cheese and pepper

Cacio e pepe

Simply meaning ‘cheese and pepper’ in many central Italian dialects, that’s exactly what the sauce is, but it’s not that simple to master. It uses a sharp pecorino cheese – and lots of it – tossed with pepper and a dash of starchy pasta water to bind it all together.

Roasted veal with prosciutto and sage

Saltimbocca

This classic Roman dish is a thin piece of veal wrapped in prosciutto and sage, then cooked to perfection. If you’re looking for all the Italian flavours wrapped into one without being pizza or pasta, saltimbocca may be the ideal choice.

Must-try dishes in Emilia Romagna (Bologna)

Wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano on wooden board

Traditional products

Emilia Romagna is known for some of Italy’s best produce, like balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese. You might be able to taste DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin) balsamic vinegar in an acetaia in Modena and sample some Parmigiano Reggiano, perhaps purchasing the best of the best to take home with you.

Mortadella slices on bruschetta

Mortadella

A staple on any menu in Bologna, mortadella is a large Italian pork sausage, flavoured with spices including whole black pepper, myrtle berries and pistachios. Sliced thinly, it’s a perfect meal starter, and features heavily on local antipasto spreads.

White truffles garnish fresh spaghetti

Truffles

Truffle hunting, anyone? Among other varieties, the white truffles are found growing close to the roots of oak, poplar and linden trees and have a fragrant and robust flavour, perfect paired with a cheesy, creamy pasta sauce.

Bolognese ragu sauce on fresh pasta

Bolognese sauce (ragu)

News just in: Bologna is home to Bolognese. Locally known as ragu, there are different variations, but it’ll usually include beef, pork or veal slow-cooked in a tomato and red wine sauce. Spoon over tagliatelle and shave some parmesan on top, and you’re in heaven.

Vegetarian and vegan options in Italy

Eating a vegetarian or vegan diet in Italy is relatively easy compared to other European countries. Italian menus rely heavily on tomatoes, eggplant, potato and beans, so eating your way through Italy will be a plant-based adventure for all travellers.

The main staples – pizza and pasta – have so many variations, many of them vegetarian. Traditional Italian pizza bases are simply made of flour, salt and water. Pasta can be made with or without eggs, so a good phrase to remember is ‘ci sono delle uova?’ (‘Is it made with eggs?’). Many restaurants will mark vegetarian and vegan options on their menus, and if you’re with a local leader, they’ll be able to help you order. Pizzas can also be ordered ‘senza formaggio’ (without cheese).

Now, gelato. The good news for vegan travellers is that Italians have a high rate of lactose intolerance, so most gelatarias will have quite a few dairy-free options. Just look out or ask for gelato ‘senza latte’ (without milk) or ‘soia gelato’ (soy gelato).

Some other useful phrases to learn if you follow a plant-based diet include:

  • Sono vegano/vegana – I’m vegan
  • Non mangio la carne e non mangio i latticini – I don’t eat meat or milk products
  • Senza latte – without milk
  • Senza carne – without meat
  • Senza formaggio – without cheese
  • Avete latte di soia? – do you have soy milk?
  • Ci sono delle uova? – are there any eggs?
  • Fungo – mushroom
  • Melanzana – eggplant/aubergine
  • Fagioli – beans

Click to read what to drink in Italy

Click to return to Italy FAQs

Our tours in Italy

4 Days From 730

See a different side to the Veneto region with this four-day Intrepid Retreat based in...

8 Days From 1165

Travel to Italy on a tour from Rome to Amalfi and explore the best of the region....

14 Days From 2315

Immerse yourself in classic culture, history and incredible sights on this Best of...

8 Days From 1080

See the best of Italy – Venice, La Spezia, Cinque Terre, Florence and Rome – in eight...

15 Days From 1615

Explore charming Central Europe from Germany to Italy on a 15-day Lonely Planet...

Tailor-Made trips

Take two or more on an exclusive trip and tailor your itinerary

8 Days From 1495

Mountains, forests and beaches – soak up the spectacular scenery of Italy’s Amalfi...

10 Days From 2245

Travel to Italy and savour the many flavours of this gastronomic haven on a journey...

8 Days From 1440

Encounter the picturesque hills and olive groves of Tuscany on this cycling adventure...

8 Days From 1170

Set sail across the clear blue waters of Sardinia, exploring rugged coastlines, wild...

8 Days From 2100

Take a small-ship adventure cruise along Croatia's northern coast from Split to Venice....

7 Days From 1397

Sail Italy’s Amalfi Coast, exploring the Bay of Naples, Capri, Amalfi and Procida...

10 Days From 1180

Travel with Lonely Planet and Intrepid from Split to Venice in 10 days, stopping at...

8 Days From 1510

Walk into a world that's a play of colourful houses and blue sea as you amble between...

15 Days From 2775

Visit Spain, France and Italy on this European adventure. Discover gothic architecture...

10 Days From 1610

Take a tour through Italy’s less-visited southern region, absorbing the beauty of...

4 Days From 721

Set sail along Italy’s Amalfi Coast in four days with Intrepid, cruising to the scenic...

4 Days From 721

Sail Italy’s Amalfi Coast from the colourful village of Procida, through ancient worlds...

15 Days From 2860

Discover the secrets of Calabria and the highlights of Sicily on this 15-day adventure...

15 Days From 1445

Discover Central Europe on this 15-day journey from Germany to Italy. Start in Berlin,...

10 Days From 2115

Make your way from Venice to Vienna on this ten-day adventure, taking in the delights...

8 Days From 2730

Cruise the Adriatic coast, navigating the coastlines of Croatia, Montenegro, Albania,...

8 Days From 1800

Pamper the appetite and treat the senses on this exquisite journey through Italy’s Lake...

22 Days From 2720

Discover Central Europe’s most romantic cities on a 22-day Lonely Planet Experience...

8 Days From 2100

Intrepid's 8-day adventure cruise down Croatia's northern coast. Visit Krk, Zadar,...

8 Days From 1340

Visit Italy and tour through the countryside of Umbria. Travel to Italy's sacred sites...

15 Days From 2660

Discover la bella Italia on this intoxicating Italy Uncovered tour. Travel from Venice...

21 Days From 3670

Discover why Italy is one of the world's premier destinations on this culture-rich tour...

19 Days From 2075

Experience Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, Serbia,...

22 Days From 2780

Discover Central Europe and Italy on this 22-day journey from Germany to Italy. Start...

8 Days From 1510

See Italy in the cooler months, hitting Rome, Florence, Pisa and Bologna before...

8 Days From 1810

Explore the traditional delights of Italian cuisine while travelling through the...

8 Days From 1175

Travel from Venice to Rome and the Vatican via Florence and Italy's riviera. The...

8 Days From 1630

From the ruins of Rome, to the ancient city of Pompeii and the seaside delights of...

17 Days From 2830

Kick off this Roman holiday in Rome, the heart of Italy. Live history as you explore...

8 Days From 1810

Visit Venice, Cinque Terre, Pisa and Rome on an exciting 8-day family holiday through...

24 Days From 4125

From Venetian canals to the busy Bari port, explore the best of Italy on this...

36 Days From 5240

Visit Spain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic and Italy plus a host of secrets in...

8 Days From 2220

Join Intrepid’s very first vegan-themed trip in Italy, from Venice to Rome via Bologna,...

15 Days From 3680

Indulge your tastebuds on a tour of northern and southern Italy, from Venice to Bologna...

15 Days From 3920

Take in Croatia’s beauty while sailing from Dubrovnik to Italy's Venice, dropping...

17 Days From 2195

Enjoy a European tasting platter on this 17-day Lonely Planet Experience, powered by...

26 Days From 3125

Set out from Hungary with Lonely Planet and Intrepid to the cultures and cuisines of...

8 Days From 1840

Indulge your taste buds on a tour of southern Italy, visiting Rome, Bari, Matera and...

29 Days From 4160

Spain, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary,...

22 Days From 4040

Travel to Pompeii, Amalfi, the Aeolian Islands, Taormina and Mt Etna on a tour from...

36 Days From 5185

Madrid, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Budapest, Krakow, Ljubljana, Venice – an...

43 Days From 6205

Embark on a classic 43-day European Lonely Planet Experience that passes by Valencia,...

29 Days From 5420

Travel on an epic journey from Venice to Sicily and explore the best of Italy. This...

23 Days From 4305

See northern Italy’s iconic sights and taste quintessential cuisine on a 24-day trip...

15 Days From 3920

Meet your group in Venice and then set sail from Opatija, dropping anchor at Krk, Rab,...