Italian food is understandably famous the world over, but foodies will want to know that each region has its signature dishes which simply must be sampled. While central Italy’s red-sauce specials such as spaghetti with ragù are most familiar to foreigners, there is so much more scrumptious diversity awaiting travellers, depending on the area they find themselves in.
This guide by provider of luxury Italian villas, PPA Properties, offers a useful overview of the country’s most famous foods by region. Although Italy consists of twenty regions, this guide will explore the culinary marvels of the six most well-known regions.
Emilia-Romagna (Capital: Bologna)
A large and prosperous region of northern Italy, Emilia-Romagna’s signature foods are tortellini (ring shaped pasta), Bolognese sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese), and the famed balsamic vinegar of Modena.
In addition to richly egged pasta, the region favours meat, with the art of curing meat held in high regard – Emilia makes Italy’s best known meat product, prosciutto di Parma.
Lombardy (Capital: Milan)
Located just below Switzerland, the northern Italian region of Lombardy is most famous for risotto (rice cooked in a rich stock) and osso bucco (shin of veal stewed in white wine, broth and vegetables).
In Lombardy, meat is eaten extensively, rice and polenta are more popular than pasta, and butter and lard beat are used more than olive oil. Additionally, it is a prime region for cheese lovers, being the birthplace of famous cheeses such as blue-veined Gorgonzola, soft Taleggio, tangy Provolone, creamy Robiola and hard Gran Padano.
Tuscany (Capital: Florence)
Tuscany, situated in central Italy, is a prime tourist attraction thanks to its many charms. The capital Florence is famed for its magnificent artistic legacy and for historically being the seat of the powerful Medici family. The region’s most famous foods and beverages are Chianti wine, Pecorino (a hard cheese made from ewe’s milk) and bistecca alla Fiorentina (T-bone or Porterhouse steak from the renowned Chianina breed of cattle prized for their tenderness and flavour, grilled rare over a wood fire).
Tuscany is also home to some of Italy’s finest olive oils and bread, which is baked in giant, salt-free loaves and eaten freely in salads and soups. Vegetarians will want to nibble on wonderful bread while spooning delicious vegetable soup known as ribollita.
Lazio (Capital: Rome)
Located on the west coast of central Italy, Lazio’s signature foods are bruschetta (grilled garlic bread topped with tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper), spaghetti alla carbonara (the sauce is made from eggs, cheese, bacon and black pepper), bucatini all amatriciana (hollow spaghetti with tomato, onions and bacon) and artichokes alla Romana (Roman-style artichokes cooked in garlic and herb oil that are popular in spring). The entire region is famous for both fresh and dried pastas.
Campania (Capital: Naples)
Situated in sunny southern Italy, this region is rich for growing thanks to fertile volcanic soil. This gives rise to stunningly flavourful vegetables and fruits such as aubergine, figs, lemons, San Marzano tomatoes, peppers and salad greens.
The legendary claims to fame in this region are buffalo mozzarella, pizza (Naples is home to the first pizzeria ever), calzone (oven baked salted bread filled with a variety of ingredients) and limoncello liqueur (traditionally served after meals).
Sicily (Capital: Palermo)
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, located just off the southern ‘toe’ of mainland Italy. Because it is home to the volcano known as Mount Etna, the soil is rich and gives rise to a bounty of almonds, olives, lemons, blood oranges and more.
The region’s most famous dishes are caponata (a cooked vegetable salad made from chopped, fried aubergine and celery, seasoned with sweetened vinegar and capers in a sweet and sour sauce) and veal Marsala (veal topped with Marsala wine and a mushroom sauce). Sicilians swear they invented the meatball (called polpetti) and they are also extremely fond of spicy tomato sauces.
This essential regional overview of unmissable regional signature foods and drinks by PPA Properties gives holiday makers an excellent culinary starting point however there are so many delicious dishes to sample throughout Italy that you will have new delicacies to look forward to no matter how many time you visit this glorious county.