15 Must try Foods in Italy (and where to get them)

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Let there be no ambiguity here: I purely choose to revisit Italy again and again and again because of the food. Its what lures me back. Sure, the scenery is gorgeous no matter where you are – on the coastline, in the Northern lakes district or floating down a canal in Venice… but the food is what draws me back every single time.

Below is a list (take it as a check list, if you will) of the best foods to try in Italy. Being a vegetarian myself I only every indulge in a handful of these (making up for in sweets what I lack by way of savoury selections), however to be fair to the meat eaters I have included all the most popular dishes and where to find them.

It should also be noted that Italian food isn’t really Italian food. Each region in Italy specialises in something – be that a certain dish or type of cooking – so really, you should aim to eat regional in Italy. Thus I have also included where to find the best, most authentic version of each dish to really help you taste the flavours of Italy!

Italian foods you must try

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I’ll start this list with my all time favourite (and perhaps yours) – Gelato. As a huge fan of ice cream for my past 20-something years of existence, I was in a world of delight when I first arrived in Italy at 17 years of age and tasted my first gelato. Coming from a small town on an island in Australia, I had never tried gelato until this point, which is probably a good thing in hindsight as no gelato across the world will ever compare with the Italian’s. My favourite gelaterias across Italy are tried and tested (usually at least 10 times) and include:

Florence – La Carraia // Rome – Gelateria I Caruso // Milan – Il Massimo del Gelato // Sorrento – Primavera


Originating in the region of Veneto, Tiramisu is an Italian classic dessert that has swept the world by storm. You’ll find many variations on the classic dish and in all honesty, sometimes a more contemporary take outdoes the original… but in Italy it is hard to come by a bad house-made Tiramisu!

In Rome check out Flavio al Velavevodetto for a perfectly portioned individual serving.

Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta, a creamy white dessert topped often with a drizzle of caramel sauce is said to originate from the region of Piedmont in Italy. Panna Cotta is light but holds itself with just enough solidity to not fall apart on the plate, but still fall apart in your mouth. A true Italian delight!

In Rome check out Pompi Cafe & in Venice be sure to try the Panna Cotta at La Bitta.


The origins of Carbonara are extraordinarily vague, however as it is a pasta dish we know it invariably comes from Italy, we’re just not sure which region to be precise (it is subject to much debate). The dish is usually served with spaghetti pasta in Italy, though you will find different variations throughout Italy and the world, with some chefs using fettucine, rigatoni, linguine, or even bucatini. The dish consists of a light eggy sauce, cheese, bacon, and pepper (traditionally there is no cream, peas or mushrooms as you might have tried back home).

Rome – Da Danilo // Da Sergio // Da Enzo // Milan – Ristorante Da Oscar // Florence – Antico Noè // Venice – Al Chianti

Where to find the Best Pizza in Naples

Margherita Pizza

This year I finally made it to Naples and let me be frank: I came here to try the pizza. Naples, a sprawling city in the Campania region, is the birthplace of pizza. The pizza in Naples comes in a variety of variations – large, small, crispy, doughy, lots of toppings, sparse toppings… you name it. There’s no denying this will be your best experience (in the world, ever), though a few of the faves have opened up stores in New York City, so you can also find a great pie there.

Naples – Da Michelle, Pizzaria Starita, Di Matteo


Who doesn’t love bruschetta!? This breaded dish can be ordered anywhere in Italy as a starter and you just know you can’t go wrong. The dish has its origins in central Italy but can be found in nearly every restaurant throughout the country, sometimes being offered complimentary to start an evening meal. Bruschetta is made with garlic rubbed bread, topped with a variation of toppings including tomatoes, cheese, onion, cured meats and/or vegetables.

Its hard to go wrong with this Italian staple and you’ll find bruschetta available almost everywhere!


This Sicilian regional dish is a popular antipasto made with eggplant, olives, capers and celery. Caponata is a great option for vegetarians in the summer time (the sun down South can get extremely overwhelming!) and of course you’ll find the best caponata at its origins in Sicily.

Focaccia Bread

Foccacia bread is made flat, plain inside, but topped with the likes of olives, olive oil and a variety of herbs. This is an easy dish to try and recreate back home, and luckily you will find the standard of foccacia bread fairly similar across Italy.

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Aubergine Parmigana

When in Campania you simply cannot go without trying the Aubergine Parmigiana, or in Italian you will find it on the menu as Melanzane alla Parmigiana. Being a vegetarian I can sometimes find it difficult eating abroad, however in Italy this is my absolute go-to dish. Essentially the dish consists of baked eggplant covered in a rich tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.

The best parmigiana I had was in Positano at Le Tre Sorelle.


You might immediately notice I didn’t type “Spaghetti Bolognese”, because in Italy, this dish isn’t necessarily served with spaghetti pasta! In fact, bolognese was born in Bologna, where the dish is most certainly not served with spaghetti, which instead hails from the South of Italy. Just order a “Tagliatelle alla Bolognese” and you’ll be fine.

The best Bolognese in Bologna can be found, well, anywhere in restaurants throughout the city!


As soon as you arrive in Italy you might realise the coffee culture here is very different to anywhere else in the world. First of all, the Italians are very passionate about their coffee. Second of all, it is all about the glorified espresso! Sure, you can still order different coffees (if you prefer your coffee less strong, order a caffè Americano).

Rome – Rosati // Milan: Biancolatte // Florence: Scudieri // Venice: Torrefazione Cannaregio


There is again a little contention when it comes to discerning the origins of ravioli, but the earliest records show ravioli in both Tuscany and Venice… but any further discussion would be speculation, so I shall avoid at all costs!

When in Rome drop by Trattoria Monti for a spectacular ravioli in typical Italian home-style cooking.

Sorrento Italy


Would this be a complete Italian foods list without lasagna!? The answer is most definitely no. As a vegetarian I love trying veggie alternatives on the classic dish, though if you eat meat you really can’t go past the classic lasagna with that rich bolognese sauce (10 years ago before vegetarianism it was one of my favourite dishes my mother cooks!)

To play it safe and follow the recommendation of a meat eater, check out these 15 Best Places for lasagna in Rome.

Creamy Gnocchi

Again, many regions lay claim to gnocchi; a potato dumplings that is thick, heavy & hearty. Usually served in a creamy sauce, gnocchi is incredibly indulgent but entirely delicious – you must try it at least once!

You’ll find gnocchi on menus everywhere but for my preference, I order it only at those swanky restaurants where you pay way too much for way too little food, but when it comes to gnocchi a little goes a long way!


You might be surprised to see prosciutto on the list as I’ve been a vegetarian for far longer than I have been travelling, but my boyfriend tells me it absolutely cannot go ignored on a list of must eat foods for Italy! Essentially prosciutto is a flavorous dry-cured ham that can be found all throughout Italy.


happy eating!

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    May 29, 2016 at 6:25 am

    Hello Sara,
    if you are looking for a restaurant in Palermo, you should first try the street food. The food, in Sicily, as elsewhere in Italy is outstanding. An historical place where to eat in Palermo is the “Antica Focacceria San Francesco”. Here you’ll find a lot of local speciality, also take-away food. Have nice trip to our country! ;D

    May 27, 2016 at 11:10 am

    Any advice for restaurants in Palermo? Though, honestly, I feel that everything in Italy tastes so good!

    Elaine McCollum
    May 22, 2016 at 1:12 am

    Hi Brooke, Thank you for this wonderful list. I just wondered why you didn’t list Vivoli for gelato in Florence. It is expensive, but to me it is still the best.

    soham jain
    May 21, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Looking at the great food……its mouth watering….

    May 16, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    Amazing post, great pictures! I went to Italy last summer (region of Veneto) and all I can think about is going back <3 And just like you, food is the main reason 🙂

    Chanel | Cultural Xplorer
    May 15, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    Italy is an amazing place with SO much amazing food. I too have dedicated posts to the deliciousness that oozes out of that country. Great list of suggestions for the regions I have yet to visit!

    Heritage India Tour
    May 14, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    Wow, I wish taste all the fifteen food recipes, All looks very delicious and nice, Taste of these foods are really very cool. I am really thankful for sharing these items. I am indian and indian recipes is popular and delicious in taste, I would invite you india for taste some special food.

    Marsha McLean
    May 14, 2016 at 7:51 am

    In Italy one must stop at every gelateria! How else can you know which is the best? Actually, though, Grom is pretty amazing. In Venice, there is a stall in Campo san Cassiano (San Polo) that serves a pineapple gelato that is life-altering. Pineapple, sugar, frozen.

    Cory (youcouldtravel)
    May 12, 2016 at 3:16 am

    My fav thing to eat in Italy is actually the gelato. I remember having this forest fruit amazingness in Rome. Gosh, I loved it. Eating gnocchi is my second fav thing in Italy!

    Gayatri Mantra
    May 11, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    This is perfect. Italian food has no comparison and I will definitely be bringing this check list along with me next time I visit…

    May 11, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    No I´m craving Lasagne. Italian food is just the best. Don´t know how they do it, but everything always tastes good. At least I haven´t had a single bad experience eating, while in Italy.

    May 11, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Between this post and Masterchef there is now no way I can resist cooking up the biggest bowl of ravioli anyone has ever seen. And I mean EVER seen. As in I plan to be in a ravioli-induced food coma for the next week. Dinner plans sorted 🙂

    May 11, 2016 at 8:58 am

    Great post. We are planing a trip to Italy this summer 🙂
    cannot wait…

    May 11, 2016 at 5:04 am

    This post got me so hungry

    May 11, 2016 at 1:34 am

    Hello Brooke! Amazing post!
    You must visit the North East of my country. Here we have different food from what you have mentioned. I invite you to visit my region and taste the sweet gnocchi, stuffed with jam or fresh fruit according to the season with buttered and sweetened breadcrumbs and cinnamon or “canederli”, a sort of dumplings with speck and local cheese , one of the favourite dish by the tourists who visit Trentino!

    May 10, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    When I visited Italy, all I ate was pizza, pasta, and gelato! So yeah your guide is so perfect for foodies! Thanks for sharing!

    May 10, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    All 15 I ate in Venice and Rome! Love this post, makes me want to book the next flight to Italy!

    May 10, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    Just a note: in Italy, we do not say “lasagna” but “lasagne”.

    Pompi is a cool place (I used to go there every day when I lived in Rome, as I worked nearby), but has been drawing lots of attention in the last couple of years announcing it would close in October 2014, then staying open, and pretty much suing anybody who dares criticize it!

    conor rees
    May 10, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    After reading this and realising you have no food in the house I’m starting to get extremely hungry

    May 10, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Looks yumm!
    going to Italy soon! Very excited to try it all!
    Hey Brooke, how do you usually get Italian Visa? In the embassy in Sydney ?
    There is such a long queue for an appointment.. Looks scary! Hope I can make it..

    May 10, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    This list is amazing! I’ve only had the chance to try about half the items listed, so I guess I’ll have to go back and try them all 🙂

    Kate |

    May 10, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    Such a great list! I’m living in Florence at the moment and eating way too much italian food. My number one foodie tip for Florence is to go to the Central Market. The top floor of the market is a groovy food court full of bars and awesome food places; they have some of the best pizza in Florence there (Napoli style), amazing pasta and even vegan and vegetarian burgers. It’s basically foodie paradise.

    And of course you can’t miss aperitivo!

    harry hepden
    May 10, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    Oh wow, This makes me even more exited for my trip to italy this summer. When I last visited Florence & Pisa in october the tiramisu and what seemed like endless flavors of gelato where one of my favorite things. (personal favorite flavor – Nutella)

    April | April Everyday
    May 10, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    I LOVE italian food! If I could eat it every single day of my life I definitely would! When we visited last year, I think the thing that I was most excited about was trying the ‘proper’ italian food! One of my favourites was the gelato at a little ice-cream shop, said to be the oldest in Rome, called Giolitti! The queue was out the door, but it was so worth the wait. Best gelato I’ve ever tried!
    xo April |

    May 10, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    I was in Venice last September and my boyfriend took me to Torrefazione Cannaregio, I tried their tiramisu 🙂 heaven!

    May 10, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Ahhh this makes me miss Italy! I was obsessed with the Kinder Surprise Gelato. Actually Kinder Surprise everything 😛

    the adventurer
    May 10, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Yum! I could eat my way through italy too! All of these looks so delicious I can’t wait for my next trip to Italy! =o)

    May 10, 2016 at 8:44 am

    Theres an AMAZING gelato place in Rome called “Gelateria La Romana” i really recommend! Amazing desserts there too.

    May 10, 2016 at 8:09 am

    My goodness, reading this at dinner time isn’t helping lol. Nice post.

    May 10, 2016 at 7:10 am

    I want that pizza so much!

    Debby Waite
    May 10, 2016 at 6:53 am

    Yum! Definitely looking forward to the gelato in Italy!

    May 10, 2016 at 6:30 am

    Oh wow! Everything looks AMAZING! I’ve always wanted to go to Italy, mainly for the food.. haha Italian food is definitely my fave and that snickers ice cream looks so good! Thanks for sharing and making me super hungry! Haha

    Sophie xo