After spending nearly six weeks in Italy over the summer, it's safe to say that I've had my fill of Italian cuisine. While you're probably thinking that I spent six weeks eating pasta, pasta, and more pasta (which is true!), I actually expanded my palate to sample several other Italian dishes throughout Italy's different regions.
If you're planning a trip to Italy, you should know that Italian food varies greatly depending on the area of the country you're visiting – keep reading to find out which foods to try in each of the six main regions!
As the northernmost region of Italy, just under Switzerland, Lombardy is best known for rice and polenta, rather than pasta. In the capital city, Milan, you'll find that many dishes are made with butter and lard rather than olive oil, and meat is eaten more frequently here than in other regions.
Also home to Lake Como and Lake Garda, this area is the birthplace of several cheeses, like Provolone, Robiola, Gorgonzola, and Gran Padano. Be sure to order some osso bucco, made from cross-cut veal shanks with vegetables, white wine, and broth, often served with risotto or polenta.
If you're headed to Italy, you'll likely visit Lazio, home to Italy's largest city: Rome. In this popular area, you can sample several pasta dishes, including bucatini all amatriciana, made from hollow spaghetti, tomato sauce, and crispy bacon. Carbonara is another popular dish - this creamy pasta has a sauce made from egg, cheese, and black peppercorns. And don't forget about cacio e pepe – spaghetti noodles topped with black pepper and freshly grated pecorino cheese.
Lazio is also well known for its fresh zucchini and artichokes – so don't skip out on the veggies while you're here! Artichokes are often prepared in garlic and herb oil, but if this veggie isn't your thing, order the bruschetta instead (the tomatoes here are delicious)!
Home to the beautiful city of Florence, Tuscany produces some of the best olive oil, pecorino cheese, and Chianti wine. More notably, this region is known for its steak alla Fiorentina, a loin steak on the bone grilled until rare. You can also try Panzanella - a salad made from tomatoes, onions, basil, and crumbled bread.
Campania produces fantastic produce, including eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, greens, lemons, and figs. Naples, the capital of this region, is where you'll find some of the best pizzas in the world, and it was actually the birthplace of the world's first pizzeria! Don't forget to munch on some buffalo mozzarella while you're here – it's some of the best.
Situated just off the toe of the "boot," Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean. Its rich volcanic soil produces incredible olives, oranges, lemons, and almonds. You'll also have your choice of locally raised meats, like veal, lamb, pork, and rabbit. In fact, the locals claim that they invented the meatball, also known as a polpetti. Veal Marsala is another must-try staple dish.
Located in Northern Italy, Emilia Romagna is where you'll find the city of Bologna, home to some of the best food in Italy. You can try several cured meats in this area, including prosciutto di Parma, paired with cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano.
Emilia-Romagna was the birthplace of lasagna, so you'll definitely want to put that on your must-try list while you're here. Other native foods include tortellini, bolognese sauce, and balsamic vinegar from Modena. You can't go wrong with ordering a tagliatelle al ragu, also known as spaghetti bolognese.
Whether you're wandering around the streets of Rome or visiting the Tuscan countryside, delicious eats await in Italy. Just don't forget to save some room for gelato for dessert!