It’s no secret that Italy is a country filled to the brim with incredible food. Divided into 20 regions, we covered the more popular ones in Part I but there are still hidden gems found in the remaining regions. Read on to find out about local specialties in these 10 delicious regions in Italy.
1. Valle D’Aosta (capital city: Aosta)
While Valle D’Aosta may be the smallest Italian region, usually quiet apart from peak winter when mountain goers arrive to enjoy Italy’s best ski resorts. With such a mountainous terrain, many of its local dishes are hearty and filling. Pasta isn’t as common as gnocchi with several types frequenting kitchens in the region. Dairy farming is also an important industry with the famous fontina cheese being produced here.
Must-try meals: Favo (pasta & bean soup thickened with rye bread and cheese); Pasta alla Valdostana (Fontina cheese and ham pasta); buckwheat flour gnocchi with savoy cabbage & speck.
2. Trentino Alto Adige (capital city: Trento)
Trentino Alto Adige is Italy’s northernmost region. It shares a border with Austria, so you will find food like spatzle and sachertorte commonly made. Food names often don’t sound Italian either! Try schlutzkrapfen (similar to ravioli), speck sandwiches and excellent cheeses given the lush pastures that local cows graze in. The region prides itself on high quality food which can be found even on a budget.
Must-try meals: Schüttelbrot (herb & rye flour flatbread); Carne salada (cured meat salad); Canederli (flour & bread dumplings in broth or cooked in butter)
3. Friuli Venezia Giulia (capital city: Trieste)
Sometimes referred to as just Friuli, the region is surrounded by mountain ranges and the sea so many of its dishes have a Mediterranean flair. Seafood is plentiful, polenta is king (compared to rice and pasta) and cured meats are uniquely crafted. In particular, prosciutto San Daniele is considered to be superior to that of Parma’s version. The ham must be air dried in San Daniele itself with the final result sweeter in taste and darker in colour.
Must-try meals: Frico (savoury Montasio cheese pancake); Capesante gratinate (scallops baked in breadcrumbs and parsley butter); Savor (sardines in a sweet & sour onion sauce).
4. Emilia Romagna (capital city: Bolgona)
If you’re a pasta-lover, this is the region for you. Emilia Romagna is famous for its fresh pastas, many of which are stuffed for a full-on flavour bomb. While eating your way around this region, you’ll also come across the spicy mortadella cured sausage, the iconic parmigiano reggioano cheese, and of course, prosciutto di Parma.
Must-try meals: Bolognese ragù (pork & beef sauce with fresh tagliatelle); Peperonata (side dish of stewed peppers); Zuppa Inglese (Italy’s version of a trifle).
5. Marche (capital city: Ancona)
While surrounded by prominent tourist regions, you’d be silly to overlook Marche! Half of the region sits along Italy’s coastline so you can expect seafood, but also barbecued meats, sweet pastries and moreish pasta dishes. A popular way of cooking is to deep fry so you’ll be treated to crispy delights everywhere.
Must-try meals: Olive all’ascolana (stuffed, crumbed and fried olives); Brodetto (fish stew); Coniglio in porchetta (rabbit rolled in prosciutto).
6. Abruzzo (capital city: L’Aquila)
Abruzzo is a hidden gem of Italy, having been quite isolated until recently. This has meant that its local cuisine and traditions have been well-preserved. Found towards the southern end of the boot, Abruzzo locals cook simple traditional meals made with humble ingredients – as is common in this part of Italy. Lamb and chillies are common ingredients which certainly makes it a unique (and delicious!) region.
Must-try meals: Arrosticini (BBQ’d lamb skewers); Crostini alla chietina (anchovy & caper crostini); Bocconotti (jam-filled pastries).
7. Molise (capital city: Campobasso)
Formerly part of the Abruzzo region, Molise found its own two feet in 1963. It retains some similarities in the cuisine field as Abruzzo in that it keeps it traditional and simple. Offal, goat and lamb are popular intertwined with locally grown vegetables and herbs, and their pasta game is strong too!
Must-try meals: Pampanella (marinated pork served in a bun); Baccala Arracanato (oven-baked cod); Composta Molisana (fruit & vegetable preserve).
8. Sardinia (capital city: Cagliari)
Known for its pristine waters, Sardinia holds a certain level of independence from Italy. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time with incredibly historic architecture still standing today! With its rugged terrain and mountains, suckling pig and wild boar are plentiful and favourite meats to spit roast or be used in stews.
Must-try meals: Pardulas (puff pastry filled with ricotta, saffron and lemon); lobster stew; Pane Carasau (extremely thin flat bread).
9. Calabria (caiptal city: Catanzaro)
The region of Calabria is home to a tantalising Mediterranean diet, comprised of meat (primarily pork, lamb and goat), vegetables (eggplants are a favourite) and fish. Curing and preserving ingredients is a longstanding tradition with anything from fish to vegetables to meat.
Must-try meals: Morzello in pitta (stewed offal sandwich); Crema reggina (rum-flavoured ice cream); Lagane e cicciari (pasta cooked with chickpeas, garlic and olive oil).
10. Basilicata (capital city: Potenza)
While famous for Matera, its popular cave city, Basilicata also has a great food scene. Locals are known as Lucanians or Lucani, who incorporate cucina povera (peasant food) into their everyday lives. Perhaps its most famous food is Lucanica di Picerno whose recipe for this pork sausage dates back to before the Roman empire existed!
Must-try meals: Ciammotta (fried eggplant stew); Pasta mollicata (tomato-based pasta); Pizza rustica (egg, cheese & cured meat pie).