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Eating your way through Italy

Italy’s rich food and wine heritage is as diverse as it is delicious! There’s no better way to experience the authentic culture and tradition of Italy’s regions than by following your nose and your tastebuds on the Italian food trail.

Tuscany
The picturesque region of Tuscany, home to panforte, pappardelle, porchetta and the world-famous Chianti wine, is one of Italy’s true gastronomy highlights. Tuscany’s earthy rustic fare is renowned for its simplicity and heartiness. The ultimate comfort food, Tuscan cuisine is all about slow-cooking, farm-fresh seasonal produce and long, laid-back lunches with family and friends.

Tuscany’s fertile soils not only produce some of the best grapes and olives in Italy but some of the best game and meat too. The Tuscan diet is rich in wild game, cured meats and home made sausages, as well as legumes, cheese and vegetables.

Meat lovers rejoice! Tuscany’s legendary steak florentine awaits – a three inch porterhouse, marinated simply in olive oil and garlic, grilled over hot coals, and served over a bed of arugula or grilled vegetables. 
The region is also famous for its porchetta, roast suckling pig, served with a crusty loaf of pane toscano and a wedge of cheese made with sheep’s milk, as well as for the classic bean soup, ribollita, thickened with day old bread.

Pappardelle pasta is a staple on most Tuscan menus too often served with a rich sauce such as hare or duck and no culinary visit to Tuscany would be complete without sampling the local truffles. Strong and pungent, the white truffle is cut very thin and used to flavor risotto’s, pasta and meat dishes.

Naples
Few foods are more synonymous with Italy than pizza, and while you’re sure to find great pizza everywhere you go in Italy, nothing competes with sampling some of Italy’s best in Naples.

There’s pizza and then there’s Neapolitan Pizza, so much so that most restaurants in Naples will proudly display the “Vera Pizza Napoletana” sign out front, which means theirs are certified by the pizza governing body as being true examples of the traditional Neapolitan pizza pie.

Pizza in Naples is eaten with a knife and fork, and they come as a single-serving, not sliced. Pick a Napalese pizza up with your hands at your own peril -  the cheeses are fresh, which means there’s a higher water content that makes its way onto the base when it’s cooked which can make for messy eating. Like elsewhere in Italy, the toppings are simple in Naples too -  no tandoori chicken here! Think margherita, the classic made with red tomatoes, white mozzarella cheese and a few leaves of fresh green basil, Siciliana with mozzarella and eggplant or Diavola with spicy salami. Bellisimo!

Bologna
One of Bologna’s many nicknames is “La Grassa” or “The Fat One” which alludes to both the city’s excellent food and its relative wealth - but eating out in Bologna is far from expensive. In fact, it’s almost impossible to pay a lot of money for great, authentic fare in what is arguably Italy’s culinary heartland. 

Bologna is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy – a heavyweight when it comes to Italian gastronomy and where, amongst other Italian delicacies, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, prosciutto, and balsamic vinegar are all made.

Bologna itself is most famous for its tortellini in brodo, or tortellini pasta served in a light broth, its lasagna (nuff said), mortadella (pork sausage, but definitely not the processed faux kind you might remember from school lunch sandwiches) and of course it’s famous namesake, Bolognese sauce. You won’t find ‘Spaghetti Bolognese’ on the menu in Bologna though – the rich meaty tomato sauce we all know and mostly love is actually called ‘ragu’ in Bologna and its Tagliatelle al Ragú is amongst the mouthwatering signature dishes of this traveler-friendly foodie town.

Sicily
The island of Sicily has a unique cuisine reflecting it’s eclectic history and cultural influences. Most of the dishes you’ll find in Sicily will seem Italian – pasta is a staple, as are fresh vegetables and local fish – but some of the flavours that find their way onto your plate aren’t common anywhere else in Italy – pistachoes, almonds, chickpeas, even cous cous, reflecting culinary influences from Arabia, North African, Spain and Greece. It makes for a flavor palate that’s truly unique in Italy.

One of Sicily’s signature dishes is Caponata, an eggplant dish made with sweet vinegar and as you’d expect of an island, seafood is popular and plentiful. Sardines are a common accompaniment to pasta, or served pan friend with vegetables. Sicilians also like their fried treats, including Palermos famous fried chick-pea fritters and arancini – deep-fried balls of rice filled with meat sauce or mozzarella.
Sicily is heaven for the sweet tooth too with local delicacies including cannoli and gelato – and in Sicily, gelato is often served in a sweet brioche bun – decadent but delicious!

What's the most delicious thing you ate in Italy? Tell us about it in the comments section below or head to twitter and Facebook to upload images for other travellers.

If you're ready to take your tastebuds on a journey, check out all our trips to Italy. There's bound to be something that gets your mouth watering!