Culinary Tour of Italy
There are 20 regions in Italy, each with its own distinctive — and delicious — culinary traditions. Since the cooking styles are hyper-regional, you could stumble upon very different foodie experiences in towns that are a mere 3 miles apart. To some, trying to taste the most from a region in only 3 (OK, 5) meals a day may sound daunting. To us, it sounds like an adventurous challenge. Pull up a seat and embark on a culinary tour from Tuscany to Sicily.
As with all regions in Italy, uniquely bold food traditions pervade the area, such as a liberal use of beans, hearty soups, crusty loaves, fennel-scented salami and sheep’s-milk cheeses. Chianina cattle and wild boar -- or cinghiale -- are among the prized Tuscan meats, and locals enjoy stuffed pastas like ravioli. Wash it all down with a bold local red like a Brunello di Montalcino, a Chianti or a Super Tuscan. After all, Tuscany produces some of the best-loved wines in all of Italy.
The medieval city of Verona, also in this region, pulls a fair amount of fish from lakes and rivers. And while most Italian desserts are simple and on the less-sweet side, the beloved tiramisu supposedly has its roots in the Veneto region. We also have Veneto to thank for Prosecco, Soave, Valpolicella and Amarone wines.
Piedmont is also the home of fonduta -- a cheese dip similar to fondue but enhanced with truffles and egg yolks -- and bagna cauda, an olive oil-based dip deepened with anchovies and …. more truffles. The region’s wines include the unparalleled Barolo and Barbaresco, their vines benefiting from time spent on cool mountain slopes.
The ancient coastal cities of Bari and Brindisi draw tourists to the east side of the Italian peninsula. Inland, the warm, arid plains are ideal for growing wheat and vegetables, which find their way into the produce-heavy, pasta-and-bread-focused cuisine of the region. Ear-shaped orecchiette is a particularly beloved pasta here. On the peninsula’s western coast, the city of Taranto -- on the cusp of both Mare Piccolo and Mare Grande -- is a shellfish heaven, especially for mussels. Wines here aren’t as well-known as those Tuscan superstars, yet Puglia is an abundant wine producer, making everything from the robust Brindisi to the subtle Locorotondo.
Dessert is typically a much bigger deal in Sicily than in many other regions of Italy -- perhaps because citrus fruits and nuts grow so abundantly here. This island is also the birthplace of cannoli, meltingly light pignoli cookies and granita, a semi-frozen dessert made from water and various flavors like lemons and almonds. They pair well with a glass of Marsala wine, which also hails from Sicily.