Italy’s Culinary Delights: Food, Drink, and Dessert to Try on Vacation

Vacationing in Italy is an extraordinary experience for foodies, as the country offers a wealth of traditional culinary delights and drinks to savor. Every meal becomes an unforgettable journey through Italy’s rich gastronomic heritage, from the first bite of a freshly baked pizza Margherita to the last sip of a velvety espresso. 

Exploring the regional specialties is a must, whether indulging in the delicate flavors of risotto alla Milanese or savoring the robustness of a Tuscan bistecca alla Fiorentina. Accompanying these exquisite dishes are traditional drinks like limoncello, grappa, and the beloved Aperol Spritz, perfectly complementing the flavors and creating a truly immersive culinary experience. 

Italy’s three major regions—Northern Italy, Central Italy, and Southern Italy—offer unique and distinct food and wine experiences. With every bite and sip, travelers are transported to the heart of Italian culture, surrounded by centuries of culinary mastery.

Arancini

Arancini, Italian Food
Photo Creidt: [@LiudmylaChuhunova/DepositPhotos]

A Sicilian specialty of deep-fried rice balls stuffed with various fillings like ragù (meat sauce), mozzarella, and peas.

Osso Buco

Osso buco, Italian Food
Photo Credit: [@ ld1976/DepositPhotos]

A Milanese dish of braised veal shanks cooked with vegetables, white wine, and broth, traditionally served with gremolata (lemon zest, garlic, and parsley).

Panzanella

Panzanella, Italian Food
Photo Credit: [@timolina/DepositPhotos]

Tuscan bread salad made with stale bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and basil and dressed with olive oil and vinegar.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Bistecca alla Fiorentina, Italian Food
Photo Credit: [@ april_89/DepositPhotos]

A thick-cut T-bone steak from Florence, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled to perfection, often served rare or medium-rare.

Amatriciana

Amatriciana, Italian Food
Photo Credit: [@timolina/DepositPhotos]

A Roman pasta sauce made with guanciale (cured pork jowl), tomato sauce, Pecorino Romano cheese, and chili flakes, traditionally served with bucatini or spaghetti.

Cannelloni

Cannelloni, Italian Food
Photo Credit: [@timolina/DepositPhotos]

Large pasta tubes filled with meat, cheese, or spinach, baked in the oven with tomato sauce and cheese.

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe, Italian Food
Photo Credit: [@urban_light/DepositPhotos]

A simple pasta dish from Rome made with spaghetti, Pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper, and olive oil.

Risotto alla Milanese

Risotto alla Milanese, Italian Food
Photo Credit: [@IriGri/DepositPhotos]

A creamy rice dish made with Arborio rice, saffron, butter, and Parmesan cheese, originating from Milan.

Cassata Siciliana

Cassata Siciliana, Italian Food
Photo Credit: [@monkeybusiness/DepositPhotos]

A Sicilian dessert made with sponge cake, sweetened ricotta cheese, candied fruits, and marzipan, often decorated with colorful icing.

Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta, Italian Food
Photo Credit: [@genious2000de/DepositPhotos]

A silky dessert made with cream, sugar, and gelatin, often flavored with vanilla or topped with fruit coulis or caramel sauce.

Gelato

Gelato, Italian Food
Photo Credit: [@pitrs10/DepositPhotos]

Italy’s famous frozen dessert is similar to ice cream but with a denser texture and intense flavors. Try flavors like pistachio, hazelnut, or stracciatella.

Aperol Spritz

Aperol Spritz, Italian Beverage
Photo Credit: [@AntonMatyukha/DepositPhotos]

A refreshing and bubbly aperitif made with Aperol. Aperol is an Italian orange-flavored liqueur known for its vibrant orange color and bitter-sweet taste.

Negroni

Negroni, Italian Beverage
Photo Credit: [@veronicaolivotto.francescoitalia.com/DepositPhotos]

A classic Italian cocktail made with equal parts gin, Campari (an Italian bitter liqueur), and sweet vermouth, garnished with an orange twist. It has a bitter and herbal flavor profile.

Vin Santo

Vin Santo, Italian Beverage
Photo Credit: [@Shaiith79/DepositPhotos]

A sweet dessert wine traditionally produced in Tuscany. It’s made from dried grapes and often paired with biscotti or other sweet treats.

Barolo

Barolo, Italian Wine
Photo Credit: [@LuigiB2302/DepositPhotos]

A full-bodied red wine from the Piedmont region known for its rich flavors and aromas of cherry, truffle, and licorice.

Limoncello

Limoncello, Italian Beverage
Photo Credit: [@5PH/DepositPhotos]

A lemon liqueur made by steeping lemon zest in alcohol and sweetening it with sugar. It’s typically served chilled as a digestif.

Prosecco

Prosecco, Italian Beverage
Photo Credit: [@Prosecco/DepositPhotos]

A sparkling wine from the Veneto region, light and refreshing, often enjoyed as an aperitif or used in cocktails like the Bellini.

Grappa

Grappa, Italian Beverage
Photo Credit: [@denio109/DepositPhotos]

A strong, clear brandy made from grape pomace, a byproduct of winemaking. It’s often enjoyed as a digestif.

Food to Try in Italy on Vacation

food to try in Italy
Photo Credit: [@kropic/DepositPhotos]

From the captivating aroma of freshly baked bread to the vibrant colors of farm-fresh produce, every meal celebrates Italy’s culinary heritage. Each region boasts its own distinct specialties, inviting you to embark on a gastronomic adventure that reveals the diverse culinary traditions throughout the country. 

This article originally appeared on Wander With Alex.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandrea Sumuel - Groves is a nationally syndicated travel writer and founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog. Her work has appeared on MSN, YAHOO!, Euronews, and FOX, ABC, and NBC affiliates across the United States. 

Alex travels to experience, eat, explore, and occasionally escape! She collaborates with destinations, vacation property management companies, and hospitality technology firms to provide her readers with exclusive insights and information.