7 Best Food Cities in Italy & What to Eat

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If you’re looking for the absolute best food cities in Italy, look no further!

Italy is, without a doubt, a fantastic place to explore. From ancient sites in Tuscany to heartbreaking natural grounds, spicy Mediterranean culture, and the most beautiful city of Milan, your Italy trip is bound to be an incredible experience!

Of course, there is another reason to head to this vibrant country. Italian food is one of the most loved cuisines in the world, and a great reason to plan a trip.

While you can try authentic Italian food in any city or village, there are specific regions that are perfect for foodies. It’s worth mentioning the vast variety of local food in rural areas that is unique in every region. A lot of travelers and hikers having walking holidays in Italy have a unique chance to experience its authentic local dishes. 

If you’re looking for 100% authenticity and the most traditional Italian experience, read on and explore 7 of the best food cities in Italy.

Buon appetito!

Pizza with cheese flavor and one slice slightly remove from the other

Ivan Torres | Unsplash

1. Naples

At number one of the best food cities in Italy, we have a strong winner and one of the most-visited cities in Italy. Naples is all about authenticity, so you are sure to have a great time here!

Neapolitan cuisine dates back to the Greco-Roman period, making it one of the most ancient gastronomy capitals. Over time, the city has endured rulings of Greeks, Romans, Goths, Byzantines, and also kings of France and Spain. Not only did these cultures leave a mark on Naples’s historical development, but food as well!

From Roman sauces, Spanish cakes, and unique culinary tastes implanted by the Greeks, Naples eventually formed into one of the most vital food cities in the world. Honestly, some people go there just for a meal, and that is entirely understandable!

Their top success and the most popular food in Italy, not to mention the rest of the world, is pizza. Sure, you can get pizza anywhere, but only the Neapolitans can make it melt in your mouth with fresh ingredients and unique recipes.

You should also try their seafood! While, generally, Italians are more prone to dairy and vegetables, Naples is the city of seafood. You can find impressive meals of different types of fish or just something incorporated into your usual Italian meal.

Mussels with lemon inside a white bowl

Italian Seafood | Pixabay

2. Rome

Naturally, the capital city is on our list of best food cities in Italy. How could it not be? So many of the world’s cultural aspects have been influenced by the way the Romans used to live. And eat!

If we look back at Ancient Rome, we can actually see some apparent similarities to the present day. Perhaps not in regards to the food itself, but certain mannerisms that have been transported to the 21st century.

For example, you are probably well aware of how late the Italians start their meals. For some, it is quite a cultural shock to see restaurants opening at six o’clock in the evening and supper offered at nine or ten. However, they are simply following the ways of their ancestors.

In times of Ancient Rome, they also used to eat right before going to bed. While they chose light supper rather than a big meal like we do in present Italy, the timing stayed the same. So, if it seems inappropriate or weird to you, just know that some traditions are implanted too profoundly. And it totally works, so we see no problems!

Rome is, of course, the beating heart of culture and entertainment, so going out for a meal is a whole experience. If you are chasing that late supper, we suggest finding a cute place near the city center and trying out their signature meals, like Pasta Alla Carbonara or Gnocchi. Remember the wine!

Baked Gnocchi still in baking pan with some flour at the side

Gnocchi | Pixabay

3. Florence

Continue with your gastronomical adventure and jump on the high speed train from Rome to Florence! This one will definitely surprise you!

What do you imagine if you think of Italian food? Probably pizza, lasagna, pasta, or gnocchi? While these are all true, Florence is widely-popular for a totally different meal. But before that, let’s talk about their food history.

While Italian cuisine is a true conqueror, the Florentine part of it is often overlooked. The city is not known for its menu or top-rated restaurants. And while being the art capital is very important, let’s not forget that they are also geniuses in the kitchen!

The city is considered quite an adventurous one when it comes to food. They are winners in making the best of ingredients that you would probably not consider having on your plate. However, even with that, their cuisine is referred to as rustic and reliable.

The Florentines make cozy and simple meals, even when using bizarre ingredients. The locals also joke about being able to tell the season by a menu in a restaurant or the vendor’s sign. So, safe to say, Florence gastronomy is entirely seasonal and will not offer you a light meal in the winter, just like a heavy warm one in the summertime.

Their most popular and signature meal to make is actually steak. Well-marinated and prepared with fresh Italian herbs, olive oil, and vegetables, the cutlets are to die for! Paired with a glass of top-notch wine, it gives you a lavish meal with the simplest ingredients.

Beef Steak Medium rare with some veggies on the side

Beef Steak | Pixabay

4. Catanzaro

This ancient town is not that well-known, but once you read more about its cuisine, you will agree that it is one of the best food cities in Italy and likely deem it heaven on earth.

It’s a shame more people do not know about Catanzaro. The city is extremely significant to Italy and has many stories of the rise of Baroque architecture, Byzantine culture, and dramatic events over the years. However, you can learn all that in a museum; for now, let’s talk about food!

If Florence offers rustic and reliable cuisine, Catanzaro is everything calm and natural about Italian food. They do not like extravagant menus and tend to stick to their roots – cheese, olive oil, and bread.

However, it is not as tame as it sounds! Their local specialties also include special pasta with provolone cheese, boiled eggs, meat sauce, and grated cheese. Catanzaro chefs also love adding focaccia to everything, even using it as a pita for pasta and other meals!

They are also famously known for liking spiciness. Most of the meals are guaranteed to have some black pepper, or a hot sauce poured on top. It is actually quite un-Italian-like since most of their dishes are of calmer tones and more of a creamy base.

Catanzaro locals are also kings of pastries! The dessert side of Italian cuisine is still only developing, but it’s imperative that you try them out in this city. We recommend the croquette, their signature sweet snack of dried figs, cinnamon, and candied cedar cheese. Pair it with the local Malvasia wine, and you have got yourself a party!

Dried Figs and Other Nuts some are inside a glass container

Dried Figs and Other Nuts | Pixabay

5. Bologna

Back to the bigger cities. Bologna is an extremely popular tourist destination, and while there is plenty of sightseeing to do here, you can easily come to simply eat some good food and enjoy the authentic Italian culture.

Despite Rome’s popularity and Naples’s strong historical heritage, Bologna is known as Italy’s food capital. But why Bologna?

The city is the source of all the essential ingredients that make up Italian cuisine. It gave us balsamic vinegar, mortadella, parmesan cheese, and parma ham. Ingredients without which we could not imagine Italian food.

The city is responsible for some of the most unique Italian meals, ones we all know and love. The whole Emilia-Romagna region is well-versed in egg-based dishes, so you can find plenty of those here. Let’s see what they are!

Firstly, you must try their egg pasta and stuffed pasta, more commonly known as tortellini. It is Bologna’s specialty alongside Ragu Alla Bolognese, a long-cooked meat sauce that non-Italians use in their everyday life, on spaghetti, in lasagna, or other meals.

The other thing that makes Bologna worthy of its name as one of the best food cities in Italy, is its attention to the D.O.P., which is a designation made to ensure the quality of the ingredients. Since this statement is taken very carefully by the locals, you will never get anything else other than fresh, raw ingredients picked from particular Italian regions and inspected thoroughly. In other words – food poisoning in Bologna does not exist!

uncooked pasta on top of Ragu Alla Bolognese Sauce inside white bowl with spoon and fork on the side

Ragu Alla Bolognese Sauce | Pixabay

6. Trieste

Not only is Trieste a lovely colorful city, but it also holds the name of the most unique gastronomic culture in Italy! Of course, the city and its signature meals are still very Italian, but once you know the true origins – it is mindblowing!

Trieste is sandwiched between the Adriatic Sea and Slovenia. And, as is only natural to pick up on your neighbor’s mannerisms and way of life, the coastline applied many features that were solely Slovenian.

Funnily enough, the city was not always a part of Italy. It used to belong to the Habsburg Monarchy and was the main port of the Austria-Hungarian Empire. So naturally, historical culture leaves traces, and while Trieste is now 100% Italian, many of its features, especially culinary ones, are not all that familiar.

The city’s whole culinary fiesta is actually a mix of Italian and Slovenian and has many sides of Slavic, Balkan, and even the Habsburg family traditions, which makes the cuisine in this city hugely unique. Well, as unusual as it is, these multiple cultures made Trieste and its food into what it is today!

First of all, the city has the best coffee! There’s nothing like a good coffee first thing in the morning or on a lazy afternoon. So, enjoy Trieste through their coffee.

The local chefs tend to incorporate way more meat into their meals than what you are used to in Italy, which comes from the central part of Europe. Their signature meal is an impressive breaded pork cutlet filled with ham and cheese, called Ljubljanska, after Slovenia’s capital city.

Give it a try!

pork cutlet with veggies on the side and ketchup

Pork Cutlet | Pixabay

7. Genoa

Last on our list of best food cities in Italy, let’s visit the famous and beautiful Genoa. The city is renowned for its Ligurian culinary traditions and the influence of maritime on their menus.

Genoa was once a half-empty medieval city with not much to show for it, but over the years it became what it is today. A lively bustling, food heaven!

Their top dish and one of the most popular sauces in the world is, of course, the famous and delicious Pesto. Originally from Genoa, there are now many recipe variations of the original basil based sauce. However, in Genoa you will find the best quality Pesto sauce in the world!

I’m sure you’ve probably tried focaccia by now, but I urge you to try Genoan focaccia. This creamy, oily flatbread is one of the most popular food choices here in Genoa, so you can get it anywhere. Our recommendation is to buy it freshly baked at a food market; the warm and newborn focaccia is like nothing else on earth!

There are numerous places to eat in Genoa, so you can’t go wrong. Pick one on the shore, in the central part of the city, or even in the villages – the food is just as good!

Genoa - Focaccia Bread on top of a wooden chopping board

Focaccia Bread | Pixabay

7 Best Food Cities in Italy – Summary

So there you have it! The seven best food cities in Italy.

No matter which city you visit, if you’re a fan of Italian food, each and every place will undoubtedly delight your taste buds and make your trip worthwhile.

In fact if you’re a digital nomad, I recommend sampling them all!

Just remember that the locals eat their meals pretty late in the day, so if you go earlier and the restaurants are empty it’s not a sign of a bad experience! You’re just too early.

In the meantime, I hope this article has inspired future travels. Buon appetito e arrivederci!

Guest Post Author Bio

Viktorija Oksaite is currently working as a copywriter and tenders writing services online in Lithuania. More often than not, she creates engaging articles about traveling and planning trips. Viktorija has been writing articles for a few years now, giving her insight into the client’s needs and allowing her to pay more and more attention to details. The aim of her work is to help people pick the perfect destinations and arrange a fulfilling holiday!

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