Thousands of people flock to Italy every Summer. While many visitors are intrigued by the beautiful landscapes and picturesque villages, we guarantee that most people go for the food. The world will forever be grateful to the Italians for inventing pizza, pasta, gelato, prosecco and limoncello. Expect an abundance of these foods when eating in Italy, but be careful with your selections. A few rules to follow when choosing a restaurant, bakery or café are:
Follow the locals
Italy is swarming with people. Sometimes you’ll have a hard time finding any locals when you’re cocooned between hundreds of other tourists on the streets of Venice but persevere. You will find unpretentious, honest and quaint little eateries that are buzzing with Italians and you’ll absolutely always find a great meal there. There’s a famous sandwich cafe in Florence called “All’antico Vinaio”. The locals queue down the street for what is considered and rated as The Best Street Food in Italy. Grab your sandwich and a bottle of wine (they even give you glasses) and enjoy your meal whilst sitting on the pavement outside, just as the locals do.
Stay away from the sights
The restaurants around the big tourist attractions are almost always overpriced, empty and disappointing. Sometimes you’ll need to walk three or four blocks away from a particular museum or monument to find an authentic dining experience in Italy. When in Amalfi, there are great bakeries and pizzerias hidden on the walk between the famous beachfront and the bus station. That’s where you’ll find the best food, and views. Enjoy your meal at the bus stop instead of at an overpriced, unauthentic eatery.
Go to the origin
The best pizza will be found in Naples, Cannelloni was invented by a chef in Sorrento and Bolognaise really does come from Bologna. The best Parma Ham and Parmesan Cheese can be sampled and purchased in Parma, and you’ll find great gelato, Spritz and coffee just about anywhere. Limoncello originates from Southern Italy and is made from the zest of “Sorrento lemons”. When walking the streets in beautiful Sorrento, you’ll find (and walk through) an abundance of lemon groves.
Let them cook for you
Some intimate accommodation options like Airbnb hosts or owners of guesthouses might have a private dining option. If travelling to Italy, it would be worth spending just one night with another family and definitely ask them to cook for you. Don’t be shy, as most Italian mothers (especially) absolutely love cooking and will feel honored by your request. You can eat at dozens of restaurants, but there is something truly magical about having a home cooked meal in the food capital of the world. Don’t miss the opportunity.
There shouldn’t be pictures of food with translations on the menu. Nobody should be trying to usher you into a restaurant. Always ask to see a menu before choosing a restaurant and absolutely never enter a restaurant where someone is trying to call you in from the street.
Don’t pass the salt
Don’t spice anything. Italian food is supposed to be very simplistic, honest and basic. Don’t get into a habit of spicing your meals with extra salt and condiments because you’ll miss the entire experience that way. In fact, the majority of restaurants in Italy don’t even have salt and pepper on the tables.
Don’t be shy
Ask for recommendations when eating in Italy. Keep an eye on a restaurant you’re interested in and ask patrons who are leaving if they enjoyed their meal. You’ll be surprised at how many great-looking eateries you’ll walk away from this way. Your hotel, guesthouse or host will be able to suggest an array of their favourite eateries, so rather opt for solid referrals instead of searching the streets on your own.
Watch your wallet
It shouldn’t be expensive. When eating in Italy, remember that most of the food is very basic with very few ingredients. If you’re paying hundreds of rands for a Pomodoro (tomato) pasta, then you’re at the wrong place. Pay the prices that you imagine the locals do. You will pay a lot more for food on beaches as the waitrons really do struggle in the heat to get your meal to your sun loather, so keep that in mind. As a side note: You pay a hefty entrance fee at private beaches to use their facilities, so factor that in when working out your food budget! Most beaches in Positano are divided into private and public sections, and Arienzo is a firm favourite amongst locals, with fantastic food to match.
Think fresh and local
Eat and shop at the markets. You’ll be doing a lot of walking in Italy, but you’ll also be eating an incredible amount of carbs. Grab pieces of fresh fruit from the local markets to help with both digestion and your budget. Italy is incredibly warm and humid in summer, but you’ll find an abundance of fresh fruit juices, fruit slushies and sliced fruit to snack on as you explore the towns. Ensure that you always have small change with you to grab bites along the way. If you have self catering accommodation then it’s definitely worth your while to find the seafood market in Venice.
The cafeterias at filling stations are phenomenal and with an extensive freshly made food offering. You might find one of your best meals here. The Italians love food and put a lot of love into everything that they create. What you’ll enjoy about the cafeterias is being able to sample a wide variety of classic Italian dishes on one plate. Prepare to be surprised at the most unassuming places when eating in Italy.
Try all the coffee, everywhere
Finding great coffee might be one of your biggest challenges in Italy, because absolutely everyone serves it and every Italian eatery claims to serve the best kind. Whichever kind of coffee you prefer, remember to try it unsweetened to fully experience the taste of their coffee beans. Italians love black espresso without sugar, always paired with a glass of water. Wherever you’re enjoying your coffee in Italy, it will always have the most beautiful view.
Go experience it for yourself, browse Cheap Flights to Italy right now!
We hope you enjoyed this beginner’s guide to eating in Italy. Let us know if you’ve been to Italy before and if you found any great restaurants. Comment below. We’d love to hear from you!