A foodie’s travel itinerary for Italy—where to begin? When it comes to food, Italy is in a league of its own, with so many possible itineraries and meal choices for every palate. Yes, Italian food is available outside of Italy, but the fresh, local ingredients make Italian food jump to another level when you’re there! If you need a reason to travel, or need a reason to see Italy at all, food is certainly a good one.
Italy has 20 different regions, each unique with its own food specialties. A single travel itinerary with all 20 regions would be a dream come true! But to be more realistic, this foodie travel itinerary includes a few hand-picked regions this time (with a return trip to follow).
A great starting point for your foodie travel itinerary is Venice. Tourists are everywhere, and the streets are always packed. The main walking routes offer quick Italian takeout foods like slices of pizza, baked goods, and gelato. When you venture off the main routes, you’ll find side streets and squares or “piazzas” where the locals are. The small neighbourhoods with cafes and restaurants are where you’ll enjoy an authentic Italian meal. Venice is not particularly known for a cuisine of its own, but you’ll find seafood and pasta aplenty.
If you’re a fan of stone oven pizza, the birthplace of pizza, Naples, must be on your itinerary. In the 18th century, an inventive chef was said to have added tomato to traditional Roman focaccia flat bread. Authentic Neapolitan pizza has a thin crust, flavorful sauce and a dusting of cheese.
Among the many pizzerias in Naples, there are a couple that stand out. Gino’s is Italian-style fast food, and pizza at its best. Big, delicious, and ready in 5 minutes. You’ll be lining up for a table unless you book in advance, but it’s well worth the wait. The Neapolitans also head to Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba—the oldest pizzeria in the world, dating back to 1830. Even with just the traditional ingredients, there is a marked difference in taste.
The Amalfi Coast is all about the views, and getting there adds to the excitement. From Naples, we drive south along the highway, then onto the winding roads of Sorrento and its long mountain tunnel. Positano, most famous for its incredible coastal views, is our first destination on the Amalfi Coast. It also has some of the region’s top hotels, including Le Sirenuse, with its Michelin-starred restaurant, La Sponda. It’s not cheap by any means, but well worth the 5-star experience. Down on the beach, there are some great restaurants including Chez Black and Le Tre Sorelle–both highly rated and right beside each other. From Positano, you can easily make day trips to Amalfi, Ravello, Scala and others.
A foodie’s trip to Rome is akin to the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain. Within the ancient city and its grand architecture lie restaurants that combine fresh ingredients into simple dishes. Perhaps the best example is the classic Roman dish, Cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper). This dish is made with 3 ingredients – black pepper, pecorino romano cheese, and pasta (normally spaghetti). A gastronomic euphoria takes over when these ingredients combine to create a dish that has been indulged since ancient Roman times.
Roman food also has the adept ability to use “poor man’s” ingredients known as quinto quarto. These are the animal parts that are often frowned upon including tongue, tripe, brain, and liver. If you’re adventurous, you’ll enjoy trying these dishes. If you’re a picky eater, why not give quinto quarto a try under the adage ‘when in Rome!’
Hostaria Costanza is the place to go for traditional old Roman dining. Built from the ruins of Pompey’s Theatre, Hostaria Contanza is overflowing with Roman/Italian atmosphere. Some of my favourites include fried artichokes with cheese stuffed zucchini flowers, crepes funghi e tartufo (mushroom and truffle), ravioli di carciofi (ravioli with artichokes) and a tender beef fillet with Barolo wine sauce. And of course, all meals are enjoyed a little more with a glass of the house red wine.
There are so many reasons to include Tuscany in your foodie Italian travel itinerary. The wine, the food, the scenery and the people. Among the many wines, the Classico Chianti (with the black rooster on the bottle neck) stands out. The other well-known wine in the area is the Super Tuscan, blended from Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. Among the very best wineries to get a Super Tuscan (and other quality wines) is Villa San Andrea. The small 400-year-old winery provides an intimate tour and wine tasting for just 10 Euros.
Among the many places to visit in Tuscany are Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, Montalcino and of course, Florence. You really can’t go wrong wherever you go, but San Gimignano stands out. It’s an amazing, well-preserved medieval village with several small hotels, shops, museums, and Tuscan restaurants.
My favourite restaurant is Le Vecchie Mura. It has both a restaurant inside and an outside terrace area across the lane. Authentic dishes feature pasta, steak, rabbit, deer, wild boar and of course, local wine. Eating a Tuscan meal overlooking Tuscany views is hard to beat.
An experienced travel agent will save you time and money in planning your foodie travel itinerary for Italy. You’ll need to book airfare, accommodations and a car rental to make this dream trip a reality. Start planning and get packing–and bring your appetite!