Estimated read time: 12 minutes
The Best Dishes to have in Italy: a culinary journey
written byPlay Italy

Italian cuisine is more than just food—it's a vibrant celebration of local traditions and rich history, each dish offering a story worth savoring. Made with simple, fresh ingredients, Italian dishes range from the creamy risottos of the North to the fresh seafood specialties of the South, weaving a rich tapestry of tastes that embody Italy's diverse culinary landscape. Join us on a journey through Italy's most beloved dishes, where every meal is a discovery and every flavor tells a tale.

Pizza: not just any slice

When you think of quintessential Italian cuisine, pizza often tops the list. Although you can find pizza around the world, nothing matches the experience of enjoying it in its homeland. Naples, the revered birthplace of pizza (yes, please accept this fact), offers the classic Pizza Margherita, a delightful creation topped with fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, and aromatic basil—colors mirroring the Italian flag. This dish isn't just food; it's a piece of cultural heritage, baked to perfection. For a unique twist on the traditional, head to Rome and try Pizza al Taglio. This Roman favorite is known for its thick, crispy crust and is served in rectangular slices, allowing for a variety of inventive toppings. Each bite offers a crispy, chewy texture and a burst of flavors, showcasing the versatility and regional diversity of Italian pizza.
Here’s a list of some of the most popular pizzas you’ll find across Italy, each with its own unique flavors and regional character:

●    Pizza Margherita: the classic pizza from Naples, topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and a drizzle of olive oil. It's simple yet profoundly flavorful.
●    Pizza Marinara: another Neapolitan favorite, this pizza is topped with tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, and extra virgin olive oil, but no cheese - perfect for vegans! It’s a testament to the flavors of the sea, hence the name "Marinara".
●    Pizza Quattro Stagioni: this pizza represents the four seasons with its diverse toppings divided into four sections—artichokes for spring, olives for summer, mushrooms for autumn, and prosciutto for winter.
●    Pizza Capricciosa: a loaded option that typically includes artichokes, ham, mushrooms, and olives, along with tomato sauce and mozzarella. It’s like the Quattro Stagioni but mixed together.
●    Pizza Quattro Formaggi: for cheese lovers, this pizza features a blend of four different cheeses, often mozzarella, gorgonzola, fontina, and parmigiano, creating a rich and creamy flavor profile.
●    Pizza Diavola: spicy and bold, this pizza is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and spicy salami, giving it a kick that spice enthusiasts will appreciate.
●    Pizza Napoletana (or Napoli): characterized by anchovies, capers, and olives, this pizza is pungent and savory, with a distinct taste that brings Naples to mind.
●    Pizza al Taglio: a popular street food in Rome, this pizza is baked in large rectangular trays and sold by the slice. The toppings vary daily, offering a delightful surprise to those who enjoy variety.
●    Pizza Funghi e Salsiccia: mushroom and sausage pizza, commonly found throughout Italy, combines earthy mushrooms with savory sausage over a tomato and mozzarella base.
●    Pizza Bianca: this "white pizza" skips the tomato sauce for a base of olive oil, often topped with a variety of cheeses, garlic, and sometimes greens like arugula or spinach.

Pasta: beyond Spaghetti

Italy's relationship with pasta is a storied affair, intertwining centuries of culinary craftsmanship, regional traditions, and cultural exchanges. Believed to have been introduced to the Italian peninsula during the Arab invasions of Sicily, pasta has evolved into an essential component of Italian cuisine, reflecting the diversity and culinary ingenuity of its people. Over the centuries, pasta has taken on a variety of shapes, sizes, and names, each meticulously designed to complement specific regional sauces and ingredients.
This vast variety ensures that from the creamy, rich dishes of the North to the bright, seafood-infused recipes of the South, every region has its signature pasta dish that encapsulates its unique flavors and culinary history. As you embark on a gastronomic tour of Italy, you'll discover dishes like the hearty Tagliatelle al Ragù in Bologna, the minimalist yet profound Cacio e Pepe in Rome, and the seafood-rich Linguine allo Scoglio along the coast. Each dish not only offers a taste of local culinary arts but also serves as a testament to the regions' historical layers and local ingredients, making them essential experiences for any culinary explorer.
Let’s take an evocative “pasta trip” through some of our Italian Regions: 
●    Liguria: Trofie al Pesto
This region is home to the famous basil pesto. Trofie, small, twisted pasta, is traditionally served with this fresh, green sauce made from basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil.

●    Veneto: Bigoli in Salsa
Bigoli is a thick, whole-wheat pasta served with an anchovy and onion sauce, reflecting the simplicity and depth of Venetian cuisine.

●    Emilia-Romagna: Tagliatelle al Ragù
This region claims fame to what many call Bolognese sauce (although Italians don’t claim this title!). Tagliatelle, a flat ribbon-like pasta, is paired perfectly with this slow-cooked meat sauce.

●    Tuscany: Pappardelle al cinghiale 
Pappardelle, broad and flat pasta ribbons, are often served with a rich, gamey sauce made from hare or wild boar, embodying the rustic flavors of Tuscany.

●    Lazio: Pasta alla Carbonara
Spaghetti alla Carbonara is a culinary emblem, featuring spaghetti enveloped in a creamy sauce made from eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, guanciale and a generous sprinkle of black pepper. This dish showcases the simplicity and richness of Roman cuisine, where every ingredient is pivotal to creating its iconic flavor.

●    Campania: Scialatielli ai Frutti di Mare
Scialatielli is a thick, hand-cut pasta, perfect for soaking up the rich flavors of the sea. This dish typically features a medley of fresh seafood such as mussels, clams, and prawns, tossed in a light tomato and garlic sauce, encapsulating the essence of coastal Italian cuisine.

●    Puglia: Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa
Puglia is renowned for its distinctive pasta, Orecchiette, which translates to "little ears" due to their shape. This pasta is most traditionally paired with Cime di Rapa (broccoli rabe), anchovies, and garlic. The dish is a perfect balance of the slightly bitter greens with the salty anchovies, all brought together with a touch of olive oil and sometimes a sprinkle of spicy red pepper flakes. This dish exemplifies the rustic, agricultural roots of Puglian cuisine, celebrating local ingredients with simple yet bold flavors.

●    Sicily: Pasta alla Norma
This Sicilian specialty combines macaroni-like pasta with a sauce made from tomatoes, fried eggplant, grated ricotta salata cheese, and basil. Truly a Sicilian must!

●    Sardinia: Malloreddus alla Campidanese
Malloreddus, or Sardinian gnocchi, are small shell-shaped pasta served with a tomato sauce enriched with sausage meat, saffron, and often a sprinkle of Pecorino.

You’re not a pizza or pasta enjoyer? (Shame)

Don’t worry, Italy is not only about pasta and pizza. We have plenty of other dishes for you to enjoy!
In the fashion capital of Milan, the exquisitely delicate Risotto alla Milanese stands out, with its rich golden hue derived from saffron threads that are worth their weight in gold, offering a creamy, comforting dish that is as refined as the city itself. Venture east to Venice, where the traditional Sarde in Saor marries sweet and sour flavors in a dish that tells the story of Venice's maritime history; it features sardines marinated in a reduction of onions, raisins, and vinegar, capturing the essence of the spice trade routes.
In the heart of Tuscany, the robust Ribollita provides a taste of the rustic countryside, a thick soup made with bread, cannellini beans, and a variety of vegetables, cooked slowly to develop deep, comforting flavors that echo the region's agricultural roots. In the eternal city of Rome, the classic Saltimbocca alla Romana offers a symphony of flavors with veal escalopes wrapped in prosciutto and sage, pan-fried to perfection, symbolizing the city's rich historical layers and culinary traditions.
Heading south to Naples, experience the delightful Impepata di Cozze, a vibrant and spicy dish of mussels cooked with plenty of black pepper and lemon juice, served steaming hot. This dish highlights the freshness of the local seafood and the Neapolitans' knack for creating simple yet bold flavors. On the sun-kissed island of Sicily, the iconic Arancini are a feast for the senses, with crispy golden exteriors giving way to richly filled centers of ragù, peas, and molten cheese, a beloved snack that encapsulates the island's vibrant street food culture.

Last but not least - Italian Desserts to die for

Italian desserts are celebrated finales in a symphony of dining, each crafted with meticulous care and deep regional pride. In the mist-shrouded cafes of Veneto, the luxurious Tiramisu tempts the palate, layering espresso-soaked ladyfingers with a cloud-like blend of mascarpone and a dusting of cocoa—each spoonful a perfect balance of coffee's robust charm and the delicate sweetness of cream.
Journey to the sun-drenched island of Sicily, where Cannoli reign supreme. These crisp, golden tubes of fried pastry dough, stuffed with a rich, sweet ricotta filling and finished with a sprinkle of pistachios or a drizzle of chocolate, encapsulate the joyous indulgence of Sicilian confectionary art. Over in Naples, the iconic Sfogliatella offers a delightful texture contrast with its flaky, layered pastry filled with a citrus-tinged ricotta mixture that bursts with flavor at each bite, reflecting the vibrancy and warmth of Neapolitan culture. Each dessert is not merely a dish but a piece of Italy's rich culinary mosaic, celebrated with every bite.
And each dessert is best paired with a beautiful, rich cup of Italian coffee!

Your unforgettable Italian Journey awaits with Play Italy

Here at Play Italy, we are committed to transforming your Italian dining journey into a seamless and unforgettable experience. Whether you are planning to relish the fresh pastas of Rome or the savory desserts of Naples, our Booking Agent service is here to tailor your adventure to your tastes, ensuring that each meal is not just eaten but experienced. Should you have any inquiries or need bespoke recommendations, our Booking Agent service is your compass, guiding you to the gems that make Italy shine brightest for you.
For more insights on how to weave these culinary delights into your travel itinerary, subscribe to our newsletter. Here, we offer expert travel tips, culinary guides, and a special discount on your first tour with us! Additionally, our 'How to Book' video tutorial is designed to help you navigate the booking process effortlessly, making your journey from planning to departure as smooth as possible.
Choose one of our tours and let Play Italy open the door to a world where each meal is a moment, each dish a memory. Come play with us and let us turn your Italian holiday into a story of enchanting flavors and unforgettable experiences. Your dream of Italy awaits—let's bring it to life, together.

Rome: art, history and pizza

5 days 4 nights

2 Destinations

From 3814

Picture of the brochure