While everyone knows the uniqueness of Italian food, from delicious pastas, meatballs, sausages, and even dessert (because who can pass up a cannoli!) the variety of flavors and ingredients used vary wildly up and down the boot of Italy. Here are four major regions and their unique flavors of the country of Italy.
From the bottom of the peninsula comes Southern Italian cooking. This is the kind of Italian food people think of when you think of Italian dining. Imagine your red sauce, meatballs and sausages, pizzas and even your braciola and your garlic rich foods and flavors. Fresh tomatoes are a big piece of this region too, as is local delicious olive oil. Due to the enormous number of Italians who immigrated to the United States in the early part of the 20th century from this part of the country, much of the Italian food we all know and love is largely based on this specific region. Even pizza is from the Southern Italian city of Naples!
The Amalfi Coast:
A smaller, but still very unique region inside southern Italy is the Amalfi Coast. Amalfi includes those picturesque cliffs you’ve seen in photos, where the colorful houses are perched delicately along the rocks down to the sea. This area encompasses the spots of Amalfi, Naples, Sorrento and Positano. Here, as the towns are all shoved against the Mediterranean Sea, and this regions’ culture and food are focused on seafood and citrus. From the massive lemons that grow in the wild, to the freshly caught seafood like squid, octopus, white fish and shellfish, the flavors from this region of Italy is some of the most seriously fresh Italian food anywhere.
Let’s fly north up into the Alps to visit Northern Italy, and its major cities of Bologna, Milan and Torino. Here, up in the snowy mountians, the Italian cooking of this area is much closer to its neighbors of France and Switzerland, as this region is where those three countries intersect. Here, look for gourmet chocolates and desserts (from the Swiss influence) and expect your Italian dish to have a base of butter, much like it’s neighbors to the west, France, unlike the olive oil bases of southern Italy. In Northern Italy, you can find a wide variety of the best Italian food anywhere, while so different from the other regions. Look for flavors like delicious fresh Italian pancetta, a creamier pork-like Bacon and desserts and pastries galore. Yum!
Thanks to cultural iconic movies like Under the Tuscan Sun and Eat, Pray, Love, Americans everywhere have fallen in love with the rolling hills and gorgeous landscapes of Tuscany. Tuscany is home to a wide stretch of Italy’s vineyards, and Tuscan wines are enjoyed the world over. Here, cuisine is based off the earth, as vineyards and farms cover the landscape, with fresh vegetables in every dish and real country meats, like rabbit, venison, and wild boar. Rosemary and olive oil are the key flavors from this dusty dry landscape, and help infuse all manner of delicious breads, soups and stews, all with hearty vegetables, served alongside, of course, and a glass of red wine.
No matter where you are when you’re traveling in Italy, you’re sure to find a wide variety of flavors from all over the boot, from the snowy Alps of northern Italy, to the almost tropical Amalfi. No matter where you eat, you can’t go wrong. So what are you waiting for? Mangia!