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11 Best Food Cities in Italy

Discover 11 tasty cities in Italy and our favorite things to eat in each city.

Antipasti at Osteria da Ugo in Verona Italy

When it comes to food and travel, Italy is far from a hidden gem.

Not only is Italian food popular around the world, but traveling to Italy is a bucket list item that takes many, if not most, travelers to Italy’s three famous cities – Rome, Florence and Venice.

Regardless of their motivations, these travelers eat plenty of pasta and pizza during their trips and leave happy. But many never experience Italy’s full food story in the country’s varied north, south and central regions.

Naples Pasta Selfie
Eating in Italy makes us smile. We smiled while eating these plates of pasta at Tandem Ragu in Naples.

When we first visited Italy in 2009, due to limited vacation time, we fell into the same travel trap.

Back then we followed the path of most neophyte Italian tourists by visiting Rome and Florence. However, we diverged from Venice, choosing Bologna instead. That trip was our first to Italy but not our last. We’ve returned to all of these cities multiple times as well as additional Italian destinations from the top of the boot in the north all the way to the heel, instep and toe in the south.

Italy never bores us and our love grows with every visit. Exploring the country has become a lifetime endeavor that requires at least one visit each year. And by exploring, we mean eating our way through Italy one city at a time.

Check for updates as we eat our way through more cities in Italy including Bergamo, Genoa, Milan, Palermo and Turin.

Our Favorite Food Cities in Italy

Da Michele Selfie 2020 in Naples Italy
We’d happily jump on a plane to eat pizzas like these beauties we ate at L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples.

If you visit Italy and don’t eat pizza, did you really visit Italy?

While this question is a bit cheeky, we can’t conceive of an Italy trip that doesn’t include pizza.

We love eating pizzas in Naples and Rome but we also love eating the quintessential Italian food in citiesmore famous for pasta like Parma and Verona. But we don’t stop at pizza.

Eating in Italy is fun! Check out the best traditional Italian desserts to find your favorite.

Cured Meat at Trattoria Ai Due Platani in Parma
Every Italian meal is an Italian feast when it starts with locally produced salumi and cheese. We started this particular Italian feast at Trattoria Ai Due Platani in Parma.

Each city in Italy has unique pastas, breads, meats and other dishes that date back centuries before unification, back when Italy consisted of 20 separate nation states. Some like Tiramisu are well known around the world but others, like Rome’s Suppli, are more difficult, if not impossible, to find outside of their home cities or regions.

For food food-focused food travelers like us, this situation is nothing short of an enlightening challenge. Our rewards involve tasting new and exciting foods in different regions each time we visit Italy.

If you’re ready for a similar culinary challenge, be sure to include one or more of the following Italian cities in your next Italy food trip itinerary:

1. Naples

Alley in Naples Italy
The shadowy streets in Naples are a photographer’s dream.

Naples food seekers fall into two categories. They either love Campania’s urban jungle or hate it.

We fit into the first category since we love everything about Italy’s gritty city. We adore strolling through Napoli’s winding streets filled with graffitied buildings just as much as we adore glancing upon mighty Mount Vesuvius when we stroll along the Via Partenope next to the blue Bay of Naples.

But, most of all, we love eating pizza and other food favorites in Naples. Over the past decade, we’ve taken this love to the next level by visiting Naples three separate times, spending close to two months in Campania’s capital. We’ve even pondered living in Naples permanently, a dangerous prospect for Mindi due to her extreme pizza love

Discover dozens of Naples food favorites you don’t want to miss as well as the best Naples pizzerias, cafes and gelato shops.

Starita Pizza in Naples
Don’t skip Pizza Marinara when you travel to Italy. We ate this cheese-free pie at Starita in the city’s Materdei neighborhood.

Naples is famous around the world for its pizza.

It may be the city that invented Margherita Pizza. There’s a dubious legend that involves a Napoli pizzaiolo inventing the pie in honor of Queen Margherita’s visit in 1889 but the tomato, mozzerella and basil pie may have existed decades earlier. That being said, there’s no debate that Naples is the ultimate destination for pizza lovers.

Santa Rosa at Sfogliatella Mary in Naples
Pastries like this Santa Rosa we ate at Sfogliatella Mary stand tall among the best pastries in Italy.

There’s also no debate that there’s more to eat than pizza in Naples. Much of the city’s food culture traveled by boat to the Americas, a migration that eventually made Italian food famous throughout the world – think spaghetti, tomato sauce and meatballs (which are generally served separately in Italy) in addition to New York’s version of Pizza. But the best Neapolitan food is found in Naples.

The city is a veritable treasure trove of tasty treats ranging from fried snacks to pasta made with ingredients like tomatoes grown in volcanic soil. And the desserts! Just thinking about Sfogliatelle makes us hungry.

Must Eat Foods in Naples
Fiocco di Neve, Friarielli, Frittatina, Gelato, Mozzarella di Bufala, Pasta Genovese, Pizza, Sfogliatelle and Spaghetti alle Vongole

2. Bologna

Bologna Portico Street Scene
Beyond food, Bologna is known for its university and porticos like this one.

Bologna isn’t just one of the best food cities in Italy. The Emilia-Romagna city ranks toward the top of the most food-obsessed cities, joining the likes of Lyon and Tokyo.

This food obsession earned the city its nickname La Grassa – The Fat One, a nickname that the porticoed town carries with pride. Food travelers will understand once they eat pasta classics like Gramigna with Sausage, Lasagne Verdi al Forno and Tortellini in Brodo.

Discover the best Bologna restaurants as well as the city’s best gelato shops and food experiences.

Lasagna at Sfoglia Rina in Bologna Italy
We ate this delightfully green Lasagne Verde al Forno at Sfoglia Rina in Bologna.

Being food lovers, we adore Bologna.

We first visited La Grassa in 2009 and have since returned four more times. Not only is it the city where we formed our passion for gelato, but it’s also the city that introduced us to grandmotherly sfoglinas who transform the most basic of ingredients into world-class pasta, much of it shaped and rolled by hand.

Let’s not forget the city’s legendary meat filled ragù (Bolognese sauce) which has become famous throughout the world. There’s nothing better than a simple bowl filled with tender ribbons of tagliatelle and topped with the region’s deep, rich, multidimensional, beefy sauce.

Aperitivo Plate at La Bottega Di Via Montegrappa in Bologna Italy
Mortadella took center stage on our aperitivo plate at La Bottega Di Via Montegrappa.

You’ll want to eat pasta and gelato when you visit Bologna too. However, take time to partake in leisurely aperitivo sessions involving plates piled high with Mortadella, cheese and prosciutto as well as glasses filled with locally produced Lambrusco wine. The Sangiovese reds produced in the nearby Romagna hills are great too.

Bologna is the capital of Emilia-Romagna, a region that proudly produces Italy’s most famous products including Parmigiano-Reggiano, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Prosciutto di Parma. If you travel for food, be warned that your first trip to Bologna likely won’t be your last.

Must Eat Foods in Bologna
Gelato, Gramigna with Sausage, Lasagne Verde al Forno, Mortadella, Proscuitto di Parma Tagliatelle al Ragù and Tortellini in Brodo

3. Rome

Trevi Fountain in Rome
While Rome wasn’t built in a day, it’s Trevi Fountain was built over three decades during the 18th century.

All roads have been leading to Rome for centuries. But this ancient city is far from a relic. In fact, Italy’s capital is as popular today as ever. Maybe even more so.

Some people travel to the Eternal City to view sites like the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. Others make a pilgrimage to the Vatican and tour the Jewish Ghetto. Then there are food travelers who go to Rome specifically for the food. True Confession – We are those people.

Discover dozens of Rome food favorites as well as the city’s best gelato shops and specialty coffee shops.

Tonarelli Cacio e Pepe at Rome Restaurant
Rome’s pasta game is strong. We joined the game when we ate this plate of Cacio e Pepe at Piatto Romano in Rome’s bustling Testaccio neighborhood.

Located in Italy’s Lazio region, Rome has four primary pastas – Amatriciana, Cacio e Pepe, Carbonara and Gricia. It also has multiple pizza styles including Pizza al Taglio which is cut and served in square slices by weight, thin crust ‘Roman Style’ pizza, thicker pies and the Trapizzino, a special sandwich made with fluffy pizza dough.

Whole Porchetta at Er Buchetto in Rome
We spotted this Roman Porchetta, sliced for sandwiches, at Er Buchetto in Rome.

When we’re in Rome, we rarely turn down contorni like Carciofi alla Guida, special fried artichokes perfected by the city’s Jewish community centuries ago. Rome also excels with meats. The city is the home of porchetta, flavorful rolled and roasted pork that’s served both in sandwiches and on its own.

Suppli at Trapizzino in Rome
This Suppli at Trapizzino was our first but not our last.

If you haven’t eaten a Suppli before, Rome is the city to try the fried treat that resembles Sicily’s Arancini but adds a stretchy core of cheese to the recipe. We won’t blame you if you eat more than one.

While Rome is eternal, humans only live once.

Must Eat Foods in Rome
Cacio e Pepe, Carciofi alla Guiuda, Gelato, Maritozzi, Pasta all’Amatriciana, Pasta alla Carbonara, Pasta alla Gricia, Pizza al Taglio, Porchetta and Suppli

4. Caiazzo

Stairwell in Caiazzo
Caiazzo is a charming Italian city that happens to have the best pizzeria in the world within its borders.

Most Italian cities aren’t just famous for just one food. Located 30 miles north of Naples, Caiazzo is the exception to this rule.

Caiazzo is famous for one food and one food only – pizza. But not just any pizza. This is the city where Franco Pepe serves what many consider to be the best pizza in the world at his restaurant Pepe in Grani.

Read about our amazing pizza dinner at Pepe in Grani.

Profumo del Maltese and Scarpeta Pizza Pepe in Grani
We ate this Profumo del Maltese and Scarpeta pie during our multi-course tasting menu at Pepe in Grani.

You may be skeptical that a restaurant in a tiny town serves the best pizza in the world. Go anyway. If you don’t trust our opinion, hopefully you’ll trust the opinions of David Chang, Alex the French Guy, Nancy Silverton, Emeril Lagasse and the late Jonathan Gold.

The pies that Pepe produces are legendary, with pillow like crust that retains a light delicate crunch. Pepe also sources top quality ingredients like locally grown tomatoes and mozzarella di bufala produced just a few kilometers from the restaurant in his home province of Caserta.

2foodtrippers with Franco Pep at Pepe in Grani
Meeting Franco Pepe was the highlight of our meal at Pepe in Grani. That and the pizza.

If you’re lucky, you’ll meet the man himself. Franco Pepe is a master pizzaiola who runs a tight ship and creates other-worldly pizza. He’s also a great guy. Check out our experience at Pepe in Grani in our YouTube video.

Must Eat Foods in Caiazzo
The Best Pizza in the World

5. Parma

Teatro Regio in Parma Italy
Parma’s Teatro Regio rivals opera houses in bigger cities like Milan and Naples.

Filled with regal influences left by French/Austrian monarch Maria Luigia, Parma has one of Italy’s most gorgeous cathedrals as well as one of its most acclaimed opera houses. But those stunning sites aren’t the city’s biggest claim to fame…

That honor goes to Parmigiano-Reggiano, the king of cheese which can only be produced in specific provinces within Emilia-Romagna. Needless to say, Parma is in one of those provinces. It’s also a city with a deep food culture.

Discover the best restaurants in Parma.

Tortellini with Porcini Mushrooms at Trattoria Ai Due Platani in Parma
This seasonal Tortellini ai Fungi Porcini we ate at Trattoria Ai Due Platani rivals pasta dishes in Bologna and Modena.

One visit was enough to whet our appetites for the food in Parma, a culinary city that exemplifies why Emilia-Romagna is nicknamed Italy’s Food Valley. We fell as hard for Parma’s rustic yet refined dishes as we did for its cured meats and flowing bottles of ruby-red Lambrusco.

Parma, the city and province, is a happy place for meat lovers who can gorge on a range of roasted meats in Bollito Misto in restaurants. They can also eat unique local products like cotechino, culatello and salami strolghino at local sandwich shops.

Lambrusco at Oste Magno in Parma
We drank these cups of Lambursco at Oste Magno in Parma.

We’ve traveled to Parma three times and counting. Once you visit Parma, you’ll understand why we keep returning to Bologna’s tasty neighbor to the west.

Must Eat Foods in Parma
Bollito Misto, Cannoncini, Culatello, Cotechino, Gelato, Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, Pasta, Pizza and Prosciutto di Parma

6. Verona

Verona Street at Dusk
Verona is a shining star when it comes to Italian food cities.

Verona may not be on most food travelers’ radar. However, Shakespeare’s fair city is a known commodity for traveling oenophiles who flock to the Veneto city to sip Amarone, Bardolino, Ripasso, Soave and Valpolicela.

But these wine lovers don’t just drink wine. They also eat Risotto alla Amarone, Verona’s scarlet signature dish made with Amarone wine, Vialone Nano rice and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese reduced in a meaty stock.

Discover Verona’s best restaurants and gelato shops.

Risotto alla Amarone on Olive Plate at La Taverna di Via Stella in Verona Italy
Risotto alla Amarone is Verona’s main culinary attraction that features Amarone wine in a starring role. Eating this version at La Taverna di Via Stella, a classic Verona tavern, sent our tastebuds into the stratosphere.

As we discovered during two separate visits, Verona is a paradise for carnivores and pescatarians who can indulge their cravings with platters of meat and twirl their forks in pasta laden with fruits of the sea respectively.

Feel so hungry you can eat a horse? In Verona, restaurants can literally make that happen.

Pasta at Antica Bottega del Vino in Verona Italy
We ate this bigoli pasta dish at Antica Bottega del Vino. It was topped with anchovies, burrata cheese and toasted garlic bread.

Don’t skip Verona if you’re a vegetarian or even a vegan. Not only does this protein-rich city have access to amazing locally-grown produce, but its toothy bigoli pasta can also be prepared as a meat-free dish. Plus, since the city is swimming in wine, you certainly won’t go thirsty.

Must Eat Foods in Verona
Bigoli Pasta, Bollito Misto, Gelato, Pizza, Risotto all’Amarone and Seafood

7. Florence

Le Cesarine Story Florence Duomo
Florence’s Duomo has been the city’s most iconic building for centuries.

Florence has been a cultural hub since it served as the birthplace of the renaissance. Beyond its iconic Duomo and prolific architecture, the Tuscan city has some of the world’s most remarkable paintings and sculptures created by the likes of Botticelli, Da Vinci and Michelangelo.

As we’ve learned during three separate trips to Florence, the city’s art isn’t just visual. While we love viewing David in all of his naked glory and give major props to the Uffizi museum, we love Florence’s culinary art just as much and perhaps even more.

Discover dozens of Florence food favorites and Florence’s best specialty coffee shops.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina at Osteria Santo Spirito in Florence
Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a Florence food icon. We ate this juicy slab at Osteria Santo Spirtito located at Piazza Santo Spirito.

While Parma’s food has regal roots, many of Florence’s popular foods fit into the cucina povera (i.e. poor cooking) category. Dishes like Florence’s famous bean stew, Ribollita, and its equally famous tomato bread stew, Pappa Pomodoro, may emanate from poverty but they’re joyfully rich in flavor.

But why?

Umbrichelli Salsiccia e Tartufo Nero at Club Culinario Toscano in Florence
Our Umbrichelli Salsiccia at Club Culinario Toscano reached next level status when our server added a healthy shaving of Tartufo Nero.

Maybe it’s because Florentine cooks use high quality, locally sourced ingredients produced in the Tuscan hills. Or maybe these cooks are culinary artists who could make shoe leather taste appetizing. In our opinion, it’s a combination of the two.

That being said, you can also live large in Florence by ordering a Bistecca alla Fiorentina. It’s a great steak that’s worth the splurge.

Must Eat Foods in Florence
Bistecca alla Fiorentina, Gelato, Lampredotto Paninis, Pane Toscano, Pappardelle al Pomodoro, Pizza, Ribollita, Schiacciata and Zuccotto

8. Venice

Venice Canal with Reflections
Venice is a dream destination that beguiles visitors with its picturesque canals.

Prior to visiting Venice, we didn’t expect to eat food that rivaled dishes we’d eaten in other Italian cities. We also didn’t expect to experience once-in-a-century flooding that landed us in in Newsweek. As happens in life, some surprises are better than others.

Venice, like many of the most touristed cities in the world, has more than its fair share of tourist trap eateries. However, Italy’s City of Canals also has amazing food like Fritto Misto, a melange of fried seafood served as a first course, salads made with local spider crabs and a range of amazing pastas that feature ingredients as varied as langostinos and truffles. Venetian sauces made with cinnamon and other atypical Italian spices date back centuries to Venice’s time as a great trading center.

Spaghetti alla Busara at Trattoria Ca d Oro alla Vedova in Venice
We still dream about this plate of Spaghetti alla Busara we ate at Trattoria Ca d’Oro.

To be clear, we weren’t the first to discover Venice’s culinary charms.

Marcella Hazan blazed a trail with her cookbooks that was followed by food traveling personalities like Phil Rosenthal and the late Anthony Bourdain. It was just a matter of time until we wandered through Venice’s maze of alleys and canals, stopping at restaurants, gelato shops and cicchetti bars along the way.

Discover the best cicchetti bars, gelato shops and restaurants in Venice.

Cicchetti at Cantina Do Spade in Venice
We’ll never ‘forgetty’ eating this cicchetti at Cantina Do Spade in Venice.

You’re in for a treat if you’re not yet familiar with cicchetti bars.

Venetian cicchetti bars serve snacks that include small slices of bread topped with prawns, squid or seafood crudo as well as full sandwiches filled meats like mortadella and coppa. Serving a plethora of wine and the occasional Aperol spritz in addition to tasty snacks, these rustic antique bars are as fun as they are economical

Must Eat Foods in Venice
Baccala Mantecato, Bigoli in Salsa, Carpaccio, Cicchetti, Frito Misto, Gelato, Polenta, Sarde in Saor and Seafood

9. Modena

Modena Cathedral
Modena’s Cathedral proudly stands in the center of the Emilia-Romagna city.

The 20th most populous city in Italy, Modena overachieves when it comes to food.

Not only is Modena the hometown of the late Luciano Pavarotti, one of Italy’s most famous opera singers and an insatiable gourmand, but it’s also the hometown of Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana, a three-Michelin-starred restaurant and former World’s 50 Best Restaurants winner.

Gramigna with Sausage Sauce at Ristorante da Danilo in Modena
Dishes like this Gramigna with Sausage we ate at Ristorante da Danilo also make Modena proud.

You may be disappointed if you fail in your attempt to snag a reservation at Modena’s most lauded restaurant. However, you won’t be disappointed by other restaurants including Massimo Bottura’s more casual Franceschetta58 which, despite serving a range of Modenese classics, creates innovative dishes like its special Emilian burger, a juicy mini pork and beef ‘hamburger’ served in a small cardboard burger box.

Discover the best restaurants in Modena.

Prosciutto Sandwich at Bar Schiavoni in Modena
The sandwiches at Bar Schiavoni are among the best sandwiches in the world. This one was stuffed with prosciutto and artichoke.

Not all of the food in Modena is expensive. Some of Modena’s best food, like Passatelli in Brodo and fluffy Gnocco Fritto are best eaten in casual osterias and trattorias. The city has a great specialty coffee house and wonderful gelato. Its Mercato Albinelli ranks as one of the best produce and meat markets in Italy.

Must Eat Foods in Modena
Gelato, Paninis, Passatelli in Brodo, Pizza, Tagliatelle al Ragu, Tortelloni in Brodo and Zuppa Inglese

10. Matera

Matera Skyline
Staying in one of Matera’s cave hotels is bucket list worthy for those who travel to Matera.

Most travelers journey to Matera to experience its rich history and stay at a cave hotel.

Although Matera was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, the city garnered much of its fame when Mel Gibson filmed the visually stunning The Passion of Christ in Matera a decade later. More recently, Matera had a starring role in the 2021 James Bond film No Time to Die.

But these aren’t the only reasons to visit Matera. It’s also a great base for exploring nearby cities in Puglia and is ideal for adventurous food travelers who want to dig deep into the city’s cracks and crannies.

Discover why you need to visit Matera now.

Meat Dish in Matera
The Cucina Povera concept is alive and well at restaurants like Trattoria del Caveoso in Matera.

Similar to Florentine cuisine, much of the food in Matera evolved from cucina povera.

The southern Italian city was impoverished until the 1950s, with most of its residents living in dreary caves that were later transformed into chic boutique hotels. This difficult history has had a direct influence on Matera’s cuisine.

Pasta in Matera
Eating pasta in Matera isn’t on any bucket lists. Maybe it should be.

Today, there’s no shame in eating homey Italian comfort food passed through generations at Matera restaurants. Local cooks generously add mild Senise peppers to age-old recipes featuring ingredients like orecchiette pasta and the region’s full flavored, yet mildly spicy, pork nduja spread. Yes. Basilicata’s sun-dried peppers are surprisingly mild.

Must Eat Foods in Matera
Cialledda, Cured Meat, Gelato, Lagane (a flat ribbon pasta), Nduja and Orrechiette

11. Trento

Trento Italy Landscape
The views in Trento are as epic as its food.

Trento isn’t a typical Italian food city. With a history that includes the famous Council of Trent, the northern Italian city charms all who visit with its quaint cobblestone streets and epic mountain views. But, despite these diverse elements, Trento’s biggest surprises are found on its restaurant menus.

Located in Trentino near Lake Garda and the Dolomites, Trento is so close to Austria that its food has both Austrian and Italian influences. In other words, it’s almost as easy to find bratwurst on a Trento menu as it is to find pizza.

Canederli at Forsterbrau in Trento Ital
Canederli may be the least stereotypically Italian food in Italy. We paired Trento’s bread dumpling specialty with beer at Forsterbrau.

Eating butter-soaked bread dumplings called Canederli is a must when you visit Trento. However, the best way to experience the city’s two food worlds is to start your evening with pints at a beer hall and end it with plates of pasta at a local Trento restaurant.

Discover the best restaurants in Trento.

Pizza at Pizzeria al Duomo in Trento Italy
We eat pizza in every Italian city we visit. We ate this pie at Ristorante Pizzeria Al Duomo in Trento.

We won’t blame you if you choose to eat pizza instead. Trento is in Italy after all.

Must Eat Foods in Trento
Bretzels, Canederli, Carne Salada, Gelato, Pizza and Risotto

Useful Italy Facts

Gelato at Come il Latte in Rome
  • Italy is in Europe. It’s both a member of the European Union and a Schengen country.
  • Italy’s currency is the Euro.
  • Italian is Italy’s official language but many people also speak English.
  • Service is typically included as Coperto.

Planning Checklist

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About the Authors

About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

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