Tiramisu in a dish and on plates on a wooden table.
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35+ Delicious Desserts in Italy (& Where to Find Them)

Last updated on April 19th, 2024

You’re probably familiar with the Italian classics like tiramisù, gelato and panettone, but Italian desserts encompass so much more than what typically comes to mind. 

Desserts in Italy are typically small in size but perfectly sweet. For Italians, less in more when it comes to eating desserts

And like most Italian food, the desserts vary from region to region. What you find in Piedmont will greatly differ from what is served in Sicily.

Whether you are baking at home, planning your next trip to Italy, or simply want to drool on your desktop, this is the article for you! I will cover Italy’s most delicious desserts, how to pronounce them and where to find them.

Delicious Italian Desserts

NameDescriptionRegion to eat it
Bonètchocolate creme caramelPiedmont
Zabaionesweet cream made with winePiedmont
Maritozzisweet bun filled with whipped creamLazio (Rome)
Tiramisùlady fingers dipped in coffee and layed with mascarpone creamVeneto/Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Torta novecentoa mousse between chocolate cake Piedmont
Gianduiachocolate hazelnut spreadPiedmont
Gianduiottocreamy hazelnut chocolatesPiedmont
GelatoItalian ice creameverywhere
Panna cottachilled sweetened cooked cream Piedmont
Tartufo di pizzoa molten chocolate filling encased in two layers of gelatoCalabria
Delizia al limonesponge cake filled with lemon custardCampania
Sfogliatellapuff pastry filled with a semolina and ricotta fillingCampania (Naples)
Struffoliballs of deep fried dough coated in honeyAll regions but Campania specifically 
Torta della nonnacustard filled tartTuscany
Cantuccinitwice-baked, crunchy almond cookiesTuscany (Prato)
Babà napoletanoA soft sponge cake soaked in citrus syrup Campania
Torta ricotta e peraA hazelnut sponge cake layered with a ricotta cream and pear fillingCampania (Amalfi Coast)
PandoroA light and fluffy sweet bread dusted with powdered sugarVeneto
PanettoneA brioche bread dotted with candied fruits and raisinsLombardy (Milan)
ZeppoleDeep fried dough balls filled with pastry creamCampania (Naples
Pasticciottocustard flavored with spring’s black cherries baked into a pie crustPuglia
StrudelCrisp pastry wrapped around spiced applesTrentino-Alto Adige
Zuppa inglesesponge cake soaked in Alchemers liqueur and layered with pastry creamEmilia-Romagna (Ferrara)
Sbrisolonacrunchy, crumbly, buttery cake made with lots of nutsLombardy (Mantua)
Pan di spagnaa simple sponge cakeLigura
Granita con brioche flavored shaved ice served with a brioche bunSicily
Cassata sicilianasponge cake flavored with liquor, chocolate and ricotta cream topped with a thin layer of marzipanSicily
Torta settevelilayers of chocolate sponge cake, praline crunch and hazelnut Bavarian creamSicily
Cannolidried pastry shells filled with either a sweet ricotta fillingSicily
Schiacciata alla fiorentinaa light and airy vanilla cake sometimes filled with chantilly creamTuscany (Florence)
Castagnolefried dough ballsEverywhere
ChiacchiereCrispy fried dough dusted with powdered sugarEverywhere
SemifreddoFrozen whipped cream and meringue
Affogatoa shot of espresso poured over a scoop of cream flavored ice cream Everywhere
Crostatashortcrust pastry filled with jamEverywhere
Ciambellasimple ring cake that is sometimes flavored with lemon zest or vanillaEverywhere
Millefogliepuff pastry filled with pastry creamEverywhere but especially Tuscany

Bonèt

close up of bonèt from birds eye view on a white plate garnished with strawberries and blueberries on the plate

This is a type of chocolate creme caramel made with amaretti cookies traditionally made into a ring mold. Today, it is made in different shapes and either spooned out, sliced or served in individual ramekins. This is my favorite Piemontese dessert! 

Where to Eat It: “L’Acino” in Turin

Zabaione

(Pronounced zah-bi-oh-neh in Italian)

A custard cream made with egg yolks, sugar and sweet wine. It’s often eaten with a spoon and/or served with cookies such as savoiardi or krumiri for dipping. It’s also used in many other Italian dessert recipes.

Where to Eat It: Piedmont 

Maritozzi 

box of maritozzi from top view with a man taking one out with a pile of napkins on the side
Maritozzi

(Pronounced mah-ree-tohz-zee in Italian)

A sweet bun that is sliced in half and filled with whipped cream. Roman’s like to eat them for breakfast with coffee. Maritozzi translates to “almost-husband” referring to the young grooms-to-be who would give these treats to their fiancées.

Where to Eat It: “Pasticceria Regoli”, “Roscioli Caffe” or “Il Maritozzario”, all in Rome

Tiramisù

Tiramisu in a dish and on plates on a wooden table.

(Pronounced Teer-ah-mee-soo in Italian)

Its name means “pick me up” and that is exactly what this coffee-based dessert is intended to do. Lady finger cookies are dipped in strong coffee and layered between a sweet mascarpone cream.

Where to Eat It: Veneto/Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Make It: Check out our authentic recipe for Authentic Italian Tiramisù Recipe – The Only One You’ll Ever Need (+ Tips)

Torta novecento

(Pronounced tohr-tah noh-veh-chen-toh in Italian)

Meaning “nine hundred cake”, this is a cake made from chocolate mousse sandwiched between two layers of chocolate cake. The recipe was a secret for years until 1972 when the recipe was sold to the Pasticceria Balla in Ivrea.

Where to Eat It: “Pasticceria Balla” in Ivrea, Piedmont

Gianduia

close up of novi gianduia sold at grocery store shelved, writing in italian. two bottles
My favorite gianduia, Novi

(Pronounced jahn-doo-yah in Italian)

The famous chocolate maker Michele Prochet used pulverized hazelnuts as a way to stretch his chocolate when Napoleon put a ban on British goods entering French occupied territories. And so gianduia was born. Today, Nutella is the most commonly known gianduia on the market. 

Where to Eat It: Piedmont

Gianduiotto

(Pronounced jahn-doo-yoht-toh in Italian)

A smooth chocolate made from cocoa, sugar and hazelnut paste. Many commercial brands make their own versions of these chocolates that you can easily find at supermarkets throughout Italy but the artisan ones are so much better!

Where to Eat It: “Baratti & Milano” in Turin, Piedmont

Gelato 

Gelato on display in Italy.

(Pronounced jeh-lah-toh in Italian)

Italian gelato is one of Italy’s most world-renowned desserts and for good reason: it’s simply the best. It is made with less cream and more milk than American ice cream and served at a higher temperature, making it more creamy. Look for hole-in-the-wall joints with flavors that are made in small batches, not mounds of brightly colored gelato piled high in the store front. 

Where to Eat It:Gelateria Alberto Marchetti” (Turin), “Gioletti” (Rome) or “Gelateria della Passera” (Florence)

Be Prepared: Read our guides to
Italian Gelato Flavors
How to Order Gelato in Italy
Best Gelato in Florence

Panna Cotta

(Pronounced pahn-nah coht-tah in Italian)

Literally meaning “cooked cream”, this dessert is made by cooking sweetened cream in a water bath until just set. It’s then chilled and unmolded. It’s sometimes served with berries or chocolate. A simple but amazing Italian dessert in our humble opinion!

Where to Eat It: Piedmont

Tartufo di Pizzo

(Pronounced tahr-too-foh dee peez-zoh in Italian)

This dessert is made by encasing a molten chocolate filling with two layers of gelato and rolled in cocoa powder. Nowadays you will see many varieties that use different gelato flavors with almonds or walnuts. This is an absolute must try for everyone who visits Calabria.

Where to Eat It:Bar Gelateria Ercole” in Ercole, Calabria or head to “Tre Scalini” if you are in Rome.

Delizia al limone

zoom in of individual delizia al limone garnished with a small bit of whipped cream and lemon on white background

(Pronounced deh-lee-zee-ah ahl lee-mohn-eh in Italian)

A dome-shaped sponge cake filled with lemon custard and covered in a limoncello glaze. It’s either made in one large cake and cut into slices or as individual servings. If you want to eat this, order it but don’t make it at home: it’s way too complicated for anyone’s liking!

Where to Eat It: Campania

Sfogliatella

side view of a stogliatella

(Pronounced sfohl-yah-tehl-lah in Italian)

Meaning “leaf layers”, these small pastries are a true labor of love as they are made from hundreds of layers of puff pastry filled with a semolina and ricotta filling. These are great for breakfast with a cup of espresso. 

Where to Eat It: “Sfogliatelab”, “Sfogliatella Mary” or “Antico Forno delle Sfogliatelle Calde Fratelli Attanasio”, all in Naples. 

Struffoli

zoom in on struffoli / zeppole drizzled in honey and covered in colored round sprinkles

(Pronounced stroof-foh-lee in Italian)

Many regions have their own recipe for this Italian classic made from dough that is formed into small balls, deep fried and covered in warm honey. They are sometimes formed into a ring or piled high in a pyramid mound and decorated with colored sprinkles. 

Where to Eat It: Campania

Torta della Nonna

top view close up of a round cake dusted with powdered sugar and dotted with pine nuts on a silver background

(Pronounced tohr-tah dehl-lah nohn-nah in Italian)

This classic custard filled tart is found throughout bakeries in Florence and on almost every menu in Tuscany. The tart is finished with toasted pine nuts and sliced up in large wedges. 

Where to Eat It: Tuscany

Cantuccini

close up of cantuccini cookies packaged in plastic bags and tied in a red ribbon for sale on shelf
Artisan cantuccini from Tuscany

(Pronounced cahn-tooch-chee-nee in Italian)

Also known as cantucci, cantuccini are small, twice-baked, crunchy almond cookies originated in Prato and are traditionally served with Vin santo, a sweet dessert wine made from white grapes. These little cookies are meant to be dipped into the vin santo to soften them up and prevent you from breaking your teeth!

Where to Eat Them: Tuscany, specifically at “Biscottificio Antonio Mattei” in Prato 

Make Them: Learn to make cantuccini at home by following our step-by-step instructions to Authentic Cantuccini Recipe (Italian Biscotti).

Babà Napoletano

italian bar glass counter displaying various baba for sale

(Pronounced bah-bah nah-poh-lee-tahn-oh in Italian)

A soft sponge cake soaked in citrus syrup (sometimes also in liquor) that originated in Eastern Europe but made its way across borders to southern Italy where it became even more popular! 

Where to Eat It: Campania

Torta Ricotta e Pere 

(Pronounced tohr-tah ree-coht-tah eh peh-reh in Italian)

A hazelnut sponge cake drizzled with a pear brandy syrup and layered high with a ricotta cream and pear filling served on the Amalfi Coast. 

Where to Eat It: try “Sal del Riso” in Minori, Campania

Try It: If you like this, you’ll love the Italian classic – torta di ricotta e limone (lemon and ricotta cake). Or, chocolate lovers can try torta di ricotta e cioccolato!

Pandoro

zoomed in on pandoro with a slice cut out dusted in powdered sugar

(Pronounced pahn-dohr-oh in Italian)

Meaning “bread of gold”, this sweet bread is made yellow from all the egg yolks used in the rich brioche-like dough. When you purchase it, you will also be given a small bag of powdered sugar which you are meant to sprinkle on the top before serving. 

Where to Eat It:Pasticceria Perbellini” in Bovolone, Veneto and “Pasticceria Biasetto” in Padua, Veneto.

Panettone

glass window from side view filled with piles of candy and various panettoni on second shelf with holiday lights around window.

(Pronounced pahn-eht-toh-neh in Italian)

This is a very popular sweet bread made from a rich brioche dough dotted with raisins and candied fruit. This bread is enjoyed for breakfast, as an afternoon snack or even as dessert with a mascarpone cream and is a common gift to give among friends and family during the Christmas holidays. 

Learn More: Pandoro vs. Panettone – An Italian Christmas Cake Showdown. And make sure you know How to Cut Pandoro.

Where to Eat It: Milan

Zeppole

view of glass case of traditional italian pastries for sale on gold trays on two shelves including zeppole and baba on the top and cannoli on the bottom

(Pronounced zehp-poh-leh in Italian)

Deep fried dough balls (although you can find them baked), and filled with pastry cream, chocolate and sometimes both! 

Where to Eat It: “Scaturchio” in Naples. 

Pasticciotto

(Pronounced pah-steech-choht-toh in Italian)

A creamy custard flavored with black cherries and baked into a flaky pie crust. Many locals eat this sweet treat for breakfast!

Where to Eat It:Caffé Alvino” in Lecce, Puglia

Strudel 

close up of a long log of strudel on a sheet or baking paper with another one in the background dusted with powdered sugar ready to be cut and served.

(Pronounced stroo-dehl)

This Germanic/Austrian dessert is made with thin sheets of pastry dough wrapped around sweet, local apples flavored with various warm spices, sugar and sometimes raisins. 

Where to Eat It: Trentino-Alto Adige

Apple Strudel Alternative: You may also like Italian apple cake.

Zuppa Inglese

(Pronounced zoop-pah in-gleh-zeh in Italian)

Literally meaning English soup, this Italian dessert is made from sponge cake soaked in Alchemers liqueur and layered with pastry cream, giving it a distinct pink color. 

Where to Eat It: Trattoria da Noemi” in Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna

Sbrisolona 

(Pronounced saree-soh-loh-nah in Italian)

This is a crunchy, crumbly, buttery cake made with cornmeal, flour, sugar, butter, nuts and plenty of spices. Because it’s so crumbly and impossible to slice, the cake is served in broken pieces, often with grappa or other sweet wines such as Malvasia, Vin Santo, or Passito of Pantelleria.

Where to Eat It:Panificio Pasticceria Pavesi” in Mantua, Lombardy

Pan di Spagna 

hands slicing a round cake in half to fill it on a turning cake platter

(Pronounced pahn dee spahn-yah in Italian)

This light sponge cake made from eggs, sugar, flour, and flavorings such as vanilla or lemon zest is used as a base for many other Italian desserts. It’s said that an Italian baker had traveled to Spain in service to his country and prepared this cake for the King of Spain, hence its name. 

Where to Eat It: Liguria

Granita con Brioche

close up of a girl in a pink shirt eating a gelato in a brioche
My sister eating her way through a brioche with gelato in Cefalù, Sicily

(Pronounced grah-nee-tah cohn bree-osh in Italian)

Leave it to Sicily to make it tradition to eat a giant fresh brioche with a bowl or cup of granita. Granita is frozen crushed ice flavored with sugar and some kind of fruit juice or coffee. There is nothing more refreshing in the Sicilian summer heat. The top granita flavors are limone (lemon), caffè (coffee) and mandorla (almond). And don’t forget to order coffee (espresso to be precise) with it! 

Where to Eat It:Pasticceria Costa” in Palermo, Sicily

Cassata Siciliana

cassata in a glass case being displayed for sale at an outdoor market
Cassata

(Pronounced cahs-sah-tah see-shee-lee-ah-nah in Italian)

This is a real masterpiece to look at: sponge cake is flavored with liquor, chocolate and ricotta cream which is then topped in a thin layer of marzipan and decorated with a green ring of frosting and citrus fruit. 

Where to Eat It: Sicily, specifically “Caffe Sicilia” in Noto

Torta Setteveli

(Pronounced tohr-tah seht-teh-veh-lee in Italian)

Meaning “seven veils” in English, this chocolate and hazelnut Sicilian birthday cake is really something special. The first layer is a chocolate sponge cake followed by a layer of praline crunch, hazelnut Bavarian cream, chocolate sponge cake again, hazelnut Bavarian cream, chocolate mousse, and lastly, glazed in chocolate. 

Where to Eat It:Pasticceria Cappello” in Palermo, Sicily

Cannoli 

cannoli in a glass case with various flavors

(Pronounced cahn-noh-lee in Italian)

Rooted in Arab tradition, these dried pastry shells shaped into a cylinder are filled with either a sweet cow’s or sheep’s milk ricotta filling. The trick to identifying the good ones is if they fill them on the spot with the ricotta cream (if they are pre-filled they get soggy!). They often come in various flavors and with toppings such as pistachio, hazelnut and chocolate. 

Where to Eat Them: Sicily

Schiacciata alla Fiorentina

birds eye view of a schiacciata alla fiorentina decorated with the giglio in cocoa powder on a wooden board

Schiacciata alla fiorentina is a dessert eaten for Carnival throughout Tuscany but originally from Florence. It’s a light, airy cake topped with powdered sugar and served as a sheet cake. The best way to eat it is with chantilly cream inside. Try ordering it at a bar for breakfast with an espresso. 

Where to Eat It: Tuscany (Florence)

Castagnole

plate of castagnole / fritole piled high on a plate on a wooden board from side view

(Pronounced cah-stahn-yoh-leh in Italian)

Sweet fried dough balls, rolled in powdered sugar and sometimes filled with various fillings such as pastry cream or chocolate. They are crunchy on the outside, yet soft and light on the inside. They are best when they are still warm!

Where to Eat Them: Everywhere during Carnival

Chiacchiere 

side view of a glass window full of cenchi cooked golden and dusted with powdered sugar from side view.
Cenci in Florence

(Pronounced kee-ahk-keer-eh in ItaliaN)

This is Italy’s most popular dessert made during Carnival and every region calls it something different: bugie, cenci, frappe, sfrappole, galani, frittole, lattughe and crostoli are just some ways. They are made by quickly frying stips of dough until they are crisp and generously covering them in powdered sugar. You will find them sold at bakeries throughout the country from January through March to take home and eat in company. 

Where to Eat Them: Everywhere during Carnival

Semifreddo 

(Pronounced seh-mee-frehd-doh in Italian)

This ‘half-frozen’ dessert is made by folding whipped cream with meringue which has been flavored with things such as fruit, nuts or chocolate. This mousse-like dessert is then frozen until it sets up before being sliced and served. Light and airy, this frozen dessert is perfect after any big meal!

Where to Eat It: Most regions but especially Tuscany

Affogato

Close up of Italian affogato in glass cup.

(Pronounced ahf-foh-gah-toh in Italian)

Considered both a dessert and a pick-me-up, this dessert will certainly keep you awake so be fair warned! Cream flavored ice cream is topped with a shot of freshly brewed espresso, slightly melting the ice cream, making for a heavenly way to end your meal. 

Where to Eat It: “Vivoli” in Florence or “Fiocco di Neve” in Rome.  

Make It: In just 5 minutes make this amazing dessert following our Affogato Recipe

Crostata

birds eye view of black berry crostata with lattice finish for sale stacked one on top of the other covered in plastic and wrapped with a bow for sale

This is a classic dessert you will find throughout Italy made from shortcrust pastry that is either filled with cream or jam and topped most commonly with a lattice top crust.

Where to Eat It: “Pasticceria Boccione” in Rome or “Sforno” in Florence. 

Ciambella

bundt cake up close on white plate with cup of coffee and a slice cut on the side with a fork on small white plate

(Pronounced chahm-behl-lah in Italian)

The Italian Ciambella is a very simple ring cake that is sometimes flavored with lemon zest or vanilla. The texture is light and airy, ideal for an afternoon snack or for breakfast. Each Italian region has their own recipe as well as every Italian nonna!

Where to Eat It: every region, preferably homemade by an Italian if you have the chance. 

Millefoglie

very zoomed in image of mille foglie cake detailing all the layers

(Pronounced meel-leh-fohl-yeh in Italian)

This is Italy’s version of the French “thousand layer cake” made from puff pastry that is filled with pastry cream and sometimes finished with fresh berries. This is a go-to celebration cake in Tuscany for birthdays, parties and celebrations. 

Where to Eat It: Tuscany

Other Italian Sweet Treats

Digestivi

hand holding a bottle of grappa al miele from top view on a marble board

After-meal liquors that include amaros, herbal or aged liquors or sweet wines that are meant to help in your digestion or act as a cap to the end of a meal. It’s not uncommon for local restaurants to offer their in house digestivo to guests by setting several small glasses and the bottle on your table after your meal. 

Hot Chocolate

Italian hot chocolate or cioccolata calda is especially good: melted chocolate is served in a small cup and topped with whipped cream, upon request. This is a very northern Italian drink to warm up during the winter months in the afternoon. 

Italian Chocolate

Display of artisan chocolates behind glass in VirzioVirtù in Venice, Italy. Fun flavors like grappa and passion fruit.
Gianduiotto chocolates

Venchi chocolates, Perugina baci, Cioccolato Modica (Sicily), Novi chocolates

Specialty Candies 

close up of various colored boxes of pastiglie leone

Leone, Ferrara, confetti (various brands)

Desserts to Bring Home as Souvenirs

cantuccini close up seeing almonds
  • Cantuccini: the Tuscan cookie lasts a long time and packs well.
  • Pocket coffee: perhaps not what you might think to bring back but after you have tried these small chocolates with a coffee burst in the middle you will be bringing them back with you every time you come to Italy. You can find them at any grocery store
  • Panforte (pronounced pahn-fohr-teh in Italian): a chewy dense dessert made of dried fruits, nuts and honey, just to name a few. Head to “Nannini” in Siena for the absolute best. 
  • Frutta Martorana (pronounced froot-tah mahr-tohr-ah-nah in Italian): beautifully painted marzipan sweets shaped into small fruits found throughout Sicily
  • Torrone di Cremona (pronounced tohr-roh-neh dee creh-moh-nah in Italian): this Italian nougat is flavored with toasted almonds, honey and vanilla. You will also find it made with fruit and lemon zest and it can either be hard or soft.
  • Gianduiotto
  • Gianduia
  • Chocolate such as Perugina Baci chocolates and Modica chocolate

Souvenir And Gift Guides: Check out our full article on choosing souvenirs in Italy, Best Food Souvenirs from Italy – Handpicked by Someone Who Lives Here!, for all our recommendations and tips for packing! And if you are looking to give the perfect gift, read Handpicked Gifts for Italian Food Lovers.

close up of a box of pocket coffee red and black packaging with an image of a coffee being poured into a small chocolate

Desserts in Italy FAQ

Are there cookies in Italy?

Yes! There are so many great Italian cookies but they are traditionally less sweet than American cookies. Here are some of the most popular:
Rame di napoli (Sicily)
Baci di Alassio (Liguria)
Bussolai (Venice)
Cassatelle (Sicily)
Cavallucci (Siena, Tuscany)
Canestrelli (Piedmont) 
Anicini (Sardegna)
Brutti ma buoni (Veneto)
Krumiri (Piedmont )
Ferratelle (Abruzzo)
Ricciarelli di Siena (Tuscany)
Baci di dama (Piedmont)
Savoiardi (Piedmont)
Amaretti (Piedmont)

What are some popular sweets that Italians eat for Breakfast?

Italians typically only eat sweets for breakfast including some classics such as ciambella, bomboloni, schiacciata Fiorentina, granita con brioche and crostata. 

Can I only order dessert in a restaurant in Italy?

No, you can pre-order them in bakeries or just swing by and pick them up. Many sell either whole cakes or by the slice/weight. Nicer bars that double as a bakery also sell cakes.