Last updated on November 27th, 2023
Whether you are a foodie or not, these are my top food bucket list experiences that I guarantee will have you itching for more.
These experiences are more of Italian milestones for travelers. They might be culinary based but they will open your eyes to Italian culture and traditions as well.
Food is the common thread among these experiences that I have chosen but they are also some of the most popular activities to do in Italy in general because they represent a larger picture and are easily accessible in many of Italy’s most popular destinations such as Florence, Venice and Rome.
So loosen your belt buckles, sit back and get ready to experience some of Italy’s finest traditions, all the while tasting the best of the best Italian food.
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Eat Pizza in Naples (Campania)
Pizza from Naples is so popular that people plan their entire vacations around visiting Naples just to get a famous seat at Gino Sorbillo (Via dei Tribunali, 32, 80138 Napoli NA). Sorbillo is the most iconic pizzeria in Naples and a historic institution for the locals.
I have eaten here many times. My biggest tip is to get there about 20-30 minutes before it opens and get your name down right when doors open. This way, you avoid the extremely long wait that inevitably awaits most people.
The restaurant does not take reservations so you must mettersi in lista, or put your name down for a table. Don’t be afraid of the giant crowd outside – most people have already spoken to the hostess and are waiting for their table. Just make yourself to the font.
Make Fresh Mozzarella (Campania)
One of the best ways to taste the best mozzarella in all of Italy is to go directly to the factories, which are scattered throughout Campania. Many places also offer a factory tour where you can actually see the cheese being made but you may have to book with an outside agency, depending on the factory.
Oddly enough, I have made fresh mozzarella di bufala in Tuscany with a Neopolitan producer, Nonno Benito, located in the heart of Valdichiana. This family-run business is as true and authentic as the most famous farms in Campania. The family was born in Naples but found an opportunity in Tuscany that they couldn’t turn their backs on. In 2002 they opened their operation, using the same methods of production as they did back home in Naples.
No matter where you go, you will have a ball exploring and eating mozzarella di bufala – it truly is one of the best cheeses in the world! If you are hoping to actually get a tour of the factory, check online to be sure they offer factory tours (many have changed their rules with Covid-19).
We Recommend: Tenuta Vannulo is one of the best and most famous factories to visit for mozzarella in Campania. Read our article on What is Mozzarella di Bufala (Buffalo Mozzarella)? – Solving the Great Italian Mystery for full list of the most famous producers to visit.
Learn More: Study up on Italian formaggio with our Complete Guide to Italian Cheese!
Eat Cicchetti in Venice (Veneto)
Cicchetti is the Italian version of Spanish tapas that you will come across in Venice. Eating in Venice is a bit different than in the rest of Italy as meals are often defined by several small bites that amount to a larger meal (although this is not a rule).
Eating cicchetti is the most authentic way to fit in with the locals. Stop off at any bar, enoteca, bar, or restaurant and dine side-by-side in piedi or standing up, alongside your Italian counterparts with a small glass of wine or a spritz.
You will find all kinds of cicchetti in Venice ranging from baccalà mantecato (small toasts with whipped codfish), sarde in saor (pickled sardines with onions and raisins) and spiedino di frittura (fried fish) but you will notice the emphasis on fish and local seafood.
Good To Know: Some of the most popular places you will be able to scout out just by the crowd of people outside. Many of these will let you drink your glass of wine on the street with a small plate of cicchetti.
We Recommend: All’Arco (particularly good sarde in saor) or Cantine del Vino già Schiavi (Enoteca Schiavi) for the best cicchetti.
Have A Spritz With Locals in Padua (Veneto)
There is literally no place in Italy where having an aperitivo (a cocktail) either before lunch or before dinner is not widely accepted and practiced among the locals. The concept of wetting your pallet before a meal is huge in Italy so you will notice squares filling up before dinner time.
Good To Know: Aperitivo hour in Italy is a little on the later side compared to American standards. Italians usually sit down for an aperitivo between 6:30-9:00 pm.
Ever since the 1950’s when the aperitif Aperol spritz came into fashion, it has been a staple throughout the entire country. Originally from Padua, this is where the biggest Aperol spritz culture is even today. It’s made from prosecco, sparkling water and Aperol bitters.
Variations: Try a Campari spritz made with Campari instead of Aperol which is slightly more bitter and has a higher alcohol content.
This is an experience that you might find yourself repeating every evening while in Italy. Pick any bar really – I suggest one in a nice square so you can enjoy the view – and settle in. Take your time, sick back and sip your spritz, nibbling on the various snacks that you will also be served complimentary with your drink.
Every joint has their own preference on how to serve it but it typically comes in a large red wine glass, although it’s also served in a traditional tall cocktail glass or short, wider glass as well.
We Recommend: Caffè Diemme Italian Attitude Padova (Prato della Valle, 2, 35123 Padova PD) for a great view.
Take a Prosecco Tour (Friuli-Venezia Giulia & Veneto)
Prosecco has taken off in the world of wine in the last decade and for good reason. It’s essentially champagne but cannot be called that because it’s not made in France. There are various grades starting at your standard prosecco and working your way up towards DOC, and Superior DOCG.
Whether you are an avid prosecco connoisseur sommelier or a newbie, you will be blown away by the experience of touring prosecco producers just outside of Venice. Many prosecco producers will offer you tastings paired with locally produced food products and typical dishes of the area. If there is one thing, you won’t leave thirsty nor hungry!
About an hour outside of Venice you will be in the heart of prosecco country, Cnegliano, Susegana and Valdobbiadene being the largest towns within. Although you can reach these towns with public transport (via train), I highly suggest renting a car or arranging some kind of car hire with a driver. This way, you will be able to tour the beautiful countryside and visit more than one winery.
Visit The Antinori Winery in Chianti (Tuscany)
I have been to the Antinori Winery in Tuscany several times both to eat and on a tour. This is not your mom and pop type of place, but rather, luxurious and bold, newly renovated with innovative architecture.
Whether you are looking to tour or just eat at their restaurant, I highly recommend booking in advance, even months in advance at the height of tourism during the summer. There are several formulas that you can book, depending on how many tastings you would like to do and how large your party is.
Participate in the Olive Harvest (Tuscany)
Getting involved in the olive harvest is perhaps one of the best ways to immerse yourself in a true Italian tradition and way of life. Italians who have any amount of land will most likely have olive trees in Tuscany so the yearly olive harvest is truly part of the local traditions.
There is no other time of the year when we see friends and family coming together more to help one another out. There is no way any Italian would be able to get all their olives harvested and off to the mill in a decent time frame without help from friends and family.
Change things up and help out this year by contacting one of the thousands of agritourisms in Tuscany. There are several reasonable options such as La Sala or more luxurious options such as Castello La Leccia but you will need to contact each agritourism individually to see if they allow guests to participate in their yearly olive harvests.
Airbnb also provides several listings for olive harvest experiences. While I have never booked an olive harvest experience through Airbnb or any other website, I do it myself at our family-run home in Tuscany and it’s one of my favorite times of the year.
Take a Cooking Class with a Tuscan Nonna (Tuscany)
Taking a cooking class is one of the best ways to spend a morning or afternoon on your trip to Italy. I am extremely lucky to have taken many as my mother-in-law runs these in Tuscan. I can’t tell you how many times we hear that it’s one of the guests’ most favorite aspects of their vacation.
There is something very Italian about being invited into somebody’s home to cook and learn a new skill. In Italy, the tradition of passing down family recipes is a true part of a larger cultural identity. Italian nonne are thrilled to be able to pass their family recipes to anyone who will listen and who is eager to learn.
There is no other experience in Italy that I think coddles you the way this one does. This is because Italian grandmothers are so generous and loving. Cooking with a Tuscan nonna is like being in your grandma’s kitchen again as a child – you can really do no wrong and the end result is dreamy.
We Recommend: Cooking classes with Valentina at Camporsevoli in Tuscany.
Go Truffle Hunting (Umbria)
Italy is prime country when it comes to truffle hunting, no matter your preference for white or black. Tuscany, Piedmont, Marche and Umbria are some of the peninsula’s most famous regions to eat them in (you will notice local restaurants serving dish after dish made with locally sourced truffles).
Truffle hunting is a great way to get outdoors and explore some of Italy’s countryside. I have never paid to do this but I have gone with friends of ours in Umbria. Many tour companies and platforms such as Airbnb offer these experiences where you will typically spend part of the day hunting, followed by either a grand lunch or dinner involving truffles.
If you love to explore the outdoors, can’t get enough of truffles or you love animals, this is the experience you will want to book.
Good To Know: Truffles are seasonal. Depending on the region you are in, anywhere from November through March, is when the earth is damp and the truffle hunting begins. Timing can also change depending on the climate that particular year.
Eat Your Way Through Rome with Katie Parla (Lazio)
Italy’s capital of Rome has some of the country’s best food with carbonara, cacio e pepe and amatriciana standing out. But did you know this is only the tip of the iceberg? There is so much amazing food in Rome that it’s easy to get overwhelmed which is where Katie comes in.
Katie Parla is a food critic, cookbook author and also, a guide for Roman food offering foodie tours of the city. I personally have never done this (although I have gone on food tours before) but I am confident in recommending her because I own all her books, am a loyal fan, and listen to all her podcasts on repeat.
She is such a happy person and wishes no more than for you to love Roman food as much as her. So what better way to spend your afternoon than touring some of the oldest streets in Europe while eating your heart out?
Tip: Book ahead! She is popular so be sure to get in touch with her well in advance.
Take a Pasta Making Class (Puglia)
What could be more iconic than the cute old ladies making pasta on the side of the road outside their homes? And yes, this actually happens – it’s not just a stereotypical image of Italian nonne or grandmothers.
In places like Puglia where homemade pasta is the heart of its culinary traditions, you will find that everyone, from young children and students to mothers and grandmothers know how to make handmade pasta. It’s a tradition that is passed down from one generation to the next and unlike other areas of Italy, it’s still very much a reality in Puglia (and southern Italy in general).
I suggest taking a pasta making class in Puglia but you can really do it anywhere in Italy. I have done it in several places including Sicily, Tuscany and Puglia but the reason I suggest Puglia specifically is because it’s the most iconic place to do it. The pasta shapes are easy to replicate at home and there is plenty of opportunity.
If you are in a different region, however, go ahead and do it anywhere!
Chow Down on Street Food in Palermo (Sicily)
Sicily has some of the best and cheapest street food in all of Italy. What I like about it best is that there is something for everyone (unless you are on a diet!). There is fried everything, seafood, baked goods and plenty of great gelato and sweet treats.
Sicilians love their street food, especially in Palermo where they are particularly well known for all the stalls and vendors dotted throughout the ancient city.
This was my favorite way to eat when I visited Palermo because I could try many different things for next to nothing. I also had a one year old with me, making it hard to sit and eat anything resembling a sit down meal.
Learn More: Read all about Palermo’s street food in our Complete Guide to Traditional Sicilian Food.
Pick Apples & Make Strudel in the Dolomites (Trentino Alto-Adige)
The Dolomites are a fantastic way to visit Italy if you love the outdoors, boasting some of the best hiking, biking and skiing that Europe has to offer. If that wasn’t enough, the food is to die for!
Make Strudel doesn’t seem Italian but because Italian food and culture is so regional, it’s actually a huge part of Northern Italian culinary traditions. Food was and still is today, heavily influenced by Austria and Germany, which is where all their rich, cheese and meat-heavy diets come from.
Apples and pears grow extremely well in the mountains and local orchards are happy to have visitors. You can either pick your own (which I highly recommend if you have kids) or you can simply pick an array of apples to bring home with you). Some farms will offer cooking classes.
I often suggest this to friends and family visiting the Dolomites because it’s a good way to break up all the outdoor activities. After all, you have most likely spent most of your day doing some form of physical activity so why not reward yourself with an apple strudel?
We Recommend: Booking a strudel making class with Stefan, Owner and Chef at Romantik Hotel Turm.
Dine at Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana (Emilia-Romagna)
This Michelin three–starred restaurant has been open since 1995 in Modena and today is considered one of the best restaurants in the world. It has been ranked in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants since 2019 and is thus, very hard to get into. This being said, it’s possible if you can manage to plan your trip far enough in advance.
Bottura is known for being innovative yet at the same time uses tradition as the base for all his dishes. In addition, the osteria was also awarded the Michelin Green Start, a stamp of approval for those who have committed themselves to making sustainable food within the restaurant.
We Recommend: I highly suggest you opt for the tasting menu which includes various dishes. If you buy dishes a la carte, you might be shocked when the bill arrives.
Learn How Parmesan, Prosciutto and Balsamic Vinegar is Made (Emilia-Romagna)
Not only have I been on this tour and died and went to heaven but I have also sent all my American family to do it as well. This triad is THE food tour you want to do if you are in Italy. The process of how parmigiano-reggiano, prosciutto and aceto balsamico di Modena is made is truly fun (and tasty).
What I liked about this food tour is how it draws you in even if you are not a foodie. My mom is a total foodie and loved it but my dad just went along for the ride. In the end, guess what? My dad took more pictures and still talks about it to this day!
I used Italian Days touring company but there are so many others that offer the same formula as well. I had a great experience with them so I would highly recommend it. The only note I have is that it’s a bit expensive but if you factor into the fact that you get various tastings, a full guide for all three factory tours, transportation, an amazing multi-course lunch and breakfast, it’s actually worth every penny.
You will need to book in advance, which you can do directly on their website. Spaces fill quickly in the summer months.
Tour Undiscovered Wine Country (Piedmont)
When most people think of touring wine country they think of Chianti in Tuscany but what I have learned is that Piedmont is actually one of the better places to be for vineyard tours and tastings, primarily because its not overrun with tourism (yet).
Barolo is the most famous and beloved wine of Piedmont and you will run into one producer after another in the countryside. Whether you have time to explore the countryside or you are bound to Turin for logistical reasons, there is a wine cellar for you.
If you are in Turin and don’t have time to head outside the city, you will have plenty of opportunities to taste wines. The city is littered with little enoteche or wine bars that have vast wine collections. You can often order little nibbles and small plates so if you are pressed for time you can combine your tasting with your lunch time. If, on the other hand, you have several hours, get lost in the endless menus of some of these places.
We Suggest: Enoteca Parlapà in Corso Principe Eugenio, 17 – 10122 Torino
Don’t Miss: Be sure to also try Barolo, Barbaresco, Nebbiolo, Roero, Barbera, Dolcetto and Arneis, also famously produced in Piedmont.
Dine At a Local Sagra (All of Italy)
A sagra is a local Italian food festival celebrating a particular food. They happen throughout the year, in almost every town in celebration of that town’s food. Leave it to Italy to give each town their own food specialty.
Italians flock from far and wide to visit some of the most popular ones such as the sacra di cinghiale in Tuscany or the sacra del tartufo in Piedmont but there is literally a sagra around every corner.
Sagre take place mostly in the spring, summer and fall when weather is typically more suitable for outdoor dining. Enormous tents and tables are set out with booths to pay, a mock kitchen and plenty of local nonne cooking up the specialty. But not only! The menus are always quite extensive so even if you aren’t a fan of truffles, for example, you will certainly find something as well.
Following the festival, there is usually some kind of entertainment like music or dancing. There is no other Italian experience quite like it!
Good To Know: Sagre are a great way to eat very authentic, good quality food at a lower price. It’s not as cheap as eating street food but it’s certainly cheaper than a restaurant.
Italy Foodie Bucket List FAQ
The best places to head for food in Italy are the largest: Florence for bistecca, Venice for cicchetti, Naples for pizza, Rome for carbonara, Bologna for parmigiano-reggiano, Parma for prosciutto, Palermo for street food and Torino for chocolate. Read about the Best Cities in Italy for Food.
Some of Italy’s best and most iconic pasta dishes come from Rome including carbonara, cacio e pepe and amatriciana. Other notable pasta is pasta alla norma (Sicily), tortellini (Emilia-Romagna) and pappardelle al cinghiale (Tuscany)
Bologna is known as the culinary capital of Italy, where you will find some of the best ingredients such as parmigiano-reggiano, prosciutto and balsamic vinegar. The absolute best stuffed pasta is made in bologna and the ever famous pasta bolognese and lasagne is particularly sought after.
Bologna is considered Italy’s food capital. Emilia-Romagna, where Bologna is, is a culinary hub for some of the peninsulas finest ingredients such as parmigiano-reggiano, prosciutto di parma and aceto balsamico di modena.
Naples is most famous for their pizza napoletana, characterized by a puffy, airy crust topped with tomato puree, Italy’s finest mozzarella and garnished with fresh basil.