Visitors will quickly learn that food is absolutely everything in Italy. In fact, the question “Hai mangiato?” (Have you eaten?) is almost another way of asking “How are you?” Most visitors have sampled some of the spectacular pasta and pizza dishes on offer, with roasted vegetables, cured meats and cheeses, and everything on your antipasti platter in between. But what many don’t realise is the huge variety of Italian cuisine and how much it changes from region to region.
You can venture up to the Dolomites and Austrian borders to taste pasta stuffed with beetroot and loaded with butter, chunks of hearty fried smoked cheese, and warming polenta – all perfect fuel for a day in the mountains. Or dine on Sicily’s red prawns, raw and straight from the sea, pastas heavy on aubergines, or a sweet icy granita alongside your brioche. Umbria’s wild boar ragu and rich flavours such as black truffles and porcini mushrooms prove that everything in this green region is about the woodlands. Or you can head south for the traditional recipes of ‘cucina povera’ (poor food) with the simplest of store cupboard ingredients becoming the star of the show – and right down to Calabria for a healthy dose of chilli peppers and the ‘nduja sausage which is ever-growing in popularity.