If you love soul-satisfying food and wine, Italy is for you. Much like its European neighbors, Italy is a country made up of delicious regional cuisines spread out among 20 regions. The terrain is vastly different, from the cooler mountain ranges in Tuscany to the warm islands of Sicily and Sardinia, and influences the cuisine as do bordering countries and the ingredients that are naturally grown and produced in each area. Italy is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of wine. Much like the food, Italian wines are extremely nuanced by where they’re made. To ensure the highest quality, wine is regulated by DOC laws (denominazione di origine controllata). But wine isn’t the only national beverage—coffee is also revered in Italy. Italians walk into a bar and stand by the counter to enjoy caffe (espresso), caffe macchiato (topped with steamed milk), ristretto (strong and made with less water), cappuccino (topped with steamed, frothy milk), caffe latte (equal parts espresso and steamed milk) or a latte macchiato (a glass of warm milk with a touch of coffee).
Not only each region, but each village, has its own way of making classic Italian items, including cheese, bread, pasta and pasta sauce. What they have in common is that they are delicious and healthful. Cooking in Italy is inherently simple with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Genoa is known for Pesto Genoese, while Milan is known for Minestrone alla Milanese and Risotto alla Milanese.Tuscany is home to Chianti wine, while Rome is the place for Spaghetti alla Carbonara and saltimbocca. Some of the world’s best pasta is made in Abruzzo while the subtropical climate of Sicily produces juicy blood oranges and wonderful olive oils. Venice is known for its risotto, while the Piedmont region is renowned for wines from the Nebbiolo grape, including Barolo and Barbaresco. Bologna boasts Pasta Bolognese, and the beef from the Chiana Valley in Tuscany is bred for the famed t-bone steaks known as Florentine steak. While in Naples, don’t leave without trying the Pizza Napoletana from Campania, which includes tomatoes, peppers, spring onions, potatoes, artichokes, fennel, lemons and oranges. Impossible to capture in one bite, the many foods of Italy will amaze you.—Denise Shoukas