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Feb 19, 2009 12:08 PM

What Area of Italy for Foodie Holiday?

I know this is difficult and it is totally subjective...but where in Italy would you go if the main focus of the trip was delicious food? Where did you have your most memorable meals? Thank you!

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  1. I feel the best food comes from Bologna, Italy. When I was last there I ate at Ristorante Donatello three times. There are wonderful family owned places all over the city. As far as taste is concerned Bologna is the best to me.

    1. what kind of food do you like? fish and seafood? roasted meats? spicy food or plain? tomato sauce? do you like pork, cream and butter or the "mediterranean diet" - olive oil, vegetables and grains?

      and what time of year are you travelling

      ps - as much as I love food, I cant quite imagine going to italy just for the food
      whether you like cultural touring, outdoor activities or beaches for your vacation is going to make a difference in whether you enjoyably fill the time between your meals.

      3 Replies
      1. re: jen kalb

        Of course there are other considerations besides food! However, we are going to Paris soon and my husband's only request was that we rent an apartment in an area close to the best patisseries. That one was easy!

        I'm just interested in hearing where people enjoyed the food most in Italy since that will be our next vacation. We eat everything except pork and will be going in the spring.

        1. re: DaisyM

          you might consider taking an apartment in rome near the camp de' fiori. you can shop every day at the outdoor market, makes friends at the local restaurants and wine bars and be well-placed to make day trips to florence and naples. you'll quickly discover where to get what you want.

          1. re: DaisyM

            If you don't eat pork, you would have trouble in Bologna. Florence has a lot of good beef. Southern Italy has a lot of great shellfish and seafood. It really depends on what type of food you like. Dried pasta is standard in the south, fresh pasta often an option in the north.

        2. I like good chow, so I guess I am a foodie, but I like good wine, so, that must make me a drinkie. For food, I think it is a tossup among three regions: Lombardia, Emilia Romagna and Piemonte, with Piemonte head of the class on wine. Most memorable meals have been in the Po Valley, both in Emilia Romagna and Lombardia.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Bradford

            Come on guys! The centre for both food and wine has to be southern Tuscany. (3 of the "big four" wines.)

            Daisy, have a few days in Bologna and then drive down to S Tuscany.

            1. re: Tuscanlover

              Sorry, have to disagree here.

              I agree with Bradford that Piemonte is the head of the class on wine in Italy.

              1. re: RCC

                Which Piemontese wines do you have in mind?

                1. re: Tuscanlover

                  First of all, I won't turn down a good brunello, Chianti, or Super Tuscan. However, I don't think Vino Nobile de M should be anywhere in the top 5 Italian wines.

                  I know that I've had quite a few Tuscan wines in my lifetime. But, I think I've had enough Barolo and Barbaresco that are simply, to my taste, a notch or 2 higher than any Tuscan wine that I've had.

          2. If you do not eat any pork at all you should probably NOT choose Emilia Romagna.

            Tuscany is absolutely beautiful but I do not think it is on anyone's list of the best food regions in Italy.

            I am headed to Piemont myself in April so cannot comment now on that area

            Campania would be beautiful in springtime. I spent a week last April in Amalfi and ate fabulously well at moderate prices. Think mozzarella di bufala; San Marzano tomatoes; marvelous fish and seafood; great pasta made nearby, etc

            And do not forget the Ligurian coast if you favor seafood! That, too, would be wonderful in springtime. And you could daytrip to towns along the coast and maybe even sneak in a visit to Lucca or Pisa on your way there or on your way home. Or split between Piedmont and Ligurian coast.

            7 Replies
              1. re: Tuscanlover

                I've made quite a few trips to Tuscany but have not ventured too far out of the usual tourist haunts of Florence, southern Tuscany (Pienza, Montepulciano, Siena, etc), and the Lucca area.

                I have not been to coastal Tuscany.

                I love the food in every Italian region and do not want to get into any heated discussions of which region has the "best" food. Why don't YOU tell US where the best Tuscan food can be found and perhaps we can explore someday!!!

                What are the 3 of the "big 4" wines made in southern Tuscany?

                1. re: erica

                  I appreciate all opinons! This is completely subjective. I have a year to plan this trip and since my husband has never been to Italy before (I've been to Rome, Florence, Venice, and San Marco) we're completely open. We will fly into Rome and of course spend a few days there. I really appreciate everyone's thoughts.

                  1. re: DaisyM

                    We like the food in all the regions of italy I have visited so far. I was particularly impressed with the food in Campania, it was nothing like I had expected, (i.e. the heavy tomato sauced pasta dishes of America), very clear strong flavors, delicious seafood, vegetables, cheeses and unfamiliar and delicious wines from the ancient grape vvarieties of the region.. And pizza of course. And of course the cultural attractions and natural beauty are remarkable.

                    We loved the food in Emilia-Romagna and there is very interesting food based touring there (such as parmesan and balsamic vinegar making facilities). But you would have to forego all the famous pork based products which are one of the glories of the cuisine, prosciutto, culatello, the various salamis and sausages that are prime specialties of the area. If you were serious, you would have to inquire into the components of sauces (pork is a cooking meat) or the stuffing of your tortelloni. Thats not to say you could not eat very well there, and they do eat very well, but you would have to plan and work around the issue. Even in Parma, there are fish and seafood specialty restaurants (for italians all over the place, this seems to be the preferred luxury food) In this province, Romagna, which has a coastal area, probably offers more food diversity, and attractions like Ravenna, which is very worth a visit.

                    Im most interested at this point in revisiting Campania, travelling in Sicily and the South and further in the NE (Friuli, etc with the great wines in that area) - the Marche is also an attractive region foodwise - look on the Board for more posts about this.

                  2. re: erica

                    But Erica, you already said Tuscany is not on anyone's list!!!

                    I have already posted my recs on this board. (Many times.)

                    The "big 3" in Tuscany are Chianti, Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. I am excluding so called super tuscans. (Barolo completes the 4.)

                    1. re: Tuscanlover

                      Sorry: I thought you meant above that 3 of the "big 4" Italian wines were from Tuscany!

                      As I said above, I have had wonderful food in ALL of the regions of Italy that I have visited, including Tuscany. I would not place Tuscany at the top of my own list and I think that many would agree. This in no way is meant as a knock on the region's food; it simply means that in my own limited experience, I have had better food, consistently, in other regions. Perhaps I have not chosen the right places!

                      I have posted reports here of the restaurants I visited on my most recent trip to Tuscany, in 2006; these included Latte di Luna in Pienza where I had a wonderful and memorable lunch, and a Florentine restaurant that I went back to twice in one week because the food was so good.

                      So called super Tuscans are just that, which does not mean that there are not some excellent wines among them!

                      One thing we can agree on is that there is fabulous food to be found in all regions of Italy!!

                2. re: erica


                  I was just about to suggest Campania, Piemonte, not-Tuscany, so I will add my support to your suggestions. Good point about the pork. I wouldn't make Liguria a food destination, but as an adjunct to a stay in Piedmont, definitely. Nothing against Tuscany, folks. I've had wonderful food there.

                3. I don't think you can come to anything near a consensus on this question. The food is good to incredible throughout Italy, and everyone has a favorite region based on how well that region's cuisine matches his/her own personal preferences. My wife and I are partial to coastal Sicily, but I can see why others might prefer Tuscany, Lombardia, etc.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: MBlair

                    I will put in my two-cents and suggest Puglia, where we spent two weeks last year. No over-the-top 4 star restaurants, no super-expensive international style wines, just authentic, traditional, rustic, "real" food, served up by generous, appreciative, welcoming people. Yes, there are touristy places, but less so than in other parts of Italy. It's mandatory that you have a car-and yes-it's a long ways, though a pretty trip from Rome. Certainly helps to have a little knowledge of the Italian language. It's a culturally and geographically diverse place and the cuisine varies accordingly. Not a place if you want to shop; yes, there are some museums and churches, etc. to visit, but it was mainly for us, a "ride in the country", although there are some good size towns and smaller cities worth visiting. But for real food, it was a wonderful trip.

                    1. re: markabauman

                      Thank you! Sounds like the kind of place that we would love. It is on the list!

                      1. re: markabauman

                        You pretty much described the region just like the way we've experienced it during our visit about 4 years ago. We thoroughly enjoyed our base at the breathtaking baroque city of Lecce, the beaches. the trulli houses, and the pretty whitewashed towns all over the region.

                        We loved the fresh burrata ( I guess this is the region where it originated), the farm-based ingredients in the local dishes, the rustic local wines, the olive oil, and the freshest seafood.

                        Not visited by many foreigners, but that's essentially why it appealed to us.

                        1. re: markabauman

                          I also thank you. I will be in Puglia, for the first time, later this year and I look forward to cucina pugliese. It sounds very like tuscan food in style and I will be interested to compare the two.