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Best eating region in Italy?

I know this is VERY subjective, but just looking for your opinions on where to find the best food in Italy. My husband and I booked a last minute trip to Italy in two weeks. We have our second week booked in the Marche region, but are trying to figure where to stay for the first 5 days. Sure, there are other considerations on where to stay (culture, scenery...), but I think some of the best memories are made from really good food! About us: We are in our early 30's, love eating whatever is local and fresh, but especially cheese and pork (and really any other meats), not so interested in seafood. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

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  1. It's impossible to name a single best region for eating, given differences in traditions, standards, tastes, and products. I personally think Campania is the single richest region for eaitng-- it's large and radically diverse within, from rough mountains to Naples to the coast. But I'd imagine that for your five days, landlocked Umbria comes first to mind, for its proximity to Le Marche, and known/loved for its polished rusticity, attractive small towns, and renowned cured pork products. Not been there myself, but many CHers have. Buona vacanza.

    1. Or shift northwest from Le Marche to Emilia Romagna, home of prosciutto di Parma, culatello di Zibello, Parmigiano-Reggiano and generally considered one of Italy's prime eating regions. Bologna is not called La Grassa (the Fat) for nothing.

      There's a list (in Italian) of the DOP and IGP products of Emilia Romagna here:
      The links show the products.

      1. I'd agree with zerlina at ER. Bologna is a fine eating town, Tortellini in brodo, mortadella, and, of course, the local rag├╣ are all stars on the culinary firmament. Plus, you've got Modena, Parma, and other locales offering a variety of specialties.

        bob96 suggestion is also a worthy one, particularly if you're into pork. I recently attended an "Umbrian Challenge" dinner at some friends in Montone. You might find the blog post informative (http://www.foodbuzz.com/blogs/2650241...). Feel free to drop Judith a line.

        I live in Le Marche and would be happy to offer some suggestions if you post your itinerary.

        Happy Eating!

        1 Reply
        1. re: ghiottone

          Here agree too with zer, Emelia Romagna, is home to the more recognizable classic food products of Italy, for a different take on food and growing methods I like the Culture of Food found it the abruzze, it is not as refined as Emelia Romagna, rather more" earthy and closer to the soil",
          Bottom line it is all good but varied regionally.

        2. My two picks would be the Langhe in Piemonte. The region seems made for indulgent eating and drinking. Also home of the Alba truffles and where the Slow Food movement started. Here's a recent thread:

          And the hills of Friuli-Venezia-Giuilia where I had the best Prosciutto of my life (and yes I've been to Parma):

          We often go on food vacations - in fact next week we are driving from Torino to Lyon via Annecy - exploring different regions in France and Italy, sampling the local foods and wines. The two Italian regions above are the ones I would return to in a heartbeat.

          3 Replies
          1. re: r.vacapinta

            I second the Piemonte region and the Langhe within Piemonte. I remember an article in the Wine Spectator several years speculating that the Langhe had the best dining &restaurants in Europe. Having visited that region twice, I would tend to agree. With Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, etc., the wine culture in that area is very, very strong

            Emilia-Romagna is also very, very good, but you do not find the strong wine culture there that you find in the Langhe.

            1. re: DavidT

              I dont want to get into this fuss, no way, but consider - I dont know where you will be in the Marche but it will be in a hilly country area, most likely - consider whether that mean you want an urban area with more cultural attractions for the rest of your visit, or more of the same? Umbria would be more of the same as would much of tuscany and other hilly areas. Country will usually mean a rather rustic style of cooking - grilled and roasted meats, game and mushrooms or truffles in season, ,local cheeses. the traditional cooking of these mountinous regions is often cucina povera - you will see a lot of bean soups, lentils etc. Fruits and veg will be highly seasonal.

              If you want some contrast you should consider visiting a richer more settled area like Piedmont or Emilia Romagna, , or one with a contrasting fresh cuisine, like Campania. Or simply spend some time in Rome, where cuisines of multiple regions can be sampled along with the cultural treasures.

              Good luck with your choice.

              1. re: DavidT

                I will add that one thing in favor of Umbria with regards to wine is the Montefalco Sagrantino. My god, thats some of the best wine I have ever had! Our best meal in Tuscany was actually in Umbria - on a sidetrip where we ate at L'Alchimista in Montefalco.

                Umbria is not as consistent food-wise as the Langhe and the food is a bit less refined but if you do your research, great food and wine is to be had there. I mention this because if you are in the Marche, ER and Umbria will be easier than trekking to/from Piemonte.

            2. I have traveled fairly extensively in Italy, and for me Piedmont (Langhe) was the best. I would place Emilia-Romagna and Umbria second. I assume you will have a car, but if you go to Emilia-Romagna you will be better off without as you could easily do day trips by train from Bologna to Modena, Parma and Ferrara, and the scenery is not impressive so sticking to the cities is best.

              1. It's too easy to agree with bob96....it's impossible to name a single region for food, given the unbelievable (for any American person, at least, and trust me, I'm not exaggerating) variety and tradition of any single region and city in my country (yes, I am Italian). So my advice is, choose the destination on other basis. Decide what u want to see, the kind of environment, city, place u want to visit. Then, in any part of the country, and especially if u have never experienced Italian food here in Italy, u will have plenty of things to try and u will never ever go away unsatisfied. Just think that u can't try everything, and focus on the typical products and dishes of the place u visit. The other option would be choosing ur destination according to local food traditions matching ur tastes, but believe me, it would be way too difficult. For example, I know u haven't considered my homeland so far (Sardinia), but I can assure u that the variety of cheese u can eat here (especially sheep and goat) is probably bigger than in any other region...that's why I say the second strategy would be very hard...

                1. One more vote for Bologna.

                  I had extremely good eats in Sardinia, as well. the best pizza of my trip with a great view.

                  1. I would also name the Langhe area of the Piedmont (Piemonte) first, very closely followed by Emilia Romagna.

                    Especially in the fall, during the white truffle season, the Langhe will be a gustatory delight. We ate ourselves silly on a 4-day trip there several years ago. This area would be an especially good choice if you like wine, as that if of course the Barolo wine region. To generalize, the cuisine of the Piemonte has a French influence, and the dishes (I feel) are a bit more refined than in other places in Italy - it's not good or bad, it's just the style of the cuisine. Lots of meat, less seafood; a lovely cheese sauce called fonduta (I'm making it to go with a sformato I'm serving this weekend); pastas not so much seen in other parts of Italy.

                    Umbrian cuisine you will find is much more similar to the cuisine of Le Marche; we spent a week there last year. I liked the foods of Le Marche, but would place it below (in my list) Piemonte, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscan and some specific dishes found in Roman cooking.

                    Enjoy, whatever you choose!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Lexma90

                      Another vote for Bologna with trips to Modena and definitely Parma, where I just may have had the best meal I've ever eaten in Italy. An added plus: Bologna is a beautiful city with very friendly people. Buon appetito!

                    2. Another vote for the Langhe and ER - just returned and did not have one bad, or even less-than-great meal!!

                      1. There's just NO bad eating in Italy. It's mostly regional cuisine, if you're programmed by what's served in the USA, forget it. It's totally different here. The use of "Northern Italian" , "Tuscan" and the like are all pretextual in US Italian-style restaurants.

                        Each region (There are approx. 15) has its own specialties, it can help to find out in advance what they are and find restaurants that serve them. They can also be seasonal, so be aware of that as well.

                        Buon Gusto!

                        1. IMO, Piemonte, but all of Northern Italy is wonderful. Most people miss Le Marche, Friuli-Venezia-Giuilia and Trentino-Alto Adige. My wife and I have been drawn back yearly for over ten years just to eat and drink.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: BN1

                            All of ALL OF ITALY is wonderful for food! American tourists also often miss Abruzzo, Puglia, Calabria, Basilicata and Molise. These are in the South, but the local cuisine has little overlap here, as well as in the north. The only ubiquitous item is pasta, albeit it is prepared very differently in each of the regions, and even looks different.

                            My pet peeve is the restaurants in the USA trying to pass themselves off as "authentic". A total hoax.

                          2. I would say Piemonte and northern Italy generally as well (especially if you would like to gain a nice layer of fat for the winter), BUT, there is weather to consider... I might stay south in late October! But I see from the date of your post you are probably already in Italy, you will have to report back on your choices.

                            1. well I'm sure you're already back from your trip... you should let us know how it went!
                              But I will add my two cents anyways: since nobody else mentioned it I will, PUGLIA! The best thing about puglia... it's not touristy. tourists traps don't exist so there is no risk of falling in them. and prices are reasonable. You and your husband can enjoy freshly grilled meat (picked out by you at the counter before sitting down), appetizers, salad, roasted potatoes, olives, taralli, wine and of course an amaro (usually offered on the house at the end of the meal) for 40 euros in Cisternino or Martina Franca... and the winding little alleys will be the perfect way to walk off your full stomach after you eat. and Martina Franca is famous for burrata, capocollo, and sopressata.. mmm... Then let's see... orechiette con rape anywhere in puglia. Negroamaro or Primitivo wine.... most cantinas will give you free tastings. In Lecce you have to try a rustico as your mid-morning snack, it's puff pastry filled will bescamel, mozzarella, pepper and tomato sauce. Lecce is also a college town and known for it's Baroque architecture.. Ostuni is beautiful. Oria too, and Galipoli, Taranto is famous for it's black mussels but you said you didn't want seafood. and the ricotta forte in the taranto region.. Caciocavalli is another good cheese in puglia. and you should definitely see Alberobello and the centro storico of Taranto.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: sandywillows

                                Sandy: Can you give us a few specifics about where you had your best meals in Puglia? Thanks!

                                1. re: erica

                                  Erica.. sorry i'm just barely replying now.. i didnt see that you had replied to me. i have to be honest, (and it's kind of a cop out) but my best meals in Puglia have been at home, or at the home of others. Go to the market, but fresh ingredients and cook at home. If you're here on vacation either rent a house with a kitchen or make friends with someone who does have a kitchen and try to score an invitation to their house! if you dont want to impose on anyone and would rather eat at your own home then i would suggest asking whomever you buy your ingredients from, how to cook them.. (although this might require a pretty decent understanding of Italian-and probably the local dialect since many farmers speak only dialect) you are bound to get vendors who will tell you ALL about how you should prepare whatever ingredient they are selling you (and then do this, and then add that, and blah blah blah-you might even incite a heated debate if more then one person tries to give you THEIR personal tried and true recipe which in their opinion is the Only way.)
                                  but alas, if you must go to a restaurant there is one near Ceglie Messapica called Al Fornello da Ricci ( http://www.ricciristor.com/ ) that i went to a couple months ago.. Very good starters and primi! and dessert was amazing. very nice place and a great wine list!
                                  and here is another one in martina franca- my boyfriend and i just followed the smell of grilled meat and discovered this place by mistake.. but it was anything but a mistake to eat there! the meat was great and the price was more than reasonable! i was able to find the website for this place too http://www.bracerialocalcarni.com/ind...
                                  and once i ate at really cool place out in the countryside near cisternino but i cant remember the name.. if i find it i will post it. the place is basically a butcher's shop with room for about 15 people to eat in the back. you have to call at least a week ahead and reserve your table (there are only two tables) they begin preparing your meat the night before and serve one particular rabbit dish that is slow cooked overnight. and i ate veal carpaccio that was to die for (and i am not a fan of raw meat and so it is not easy to wow me with carpaccio) if i remeber the name of this place i will def. post it.

                                2. re: sandywillows

                                  I agree with Sandywillow. I am Italian, so in general I love Italian food from each Italian regions...however I am really fan of Puglia food and wine. First of all I like food that is simple and super fresh (and Puglia is one of the regions producing freshest fruit and vegetables).
                                  The cuisine of Puglia is based on lots of fresh pasta (made with NO eggs but with durum wheat, barley, farro), lots of fresh vegetables, fantastic cheese and excellent extra virgin olive oil. What I like about Puglia is the fact the concept of "local" is brought to an extreme: you really eat what's produced in that specific town. If you are in Gallipoli (i.e. by the sea) you won't be able to find any meat. If you are inland (Lecce etc) very rarely you will find seafood....or at least as a local I would not eat fish in Lecce which is 10 miles away from the sea.
                                  If you like meat and salami then the best places are Martina Franca, Ceglie Messapica and Locorotondo. My number one favorite place in Puglia (after my home town Lecce) is ceglie Messapica. In Puglia we call it the "gastronomic town" meaning that the wonderful is just fantastic. There are no bad or good restaurants. All of them are superb. Food is the most important thing to Pugliese people.....and a bad restaurant would not survive!
                                  For more info about PUglia food and wine please check my blog http://www.italycookingcourses.com

                                3. No one for Friuli Venezia Giulia? Another culinary & wine gem.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Irene65

                                    Actually, in the 5th reply, r.vacapinta did mention Friuli Venezia Giulia.

                                  2. In addition to those regions already mentioned I would add Sicily. It is quite different from the rest of the country. In fact, the folks call themselves Sicilian before Italian! Anyway, the north African influences are in evidence. As in other cases, as Sicilians are generally poorer than other regions, the food is more rustic and creative as it has to be. The pace of life is slower and it seems less commercial in most areas and that is very attractive to me.

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: chefathome

                                      I trust the original posters have come/gone and had a wonderful time. For others reading these replies, my first bit of advice is to relax--stopping planning your Italian trips minute-by-minute. An underlying but unstated bit of advice running through many of these goes something like this: get a dart board, put a map of Italy on it, throw no more than one dart per week of your stay. My second bit of advice is to stay outside major cities (some diagreement on this), stay in a small hotel, look for non-English menus, or better yet no menus, make a connection with one or two locals and then follow their advice. Some of our most memorable meals have been in places unknown by those 25 miles away.

                                        1. re: sandywillows

                                          Bis. One word to remember: agritiurismi. Amazing value, unique experiences.

                                          1. re: Longing for Italy

                                            Agreed. My husband and I have some food rules when traveling and that is frequenting markets, avoiding English whenever possible, getting away from the crowds, head into the countryside (we always rent a car) and stay/eat at agriturismos (or equivalent in other European countries) as bob96 mentions.

                                            1. re: chefathome

                                              Having dined in most of Northern and Central Italy, I hold to the belief that one owes it to oneself to visit the Tuscan coast and eat as much seafood as you can. You'll see how deprived we Americans are of variety and freshness. Plowing into a whole turbot (or eating fresh shellfish) at a restaurant like La PIneta in Marina di Bibbona or Lorenzo in Forte dei Marmi is an experience that every concerned diner will never forget and will/ can never duplicate in most of the rest of the world. Anyone who goes to Tuscany may quickly tire of the restaurants inland, but not the good ones on the coast.

                                              1. re: Robert Brown

                                                Robert-- nice to see you surface here again! We are in Nice every year in Sept. Maybe we'll see you at Luc Salsedo!

                                                1. re: Robert Brown

                                                  That is so true. I have not eaten on the Tuscan coast nearly as much as I would like! Hopefully our next trip in October will change that.

                                          2. Neat, a question where each answer is wrong and all answers are right. And thanks RB, that's a trip I've wanted to do for years but never knew where to start.

                                            1. I have worked as a guide for many years from Sicily to Venice and there are MANY wonderful food regions in Italy. My favorites, however are:
                                              1. Tuscany (that is why I am a gourmet food guide here)
                                              2. Sicily (the sauces, the bread, the seafood, the PASTRIES...mamma mia)

                                              If you come to Tuscany, go to the Garfagnana- amazing porcini, truffles, meats- Mmmm...absolutely divine.
                                              a presto
                                              xoxo, C

                                              1. I love how my original post months ago became such a great discussion- thanks guys! We ended up staying in Tuscany for the first half of our trip and in Marche (in a little town called Monterubbiano) for the second half. While we had some memorable meals in Tuscany (Osteria Acquacheta in Montepulciano and happening upon a truffle and cheese festival in Volterra stand out as delicious eating memories!) our greatest food adventures turned out to be in Marche. I'm sure that delicious food can be found all over Italy (as evidenced by all of your comments!) but I think the key is to have a local to guide you. We stayed at this agritourismo called "Vento di Rose" in Monterubbiano and one of the hosts there (Emidio) took us all over Marche to taste the best food and view local treats being made. We saw vino cotto being cooked down in large cauldrons, olives being picked and then pressed into olive oil, and visited incredible food festivals we never would have found on our own. Emidio also guided us to a "can't miss" restaurant down an alley without any advertising that opens only when they have 6 people reserved for dinner for the evening! It's in Petritoli and the chef Sergio makes whatever he pleases for the night (I wish I knew the name of the restaurant, but I'm honestly not even sure it was marked!). This was truly the best meal of my life.
                                                So, I guess after tasting Sicily, Tuscany and Marche so far (hopefully other regions await me in the future!) my suggestion is to find a local to guide you to the best eats, and you probably won't go wrong. Also, if you're looking for a great guide to the best food experiences around, I highly recommend staying at Vento di Rose in Marche and telling Emidio you're interested in food adventures- you can't go wrong! You can see my review on tripadvisor for more info on our stay there- I get nothing for recommending them, but just thought I'd pass it along to other food-lovers!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: erfer007

                                                  Sorry I missed this post earlier and I believe every word you say. Thanks for the tip to what sounds like a wonderful Italian experience. I have been in many parts of le Marche, and ate extremely well, foods untouched by tourism. It is a pity so many people who say they love food above all in their travels can't be talked out of heading to Tuscany or the other popular tourist areas. The discipline and passion about food shared with by locals in other areas of Italy with fewer tourists is phenomenal. An agriturismo is a very good place to find a local guide to the best food.

                                                2. hi-
                                                  My fiancee and I are planning on spending the month of October in Italy. We want to spend a week in 4 different towns/areas/regions. We want to rent an apartment or stay in a small inn/farmhouse in each place. We are major foodies! What four locations should we pick? One week has to be in Tuscany. Any takeaways from your trip last year?

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: LisaSam

                                                    As a fellow with extensive dining experience in North and Central Italy, I certainly would suggest Piemonte, Emilia-Romagna and Le Marche for sure. Maybe you want to go south of Rome, but I haven't been. Save Piemonte for last as white truffles (if it's a good season) will be at or near their peak in late October. Right now Ciau de Tornavento outside of Alba is at the top of my list. Having just been to Le Marche for five days of dining, I can't say enough. Concentrate on restaurants by the sea. Da Maria in Fano, while a simple bar-restaurants and down-to-earth preparations, will, with its fixed menu, give you a terrific introduction to eight or ten sea creatures of the seas abutting the town. The coast is dotted with dozens of relatively simple fish restaurants. I could not even make a dent, but one really good one further down the coast is Chalet Papillon in Porto Sant'Elpidio which, despite its French name, is extraordinarily rigorous about the choice and freshness of its products. It even plots on a nautical map exactly where everything is caught., which is always within a highly-narrow range of sea in the testaurant's surrounds. Furthermore, the servings are generous and offered at a remarkably good value.

                                                    Senigalia has the rare distinction of possessing two two-star Michelin restaurants, but they couldn't have resonated more drastically opposite with me. La Madonnina del Pescatore is everything I rail against in today's modern restaurants. It's dictatorial in its highly-limited offerings and is not faithful to its region. Furthermore, we found some of the fish (the crudo especially which was served Mediterranean-style with various convoluted flavorings) less than impeccably fresh. The restaurant is also on the somewhat desolate sea road to Ancona populated with cheap hotels and middle-class little condo buildings. Don't bother to contrast this restaurant with the remarkable and tasteful Uliasse in the center of town and right on the sea. Maro Uliasse has worked with the best chefs in France and Spain, and although he offers a fixed "Uliasse Lab" menu inspired by a bit of time he spent at el Bulli, there is a wonderful a la carte selection of full portions offering a fish stew (brodetto) and his amazing smoked spaghetti that are unforgettable, With the dining room run by sister Catia, the embodiment of poise, charm, class and looks, I can safely say with confidence that Uliasse is one of the very best restaurants in Italy.

                                                    I realize I left out Tuscany at the beginning of this post, but only because if you spend enough time there, you may well encounter restaurant menu fatigue. The way to avoid it is to spend two or three days on its coast. Here we love La PIneta in Mraina di Bibonna (just down the road from the important wine makers in the Maremma) and Lorenzo in Forte di Marmi. Avoid the tasting menus in both places and stick with crudo, pasta and whole fish.

                                                    La Madonnina del Pescatore
                                                    loc. Marzocca, Via Lungomare Italia, 11, Senigallia, Marche 60019, IT

                                                    Da Maria
                                                    Vico Testadoro,14r, Genova, Liguria 16123, IT

                                                    1. re: Robert Brown

                                                      Robert-- nice to see you surface here again! We are in Nice every year in Sept. Maybe we'll see you at Luc Salsedo!

                                                    2. re: LisaSam

                                                      I am so jealous that you're going to be there this October! My husband and I went to Italy last late October to early November and it was a wonderful time to be there to enjoy good food! We particularly loved going to all of the festivals in Tuscany and Le Marche. In Tuscany, I know there was a truffle festival in the hill town of Volterra with lots of tastes of truffle preparations, local sheep cheeses and cured hams. As I mentioned before though, our favorite portion of our trip (by far, really) was in Le Marche staying at Vento di Rose in Monterubbiano. The owners Emidio and Emanula pointed us in the direction of wonderful food adventures every day and they were certainly excursions we would never have found ourselves. We went to a small vineyard producing "vino cotto" or "cooked wine" and chatted with the owner (Emidio translated for us through the trip!). We went to a wonderful large festival in a town at the base of the Sibilini mountains and a much smaller (but equally amazing!) festival and ate amazing risotto in the town of Monterubbiano. For us, having the hosts at our agriturismo guide us to the best eats and adventures made for a trip we will never forget! Oh, and if you go to Marche, make sure you go to this restaurant in the town of Petritoli with Sergio the chef- he only opens if he has 6 or more reservations and cooks one huge, incredible meal with many courses in this romantic dining room with a long shared table and a fireplace for something like 25 euros including wine and apertif! I wish I knew the name, but again, Emidio guided us there and I don't think they even have a sign. If you can get there, you won't regret it! I'm getting all worked up just thinking about it! Have a wonderful trip!