Italy has long been renowned for its delectable cuisine.  The country’s rich culinary culture lures foodies who come here for gastronomic pilgrimages to its bustling cities like Rome to sample the tastiest pasta.  Pizza fans would venture into Naples, while those craving authentic Bolognese sauce are making their way to Bologna.  And then there are palaces offering Italian cuisines with a unique twist, such as Cagliari and Palermo.

Read on for a list of the best destinations to visit in Italy for foodie travellers.

1. Rome

Local pasta dishes dominate the dining scene in Rome.  Familiar ones include carbonara and cacio e pepe. You will find these local specialties throughout the city, although the trattorias in Trastevere serve the best ones.  The medieval neighbourhood is the city’s top nightlife spot, with a bustling scene and a long line of eateries in its cobbled lanes.  Aside from the local trattorias, you will also find restaurants with different interpretations of classic Roman dishes and international dining spots offering dishes from varied parts of the world.

Testaccio is another great neighbourhood foodie should visit in Rome.  It’s bustling with eateries, drinking establishments, and local markets.  You’ll also find some of the best pasta in this area, and you can spot fascinating buildings.  Testaccio is a working-class neighbourhood renowned for its trippa alla romana, a Roman-style tripe.

The Jewish Quarter of Rome is also worth a stop. It’s where you can sample the most delectable Jewish cuisine of Rome, such as carciofi alla giudia, a deep-fried artichoke.  The neighbourhood is also a fun place to roam around, home to some historically significant landmarks such as the Rome Synagogue, Octavia’s Portico, and Marcello’s Theatre.

For an authentic Italian experience, opting for a luxury tour during your visit is your best bet.  Rome, they say, wasn’t built in a day, and navigating it on your own without missing out on local gems can be quite challenging.  Authentic luxury tours in Italy can unlock hidden treasures and provide you with expert guidance to ensure a much more memorable journey.

2. Florence

Florence is the best place for Tuscan food, one of the most revered Italian cuisines, which emphasises the earthy flavours of “peasant cooking,” locally known as cucina povera.  In Florence, treat yourself to a flavorful serving of acquacotta, a broth-based cabbage and bean soup.  You’ll also love the delicious fagioli all’uccelletto, baked beans with herbs.

Renowned for its Michelin-star restaurants, eating in Florence does not necessarily mean dining at fancy restaurants each time.  If you search hard enough, you’ll discover some of the city’s best foodie delights in its cosy pizzerias, lovely cafes, and stalls at local markets.

Start your day with a cup of the tastiest coffee at one of the city’s top cafes.  The Italians are famous for their sweet espresso, and you’ll find it in almost every corner of Florence.  Check out Caffè Gilli, said to be the city’s oldest coffee shop and renowned for its strong espresso.

When dining at a local restaurant, try the tagliere, a chopping board with local cheeses and meats, served with a glass of Tuscan wine, such as Chianti Classico.

As for dessert, help yourself with a scoop or two of gelato.  You won’t have difficulty finding the best gelato in the city, but the best spots are the smaller gelaterias in the backstreets.  Some of the best flavours are pistachio, chocolate, and hazelnut.

3. Naples

Home to Neapolitan pizza, Naples is undoubtedly one of the best destinations for foodies in Italy.  Of course, there’s more to Naples than its iconic pizza.  Whether you prefer to dig into street food dishes or splurge on Michelin-starred dining, Naples will have something to delight you.

The best way to sample Naples’ finest food is to go on a food tour with a local as your guide.  It takes you to the city’s best dining spots while learning more about the local culinary scene from a knowledgeable guide.  Of course, the highlight is to sample authentic Neapolitan pizza, from the classic Margherita to those loaded with meat or seafood.

If you’re interested in learning more about the local cuisine of Naples and perhaps trying your hands at making authentic Neapolitan pizza, consider signing up for a cooking class.  You’ll find many local food establishments around the city that offer cooking classes and will teach you the southern Italian way of cooking.

If you can only visit one pizzeria in Naples, choose Pizzeria Brandi, home to the original pizza Margherita.  Aside from the pizza, you’ll also love their decadent selection of seafood pasta and other Neapolitan specialties.

4. Bologna

As the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna is one of Italy’s best destinations for foodies.  As you stroll through its picturesque medieval centre, you’ll stumble upon rows of street food stalls and tiny restaurants that cater to locals and tourists.  The Bolognese take their food tradition seriously, and you’ll notice this when you stroll through its bustling city streets.

When going around Bologna, you’ll find many independent food shops specialising in the region’s traditional dishes, such as tortellini, a tiny filled pasta with a mix of mortadella, pork mince, and seasoning.  To enjoy the dish most traditionally, eat it in a broth made from a beef bone.

Another dish that’s a must-try on your visit to Bologna is cured pork called mortadella, which you can eat on its own or as an aperitivo.  You’ll also find mortadella added to many other traditional Bolognese recipes, like pasta dishes.

5. Venice

Food in Venice is different from other Italian regions, which makes it an incredible place to visit for foodies, especially in February.  And if there’s one dish you must try in Venice, it’s the cicchetti, which is pretty much like the Spanish tapas.  You’ll find it in various places across the city, mostly in traditional wine bars called bacari.  A visit to these bars is also one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Most of the traditional Venetian cuisine is fish-based. But aside from fish, you’ll find many local restaurants offering mouth-watering pasta and risotto.  In most cases, they also have meat-based dishes.

Don’t forget to order a glass of local Veneto wine with your meal.  Venice produces some of the country’s best red and white wine varieties, so you should not miss the chance to sample them on your visit to the city.

Crostini is a Venetian specialty to try.  It’s a crusty bread brushed with olive oil, with endless toppings to choose from.  Seafood lovers should try the sardine, a local favourite.