Just as Italy's cuisine varies from region to region, so too does the produce in each of these regions. Here's where to go and how to enjoy the best Italian ingredients across the length and breadth of this beautiful Southern European country. Buon appetito!
Get your fresh veggies in Lazio
Vegetarians should make a beeline for hilly Lazio in central Italy. Thanks to its extremely fertile soil, veggies of all kinds are fresh, delicious and abundant. Simple Roman meals – once prepared by poor labourers – are still being served, along with lots of modern, tasty twists.
Artichokes are a key ingredient in many dishes in Lazio
Artichokes are key to many dishes, and the locally grown puntarelle (chicory) is typically served in a salad with anchovy and garlic. Chilly inland winters also make for easy growing of leafy greens.
Get fresh veggies at Rome's Testaccio Market
Taste for yourself... at Rome's Testaccio Market
Want to mingle with the locals? Testaccio Market is known as the heart of Rome, and here you can meet vendors who've been selling vegetables (and everything else!) for generations. Join a four-hour Taste of Testaccio Food Tour for a more in-depth experience and taste your way around the market's flavours with a local guide.
Sniff out the white truffle of Alba in Piedmont
The white truffles of Alba are perhaps the most prized produce in the Piedmont region, located in the north of the country. This pungent underground fungus, typically added to risotto, fried eggs or pasta, is grown around oak, hazel and poplar trees, and can sell for up to €500 (about S$890) per 100 grams, depending on the quality.
Truffles are the most prized produce in the Piedmont region
If you find yourself in Alba in October or November, you're in luck. Drop by the Alba White Truffle World Market, the biggest international exhibition of this coveted delicacy. Admire the fresh truffles that arrive daily from the hills of Piedmont, and don’t forget to sniff out the cooking demos and some of the country's best wines while you’re there.
Taste for yourself... with the help of a sniffer dog
Don't worry if you don't have a nose for truffles, your sniffer dog does! Join a local guide for a Truffle Hunting and Wine Tasting tour and head into the woods, where you'll learn the history of truffle growing as you hunt for them. Afterwards, taste your findings with wine.
Try sardines in Sicily
Fans of fishy dishes will get a taste of heaven in Sicily, where pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines) is a culinary mainstay. The origin of this sweet and salty dish has been traced back to the Arabs, who arrived to the ‘toe’ of Italy's ‘boot’ in the 9th century and foraged for ingredients, mixing local foods with products from afar.
How can one not speak of pasta when in Italy?
Pasta con le sarde is traditionally made with bucatini (a spaghetti-like pasta with a hollow centre), and served al dente with a heap of fresh sardines, wild fennel and a sprinkling of Arab-influenced raisins, pine nuts and saffron.
Taste for yourself... like the locals
If you're the type who needs to see where your food comes from with your own eyes, head to the Catania Fish Market. Collect your own ingredients for a sardine dinner and try the local white wine – Zibbibo – the perfect floral-tasting accompaniment. Or join a local for a guided walk through the main squares and markets, tasting sardines and other specialties as you go.
Pour yourself some extra virgin olive oil in Puglia
Good olive oil can be expensive, but it’s worth it! Puglia in the ‘heel’ of Italy is the country's biggest producer of olive oil, thanks to its accommodating climate and terrain.
Try the different olive oils in Puglia
The most popular olives used for oil in this region are Coratina, Provenzale and Ogliarola, although you'll find lots of different varieties and even more flavours. From fruity, medium varieties for dipping breads and salads to robust, intense ones for grilled meats and roasts, Puglia has it all.
Taste for yourself... on a Pugliese culinary adventure
There are lots of tasting and buying opportunities on the Strada dell’Olio di Puglia, which covers 140km and winds through ancient olive farms. Begin the trip at Museo dell’Olio in San Vito dei Normanni, an olive oil museum in an old Dominican convent! Alternatively, learn to cook like a local with olive oil and more on a Puglia Culinary Tour.
Puglia in the ‘heel’ of Italy is the country's biggest producer of olive oil, thanks to its accommodating climate and terrain
Get cheesy in the Aosta Valley
Valle d'Aosta, nestled in the Alpine region of northwestern Italy, is a cheese lover's dream. Neighbouring France and Switzerland have a big influence on many of the rich dishes here, and fonduta – the Italian twist on fondue – is a must-try.
You can't conclude a visit to the Aosta Valley without trying the cheese here
Fontina – the most famous cheese in the valley – forms the creamy basis of fonduta, but the added butter and eggs make it different from other fondues. If that's not enough cheese for you, look for chnéffléne, a Walser dish of tasty dumplings covered with melted Alpine cheese, or the Italian cornmeal polenta, served traditionally with – you guessed it – melted cheese.
Taste for yourself... with the cheesiest tour ever
Spend some time with fellow cheese enthusiasts on a multi-day Fontina Cheese Tour, which covers everything from dairy farm visits to taking in the views from 4,000m-high peaks. If that's too much, try a shorter food and wine tour that includes a trip to a Fontina cheese producer.
From sniffing out truffles in Piedmont's Alba to getting seriously cheesy in the Aosta Valley, the produce of Italy is as big a draw as the weather, scenery and accommodating locals. Wherever you go to taste the best of Italy, plan your trip now!
Best Time to visit
Italy is beautiful year-round, but the best months for travelling are between April and June, and mid-September through October. It's cooler and less crowded during these times, and in some parts the landscapes are even more colourful.
Driving around Italy is one of the best ways to see the sights and explore at your own pace. It's also possible to travel much of Italy by train, but be sure to book tickets in advance for the best prices.
Euros are accepted everywhere in Italy, and credit cards are widely accepted.
There are several direct weekly flights on Singapore Airlines from Singapore Changi Airport to Milan. Book your tickets now.