This story was first published on 16 August 2017. It is now updated with the latest information on travelling to Italy under the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL).
There is no denying that Italy is one of the world’s most beautiful places, filled with its vast array of tourist attractions. Just like the many tourist attractions of Italy that will satisfy your wanderlust, its cuisine varies from region to region, so too does the produce in each of these regions. And with the prospect of quarantine free travelling between Singapore and Italy (recently added under the Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme) now’s the time to sample everything Italy has to offer.
Here's where to go when you travel overseas for your next holiday to Italy and the best travel tips on how to enjoy the best Italian ingredients across the length and breadth of this beautiful Southern European country. Buon appetito!
1. 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 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 the easy growing of leafy greens.
Taste for yourself... at Rome's Testaccio Market
Just went on a sightseeing adventure of the main tourist attractions in Rome and want to continue with your road trip 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.
2. Sniff out the white truffle of Alba in Piedmont
If there’s Bird’s Nest in Asia, there’s white truffles in Italy. 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$780) per 100 grams, depending on the quality.
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.
3. 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 at the ‘toe’ of Italy's ‘boot’ in the 9th century and foraged for ingredients, mixing local foods with products from afar.
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 – Zibibbo – the perfect floral-tasting accompaniment and a must add to your drinking bucket list. Or join a local for a guided walk through the main squares and markets, tasting sardines and other specialties as you go.
4. 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.
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, making it one of the best places to visit in Italy. 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.
5. 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 when travelling to the high pastures in Italy.
Fontina – the most famous cheese in the valley – forms the creamy basis of Valdostana style 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.
Things to note while travelling in Italy
Italy is progressively easing Covid-19 restrictions around the country — but mainly for those who can prove immunity from the disease. Travellers have to carry around a certified proof of vaccination issued by the health authority of their home country certifying complete vaccination against the virus, performed at least 14 days beforehand, using a vaccine recognized by the European Medicines Agency.
Travellers will also have to present a document certifying that they have performed a pre-departure PCR test or Antigen Rapid Test (ART) in the 72 hours prior to arrival in Italy with negative results to avoid a five-day quarantine.
Italy's Green Pass certificate, which shows that people have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from Covid-19, is needed to access indoor public areas and events such as restaurants, bars, museums and festivals. While Singaporeans are not able to apply for a Green Pass, they can show their vaccination certificate to gain entry to places — though do note that not every establishment may be so accepting.
- Masks are no longer compulsory outdoors but are required in all indoor public places across Italy, including public transport. In crowded places, such as stadiums and markets where safe distancing can’t be maintained, masks have to be worn too.
- Various regions in Italy hold different mandatory pre-arrival requisites. Stay updated on the travel guidelines and restrictions here.
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 your getaway takes you to taste the best of Italy, plan your trip now!
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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.