14 foods you shouldn’t leave Italy without trying

You'll want to try all of the gelato flavors.

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You’ll want to try all of the gelato flavors.
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Tim Graham/Contributor/Getty Images

Italy has brought us endless cultural contributions, from the art to the architecture. But perhaps the most internationally celebrated Italian gift is the food. With its fresh pizza and creamy pasta dishes, the European country is a can’t-miss destination for foodies.

Keep scrolling for all of the dishes you can’t miss during your next visit to the land of pasta, pizza, and wine.


Risotto is a northern Italian dish that can be made with a variety of ingredients.

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The dish can be made with mushrooms.
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Vladislav Noseek/Shutterstock

Cheesy and creamy, risotto is a northern Italian rice dish that’s traditionally slow-cooked in broth.

Although it’s typically made with rice, white wine, parmesan cheese, butter, and onions, the dish can also be made with a variety of ingredients, including mushrooms, garlic, lobster, shrimp, and other vegetables.


Gelato is a popular dessert in Italy.

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Gelato comes in a variety of flavors.
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Shutterstock/JM Travel Photography

No ice cream or sorbet compares to gelato (and yes, there are major differences between the three). A dessert taken seriously by Italians, gelato tends to be much thicker and richer than other frozen treats and comes in a variety of flavors.

You won’t have a challenging time finding this dessert in Italy, but watch out for places that aren’t serving authentic gelato.

Read more: A three-year-long competition discovered the world’s best gelato in a tiny town in Italy


Pizza in Italy is made with fresh, simple ingredients.

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Neapolitan pizza originated in Naples, Italy.
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Camo24/Shutterstock

We have Italians to thank for one of the most universally loved dishes: pizza. In fact, the dish is such a large part of the Italian culture that the art of Neapolitan pizza-making, which is known as “Pizzaiuolo,” was awarded world heritage status by UNESCO.

Although pizza around the world comes topped with a variety of items, authentic pizza in Italy is prepared with simple ingredients, including tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.


Prosciutto is usually served as an appetizer in Italy.

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Culatello, Prosciutto, and other farm products are served and sold in the trattoria at Antica Corte Pallavicina, in Polesine Parmense, Italy.
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David Silverman/Getty Images

Prosciutto is dry-cured Italian ham that’s typically served in thin slices. Each region has its own variation of the ham. However, Prosciutto di Parma and Prosciutto di San Daniele are the most popular in Italy, and both need to meet specific standards in order to be considered authentic.


Cacio e pepe is a simple Italian dish made with cheese and pepper.

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Cacio e pepe is a classic Italian pasta.
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Translating to “cheese and pepper” in English, cacio e pepe uses just four ingredients: butter, pasta, pepper, and pecorino or parmesan cheese.

Known as one of the four classic pasta dishes of Rome, you’ll find cacio e pepe on just about every menu across the city. Felice a Testaccio is a popular restaurant known for preparing this dish tableside.


Italian truffles add a unique flavor to traditional pasta dishes.

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White truffles on sale at the truffle fair in Alba, Italy.
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Yulia Grigoryeva/Shutterstock

Known for their luxury, truffles are just as delicious as they can be expensive.

Visitors looking to taste the expensive food should make a stop in Alba, Italy, which is known for its world-famous white truffles. Here, you will find pasta dishes topped with truffle shavings, as well as a festival dedicated to the food.


Gnocchi is a popular dish that varies from region to region.

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Gnocchi may be made differently depending on the region.
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Flickr/Seph Swain

Gnocchi is an Italian dish consisting of small, doughy potato dumplings. It is made in a number of different ways across the regions of Italy but commonly features ingredients like cheese, spinach, eggs, and a variety of sauces.

The best place in Italy to try gnocchi is in Verona where there is an entire day dedicated to the classic dish.


Ribollita is a traditional Italian soup with a lot of flavors.

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The soup is made with fresh vegetables.
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REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

First created in Tuscany, Ribollita is a classic stew that has been around for hundreds of years. The thick soup is surprisingly simple to make, combining greens, vegetables, beans, herbs, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, with chunks of stale bread folded into the mix.


Osso Buco is a veal dish that is traditionally served with risotto or polenta.

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Osso Buco with polenta.
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Emily Michot/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Translating directly to “bone with a hole,” Osso Buco is a thick stew and meat dish made of veal shanks braised with wine, broth, and vegetables like onions, carrots, and tomatoes.

Originally from Milan, the meal is traditionally served with either risotto or polenta.


Supplì is considered a popular street food option in Rome.

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Supplì are considered Italian snacks.
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Marzia Giacobbe/Shutterstock

Supplì, a classic Roman food similar to arancini, is a mozzarella-filled rice ball that’s been coated with egg and breadcrumbs. The snack, which is crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, is commonly sold as an appetizer or street food snack in Rome.


Limoncello is Italy’s most famous liqueur.

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Limoncello is typically served after meals.
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Tom Murray / Business Insider

Typically served as an after-dinner drink, Limoncello is a popular liqueur that hails from the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, and Capri. Often homemade and served chilled, the liqueur is created by combining sugar, lemon zest, vodka, and water.

Read more: 3 red flags that tell you you’re drinking bad limoncello


Carbonara is a must-try pasta dish when visiting Rome.

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Pasta cooking-water makes carbonara the creamy dish that it is.
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Dan Brian Gerona/Wikimedia Commons/Attribution

Carbonara is another dish included in the four kinds of pasta of Rome, which also includes cacio e pepe, gricia, and amatriciana. The creamy comfort dish is made with spaghetti, eggs, Pecorino Romano and Parmesan cheese, and cured pork meat folded into the pasta.


Tiramisu is one of Italy’s most famous desserts.

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Tiramisu is a popular Italian dessert, along with gelato.
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Wikimedia Commons

Although it’s a popular dish around the world, you won’t want to miss the chance to try homemade tiramisu in Italy.

The classic Italian dessert combines the flavors of coffee, cocoa, and mascarpone cheese. Translating directly to “pick me up” in English, tiramisu is one of Italy’s most popular after-dinner treats.


Polenta is a popular food served on its own or alongside meats.

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Polenta is a popular choice if you’re looking to take a break from pasta.
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Food Via Lenses/Shutterstock

Originating in the days of ancient Rome, polenta is a cornmeal dish that has become a staple in Milan. Ranging from a porridge-like consistency to a solid loaf that can be sliced, polenta can be served on its own or as a complement to meat dishes.