Italy is a relatively young country, however the regions of Italy have a tremendous history full of rich art, architecture and, of course, food. The Italian food you think of however isn’t really from the entire country of Italy. The foods that are most famous in Italy were there in the various regions long before the areas were united under a common government.
Food and Flavors
In the southern areas of Italy you’re likely to find rich spices, while in the North the food is much less spicy. In the south, foods are based on grains, often turned into pasta and garnished or cooked using olive oil. In the north you’ll find more foods comprised of rice and butter. Preserved meat is common throughout Italy, however.
Due to a lack of refrigeration and the relative poverty in many of the smaller farming communities, processed meats were and continue to be a staple throughout Italy. It used to be that most farming families made their own prosciutto and salami, but today a huge array of meats are available from various stores and markets.
Sampling the Fares
If you’re trying to sample as many sorts of foods as possible from the various regions of Italy, don’t be shy about stopping by the various food festivals. As your tour around Italy by car, sagra posters advertise the festivals that occur usually on the weekends. When you see one, stop by and taste the various confections and concoctions that the authentic chefs and village cooks have created.
When dining in a restaurant, don’t opt for the safe choices that you recognize on the menu. Ask the waiter for a local special or for his favorite dish. The fare will be largely determined by the location you’re in and if you’re able to research native foods and dishes for each city and region before you visit, you’ll be in a far better position for ordering the correct dishes when the time comes.
The best scenario for truly sampling the best of Italian fare in a particular region is to stay in a villa or home in a city or town. Start each day by poking around in the marketplace looking for fresh foods to cook that evening. The merchants selling you the fresh crustaceans or game birds can give you terrific ideas of how to cook the meal as well as the best side dishes to accompany it. After all, food in Italy is a lifestyle.