Cuisine in Italy is more than just sustenance; it's art. Recipes are handed down as family heirlooms, food-focussed celebrations are entrenched in local tradition and some universities are solely devoted to the craft of gelato. It all comes down to a special duty of care Italians bestow upon their cookery, sourcing the freshest local produce day by day and taking care not to overcomplicate the flavours nature has already perfected.
Where and When to Eat
While most hotels cater to ravenous tourists by serving up a hearty continental breakfast, Italians typically start their day with nothing but an espresso and sweet baked goods from a pasticceria – to fit in with the locals, avoid ordering a cappuccino past 11AM. Enjoy a lunch on the go by grabbing a focaccia sandwich at a deli or a bar (not just a watering hole) or sit down to pizza/pasta and a glass of red wine at a ristorante or family-run trattoria. Early birds be warned: when it comes time for dinner, most establishments don't start serving until 730PM. If you're in the mood for a casual meal consider a tavern or osteria, finishing with a nightcap at an enoteca or "wine bar".
What to Eat and How to Order
You will find gourmet fare throughout Italy, from the bustling metropolis of Rome to stylish Milan, rustic Tuscany and regional Sicily. Pizza, pasta and gelato are iconic Italian dishes to sample, but don't overlook a hearty minestrone, perfectly cooked pesce (fish) from the Mediterranean Sea or fresh regional produce from the local mercato or "marketplace". Italian menus commonly have five sections: awaken your tastebuds with antipasti and primi (appetisers and first course) before delving into secondi complemented by a selection of contorni (side dishes), making sure to leave room for dolci (dessert). Bon appetito!