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10 Must Try Foods and Drinks When Studying in Italy

Italian Food

Ok so you’re going to study abroad in Italy. What are you excited about? The historical monuments and architecture? The amazing artwork from centuries ago? The beautiful beaches and vistas? No, no, don’t even try to fool us. You may be going for all of those things, sure, but there’s one other thing that everyone can’t help but mention: the food.

What dishes are the ones that you cannot miss when you’re roaming Rome in between classes or trekking through Tuscany?

Italy is known for its savory pastas and endless amounts of wine, sure. We have Olive Garden to prove that, right (just kidding, you’ll never want to eat there again after this list), but what dishes are the ones that you cannot miss when you’re roaming Rome in between classes or trekking through Tuscany on a weekend getaway? Even with all the regional variations and small town specialities, let me lay out my top ten (I know, I know -- only 10??) MUST try foods while studying in Italy. Read this, and reap the benefits of knowing what to “nom” on in Italia!

Cuttlefish Risotto

10. Cuttlefish Ink Risotto or Risotto al Nero di Seppia

Let’s start off with a strange one. Though this is definitely not my favorite dish, it is a must-try while in Italy and very popular near Venice. Made with the ink of a cuttlefish (or smaller squid) this risotto arrives at your table with a dark, inky hue that tastes very original, though definitely has a positive seafood taste to it. Pair it with a plate of fried shrimp and calamari.

Drink: Afterward, stroll until you find a shop or bar to wash it all down with a Bellini – Venice’s well-know drink of peach juice and champagne.

Panino

9. A Panino - Any Panino

One sandwich is a panino – two or more are paninis. Get it right so Italians think you’re a little more legit. Head to any place that says “Antico” or Osteria in the title and you’ll be sure to get a good sandwich. Avoid the pre-made ones in the cases in restaurants near the main streets in tourist towns.

There are a few rules on getting one of these amazing sandwiches: get it on focaccia bread if you can, and no, you are not allowed to ask if they have American cheese. But anything else goes! Most places will have suggestions written out for you.

Porcini

8. Porcini Mushrooms or Porcini Fungi

Baked, fried, boiled, anything goes with these large mushrooms that show up after strong rains. With a woodsy flavor, these are wonderful by themselves, or in pastas or risottos, and even in soup.

You can even get them dried! Tip:If you want to use porcini mushrooms at home, make sure you soak the mushrooms when using dried ones.

Drink: Pair them with a strong red wine to bring out the flavor.

Naples Pizza

7. Naples Pizza or Pizza Napolitana

Though pizza is good everywhere in Italy, Naples pizza is truly the best – with the freshest ingredients and the perfect crust, getting a pizza here is heaven. Naples pizza typically is made with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, but of course there are variations to this base, such as adding basil, oregano, or garlic. Something as simple as a margherita (tomato, sliced mozzarrella, basil, and olive oil) or a pizza marinara (tomato, garlic, oregano, and olive oil) is wonderful, but be daring and go crazy too with multiple toppings you wouldn’t normally think of!

Pecorini

6. Pecorino Cheese

This is one cheese you can’t live without. This hard sheep’s cheese has a strong taste and is perfect as an appetizer – usually served with honey and nuts. There are four types of Pecorino - Pecorino Romano which was produced in Latium but is now primarily produced in Sardinia, Pecorino Sardo from Sardinia, Pecorino Toscano from Tuscany, and Pecorino Siciliano from Sicily. There are also different textures to each cheese, depending on how long they've been aged. Other variations include adding peppercorns, red chili flakes, walnuts, and even truffle.

Olive all'Ascolana

5. Fried Olives or Olive all'Ascolana

Originating in the city of Ascoli Piceno, these large green olives are pitted, stuffed with a mix of meat and cheese, then breaded and fried to create an appetizer so decadent, sometimes you just can’t stop eating them! They often go with other fried food like fried meats, vegetables, and even cream.

Drink: Grab a bottle of Rosso Piceno – an inexpensive yet quality red wine that's also a local product of the vineyards around the area.

Arrabbiata

4. Angry Sauce or Sugo all'arrabbiata

Calling all spice lovers! This one is for you. Made with the small hot pepper called the pepperoncino, this pasta sauce will definitely clear out your sinuses and wake you up out of your Italian food coma.

Drink: If you’re still game for waking up your taste buds after this pasta, have an after dinner drink of Limoncello – an alcoholic but very sweet beverage of choice for many Italians, especially in the Amalfi Coast area.

Burrata

3. A ball of Burrata

The king of all mozzarella, the Burrata will blow the mind of any cheese lover. This style of cheese is usually described as a ball with a pure mozzarella on the outside, while the inside is a delicious mix of mozzarella and cream. This makes it much easier to pull apart and have a ton more flavor! This dish is usually served with crostini (a type of bread) along with tomatoes and Burrata, and used as an appetizer.

Drink: Grab this starter with a glass of the local champagne called Prosecco!

Truffle risotto

2. Truffle or Tartufo anything!

This delicacy is mostly favored in the fall when the truffles are fresh, but these dishes are popular all year and in many different styles. Truffles are the fruit of a specific type of fungus, and they're used sparingly in food since they have a pungent flavor to them. Try pasta with a truffle cream sauce or even a burger! Truffles are often served raw on pasta, salads, and fried eggs, or they're served with meats. Italians love the rich flavor of these treasures and if you order anything con tartufo, you’ll definitely get the Italian nod of approval.

Pear Ravioli

1. Pear Pasta or Ravioli di Pera

Most food in Italy is so incredible, with so many flavors; you’ll never want to go home. But when I heard about this fruit-stuffed pasta with a gorgonzola sauce, I thought “no way can this possibly be that good.” Boy was I wrong. This combination of sweet and savory will make you want to chain yourself to the table! Do not forget to top off your semester or summer in Italy without popping one of these in your mouth!

Drink: Make sure to pair it (ha pun intended) with a Brunello – one of the most regal wines of Tuscany with a rich taste that’ll make the flavors pop.

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Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons, Birthday dinner, Panini, Porcini, Pecorino, pasta, Mozzarella, Truffles.
Lisa Saltagi

Lisa studied in Ascoli Piceno, Italy in 2010 and since has always needed to have a flight booked somewhere. After failing at office life, she flew to Italy and became a European tour-guide for a year. Now, she’s focusing on her writing while living in Florence with her husband. Check her out on Google+.