For tourists, travellers and expats who love exploring world cuisine then Italy has more to offer than almost anywhere else on the planet! Famed for its outstanding wines, cuisine and pioneering agritourism industry, Italy is every food buff’s dream come to true.
Culinary tourism, also known as gastronomy tourism, is defined as a holiday that allows the visitor to immerse themselves in the culture and cuisine of a nation. Culinary tourism first came to prominence in 2001 when the president of the World Food Travel Association (WFTA), Erik Wolf, wrote a report on the industry’s benefits and future growth potential.
Culinary tourism involves tourists looking for unique culinary experiences which could involve staying on a farm, visiting wineries, attending festivals, taking local cooking classes, going on food and wine tours of a region or going on an authentic truffle hunt. Of course, as well as getting involved in activities, a culinary tourist also tastes the food for themselves! Culinary tourists often book tickets for specialty food events, visit markets and local producers to buy food at its source.
Culinary tourism can be considered to be a subset of the overall tourist industry. According to the World Food Travel Association, the average tourist spends between 15%-35% of their overall budget on food meaning that the cuisine plays a major role in any tourist’s overall experience of a place.
Why Is Italy Good For Culinary Tourism?
Italy is well known for its high quality of life and excellent food. Food in Italy is not just about staving off hunger, in fact, it’s more to do with the culture as a whole. People take their time while eating and locals take great pride in the regional specialities of their province. As a result, Italian food is hugely diverse and of an exceedingly high quality.
This means that any tourist is in for a treat while visiting Italy but for those who really take the time to more deeply explore the cuisine they’ll find a whole world of fascinating practices, customs and food dishes to try for themselves.
Italy has been one of the pioneers in the field of agritourism which means that as well as enjoying the food for yourself on a culinary vacation you’ll also be supporting local producers, organic farmers and regional markets.
Culinary Tourism In Italy – Cooking Classes Or Not?
Many culinary holidays involve tourists learning how to make the food and wines that they are appreciating during their stay. This type of cultural exchange is great fun and you’ll be able to take home some new skills to impress your friends and family with your authentic Italian cooking!
However, if you don’t fancy taking cooking classes you can still enjoy the culinary expertise of the Italians by taking a wine or food tour where you’ll only be tasting the food and beverages on offer without worrying about how to make them yourself. This is the type of culinary vacation that I love the most!!
Popular Types Of Culinary Tours Available In Italy.
Italy’s provinces are all unique with each one having its own range of food, deserts and wine. This means that the huge diversity of climates, from mountains to beaches, from pastoral vineyards to volcanic slopes provide a culinary tourist with an incredible array of options to choose from. In fact, there’s so much choice that your head might spin at everything you could possibly do; however, to lighten the load for you, we’ve broken down some of the best options to help you choose the ideal culinary vacation.
Below I have provided examples of different types of culinary tour options that you can consider. Obviously for example you do not have to take the wine tour specifically in Tuscany. Wine tours are popular in most wine growing regions of Italy.
Cooking Classes In Italy.
One of the most popular activities for culinary tourists is to take cooking classes with a local chef or cooking school. You can take a short class that lasts a single afternoon or you can take a more intensive multi-day course.
While taking cooking classes in Italy you’ll learn about all the secrets and inside knowledge that makes the nation’s cuisine unique. This means you’ll be able to bring your new found knowledge with you to make authentic Italian food for your own friends and family back home!
Cooking classes sometimes take place in restaurants during their quieter hours, in people’s homes, on agritourism sites and in specialized cooking schools. Cooking classes are enjoyable, fun and give you an intimate understanding of the way that the food is made. This is not only beneficial in the long term but it will also enhance your experience of dining out while you’re in Italy.
You can take cooking classes all over Italy and your choice of where you may want to learn some authentic cooking techniques will depend on the type of Italian food you like the most. For example, if you want to learn how to make Italian seafood dishes then classes in Sardinia or Sicily would be ideal whereas if you want to learn about how to make classic risotto then classes in Lombardy would be more suitable.
Truffles are one of the most valuable foodstuffs on the planet with a single kilo of fresh truffles easily costing upwards of $4000! Truffles are traditionally hunted with the help of specially trained pigs or dogs who use their sensitive snouts to root out fungi from deep underground! However, because the pigs often caused damage to the delicate truffles their use has been phased out in favor of the more gentle Lagotto Romagnolo breed of dog.
One of the best places to go truffle hunting in Italy is in the beautiful region of Tuscany. In Tuscany, particularly in the pastoral landscapes surrounding Florence, the region’s capital, there are many agritourism organizations that run truffle hunting trips for tourists and visitors to the area.
After your truffle hunting adventure you can relax and sit back to enjoy a plate of pasta that’s garnished with fresh shavings of truffles. You may also have the opportunity to learn a few recipes that you can cook yourself with truffles.
These highly prized Italian delicacies are a favorite among chefs around the world who treasure their unique flavors and if you haven’t tried them yet then truffle hunting should certainly be on your list of things to do during your culinary vacation in Italy.
Cheese Making In Umbria.
Often nicknamed the ‘Green Heart of Italy’, Umbria is a small but hugely diverse province. Umbria is surrounded by some of Italy’s most impressive lakes including the Piediluco, Trasimeno and Corbara Lakes and is also home to the beautiful Marmore Falls.
Umbria has an ancient history of making unique cheeses that dates back at least 3000 years! The cheeses are very varied in their flavors and strength but all are absolutely delicious.
If you love your Italian cheese then you can experience the magic of learning how to make your own by visiting one of the cheese making schools in Umbria. Umbria has an amazing number of cheeses that are made within its borders including, Bigetto, Roccaccio, Formaggio Farcito, Grello e Giuncata, Pecorino di Norcia, as well as many others!
Street Food In Sicily.
Sicily is an incredibly interesting place in Italy where the food is a unique fusion of North African and more traditional Italian cuisine. The restaurants and cafes provide fantastic food but for a truly authentic experience you can spend your time exploring the exciting street food of the island. From skewered lamb kebabs to mouth watering crusty bread soaked in tomatoes and cooked in a wood fired oven, you can taste the very best of the region’s cuisine while enjoying the bustling life of the streets.
Wine Tours In Tuscany.
Tuscany is one of the hearts of classic Italian food but the region’s wine can’t be overlooked by any culinary tourist either! One of the most enjoyable ways to explore the province is to visit the Tuscan vineyards, learn about the winemaking process and taste the famous vintages which are loved all over the world.
You can stay at a local winery, have tours around the production facilities and even try your hand at helping out. You can also take tours around the region, stopping off at different independent wineries where you can sample their own unique vintages!
There’s a range of different wine tours you can join; some of which are guided tours on a bus while other, more exclusive tours, take you between the wineries by helicopter so you can also appreciate the scenery en route as well the wine on arrival.
Tuscany’s most highly renowned wines include Montepulciano, Chianti and Brunello but smaller vineyards also create outstanding vintages that shouldn’t be missed out on your wine tour of the region! Many wine tours also include stops at slow food restaurants, tavernas in hill top towns and family run agritourism businesses, making the experience one that you’ll never forget.
One of Tuscany’s leading lights in the culinary tourism industry is the Tuscan Wine School in Siena, where you can take classes in wine tasting, attend food and wine tours of Siena and further afield in Tuscany as well as go on guided hiking and E-biking food and wine tours!
Lazio – Take A Roman Food Tour.
Rome is famous for its incredible cultural heritage and ancient monuments but the food of Rome, and Lazio more generally, is absolutely outstanding too. Although the cuisine is traditionally based on fairly simple ingredients chefs source the very highest quality for their dishes and use a superb mix of herbs to season their unique creations.
Two of Rome’s most iconic districts for culinary tourism are Testaccio and Trastevere. The beautiful neighborhoods are crisscrossed with small winding cobblestone streets and are packed full of family run restaurants, markets and street food vendors.
You can take a guided tour around the neighborhoods or, if you prefer, you can just follow your feet and explore the area on your own. Many of the city’s best restaurants are off the regular tourist trail so sometimes you can find the finest food in the least expected places. If you do decide to go it alone then don’t be shy of asking locals if they can recommend an authentic Italian restaurant because they will be more than happy to point you in the right direction!
If you’d prefer to go on a guided food tour of Rome then Eating Europe, winner of the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice 2020 Award, runs some excellent tours which depart 3 times a day, except for Sundays when many restaurants and stores are closed for most of the day.
Culinary Tour In Italy – Something For Everyone.
Culinary vacations are a wonderful way to experience the culture of Italy while tasting some of the finest food and wines in the world! From cooking classes to wine tours, from exploring the street vendors of Sicily to truffle hunting in Tuscany, there really is something for everyone!
Culinary vacations are an ideal option for couples, families with children and solo travellers and of course, while you’re in Italy you can also take the opportunity to see some of the famous historical sites of interest.
Culinary tourism is a fast growing sub sector of the tourist industry because people are more curious than ever to discover the traditional techniques and methods that go into the making of some of the world’s most well loved dishes. There’s never been more options for culinary tourists in Italy so it’s the ideal time to book your trip!