When you think of Italy, what comes to mind? Chances are, you’re thinking about something completely different from anyone else you ask the same question to. Italy is chock-full of globally renowned offerings.
No matter the region, you’ll find at least one glorious speciality. One might think of sports cars: Ferrari , Lamborghini or Maserati for example. Another might be a fan of the opera. Maybe you think of sculptures, paintings and other artworks by Michelangelo.
If you’re at all like me, this talk of the wonderful things that the Bel Paese has to offer has got you planning a little trip in your head, and of course, which Italian things you can spend your hard earned cash on. So, here’s a little article to get your cultural juices flowing.
Italian food! No introduction necessary. No matter where in the world you’re from you’ll be more than familiar with Pizza and Pasta. But even within those realms you have countless different choices. There are 55-60 different types of pasta alone.
Italian cuisine doesn’t just consist of pizza and pasta though – regions and cities have their own speciality foods. Mortadella for example, is a delicious pork luncheon meat from the city of Bologna.
Parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano) is a cheese everyone is familiar with, but did you know it can only be called parmesan if it is produced in the region of Emilia-Romagna in the north of the country, an area which also includes Bologna?
Another speciality food that is a must-try is the Sicilian arancini. Bread-coated rice balls, which are usually filled with mozzarella and meat ragu sauce.
There are many other regional delicacies of Italy, and if you’re visiting somewhere specific and want to know what they are, this CNN piece is very informative.
Italians are also big into beverages. They take drinking of all forms very seriously, and (in)famously have rather strict rules for how to drink certain beverages.
Coffee is something you must buy when in Italy, and when I say 'buy', I mean attach yourself to via the entirety of your psyche. Visit a cafe by the canal in Venice, or down a winding, less-than-touristy street in Rome... wait, no, don’t order a Latte! Oh, you’ve been barred.
Italians, seemingly countrywide have very specific coffee drinking habits. You can have a coffee with milk, if it’s in the morning with breakfast, but it better be a cappuccino or macchiato and nothing else.
Once the morning is over, don’t you dare ask for milk in your coffee again until the next morning. From then on you drink espresso, which isn’t even called an espresso in most places, simply ‘un cafe’.
This next offering is both a drink and food pick combined: Aperitivo. Aperitivo is the ultimate Italian ritual – alcoholic beverages with buffet type food. Both the food and drink alter depending on which region you visit, but Campari and Aperol are the most common beverage and the foods are usually salty snacks, consisting of cured meats, breads, pizza slices etc.
This one you know how to drink… Prosecco! Named after the grape the wine is made from, Prosecco is Italy’s biggest wine export. Consumed in copious amounts the world over, vineyards which produce it are found to the north of Venice, is equally well drunk in Italy itself.
As well as consumables, Italy is renowned for world class souvenirs, and by souvenirs I don’t mean Mickey Mouse hats, or T-shirts with rude gestures.
An island situated just off Venice, Murano has been the source of the finest glass in Europe for centuries thanks in-part to the booming days when Venice was a main thoroughfare for European trade, spreading the glass across the world.
Known for their ornate qualities, you’ll be mesmerised at how the artisans of the island create such wonderful pieces. Just be sure to buy an original, as there are a lot of copies around. Look for the Artistic Glass Murano trademark.
This beautiful city in Tuscany is a top destination for many who visit Italy, with renaissance buildings galore, including the glorious terracotta tile roofed Duomo in the centre of the city.
But this stunning city is also home to some of the most sought after leather in the world. With purses, leather jackets, belts and various other products available throughout the city, you’re truly spoiled for choice.
Down on the coast now, is Vietri sul Mar, a typically Amalfi seaside town, with amazing vistas and even better seafood on offer. But Vietri sul Mar’s real USP is its ceramics trade.
Ceramics are a big part of the Amalfi Coast as a whole, but the particular selling point here is the locals’ ability to mix traditional ceramic styles with more contemporary designs. The result is utterly mesmerising and unique homewares.
More traditional products of different Italian regions can be found in this Walks of Italy guide.
Hopefully with the help of this guide of what to buy in Italy, the locals won’t be able to tell the difference between yourself and themselves.
If you think I’ve missed something, and have any suggestions of other things to buy in whilst in Italy, don’t forget to drop a comment below with your ideas.