Pasta. Gelato. Pesto. Truffles. Wine. Olive oil. Cheese. Pizza. Tiramisu. Polenta. Salami. Risotto. Cannoli.
Italian cuisine is absolutely delicious and downright decadent – the perfect recipe for a year's worth of foodie festivals and events. Here are three of our favorites, plus many more we'll soon feature:
Carnival of Venice
The Carnival of Venice, or il Carnevale di Venezia, is one of Italy's most famous festivals. The multi-day event, which takes place during the week leading up to Lent, is world-famous for its elaborate masks – and also for its food.
Like carnivals and fairs around the world, Carnevale relishes its street food. But for Italians, this on-the-go fare is not synonymous with low quality; rather, Venetians go street-gourmet with cream-topped fritelle (Venetian doughnuts), galani (fried dough, sprinkled with powdered sugar), veneziane (fried dough balls), as well as zabaione (custard), castagnole (Carnival cakes), and other just-for-Carnival sweets.
Of course, while you're in Venice you can't miss a stop at one of the city's famous osterie (eateries) and baccari (equivalent to a family-friendly English pub). Be sure to order some cicchetti – Venice's version of a tapa, including hard-boiled eggs with anchovies, cured meats with polenta, baccala fish, fried vegetables, crab meatballs and sardines. Other famous Venetian dishes to sample: risi and bisi, spaghetti alle vongole, pasta e fagioli, anguille in umido, moeche, and mixed fries (both fish and vegetable).
Insider Tip: Vecio Fritolin is one of the oldest and most beloved choices for typical Venetian fare. We also recommend Venissa for an exclusive (and exceptional) culinary experience in Venice.
Il Palio di Siena
The Palio di Siena, known locally as Il Palio, is a famed horse race held twice annually, on July 2 and August 16. And while you'll probably come for the horses and their expert riders, we're pretty sure you'll stay for the food.
Siena, a picturesque city in Tuscany, takes pride in its cuisine. Fresh ingredients, combined with a heaping of time and a side of care, result in mouthwatering dishes that typify the region:Chianina beef, pici (hand-rolled pasta), crostini neri (crostini topped with a chicken liver-caper-anchovy mixture), fagioli all'uccelletto (Tuscan beans), pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans), and other delicacies served with extra-virgin olive oil, pecorino (sheep's' milk) cheese, truffles, and Tuscan salami.
While in Siena, one of our perennial favorites is ribollita, a Tuscan vegetable-and-bread soup. Italian for re-boiled – an apropos name given that the soup takes three days (and plenty of re-boiling) to prepare – ribollita can be difficult to find on local restaurant menus. (But don't worry, we'll let you know where to find it.) In addition to ribollita, while in Siena we always stop for Tuscan prosciutto, salami, and salsiccia (sausage).
Insider tip: Be sure to try some bacon made from cinta senese, an ancient Tuscan breed of pig. In fact, while you're in town open your eyes and you'll spot dozens of cinta senese in frescos, sculptures and paintings dating back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance!
Alba White Truffle Festival
Bonnie and Clyde, bread and butter, Italy and truffles – three of the world's classic pairings. And for true foodies, an autumnal culinary adventure through Italy should culminate at the Alba White Truffle Festival. Our mouths are already watering.
In my family, truffles always went on homemade, buttered tajarin, a type of thin, flat noodle traditional to Piemonte. We also served them with risotto and carpaccio. But the decadent truffle can also be preserved in tume, a cow-and-sheep milk cheese, as truffle butter and oil, and many other preparations.
Sample them shaved over scrambled or fried eggs. Taste them atop homemade pasta (or truffle-stuffed pasta, if you're lucky!). Butter them up and enjoy, or pair your truffles with meat and mushroom sauces. Another winner is sausage risotto with truffle shavings, or gnocchi with fontina and tartufo on top. Fonduta, a cheese-based sauce enjoyed with bread, meats and vegetables, is also delicious with truffle shavings.
You'll learn – and taste! – all these delicacies in Alba, where Italian's celebrate the most delicate of all tartufi: the famed white truffle.
Insider Tip: Did you know? White truffles are also perfect with dessert! Don't believe us? Relish the flavors of white truffle on your gelato; we promise you'll love it!
A few more of our favorite Italian food events (we'll feature some in future blog posts!):
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