When we recommend half-day food tours in Italy to our travelers, their first reaction is usually:
What’s a food tour?
A food tour is essentially a guided walking tour that lasts a few hours and centers around tasting local foods of the place. The guide pre-plans stops (usually around 4-5) giving visitors tastes of each food or drink. A food tour might start in the market or at a cheese shop. You may then continue to a couple specialty food shops or restaurants for tastes of local specialties. Then, the tour may wrap up with a gelato or sweets in a bakery. Many food tours in Italy also include wine pairings.
5 reasons we recommend food tours in Italy
It’s a great introduction to local foods. If you’re going to be based somewhere for a few days, a food tour will introduce you to the region’s local food. This food knowledge will come in handy during the rest of your stay in the area. For example, you might discover that you love a savory deep-fried snack that you would never have bitten into without an explanation. Or you might discover the nuances of the way a local cheese was made, and choose it when picking up the following day’s picnic.
Deepen your cultural connection. Food tours in Italy are about so much more than food. The history of the Tuscan “peposo” stew is intimately linked to famous Italian architect and artist Filippo Brunelleschi. Moeche can be eaten only in Venice, and only at a specific time of year. Sicily is the only place in Italy where couscous can be found regularly on menus, due to African influence. When in Venice, food-lovers must try the local small plates, Cicchetti. But they are better if you understand what you’re eating and where it came from.
Focus on one food or a theme. There are food tours in Italy that offer a deeper dive into one specific type of food or cuisine. For example, request a gelato-only tour. Or, we recently organized a pizza tour in Rome led by a local who had written a book about pizza. Our travelers said that the tour was not only delicious but also fascinating.
It’s a meal substitute. Food tours in Italy often end up being a walking lunch or dinner (and are usually held either just before lunch or just before dinner, not during peak hours). Maximize time in a destination by eating while you learn about local culture and history.
Get to know the locals. Your guide will not bring you to places that are crowded, because she’ll want your party to have the owner’s full attention. She needs free tables or available standing space, and in a place quiet enough to talk. Because of this, food tours usually head away from the crowds, into smaller streets. The owners at the stops are waiting for you, will welcome everyone like old friends, and will be happy to chat.
[The photo below is actually from a food tour I took in Lisbon, Portugal. Once you take a food tour, you will want to take one in every city you visit! I thought this photo really captured the friendly owner of this little bar.]
Tips on choosing and booking food tours in Italy
- Book your food tour on the first day or two that you are in a new city or region. The information you learn will be useful during the rest of your stay.
- Arrive hungry, and don’t make a dinner reservation for that day.
- Expect that these tours will cost more than a regular guided walking tour. Budget the cost of a meal, plus a little extra, per person.
- Tell the food tour about any allergies or food preferences in your party at the time of booking. The locals who run these food tours are usually very accommodating and can modify the tour based on your needs.
- Smaller groups are better. If you can opt for a private food tour, we recommend that. Or, when booking spots on a group food tour, aim for a group of no more than 10 people. You’ll be going into small shops and you want to be able to hear the guide.
Recommendations for food tours in Italy: there are SO MANY excellent ones that if you are a guide or organization that offers these tours, I invite you to comment below with your URL.
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