Food tours in Italy: 5 reasons to book one

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.

Food tours in Italy, spritz cicchetti Venice

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.

Food tours in Italy, bruschetta

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.

Food tours in Italy, chocolate

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.]

This photo was taken on a food tour in Lisbon, Portugal. This guy was so fun and friendly, he’s a great example of the types of people you meet!

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.

Italy Beyond the Obvious will help make your trip truly memorable. Take advantage of our Italy trip planning services for a customized itinerary, or get coaching assistance with our Italy travel consulting services. And if you like what you read, why not subscribe to the Italy Beyond the Obvious blog and get free updates?

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Posted by on Jan 31, 2018 in Food and Drink | 7 Comments


  1. Antoinette
    February 1, 2018 I couldn’t agree more! Not just in Italy, but any visit to a country that has great food and too much to choose from on a short vacation. Getting insight from a local or an expat is priceless.
    And yes- don’t forget to mention food allergies in advance- so many guests forget. If your tour guide knows in advance you will have a much better experience! 🙂

  2. Andrea - Taste Bologna
    February 1, 2018

    Great suggestions Madeline.

    I run food tours in Bologna, Emilia Romagna with Taste Bologna

    I agree with all you said. Especially choosing small groups is very important. You can have the time to talk with the guide and share thoughts.
    A food tour is not a lesson: learning by eating is also much funnier 🙂

    Hope to have you with us soon in Bologna


    February 2, 2018

    Amazing article!.. We run food tours in Emilia-Romagna from our base in Parma since 2004 and individual clients / small groups from US are our main clients.. Starting from this April we will run for the first time also regular tours for only max 8 participants.. you can check them out at the following link:
    Just to mention the names of the tours: The Lowlander, The Highlander and Almost Local.. We hope to have many of your followers soon in Parma!..

  4. monica cesarato
    February 4, 2018

    Wow, great article, well done. We run Food Tours and cooking classes in Venice….we love to explain to people which food is the culture of people, you can learn so much about a country by what they eat!

  5. Cecilia Sitran
    February 9, 2018

    This is simply amazing! We are based in Venice and we organize food tour at Rialto Market, dinner on the roof and the typical Venetian walk with “cicchetti” and local wines. We are two happy and enthusiastic girls who wish to share the extraordinary food&wine heritage of our country and the compelling Beauty of Venice. We love to enjoy the lively atmosphere of “bacaros” where Venetians use to stop for a glass of Prosecco outside crowded areas. Only small groups, as you said, and everything is customized. We use to stop in small wine bars, not the famous places that are mentioned in guides, because we’d like to have a direct contact with owners trying to promote small businesses.
    We are waiting for you in Venice!

  6. Jennifer McIlvaine
    February 12, 2018

    Great Recommendations Madeline! Foodie visitors to Umbria might enjoy my Food & Wine Tours and Cooking Classes. I offer small private tours to local farms, cheesemakers, wineries and more! For the more adventurous we can combine some of the tours with cycling, trekking and horseback riding through the countryside as well – a perfect way to enjoy the Slow Life of Umbria!

  7. Tamara
    March 7, 2018

    Love your site Madeline and great info to readers what to expect on a food tour. We offer food and wine tours in the Sorrento/Amalfi coast area, emphasizing the local specialties of the Campania region. Food Tours are popping up all over the world and is a great intro to a town/city. Especially in Italy where each region is like its own little country. Thank you for the post and stop by if you’re in the area! buon appetito!


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