It is for good reason that Italian food is famous around the world. It is simple to make, delicious and healthy.
In Italy, food also represents social gatherings and traditions, with it being quite normal for the family to gather daily for a long lunch sometimes even followed by a nap. It is social, with food buying usually occurring in the traditional way of going store to store, each stop in order to buy the best bread from the baker, the top cuts from the butcher (who will ask what you are using the meat for in order to expertly slice, dice or mince accordingly), the fruiterer who personally selects each piece for quality control, and finally, for special occasions, the enotecca (wine store) for the best wine to pair with the dish.
On a daily basis, Italians will actually drink wine that is prepared by local friends and family, sold direct from the cantina (cellar) and consumed over lunches and dinner. It is only for special occasions (being more special than lunch or dinner generally, which is still considered pretty special in itself) that a regular bottle will be produced.
As to the food itself, each region boasts a great collection of local recipes, passed down through the generations. The meals are based on what is best produced in the local area, and changes drastically throughout the seasons to ensure only the freshest of in-season goods are used to create each delicious dish.
And just as Chianti Classico wine can only be produced in the Chianti Classico area, certain food types are also strictly bound to the region in which they are deemed to be best. They are classified as I.G.P. (Indicazione Geographica Prodotti – Protected Geographical Status known as P.G.S. in English) or D.O.P. (Denominazione di origine protetta or, Protected Denomination of Origin).
Whilst the Italian wine classifications are regulated by Italy, these food regulations are actually controlled by the European Union and apply to all nations there within.
D.O.P. indicates that the entire creation process from start to finish happened in the local area. For D.O.P. products therefore, the products are characteristic of the area in which they are created.
There are 148 Italian D.O.P. products. The most famous D.O.P. product would arguably be Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese). Hailing only from the towns of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna or Mantova, any other cheese-maker who uses the same technique and ingredients who produces the tasty cheese outside of the Parma area must by law use an alternative name. There is also Aceto Balsamico (vinegar) from Moderna. Terra di Siena is an olive oil from the Siena area that has been D.O.P-ed and known to be the best of Tuscany when it comes to extra virgin olive oils.
I.G.T. meanwhile means that at least one aspect of the production occurred in the local area (even if utilising materials in various other locations) and as such it may be more the way of treating a product that is typical to the area. In Italy, there are 84 such products. The best risotto is known to be made with I.G.T. Riso Vialone Nano Veronese from Verona. Then there are Cipolla Rossa di Tropea Calabria ? delicious Calabrian red onions. Sicily has many I.G.T. fruits and vegetables, owing to their traditional crops suited to the warmer weather enjoyed there.
I.G.P and D.O.P. are not to be confused with S.T.G. products, being Specialità Tradizionale Garantita -Protected Geographical Status (P.G.S.) in English- which protects the legal names of the products. Examples include Gorgonzola, which can only hail from the tasty-sounding town of Gorgonzola in the Lombardy region, and Parmesan from Parma.
And then there is the simple I.G. classification, representing the 38 typical liqueurs and includes such classics as Grappa and Sorrento’s Limoncello (known as ‘Limoncino’ in the local area).
If you’d like to explore Italy with your tastebuds, if you’d like to learn about the traditional Italian ingredients and learn to make delicious, typical dishes before indulging in a delicious meal made by you by signing up for our hands-on cooking class in Florence.
To taste Siena’s olive oil in situ, we have the Best of Tuscany tour, a small-group full-day tour of the Tuscan countryside from Florence visiting famous hilltop towns in Tuscany known for producing typical tasty products, and being generally stunning.
Taste of Tuscany at the Villa wine tour offers, well, a Taste of Tuscany at a Villa and is a small-group wine tour visiting an exclusive villa estate. Explore the historic wine estate before undertaking a wine tasting. Tread through the terrain, enjoying spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside up-close and personal.
The exclusive Authors, Artists and Aristocrats events in Florence giving visitors to Tuscany a chance to meet local authors, artists and aristocrats, including wine tasting and insights into Italian culture.
To explore other areas of Italy, can check out our website to read more about the tours we have to offer in Florence, Rome, Venice, Cinque Terre, Umbria, Naples, Pompeii and more. We offer outstanding experiences in Florence, Venice, Rome, Cinque Terre and beyond.