As a large country with 20 unique regions, Italy has a lot to offer tourists. For outdoor enthusiasts, there are vineyards, mountains and beaches to explore. Italy is famous for its cuisine, but the classic regional dishes go far beyond pasta and pizza and range from simple, straight-from-the-farm meals to five-star dining experiences. The weather is as varied as the food, with some parts of the country enjoying tropical life while others experience a damp, foggy climate.
The northern regions of Italy include Piedmont; Valle d'Aosta; Lombardy; Trentino Alto Adige; Friuli Venezia Giulia; Veneto; and Liguria. These regions tend to have a warmer climate with some rainfall, sometimes classified as a "humid subtropical" climate. Raisin wines are popular in Valle d' Aosta, with each region boasting its own specific brands of wine. The cuisine shows hints of Portugal, with dishes that include polenta, rice and peas and dried cod. Other popular dishes are Venetian-style liver, roasted fish and hare, risotto, ossobuco and truffles.
The regions of Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Marche and Umbria lie in the northern part of the Italian peninsula. The climate tends to be more mild near the coasts for these regions, with warm summers and sometimes heavy precipitation. Winters are colder and foggier inland, with occasional snowfall. Meat is a popular part of most dishes, including steaks, sausages and salamis, roasted pig and eel. Umbria is known for its black truffles, and the Chianti wine of Tuscany is world famous.
Abruzzo, Molise, and Lazio are the more southern regions in the middle of Italy and include Rome, the country's capital. This area enjoys a more Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and mild winters. Some dishes have a Jewish influence, and stews and pasta dishes are popular, as are lamb, potatoes and artichokes. Meals tend to be hearty and incorporate liberal amounts of olive oil and fat.
The "boot" regions of Italy include Puglia, Campania, Basilicata, and Calabria. Puglia is the least rainy region in Italy, and in general the area experiences a Mediterranean climate with dry, hot summers and mild winters. Basilicata has a more continental climate and is very dry. Seafood is popular, particularly near the coast, and dishes may include clams, mussels and fish. Calabria is known for its wide variety of eggplant dishes, and vegetables in general are popular throughout this area of Italy.
Sardegna or Sardinia and Sicily are the two island regions of Italy. Sardinia has a mild climate with dry summers and strong winds in the winter. Sicily experiences a lot of sunshine year-round, with mild winters, with colder temperatures inland. Roast pig, lobster and swordfish are popular on the islands, and Sicily is particularly known for its sweets, such as candied fruits and marzipan.