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Culture & dining in Italy

Italy is world famous for its rich cultural heritage, showing through in the form of sell-out operas, bustling festivals and its historical heritage. Italy is also renowned the world over for its tantalising foods and drinks, much of which is grown and produced locally. Each city and region has their own specialities.

Since the days of Ancient Rome, Italy has developed a unique culture of its very own, and much like food and drink, each region has a unique cultural heritage and legacy waiting to be discovered. Many of the world’s top tenors hail from Italy, and some of the greatest operas and theatre productions were created in Italy.

Although the different regions of Italy have historically developed their own unique sense of identity, these have now fused together. Italy’s major cities are home to popular museums, theatres, restaurants, and art galleries, and Italy’s shopping culture is arguably second-to-none. It’s also no surprise that with a legacy of democracy and education, Italy has some of the best academic institutions in the world.

Italy: Award-winning dining

Many of Italy’s main cities are world famous for their award-winning culinary dining scene. From basic Italian fare to somewhat bizarre and unusual concoctions dreamt up by multi-award winning chefs. Italy is famous for more than its pizza and olive oils, although of course both of these are great.

Top award-winning restaurants include:

  • Osteria Francescana: This three Michelin Starred restaurant, located on a side-street in the Italian city of Modena, is run by Massimo Bottura and is famous for modern experimental dishes focusing on Italy’s heritage.
  • Le Calandre: Located in the commune of Padua in the Padua-Treviso-Venice region, Le Calandre is owned by Chef Massimiliano Alajmo and bases its dishes around rustic dining and local Italian ingredients.
  • La Pergola: Situated in central Rome, this award-winning restaurant, complete with its 60,000 bottle wine cellar, 29 choice water menu, and locally sourced dishes is owned by Executive Chef Heinz Beck.

Italian food, however, is not limited to its many award-winning bistros and restaurants; there has been a legacy of street dining in Italy for thousands of years. On many street corners, both during the day and night, travellers can sample the many varieties of Italian ice creams (gelato), coffees, breads, and oils; not forgetting famous Italian wines. Each city and region across Italy has its own street food specialities; in Rome it’s undoubtedly pistachio ice creams on sunny days, in Sicily it’s filled rice balls, in Genoa it’s Focaccia bread and in Florence it’s Ox broth.

Italian Drinks

Italy is world famous for its wide array of drinks, ranging from wines produced in the hilly vineyards to fresh orange juice made from locally grown orange trees. Italian coffee is also a favourite both with tourists and locals alike. Regional drink specialities include:

  • Limoncello – A fresh lemon liquor produced in the area around the Gulf of Naples.
  • Cinzano – A Turin produced bitter vermouth.
  • Campari – Produced in Milan, this sweet, red vermouth is usually diluted with soda water or white wine.
  • Bellini cocktail – Invented in Venice in 1934, this mixture of sparkling wine and peach puree was a favourite of British writer Ernest Hemingway.

Coffee served in cafes and restaurants throughout Italy tends to be stronger and less milky than that served across the UK and US. Cappuccino is a favourite amongst the locals in Italy.

Italy: Nightlife

Most of Italy’s larger cities have some form of nightlife after the sun sets, but Florence and Milan have some of the liveliest nightlife in the country. Milan hosts many nightclubs, including The Hollywood, which is a themed nightclub. Florence’s nightlife scene is more electro-focused, especially at Space Electronic nightclub.<br?>
Italy also has a classier nightlife scene, with Rome and Venice shining through in this area of night-time entertainment. In Rome, the area around Piazza Navona is home to numerous wine and piano bars where copious amounts of the local favourite Campari are sold. In Venice, the Martini Scala Club Piano Bar, as its name suggests, serves Martini drinks in a relaxed environment, with expertly tuned piano music playing in the background.

Beach parties are quite rare in Italy, but on the Isle of Sicily things are a little different. An open-air beach bar at Addaura Reef in Palermo serves expertly crafted cocktails, and a sushi buffet throughout the night.

There is always the option to watch an operatic performance at one of Italy’s many opera theatres; particularly in Rome or Milan.