The Ultimate Guide to Italy’s Best-kept Food Secrets

Aerial view of Rome skyline at sunset

A restaurant hidden within the stables of a 16th-century palazzo, hand-made chocolate on a famous island and a tiny bar where you can sample 100 types of tiramisu: Italy and its incredible food is waiting to be discovered and tasted. Three Qantas travel writers – who uncover hidden gems and secrets all over the globe – share their favourite food spots from their most recent trips. 

“Chocolate fans will want to make a pilgrimage to the beautiful baroque town of Modica” – Ute Junker

“You can find fabulous food right around Italy but if you’re looking to hit the sweet spot, Sicily is the place to go. This sun-soaked island is known for its wide array of sweet treats, from icy-cold granitas to ricotta-filled cannoli, but chocolate fans will want to make a pilgrimage to the beautiful baroque town of Modica. That is where you will find Sicily’s oldest chocolatier, Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, where they’ve been hand-making artisan chocolate since 1880. Known for its grainy texture – the chocolate is blended at low temperatures to preserve the aromas – Bonajuto’s bars come in a range of intriguing flavours, like cinnamon or white pepper. 

Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, Sicily

“If the splendour of Florence’s Renaissance treasures makes your soul sing, you are going to love Il Tornabuoni, the city’s most luxuriously designed hotel. The rooms blend boldly contemporary interiors with traditional Florentine motifs, while the charming rooftop bar is the hotel’s secret weapon.

Il Tornabuoni, Florence

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La Ménagére © Mattia Aquila

“Downing an espresso while standing at a counter is an Italian tradition but sometimes you want to linger over your coffee. That’s the time to head to Florence’s most fabulous café, La Ménagère, where pulling up a seat and taking your time is positively encouraged. More than just a café, this multi-function space includes a funky bar, an all-day restaurant with cosy private nooks and a gift shop and florist where the bunches of blooms sweetly scent the air.”

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“A visit to Pesaro on the east coast is worth it just to dine at this restaurant” – Ben Mack 

“Beyond the classics like Venice, Rome and Tuscany is a trove of lesser-known treasures. South of the mainland in Sicily, Erice is a gorgeous, millennia-old walled city atop a hill. You can gaze out to the sparkling blue sea below on one side, while the other reveals a green and brown carpet dotted with petite villages and rolling vineyards.

Villa Igiea's

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“Neo-Gothic Villa Igiea’s golden halls and airy rooms are filled with art, making the palazzo on the Palermo waterfront a sophisticated stay. Enjoying Sicilian cuisine – think lots of fish – with a local wine on the terrace is a treat.

“Italy’s coffee culture is renowned but there’s a reason the likes of Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway have been drawn to Gran Caffè Gambrinus in central Naples. The Art Nouveau décor is a feast for the eyes but their mochas are especially sumptuous. 

Ristorante Lo Scudiero

“A visit to Pesaro on the east coast is worth it just to dine at Ristorante Lo Scudiero where the former stables of a 16th-century palazzo are the setting. The nine-course tasting menu challenges stereotypes of Italian cuisine with options including snails and squid.” 

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“Taste more than 100 tiramisu at this hidden bar” – Glynis Traill-Nash 

“Along with its monumental beauty and ancient buildings, Rome is a magnet for food lovers but it can be hard to know where to begin. The Bulgari Hotel – situated in the Campo Marzio district – is the city’s newest luxury hotel. Even if you’re not staying you can still take full advantage of its Roman culinary offerings. Morning coffee or breakfast on the lush ground-floor terrace of Il Caffè serves up many treats, including the best cream-filled maritozzo you’ll find. 

“Up on the fifth floor, book in for lunch or dinner at Il Ristorante Niko Romito, featuring a fresh, contemporary spin on traditional Roman dishes such as spaghettoni with mussels, roasted tomatoes and grapefruit. As the sun lowers, the Bulgari Bar is the place to savour cocktails. Ask the barman to mix you up an Augusto (after the emperor of the same name), a spin on the Martini that includes bay leaf for an herbaceous lift.

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“If tiramisu is your go-to, then it’s worth stopping by Mr. 100 Tiramisu near Piazza Navona. While you can have an excellent cheese or charcuterie plate and a glass of wine, you can also sample any number of the 100 – count them – twists on the traditional Italian dessert. Try No. 25 Nutella and pine nuts; No. 29 pineapple, dulce de leche and cinnamon; or the loaded No. 91 with licorice liqueur, mint and chocolate.

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“If all this eating has you needing some respite, a stay at the Six Senses, in the Centro Storico area, is a must. With its clean-eating options along with a spa that includes a Roman bath experience, this will reset your mind and body ready for your next adventure – culinary or otherwise.”

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