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Travel Cheat Sheet: Why You Should Go on a Culinary Vacation in Italy

by Cris Puscas

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Having  spent five marvelous weeks in Italy (back in 2016) enjoying (a bit too much) cheese, learning how to make pizza, and spending money on olives at the farmers’ market, it comes to no surprise that I talk about visiting the country every chance I get. 

Italy is the country that convinced me - and may I say very fast? - that even a person who isn’t a foodie will quickly turn into one. Given the right food, of course!

In this article, I’m sharing ten great reasons why you should choose Italy for a culinary vacation. Or any type of vacation. As a bonus, I have included a cheat sheet to help you plan your vacation in Italy.

Note: BookCulinaryVacations offers a flexible cancellation policy. Should you not be able to travel as scheduled, we’d be happy to help you alter your booking with the same organizer or a different organizer.


Traveling to Italy in 2021

Nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland, as well as some third-party countries (including Israel, UK, USA, and Canada) may enter Italy.

Except for the EEA nationals (that includes the European Union), everyone entering Italy must present a negative COVID-19 antigen or molecular test taken no longer than 72 hours before arrival.

EEA nationals must have either: a negative COVID-19 antigen molecular test taken no longer than 48 hours before arrival, or a COVID-19 recovery certificate, or a COVID-19 vaccination certificate showing that they’ve been fully vaccinated at least 14 days before arrival. Only the EU-approved vaccines are accepted.

The EU digital green pass is also accepted not only from EU passengers but also for Canada, Japan, and the US travelers.

Passengers who transited through India, Bangladesh, or Sri Lanka in the past 14 days must carry a negative COVID-19 antigen or molecular test taken no longer than 72 hours before arrival. They’ll still quarantine for 10 days and need to take two additional tests (upon arrival and at the end of quarantine).

Passengers who transited through Gibraltar or the UK in the past 14 days must show a negative COVID-19 antigen or molecular test taken no longer than 72 hours before arrival. They must self-isolate for 5 days and take another test at the end of quarantine.

Starting from May 24, all passengers wishing to enter Italy, via all means of transportation, are required to complete the digital PLF, prior to entering the country. Passengers arriving in Calabria, Puglia, and Sicily must present a completed health declaration prior to arrival.

More details can be found here (official source).


Antipasti (Engl: Appetizers) are the first things to show up on your table. No matter how many countries you visited and the similar foods you’ve tried before, they will never be as good as in Italy. The amount and type of dishes depend on the region you are visiting. When you see “antipasti locali” be sure that you’ll indulge in the best of what that region has to offer. Generally, though, cheese and cured meats are likely to pop up on any table.



Although I have never had bad pizza in Italy, I still recommend Naples for a taste of this real Italian staple. The trick is to look for the longest queue in front of the pizzeria and make sure no one speaks English. You want to go where the locals, not the tourists go to eat.

And you should consider a pizza making vacation in Italy to learn the skills which will allow you to recreate this mouth-watering dish at home.




There are about 55-60 different types of pasta in Italy nowadays. The various noodles are made from durum wheat, which is also called “pasta wheat”. Durum (hard) wheat has a high content of protein and also a higher gluten content than common wheat. Most homemade pasta – such as cavatelli or orecchiette – use durum wheat.

Pasta is a staple in the Italian diet and the recipes are endless. Skip the dishes you already know the names of and opt for something local and traditional.



Italy enjoys 4,722 miles (7,600km) of coastline. What does this mean for the visitors? Many gorgeous seaside towns and a lot of seafood to enjoy! As with the case of any place where seafood can be enjoyed, there are some fish which should be avoided and also a lot which can be eaten without problems.

Locals know best and the sooner you make friends with someone, the better. For example, octopus (polpo) can be eaten during the winter, while gray mullet (cefalo) can be eaten year round.



Photo credit: Cris Puscas

During my first trip to Italy (in 2012), I really wanted to try gelato. We do have some good gelaterias at home, as well, which claim to use Italian recipes, but I had not reached gelato nirvana until I tried it in Italy. Luckily, I have never had a bad experience and I apply the same principle to choose a place to buy ice cream from as I do with pizzerias: long queues, locals, no English menu.



cappuccino in Rome

Photo credit: Cris Puscas

Ordering a coffee in Italy can be quite weird at first. I still laugh when I remember the first time I ordered a “cafe” at Bari Airport. It turned out to be a ristretto though I was expecting a shot of espresso. Ever since that moment, I stick to cappuccino.

And speaking of, never order a cappuccino after 11 a.m. Why, you may ask? The rule has nothing to do with cappuccinno but everything to do with milk. Consuming milk after a meal screws up your digestion so they avoid milk after eating lunch and dinner. Breakfast doesn’t count.  

If you want to try a traditional Italian breakfast, get a cornetto alongside a cappuccino. The sugar rush won’t keep you full for long but, honestly, who cares.



olives at the market

Photo credit: Cris Puscas

There’s nothing more interesting than to take part in the process of picking the olives and preparing them for consumption. Olive picking and tasting holidays offer a unique glance into those activities and, of course, the chance to taste organic produce.

Don’t forget a trip to the farmers’ market with local produce on offer. Take advantage of the tastings and try various types of olives.




Photo credit: Cris Puscas

If you love historical sites, then a culinary and culture holiday is a great option. You get to learn to make traditional recipes and visit incredible historical sites. For the first time visitor, Rome is a great choice and is, literally, an open-air museum. Just put on your walking shoes, get a map, and explore.

Naples, with the nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum, is another gem worth exploring and falling in love with.



empty beach

Photo credit: Cris Puscas

One of the reasons I love to travel to Italy during winter is that I can have an entire beach for myself. Or share it with locals who jog or take their dogs for a walk.

Italy’s beaches are most crowded during the high season (July and August) when the hot weather makes the locals escape to the beaches alongside the tourists. There are a lot of wonderful beaches to choose from for your holidays, such as Marausa Beach in Sicily, Riva di Ugento in Puglia, and Monterosso al Mare in Cinque Terre.




Photo credit: Cris Puscas

The trulli of Alberobello are unique limestone dwellings constructed without using any mortar. Located close to Bari, in Apulia (Ita: Puglia), Alberobello is home plenty of them. One area is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit sight during any vacation in Italy. The other area has trulli which are still inhabited by locals. And yes, you can spend a night (or more) in a trullo.

Italy Travel Cheat Sheet

Thinking to visit Italy on your next culinary holiday? Choose an olive picking and tasting vacation in Italy and enjoy the best of what the country has to offer!

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