There’s no “wrong” time to come to Italy—but depending on what kinds of food you love the most, there might be a “best” time!
That’s partly because it’s a lot harder to get certain kinds of produce year-round here in Italy than it is in the U.S. Italy still has that “if it’s not growing now, you shouldn’t eat it” mentality. Needless to say, that means the food tastes fresher and is grown more locally. (Yum!)
Eating in-season produce isn’t only delicious; it’s also plain old good for Italy, agriculture, and the environment. That’s a big part of why Anthony Bourdain absolutely raved about Italian food on his recent “No Reservations” episode in Rome! So, one way to figure out when is best to plan your visit is by finding out what foods are being served, when, and if you like them. That will make being here all the better for you.
Thinking of when to come to Italy? Here’s a list of what foods are available, when, to help you decide!
Fruits: Almonds, apples, bananas, chestnuts, grapes, hazelnuts, kiwi, lemons, persimmons, pineapples, pomegranates, pears (Aug.-Oct.), tomatoes (July-Oct.)
Vegetables and legumes: Artichokes*, arugula (or rocket), beets, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, celeriac, celery, corn, endives, fennel, herbs, leeks, lettuce, onions, peppers (June-Oct.), potatoes, squash, turnips, white truffles, zucchini
Some of our favorite dishes this season:
- Castagnaccio: flat, heavy cake made out of chestnut flour
- Risotto con funghi porcini: Risotto with porcini mushrooms
- Cavatieddi: a southern Italian dish of pasta with arugula, tomato, and pecorino cheese
*These aren’t the famous “Roman artichokes,” or carciofi romaneschi, which come in season in the spring. They’re other Italian varieties cultivated especially for the fall.
Fruits: bananas, dates, grapefruit, kiwi, lemons, oranges, pineapple
Vegetables and legumes: artichokes (the Roman kind! Feb.-May), beets, black leaf kale, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chicory, chickpeas, endives, fennel, leeks, pistachios, potatoes, pumpkins, black truffles, turnips
Some of our favorite winter dishes:
- Tagliolini al tartufo nero: pasta with black truffle shavings—yum!
- Zuppa di fagioli e ceci: chickpea and bean soup
- Spremuta di Tarocco: blood-orange juice found fresh-squeezed at bars
- Gnocchi or ravioli di zucca: pastas made with creamy pumpkin sauce, a specialty of Mantua and northern Italy
Fruits: apricots, bananas, cherries, lemons, strawberries (April-Aug.), tomatoes (late spring-summer)
Vegetables and legumes: Roman artichokes (Feb.-May), asparagus, beans, chard, chickpeas, fava beans, fresh garlic, green beans, peas (May-Aug.), mushrooms, new potatoes, puntarelle, spinach (April-Sep.), truffles, watercress, zucchini
Some of our favorite spring dishes:
- Carciofi alla giudia: deep-fried artichokes, a specialty of Rome’s Jewish community
- Fava e cicoria: a puree of fava beans, served with chicory and olive oil, from Puglia
- Insalata caprese: mozzarella and tomato salad
- Puntarelle alla romana: a simple salad of puntarelle with olive oil and garlic, popular in Rome and southern Italy
Fruits: Almonds, apples, apricots, bananas, cucumber, figs, melon, peaches, pears (Aug.-Oct.), plums, strawberries (April-Aug.), tomatoes (July-Oct.), watermelons
Vegetables and legumes: Beans, broccoli, corn, eggplant, hazelnuts, peas (May-Aug.), peppers, pistachios, potatoes, raspberries, spinach, turnips, zucchini and zucchini flowers
Some of our favorite summer dishes:
- Pizza con prosciutto e fichi: pizza with prosciutto and figs
- Prosciutto e melone: prosciutto with melon, a popular summer antipasto
- Fiori di zucca: zucchini flowers that have been stuffed with cheese and anchovies and fried, a Roman specialty
- Pasta alla Norma: Sicilian pasta dish with fried eggplant, a tomato-basil sauce and grated hard ricotta cheese. Named for the famous Sicilian composer Bellini’s opera called Norma that premiered when this dish was gaining popularity.