Italy’s culinary delights draw food enthusiasts in search of hands-on, edible adventures.

There are few places where food is more celebrated, more deeply rooted in the cultural experience, than in Italy. Hyper-regional and made with amore, this cherished fare reveals much about Italy’s landscapes and those who inhabit them, whether it’s Umbria’s tagliatelle with truffles, fresh-plucked seafood from the coast or rugged Abruzzo’s rib-sticking lamb with egg and cheese.

Fresh pasta with black truffle

Thankfully, there are many ways to infuse food experiences into travels. These opportunities not only lend insight into the country’s revered fare, they do so through the eyes of locals. Mouthwatering journeys can span from mainland Italy to Sicily to include a bacari (wine bar) tour in Venice or the chance to attend a wine tasting and olive oil tasting in Tuscany.

When in Bologna, we recommend taking a cooking class. There, a female-run cooperative imparts the value of traditional preparations, while opening their homes to guests, who help prepare meals. That may include making pasta by hand and baking chocolate cake for dessert. Nolan Bresn recently travelled from the Chicago area to Florence, Tuscany, Rome and the Amalfi Coast to encounter such pleasures firsthand.

handmade gnocchi pasta

“My wife, Sherri, and I took a class in the kitchen of a Roman woman, who lived in a 1900s apartment filled with antiques and old portraits of family members,” he recalls. “She was such an interesting person, very cultured and a great cook.” The travellers and their hostess sat down to enjoy the dishes together, complete with a fine china and crystal table setting.

“The quality was as good—if not better—than meals we had at restaurants,” says Nolan. “The difference was we helped prepare it, and we got an inside perspective of Italy while doing so.”

fresh salad

There’s no reason to stop there. Consider whipping up desserts at the shop of a famous baker in Erice or tasting wines in Marsala, followed by a memorable lunch at a local vineyard. You may even learn how the black bread of Castelvetrano is made or savor fruits of the vine at a winery on Mount Etna.

Ever wonder how balsamic vinegar is produced? Visit an acetaia, seeing the storage facility and enjoying a tasting of several ages of vinegar onsite. If you’re planning on skirting the Amalfi Coast, stop at a local farm to learn how they make their own cheese, limoncello and sausages. Delve deeper as you hear about production standards and sample the items alongside the family who crafts them. Or, set out to sample fresh mozzarella—made right before your eyes.

Whether you’re culinarily curious or food-enthused, it’s possible—make that recommended—to travel to Italy based on edible interests alone. Learn more about travelling to Italy.