and its food: a brief intro
Here, for many, lies the archetypal Italy: rolling hills, faded ochre farmhouses and villas, cypresses, olive groves, hill towns, and the pines of Rome. For more detailed information on local specialities, scroll down the listings under each individual region's heading.
Abruzzo: A rustic, undiscovered region, home of the Gran Sasso, the tallest of the Apennines and Abruzzo National Park. Good for game dishes, pecorino, saffron, and high-quality pasta: all'amatriciana sauce is from here, as are pizzelle, coglioni di mulo and the extraordinary beany virtú.
The name comes from Aprutium, the Latin word for the region, probably derived from the Praetutii tribe who lived around modern Teramo.
Lazio: This, Italy's third most populous, region includes Rome and a good deal more, although Rome hogs most of the attention. In spite of the capital's wealth and fame, la cucina romana is fairly simple: artichokes in various forms, hearty pasta dishes (fettuccini and pappardelle) and secondi that include offal dishes such as pajata and trippa alla romana as well as saltimbocca alla romana. It's especially good for snack foods, from supplì to porchetta to Roman-style pizza al taglio.
The name comes from Latium, the land of the ancient Latin tribe who soon came to dominate the region—and the entire Mediterranean world.
Marche (Marches): A region increasingly popular among visitors for its beautiful landscapes, Renaissance Urbino and other hill towns, good seafood from the coast and perhaps more than its share of unique specialities, including formaggio di fossa, olive ascolane, and vincisgrassi.
The name is the plural form of marca, from the region's 9th-11th century political divisions after the conquest of Charlemagne (the Marca di Ancona, Marca di Camerino, and Marca di Fermo).
Molise: With the highest villages in the Apennines, Molise is a small, very undiscovered corner of Italy, and its newest region (it formed part of Abruzzo until 1970). In the culinary arts, it still shares many of the same dishes, although the Molisani are perhaps even fonder of spicy diavolini, as in the region's lamb dish, capuzzelle e patane.
The name is perhaps derived from the Latin mola, mill, or from the Norman lords, the Moulins, who ruled the region in the Middle Ages.
Tuscany: A region that needs no introduction, but there’s more to it, however, than the enchanting art cities and landscapes, including excellent, simple food that Tuscans will tell you brings out the best in their excellent wines: bistecca alla fiorentina, arista and cacciucco from Livorno may be banner dishes, but also lots of fagioli, and cucina povera dishes such as pappa al pomodoro, acquacotta, ribollita and panzanella.
The name is derived from Tuscia, the Latin word for the land of the Etruscans, who moved into the area in the latter part of the second millennium BC.
Umbria: In many ways a more rustic version of Tuscany, spangled with historic hill towns such as Perugia, famous for chocolate: look for cirioli or strangozzi with porcini, black truffles or wild asparagus, game dishes (especially cinghiale), cured meats from the norcineria and pampepato.
The name is derived from the Umbrii, the Italic tribe that inhabited the region in ancient times.