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This is where you’ll find the best food in Italy

The Michelin Guide for Italy 2016 has been released, awarding 334 Italian eateries a coveted star rating. And the best city to eat in Italy might surprise you...

This is where you'll find the best food in Italy
Photo: Katherine Lim/Flickr

1. Naples

Photo: Alexandra Svatikova/Flickr

It's only the fourth largest urban economy in Italy, after Milan Rome and Turin. But as the birthplace of pizza, it perhaps shouldn't be too much of a surprise that to learn that Naples was the region awarded most Michelin stars in the 2016 Italy Michelin Guide. Don Geppi in Sant'Agnello was a newcomer to the list, getting its first star, while in Naples' city centre itself, Il Comandante and Palazzo Petrucci were each recognized as quality restaurants with a star.

2. Rome


Photo: Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

The eternal city just missed out on the top spot but can be proud of its 19 starred restaurants, including one three-star establishment, La Pergola, and two with two stars, Oliver Glowig and Il Pagliaccio.

3. Bolzano

Photo: Aleksandr Zykov/Flickr

There’s never been a better time to visit Bolzano. On Monday we reported that it had been named the Italian city with the best quality of life, and their food is also held in high regard. Nineteen restaurants in the region were awarded Michelin stars, including four two-star restaurants.

4. Milan

Photo: Jose Mª Izquierdo Galiot/Flickr

Milan had a tasty 15 restaurants included in the rankings, rising up the list thanks to three new entries into the guide; Armani, Seta and Tokuyoshi.

5. Cuneo, Piedmont

Photo: Sara/Flickr

This region in the mountainous north west of the country has one three-star restaurant, Piazza Duomo in the town of Alba, one two-star establishment, and ten further one-star restaurants, one of which was a new entry in the guide this year.

6. Salerno, Campania

Photo: Sabrina Campagna/Flickr

Salerno is home to twelve restaurants which made the list, and two for the first time ever: Re Mauri and Osteria Arbustico

7. Brescia

Photo: Marco Assini/AFP

Close to Milan, Brescia is another foodie haven in the north. 11 of its eateries are Michelin-starred, with two of them boasting two stars – Miramonti l'Altro and Villa Feltrinelli.

8. Venice

Photo: Heiner Adams/Flickr

As if you needed another reason to add beautiful Venice to your bucket list, it turns out it serves good food. The region has one two-star restaurant, Antica Osteria Cera, and nine one-star.

9. Turin

Photo: Maëlick/Flickr

Nine restaurants in the region of Turin were acknowledged in the prestigious guide, though all of these were outside the city of Turin itself, including two in skiing village Madonna di Campiglio; Dolomieu and Il Gallo Cedrone.

 

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DISCOVER ITALY

Why some of Italy’s food festivals are ‘fake’ – and how to pick the best ones

Italy's countless sagre, or food fairs, are an autumn highlight. But how do you find the best events - and avoid the more commercial ones? Reporter Silvia Marchetti explains.

Why some of Italy’s food festivals are 'fake' - and how to pick the best ones

Italy’s renowned food fairs are one of the most exciting events during autumn and winter, particularly the coldest months when we’re looking for culinary weekend distractions. 

For the uninitiated, sagre are key gourmand exhibitions mixing local food, premium products, cheeses and olive oil – all the ‘excellences’ of the area – but lately I find some are just, well, fake. 

READ ALSO: The best Italian food festivals to visit in October

Instead of selling traditional indigenous delicacies, vendors sell a little bit of everything which they think appeals to foreigners and city people desperate for a rural break. 

Last weekend I went to the sagra at Osteria Nuova, near Passo Corese in Lazio, and found mozzarella from Naples and limoncello from Amalfi: now what do those have to do with the Rieti countryside?

It was sad and disappointing. Even though it takes place in an area which is famous at this time of the year for exquisite porcini mushrooms and chestnuts there was not even one single vendor selling these. Instead, there was codfish from Venice and porchetta from the Castelli Romani.

Up until a few years ago the Osteria Nuova food fair was very genuine and appealing: it was actually a real farmers’ market where animals were sold: not just rabbits and hens but cows, horses and donkeys. It was a vibrant event. 

Now the cages that once kept the animals are empty. And people just go there to stuff themselves with huge sandwiches and hotdogs. It’s always hell finding a parking spot because the fair is very close to Rome, luring day trippers on a ‘scampagnata’.

Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

My advice is to avoid visiting food fairs which are too close to big cities and towns, but pick offbeat villages or unknown rural spots where the sagre are small and with local producers selling authentic, ‘indigenous’ products. Choosing the remote hillsides, where traditions tend to survive, is of course better than the touristy areas. 

READ ALSO: Seven reasons autumn is the best time to visit Italy

Also, it’s best if the food fair is not too heavily sponsored or advertised in national newspapers. The best thing to do is search online for all food fairs in the area you plan to visit during the weekend or even during the week, and ask friends and locals as word of mouth can often be more reliable. 

Among the authentic sagre I would recommend the porcini mushroom food fair in San Martino al Cimino in the pristine hills of the Tuscia countryside in Lazio, where the woods are dotted with porcini. 

At the fair not only bags of huge porcini are sold but you can also buy a lunch ticket and taste various mushroom dishes sitting down at wooden tables. Last time I was served a delicious potato and porcini soup which inspired me to replicate (successfully) the recipe at home. 

However, the best thing is to search for the weird and unknown – food fairs with funny names and showcasing products that sound and look really bizarre. So forget about the usual truffles, mozzarella, limoncello, ham and pasta-filled events. I suggest opting for quirky food festivals in never-heard-of-before villages where the culinary adventure comes with a cultural jolt. 

Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

When I hear about something amazingly off-the-wall and tasty, with a particular story or legend behind it, my curiosity and taste buds tingle.

Last weekend I was surfing the web and came across the Ciammellocco festival in the tiny hamlet of Cretone, Lazio, which immediately aroused my curiosity. 

READ ALSO: 14 reasons why Lazio should be your next Italian holiday destination

As I had never heard of it before, I jumped in the car the following day and ventured out to an isolated woody area with a few small dwellings, where one single bakery makes this huge, funny-sounding, highly-nutritious sweet-salty doughnut with fennel seeds which has been around since at least the middle ages. Housewives used to make it for their husbands as a substitute for lunch when they went off working in the fields. 

Even though I have tasted similar ciambelle in my life none come close to ciammellocco, crunchy and tender at the same time, made with eggs but light.

Next I heard about the Sagra della Papera in Carassai, Marche region, offering succulent duck meat dishes with pappardelle pasta and roasted duck breasts, and given duck isn’t something you’d normally find in Italian restaurants, it makes the cut for authentic food events. 

Vegetarians can’t miss the Festival degli Orapi in the village of Picinisco north of Naples where guests are treated to platefuls of a unique, delicious spinach variety which is made exquisite by the fact that it grows beneath goat poo, a natural fertilizer. Locals actually roam the countryside with a knife to scrape away the poo and extract the orapi.

In Pedagaggi, Sicily, local housewives organize the Sagra della mostarda di fichi d’india, with gourmet dishes made from exotic-looking prickly pear mustards. 

READ ALSO: ‘La scampagnata’: What it is and how to do it the Italian way

Other curious sagre include the Festa del Gorgonzola set in the town of Gorgonzola in Lombardy which is the real birthplace of Italy’s iconic blue cheese. Huge pentoloni of steaming pots of gorgonzola in the middle of the piazza lure pungent cheese addicts. 

Also Diamante’s festival del peperoncino in Calabria is a must stop for lovers of strong, authentic hot dishes spiced up with chili peppers (there’s even a peperoncini eating marathon).

Real sagre tend to showcase one premium native product rather than a myriad with overlapping origins.

The more ‘local’ you dive into the deepest, remote corners of Italy full of tradition and folklore, the more genuine the sagra and the more satisfying the gastronomical experience.

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