Southern Italy regions: what to visit and eat
Southern Italy regions consist of the beautiful territories of Abruzzo, Molise, Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria and the two islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Because of the intensity of sunshine on midday, Southern Italy is also known as the Italian Mezzogiorno, being "mezzogiorno" the Italian term for "midday" or "noon". Down there time passes slower and everything is surrounded by a hint of authenticity, history and seculary culinary traditions. Food is indeed an essential part of these regions' patrimony and it is not by chance that Southern Italian regions are the birthplace of many worldwide famous Italian food, just think about pizza, espresso and mozzarella.
Abruzzo is known as the green lung of Europe, due to its three National Parks and several natural reserves with wonderful lakes that stretches from the heart of the Appennines to the Adriatic Sea. When it comes to the cuisine, Abruzzo is mostly characterized by an abundance of meat, as the mountainous parts of the region are full of wild pastures. As a result, many of Abruzzo’s traditional dishes feature lamb, which can be grilled as in the iconic arrosticini or made into sauces for pasta as in maccheroni alla chitarra. The first dish consists in cubes of sheep placed on wooden skewers and cooked on a special narrow grill called "fornacellas", while maccheroni alla chitarra are quadrangular strips served with ragu or lamb and tomato sauce.
If you wish to explore one of the Italian offbeat destinations, it’s time you consider a trip to Molise, the second tiniest region in Italy after Valle D’Aosta. Unlike the other Southern Italy regions that have long coastlines, Molise is touched by the Adriatic Sea just for a short trait and is mostly a mountainous region full of hidden villages scattered all over its territory, where meat is used as a leading ingredient. Lamb ragu indeed is a very tasty and hearty ragu sauce that is made with lamb, sausage and veal and is usually eaten with fusilli, the helical pasta shapes typical of Molise and one of the most famous and pasta shaped all over the world.
Campania is one of the cradle of Italian food, being the home of some of the most world famous Italian food: pizza, spaghetti, espresso and mozzarella. Here is also the place to come if you want to visit the ancient archeological sites of Pompei and Ercolano and to experience the glamour dolce vita of Amalfi coast: a jewel of the Mediterranean Sea made of picturesque buildings clinging to the side of cliffs. Campania is also known for its capital Naples, one the the oldest ancient cities in Europe and the place where pizza was born. It's right here that the chef Raffaele Esposito invented the pizza Margherita for the Queen of Italy using only three ingredients mozzarella, tomato and basil to represent the Italian flag.
Located in the heel of the Italian boot, Apulia is a unique region made of whitewashed villages whose most iconic architecture is represented by the trulli of Alberobello: small dwelling with dry stone walls and conical roof. The real Apulian soul however is represented by its seculary olives trees that have shaped this region’s landscape across centuries thus giving this place an unmistakable identity. Extra virgin olive oil is therefore the product symbol of Apulia as well as one of the key ingredients in the Mediterranean diet. This precious liquid gold is used to season most of Apulian traditional dishes such as orecchiette alle cime di rapa: orecchiette pasta with broccoli rabe sauce enriched with freshly grated, aged hard cheese, anchovies and chili flavored extra virgin olive oil.
Embedded between Calabria and Apulia, Basilicata is a hidden paradise not known by many people, but thanks to its UNESCO World Heritage capital Matera, beautiful beaches and stunning national parks is totally worth a visit! Grains have been cultivated in Basilicata for thousands of years and as a result, Basilicata has one of the oldest baking traditions in Italy and most of its food is made with durum wheat in the first place. If you’ll come to Basilicata, you’ll see a huge variety of different breads, but by far the most famous is pane di Matera and strazzata, the Basilicata equivalent to Ligurian focaccia often served with lard and bacon.
Calabria is the tip of the boot and is surrounded by the Ionian Sea and Tyrrhenian Sea and is separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messina. It’s characterized by clarity and purity of the sea, sun-drenched coastline and beautiful natural environments. One of Calabrian most famous dish is Spaghetti with anchovies that is traditionally served during St. Joseph’s Day and is a poor yet flavored dish made with anchovies, breadcrumbs, garlic and a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil. Apart from seafood, Calabria is also famous for its spicy food: it is not by chance that another typical dish is the ‘Nduja, a particular spicy spreadable pork salumi that can be eaten over bread or can be added to tomato sauce for a really Calabrian pasta.
Among Italian regions, Sicily boasts the most ancient history: dominated by Greeks, Romans, Arabians, Spanish and French this region is a real cultural sanctuary rich in amphitheaters, temples, and mosaics and both its architectures and culinary traditions are influenced by these populations. Sicilian cuisine is indeed a crossroad of different cultures, boasting Middle Eastern ingredients such as couscous, almonds, ginger, apricots and cinnamon and Spanish ingredients such as corn, cocoa, tomatoes and prickly pear. The result is a perfect match of flavors, just think of delicacies such as arancine, anelletti pasta and cannoli: some of the most authentic Sicilian dishes that you'll find literally in every streets' corner and will conquer your heart and soul.
Sardinia is well known all over the world for its turquoise blue sea and white beaches of Costa Smeralda, however it also has wild hinterland made of historical cities rich in folklore that you should visit. Just like the most part of Southern Italy regions, Sardinia has both beautiful seacoasts and hinterlands, thus boasting seafood and meat-bases dishes. Among the fish dishes you can find the famous fregola sarda that contists in a durum wheat pasta very similar to cous cous which is normally served with clams and seafood. Porceddu sardo on the other hand, is a simple yet a complex recipe made from roasted suckling piglet that represent sardinian wild and carnivorous soul. Now that you traveled with us through Southern Italy regions, you are ready to discover the Northern Italy ones?