Venice, on the other coast, in Veneto, was where all the spice trade was done, so that area is known for its Middle Eastern influences. They use a lot of turmeric and cumin in their dishes. There are more sweet/spicy combos here (and flooded streets!).

Emilia-Romagna, where Modena, Parma and Bologna are, has more cooking schools than anywhere else in the country. Modena, as I’m sure you know, is where balsamic vinegar is made. Parma is not only famous for ham, but it’s where Parmesan cheese is made. Since Reggio is next to Parma, both areas are allowed to make this cheese. Hence the name “Parmesan-Reggiano.” Makes sense now, doesn’t it? The area is known for rich sauces like Bolognese. They also like their egg pasta, which uses a softer flour.

When one hits Tuscany, things change. This area is the beginning of the “poverty line.” They don’t get a lot of water in the southern area of the country. Tuscany has tons of olive trees, so they make olive oil. And more olive oil.  

Go south to Lazio, where Rome is, and you’ll find sheep’s milk cheeses like Pecorino and Ricotta. They tend to keep to the typical Mediterranean diet of eggplant, peppers, citrus, almonds, garlic and, of course, tomatoes.

Naples, in the region of Campania, is another port city. Their food is the food of most of the “Italian” restaurants in this country. Meatballs are from Naples! There’s great fresh mozzarella from here, as well.

Apulia is the heel of the boot. It’s known for its canned San Marzano tomatoes. These are used for pizza and sauces. If you haven’t tried them, you must. You’ll be amazed at the taste difference! This region also has a Middle Eastern influence. They eat bulgur wheat, garbanzo beans and Orecchiette (ear shaped) pasta.

Last but not least, we come to Sicily. This large island has been invaded by most of the known universe (according to my Sicilian boyfriend, Bobby), and has some amazing food influences. Along with the Middle Eastern influence, they love pine nuts, raisins and making sweet and sour combinations. The waters around the island provide heavier, meaty fish that provide much of the area’s protein.