My travel tips on eating out in Italy for tourists

We spent about two weeks in Italy recently.
We started our trip with Rome then went to Florence then Milan and finally Italy. We travelled within the country using Italo and Tren Italio trains. We bought the tickets online and the itinerary gives you an idea about how to plan your travel. One place that we missed was Pisa near Florence.
We shot some vlogs this time with K using the iPhone6 she had gifted me to shoot. Using a phone made the shoots pretty unobtrusive versus using a DSLR and it was easy to mail the files to the Ping team to upload on my channel, The Finely Chopped. One thing we learnt, rather late, is you need to shoot the videos on landscape and not portrait mode. Next time for sure!
Do check out this video that K shot at Venice airport while I had my last cappuccino in Italy where I talk about what we picked up about eating out in Italy. This can never match a local's in-depth perspective but gives you an idea of what to expect as a tourist:
Here are my eating out tips to add to what I told you in the vlog:
  • There's not much street food at the touristy areas. Your cheapest options for food, apart from McDonalds are the myriad sandwich and re-heated pizza places. We rarely stopped at one as the weather was nippy and we wanted hot meals. The couple of re-heated pizzas that we ate at a stall at Venice station and the much lauded Bonci's at Rome were not as exciting as pizzas made from scratch that we ate. Doner kebab stalls are the other cheap options
  • What they say about eating in touristy areas is true. The couple of meals that we had bang in the middle of the city centre in Rome and in Venice were our most dull ones
  • Your best bet for a local meal is to go to a place whose name starts with Osteria (from the word host). Osterias serve local Italian food and the menu is similar across Osterias
  • The cheapest dishes in an Osteria are the pizzas and pastas
  • An average spend for two dishes and a water started at 23 euros and went up to 55 euros the further we went from Rome. We didn't order alcohol or desserts. The pizza/ pastas were from 10 to 20 euros in Osterias and the mains ranged from 14 to even 35 euros per dish. Prices are as per October 2015
  • There are a fair bit of vegetarian options among pizzas and pastas. The dough might have eggs though. Many Osterias serve freshly made pizzas or pastas made from scratch. There is a good variety in the types of pastas, risottos and pastas
  • The second course consists of meats and fish, very little vegetarian here, and costs more than pizzas or pastas
  • If there are two of you  can order  a pizza/ pasta and a mains and ask them to get it together. if you are alone, any one dish is enough. You can say so if you plan to share a dish. Two people will need two dishes though
  • Water is not free and you have to pay for it, Neither is the bread if there is no cover charge
  • Restaurants, specially outside of Rome, charged a cover charge per person. You get bread on the house in these places. Ask for some olive oil to dip your bread in
  • Websites that we read said that you don't have to tip in Italy. So we rarely did
  • Almost all places accept cards and you can use your Indian cards
  • Most places that we went to had a menu in English too, many had free wifi, if you need to instagram your food before you eat like I do
  • Coffee shops are called bars. You get cappuccino through the day though I am told locals have only espresso after morning. Decaf is easily available as is chamomile. Many places serve great hot chocolate
  • You get charged more if you sit at a table at a coffee bar compared to if you stand and have your coffee
  • Unlike cities like Sydney or London or Singapore or even Mumbai and Delhi, there is not much variety among the regular restaurants in Italy. Most serve only Italian food and like I said, the menu is usually the same across as Osterias. Try not to get bored. I wasn't but K was
  • We hardly saw any Indian restaurants around which was fine for us because we don't eat Indian food while travelling
  • Italian food is not bland. It has some pretty sharp flavours thanks to the great quality of produce used but is not spicy of course
  • The pasta, largely spaghetti, and rice is cooked al dante. Which means they are more chewy than what you are used to in India but are not kachcha or raw or unpleasant
  • This one is for my mom in law, pastas in Italy are rarely doused in cheese sauce. Some, like the seafood ones, don't have cheese in them! Wine is used in the cooking of pastas so do check if you have a problem with this
  • Steaks are done under so medium is a safe bet though I had medium rare once too and liked it. Steaks are usually the most expensive dishes on the menu
  • Italian families can be pretty loud! We were once in a restaurant which was empty barring an Italian family and it turned out to be louder than a Churchgate local packed with diamond traders
  • There are hardly any hot breakfast options or fresh eggs in the breakfast buffets in most hotels and they can get pretty monotonous
  • Airports have stores selling cheese, olive oil and meats at prices that compare well with the cit. So don't worry if you haven't been able to shop for home before leaving
Will add more if I remember. Do add in any Italy eating trips that you might have in the comments section. You can check this link to see where all we ate in Italy and what ate there.


Betty Johnson said…
That's good to know that there are streets with quality local food like that. While I don't know if I'll ever go to Italy, I will try to find an "Osteria" if I ever do. Until I get my chance, I'll just have to try some Italian places around here. I love pasta.