One of the great joys of life in Italy is a long, slow lunch of delicious, local delicacies on a sunny terrace, accompanied, of course, by excellent wine. So where are Italy’s best regional dishes, and what are their regions like?

Risotto: Milan

Risotto originally comes from Milan, where it’s a relatively simple dish, but with the extravagant touch of being cooked with saffron. Other typical dishes include ossobuco alla milanese and cotoletta alla milanese, the former veal shank braised in white wine and broth and the latter, not dissimilar to the Austrian schnitzel, with the bone left in.

Milanese risotto, made with saffron, is emblematic of this elegant northern city. Stefan Paun /

Milanese risotto, made with saffron, is emblematic of this elegant northern city. Stefan Paun /


As for Milan itself, it is a little pricey, with the lower end of properties hovering at €2,144/m2 and the upper end at around €9,116/m2. There’s a lot of talk about it being ‘the new Barcelona’, and this centre of Italian fashion, luxury goods and services could represent a strong investment indeed for property buyers.

Pizza: Naples

A Neapolitan pizza is simplicity personified: a thin base – no more than 3mm thick – a sauce made with San Marzano or Romano tomatoes, sliced mozzarella di bufala campana and basil. No deep-crust America pizzas here! The traditional tomatoes are grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, while the cheese from water buffaloes raised in the marshlands of Campania and Lazio. Another famous dish of the region is, of course, the salad caprese, composed of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and sweet basil.

Property here is cheaper than Milan, at an average of €2,651/m2, ranging from €1,385 to €5,382/m2. In return, you get almost 2,400 hours of glorious sunshine a year, summer temperatures in the 20s and access to the beautiful countryside of southern Italy.

Ragù alla bolognese: Bologna

No surprises that bolognese comes from Bologna, but you will be hard-pressed to find our beloved ‘spag bol’ here. In Bologna, it’s a slow-cooked dish served with tagliatelle, or occasionally pappardelle, fettuccine, penne and rigatoni. The wider region of Emilia-Romagna has a huge number of dishes that enjoy widespread international popularity, whether it’s lasagne, tortellini, or condiments such as Modena vinegar.

Bologna’s most famous export is its delicious cuisine.

Homes here cost around the same on average as Naples, at €2,889/m2, but the range is much lower, from €2,065/m2 to just €3,793/m2. Bologna has previously been ranked as number one in Italy for its quality of life, and it’s no wonder, when you consider the wealth of history, culture, good food and beautiful countryside at your fingertips.

Pesto: Genoa

Pesto’s recipe, first published in the 1860s, has become an absolute classic of Genovese cuisine. It features normally just olive oil, basil, pine nuts, garlic and a mixture of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino cheeses. In Genoa, you’ll often find it used to dress light egg pastas, such as mandilli de sæa. Other famous dishes of the region include focaccia, a herby bread, and polpettone di melanzane, so-called ‘eggplant loaf’. However, interesting, pasta alla genovese does not come from Genoa, but from Naples, perhaps brought by economic migrants.

Property here in the city, like in much of Italy, is in historic apartment buildings with narrow streets to help combat the summer heat. Some of Italy’s most glorious coastline, including the Cinque Terre. Houses here cost an average of around €1584/m2, from a low of €1011/m2 to €3,133.

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