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Italian Cuisine: 5 Ways Olive Garden Isn’t Authentic Italian

26 April 2024

Italian Cuisine: 5 Ways Olive Garden isn’t authentic Italian food

Be prepared for a drastically different menu & experience when visiting a genuine Trattoria in Italy

If you follow me on social media you inevitably have come across more than a couple “Culture Shock” videos. And considering that it’s one of the things Italy is most known for, unsurprisingly several of those vids revolved around food. It is after all one of the first things an American visiting Italy for the first time would notice…especially because, consciously or not, we all have preconceived ideas of what our “Italian” food will look like when we order it–years of our American Mac n Cheese and Spaghetti & Meatball dinners helped shaped them.

Ya know, we can probably pass some blame to the Chef while we are at it. You know, everyone’s favorite Boy, the venerable Chef Boyardee.

I mean what teenager or dorm resident hasn’t Spaghetti-O’d or Beefaroni’d a late night meal?!

So yeah, when I first came to Italy, I thought I had a good idea what to expect come dinner time. Lol – boy was I wrong. Yeah, I knew the canned ravioli was probably not authentic. But what else had led me so far astray?!

And then…I had an image pop in my head. Of limitless breadsticks. Of Build Your Own Pasta. Of Chicken Parmesan.

There’s not one culprit to blame, but could the most well-known Italian restaurant chain in the US have helped turn me into one of the naive? Olive Garden wouldn’t serve us anything less than premium Italian fare, right? Have you seen their commercials? Come on now.

So I started thinking about all the things I thought I knew regarding Italian cuisine. And then I pulled up the Olive Garden menu on their website. 

It got me thinking a bit, I admit. 

One of the most frequent questions I receive about Italy is about the food…people asking if they’ll know the menu items in places, if the dishes here are as they are prepared in the US, etc etc. 

Our ideas about authentic Italian food come from many places. Looking at the Olive Garden menu, I couldn’t help but think that, while maybe not the cause for our misconceptions, they are a perfect encapsulation of them. Here I have pulled 5 (Okay, maybe it’s six or seven) ways that Olive Garden is actually Italian-American cuisine and not food you will find on a menu in Italy.

(which, as a small note: ya girl loves some Olive Garden. This is in no way a diss to Italian-American cuisine and dishes, all of which have origins in typical Italian dishes, were brought over to America by Italian immigrants, and altered to not only work with the products that had available to them, but also to cater to American tastes. So that being said – if you’re posting it up at your local Olive Garden Friday night, I’ll be the last one to judge you. In fact, please save me a seat.) 

By the way…there are no Olive Garden restaurants in Italy lol. 

But…there are ristorantes, trattorias, osterias, pescerias… 

So, does the O.G. really offer up…
“OG” Italian Cuisine?

(see what I did there?!? been holding on to that one since the opening paragraph!)

  • Olive-Garden-Logo

  • olive garden storefront

1. The Starters – Soup, Salad, Apps
(& Breadsticks of course)

Olive Garden:

  • OGthesoup

  • OGsalad

  • OGardenBreadsticks


We’ll start with an easy one – which coincidentally is also the start of their menu.

While no doubt tasty, their Zuppa Toscana (“Soup in the style of Tuscany”) soup is…well, it’s not something you’ll find in Tuscany.

Traditional Tuscan soup is traditionally made from a selection of kale, beans, zucchini, potatoes, celery, carrots, onions and tomatoes. While Olive Garden does have some of those ingredients, the broth itself is more watery-an Italian sin-and includes things such as red pepper, sausage and american bacon. 

You won’t find that bacon in Italy.    

And unlimited breadsticks?! Not exactly. Italian breadsticks aren’t the super fluffy, buttery, overtly fattening (but so tasty) ones you find at Olive Garden. 

Typical Italian breadsticks are known as grissini. They are long, thin and hard enough that they snap in half. Trust me though – they are so much better than those little packages of hard, crispy breadsticks I think we all used to get in diners and such with spaghetti growing up. 

As for salad dressing, that may come as a surprise too….

2. Fettuccine Alfredo is to Italy…
what the Taco Bell Quesadilla is to Mexico

Olive Garden:

  • ogalfredos

  • OGchickenalfredo

  • OGshrimpalfredo


Though there are some anecdotal evidence of its ancestry being of Italian origin, the reality is that the fettuccine Alfredo that Americans of all ages have grown up with is actually a New York City creation. 

Yes, every time you order the delicious, filling, fattening treasure, available at seemingly every restaurant from Applebee’s to Bob Evans to of course Olive Garden, you are eating something no more Italian that the plastic bottle of Kraft Parmesan Cheese.

The story behind it: There was an Italian in the 1910’s named Alfredo in Italy, and he did create a pasta dish using fettuccine. His concoction was memorable because of the presentation–the dish itself was simply fettuccine al burro, or “fettuccine with butter”. 

There’s a 1930’s version of this Alfredo, too, which just adds to the confusion.

Another tale more on the mythological side is of a man named Alfredo and his pregnant wife. The story goes that wife was hungry, but kept throwing up everything he made for her. (I should note that a common element of this myth is Alfredo was slaving over a hot stove for his wife but she was being a “pain in the butt”…the patriarchy was strong in post WWI Italy, I guess, I dunno). He finally satisfied her many attempts later (surely there’s a pun there). Of course, in this version it was just pasta in bianco–basically plain pasta with oil and butter. 

Pasta of various sorts and styles has been served with butter and cheese for generations in Italy. It wasn’t until the original recipe was brought over by celebrities and immigrants alike to America that the “Alfredo sauce” we commonly think of was created, cream and all. 

So you won’t find the American “Alfredo” sauce in Italy, that’s the bottom line. 

But fun fact? 

No one knows who Alfredo was, but its generally agreed upon there was a man named Alfredo who like fettuccine. That’s why when you type in “fettucine Alfredo” your spell check will automatically make sure that “A” is captalized!

Fettuccine with cheese and butter or oil? Italian. 

Fettuccine in an actual creamy sauce made with cream? Not so much

3. Chicken Parmigiana, Chicken Carbonara
(and every other dish combining pasta & chicken)

Olive Garden:

  • OGChickenParm

  • OGChickCarbonara

  • OGEggplantParm


Some things you know don’t mix. 

Oil and water. Sports and Politics. And in Italy…Chicken and Pasta!

I feel like I undersold that. Let me try again.

Italians-Do-Not-Mix-Pasta-And-Chicken. Period.

Now, Parmigiana itself, a dish made with sauces and cheeses and baked, is an Italian recipe, but the standard recipe calls for eggplant and has origins in Southern Italy–thus there’s no need to call a dish Eggplant Parmigiana, for example. Chicken Parm is 100% an American created dish stemming from early immigrants from Italy having much easier access to the abundance of chicken & other fowl compared to back home. 

Now, since meatballs are about to be covered below, I should note that there is Bolognese sauce in Italy. But it’s basically never served with spaghetti, which Italians feel is too weak of a pasta to support such a thick sauce. Thus Spaghetti Bolognese is American

And spaghetti with big meatballs perfectly situated right on top? Well….

4. Meatballs & Mozzarella Sticks
…sure sound Italian?

Olive Garden:

  • OGspaghettimeatballs

  • OGmeatballparm

  • OGfriedmozzarella


As noted above, Italians don’t ever mix their chicken and pasta. In fact, it’s two completely separate dishes, served at two completely different times. The same goes for meatballs – unless it’s mixed into the pasta sauce, such as a ragu made from beef, pork, wild boar (so good), rabbit, meat has their own standout moment on the menu as a secondi dish, typically ordered with simple, easy sides like a small mixed salad or roasted potatoes. 

So with that in mind, not only are Italian meatballs never served directly on top of pasta in Italy, but authentic Italian meatballs are not massively giant like the “giant meatballs” you’ll find on the Olive Garden menu. They are traditionally much smaller, and served on their own.

And Fried Mozzarella? Well “Cheese Sticks” have their ancestry traced back to…Mexico, most likely.  Though there are fried cheese dishes like Mozzarella in Carrozza in Italy.

See, it might not be real Italian…but it’s so good that a Hedgehog loves Olive Garden

5. Shrimp Scampi

Olive Garden:

  • OGshrimpscampi

  • OGbulkshrimpscampi

  • OGchickenscampi


Alright, ready for this: Chicken Scampi? Not only is that not an Italian dish, it’s actually an Olive Garden creation. 

Shrimp Scampi? Nope, not a dish that you’ll find in Italy, in any way, shape or form. That’s American through and through baby! 

You see…Scampi are small lobsters found in the Atlantic and Mediterranean that are a staple part of the Italian seafood diet. Shrimp are related, but altogether different animals. Scampi is the plural of scampo, the Italian name for the langoustine or Norwegian Lobster. 

So saying Chicken Scampi or Shrimp Scampi just doesn’t make sense. 

While in England and some other western European countries the lobster might be replaced, its really only in the US that the word “scampi” has become a term for a style of pasta dish, as opposed to actually referring to the oceanic basement dwellers themselves.

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Bonus Round!
About those Beverages & Drinks menu pages…

Olive Garden:


If you fancy an alcoholic beverage while in Italy to accompany your dinner, it’s wine or sometimes beer (if you’re eating a pizza). 

Yes, that’s it – wine or beer (sometimes). Not a cocktail. Wine or beer (…sometimes).

Italian chefs go to great lengths to prepare their dishes, and that doesn’t end with just the food. Unsurprisingly, Italians take enormous pride in their cuisine–and matching a delectable glass of Chianti Classico to take the flavor of the dish to the next level is right along with that.

Long story short, you would never find a “featured cocktail” menu like the ones at Olive Garden at a genuine (non-tourist trap) Italian ristorante or trattoria. Cocktails are meant for aperitivo time before dinner, or at the cocktail bar after you’re done with your meal. 

You can see all my Italian Food Tips playlists here:

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Another Amazing Street Food Tour…In Naples

2 July 2023

Another Amazing Street Food Tour…
In Naples!

I’ve talked about some of the best street food in Sicily, and raved about my tour through Florence already. So it was only natural that upon a visit to Naples I reconnected with Marco, owner of Streaty Food Tours, for another fantastic day of walking, learning, and, most importantly, tasting some of the best food in the city. 

Honestly, I probably wrote and deleted 15 different analogies for the food in Naples…but it was an episode of a classic tv drama, serving as background noise, that gave me an “aha!” moment. 

In every movie and every tv show ever made in the history of the world, Italians are always stereotyped on screen in certain ways – even though most of the time the stereotype is not the reality, haha. One that is constant, though, is of the Italian restaurant (always with a red & white checkered table cloth for some reason) with a smorgasbord of super filling pastas, creamy sauces, various fried offerings (always mozzarella sticks which, fun fact, you won’t commonly – if ever – see on an Italian menu in Italy!) and well…just generally the South Beach Diet’s worst enemy. I think these scripted stereotypes originated once upon a time from someone visiting Naples.

It is the birthplace of the modern pizza, afterall. And mozzarella (see how it’s all tied together?! haha) is actually produced in Campania, the region where Naples is located. Typical Napoletano food is vast, but what really stands out to me is their STREET food – it absolutely is the land of temptation for those with a sweet tooth or a love of all things fried golden crispy.

A bit about Streaty Food Tours…

If you have followed this blog for a while then you know how much I love Streaty Food Tours. And if you know anything about me, then you also know I don’t give out my “stamp of approval” to just anyone. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience several different types of food tours, in several different cities throughout this amazing country, but when anyone asks me for highlights or suggestions I always come back to my friend Marco and his Streaty Food Tours.

Streaty approaches each tour as not just an opportunity for people to try some great food, but to explore, educate and just generally immerse customers in the culture of the region. They make an effort to connect with each person and really go out of their way to make people feel comfortable, which is huge when many tourists can be intimidated by a new environment, especially when they have never been to Italy or face a language barrier. 

At the end of the day, its about trust, right? When you sign up for a tour like this you want to know that your safety is important to your guides, to know that your really are being shown great and unique places and not just an Italian version of Papa John’s or something. 

Hey–don’t laugh…there are actually food tours that strategically end (or even sometimes begin) a tour by feeding their groups generic pizza, obviously a food that everyone loves, to insure positive reviews & profitability. 

That’s more reason to love Streaty, though. A walking tour, they strive to educate. They also encourage people to try food outside of their comfort zone–which, if we are being honest with each other–is the whole point of a food tour, right?

Oh…and finally….Street food is simultaneously the best introduction to a region’s culture & cuisine–and some of the best damn tasting food on the planet!

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases made after clicking/following a link result in Kacie Rose Travel receiving a small commission. I only promote products/services that I’ve used & love myself. Thanks for supporting my blog 🙂

A Bit About Naples…

Some Quick-Hitter Facts & Background Info about Naples:

–Naples is the 3rd largest city in Italy, after Rome and Milan. Its population is a hair under 1 million.

–It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities/regions in the entire world. Its ancestry can be traced back all the way to the first millennium B.C., founded by the Greeks.

–Was the capital of the Kingdom of Naples (1282-1816) and the Kingdom of Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861. 

–The port of Naples has played an influential part in helping the city become an integral part of the Italian economy, and it is the European home of NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command. 

–The city centre is steeped in history, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Highlights for tourists nearby include the Palace of Caserta, the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and Mount Vesuvius.

–The term neopolitan means “Pertaining to Naples”. Of course, most people think of ice cream when they hear the word–but there’s actually not a lot of definitive proof the concept of “3 flavors in 1” was borne in Naples. Early Italian immigrants to the States brought a general expertise in frozen desserts and would mold three flavors together to match the Italian flag…it wasn’t until later in the early 20th century that the commonly associated chocolate/vanilla/strawberry became famous. 

–As I mentioned, Naples is known as the birthplace of pizza. During the Kingdom of Naples it grew in popularity in part due to the disproportionate amount of poor people in the city at that time. It was known as “the food of the poor”, in fact. The King Ferdinand IV, of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, helped bring it to the masses, including the elite. 

–Spaghetti is also closely associated with Naples. But as a coastal city its seafood has a reputation all its own. Dishes like impepata di cozze (peppered mussels) and baccalà alla napoletana (salt cod) are Naples staples (sorry, I really wanted to fit in a Naples-staples combo somewhere!)

When Italy was unified in 1861 the country saw much of its wealth in the south, especially the regions inside the former Kingdom of Naples, move north into Milan. With much of the population already “lower middle class” the city’s economy was decidedly depressed, impacting the majority of its citizens.

With the region becoming more and more poor, a lot of the amazing cuisine we now laud Naples for creating/inspiring was borne. In addition to carbohydrate-rich pizza & pasta, fried food became increasingly popular, as it was cheaper to prepare and cultivate than “fresh” food and the fatty oils gave people a sense of “feeling full” much faster (the oils expand in digestion). 

All of that is part of why Southern Italy has kind of an unfortunate reputation compared to the “Rich & Well-off” North. And I do mean its unfortunate…in some ways it reminds me of New York City, actually. Yeah, its maybe a little gritty, and its definitely chaotic…but the people are thus just real, totally vibrant and energetic and extremely hospitable to tourists & newcomers alike–just like in NYC, all you have to do is ask! (Also like NYC, I feel like the people of Naples have this stupid rep of smugness to outsiders, but really its just a city of busy people living their best life!)

Street food tour

The Food…

Cuoppo: A cone of fried things, usually seafood. There’s some land options but from the sea is the way to go, I feel. We tried this at the seafood market in the city, where fresh fish is caught and sold daily. It’s a pretty crazy and hectic environment, but that’s kind of what makes street food perfect, right?

Bufala Mozzarella: Mozzarella made from Buffalo Milk. Creamy and delicious, and a little smoky almost? It was like no mozzarella I have ever tried before! 

Trippa: Just to be blunt…it’s stomach and intestines from various animals. Throughout Italy you can find typical dishes that use alll parts of the animal, but in Southern Italy you can find this ALOT (for the same reasons that gave us pizza!). To be honest, you might see some initially jarring types of dishes & ingredients in Naples restaurants. This wasn’t my personal favorite item of the day, lol.

Lets just say I don’t know if Trippa was the dish that got Naples restaurants the most Michelin stars of any Italian city. 

Pizza fritta: Fried Pizza. OMG. Yes, its as amazing as it sounds. Filled with ricotta, mozzarella, tomato, pork fat and pepper flakes. 2 Thumbs Up!

Taralli: A super crunchy breadstick. This particular ones had almonds, which really enhanced the overall flavor. (Additional note…went oh-so-well with a Peroni, a famous Italian beer also available in the States!)

Snowflake: A desert pastry filled with cream and topped with powder sugar. Honestly after the fried pizza and taralli, I didn’t think I could eat much more, and at this point I thought I’d burst if I finished it all. But I did…and I didn’t burst. And it was well worth it!

In conclusion, my dear readers…

All in all, if you’re traveling to Naples, Sicily, or Venice, I HIGHLY recommend checking out Streaty Food Tours. They are simply awesome and provide such an awesome experience for tourists to not only see and enjoy the city, but to fully immerse themselves in the culture. And because I cannot recommend them enough, Marco gave me a discount code to share with all of you!

Book a Streaty Food Tour!

Happy eating, friends!

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10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Coffee Culture in Italy


10 Things…
I Wish I’d Known About Coffee Culture in Italy

Before I Visited the First Time

Italian coffee has earned a reputation as being some of the best in the world, and the country takes great pride in this. While thinking of Italy often conjures images of fantastic pastas & unrivaled perfection in pizzerias, the country’s coffee has become a point of reference for coffee excellence across the globe.

What many people don’t realize before their first foray to Italy is the extensive culture built around its coffee. Coming from the land of office buildings and gentrification in New York City, I discovered just how unaware I was by my first Italian sunrise. I had completely grown accustomed to seeing a Starbucks on every street corner (or in every cafeteria, skyscraper, library…dentist office…you get the point) and to-go cups of venti coffees everywhere you look. 

Alas, my lack of initial knowledge shall not be in vain. I am here now to help you prepare for the land of espresso, to arm you with awareness so you can order your morning bliss like a true local. 

1. Coffee = Espresso… 

            and Espresso = Caffè

Let’s start out strong (pun totally not intended, but I’m still proud of it haha) and get this out of the way right off the bat…

Caffè = Coffee.

That’s easy enough, right? Step to a counter, groggy, looking for a pick-me-up, that’s your keyword. But, of course it’s not that simple…otherwise this would be a pretty short & pointless list entry.

When you see “Caffè” (coffee) on a menu…it actually is referring to Espresso, not your typical (and what I expected my first time) “American” coffee. If you want your customary “two cream, one sugar” brew (btw, you will want to keep reading this list if that is indeed your order) that you’d find in your neighborhood coffee shop, you instead will want to order, coincidentally enough, a “Caffè Americano“.

A “Caffè Americano” is simply an espresso with hot (hot!) water added.

Because “Caffè”, ie “coffee”, means espresso in Italy, you won’t find the word “espresso” commonly used, mainly just in tourist-centric establishments, like maybe in an airport or major international hotel chain. If what you actually want is an espresso…just simply ask for “un caffè” (a coffee).

Seems simple enough, right? But I swear I wish I had known that!

2. “Bars” are a place to get coffee

I probably should be embarrassed to admit this, but I absolutely will own it. When I first visited Italy, I remember thinking “why are there so many bars everywhere…and why are they so damn busy at 9am?!” I mean, I knew that “drinking culture” throughout Europe & Italy was much more relaxed than in the US, but I was pretty surprised and taken aback.

Of course, my shock was for naught — the “bars” in Italy are not like the ones elsewhere in the world, especially the US. While you CAN get alcohol at a bar in Italy, you will quickly discover much of their business revolves around coffee and such. 

Later in the afternoon, around Aperitivo time, you’ll see a slow transition and can expect to find people enjoying maybe a nice Aperol Spritz and some lighter fare. These bars typically will close around 9pm.

3. Lattes Don’t Exist

I feel like I absolutely must mention this…because I cannot even begin to tell you the number of people who have told me some version of their “latte story”. So many of these end with “I ordered a latte…and received a nice, cold glass of milk!”

Basically, “Latte” means “milk” in Italian. Thus, if you ask for a “Latte”, you will literally get a glass of milk. Now, of course, I feel like many of these bars in Italy, especially those that are accustomed to foreign visitors, entirely are aware of what their customer is asking for — but simply can’t resist. I suppose if I was in their shoes I may even do the same thing sometimes, I mean everyone needs a little levity during their workday, right? But if you want to avoid potentially being on the receiving end of a little workplace humor, steer clear of this typical tourist foible. 

If you love milk in your coffee, however, you can order a “Caffe Latte” –an espresso with milk. Or you can scroll down to #7 on this list and order a cappuccino. 

4. Coffees are small and quick

As I mentioned, traditional coffee in Italy is just espresso. Therefore that “Grande” coffee from Starbucks isn’t something you’ll find here. You’re not going to find any extra large coffees to-go. 

As the portion sizes of espresso are obviously smaller, with the coffee being so much stronger, drinking a “cup” is a 5-minutes or less endeavor in the Italian culture. Quite different than the American culture of 24-ounces through a drive-thru that you may carry with you for an hour or two.

Which means inevitably many tourists are surprised by the size of their coffee order. “But surely that’s not enough!” is a popular reaction. Wrong 😉

5. Stand at the Bar and Drink

Like I mentioned above, coffees are meant to be a small and quick affair in Italy. Typically Italians stand right there at the bar, drink their coffee quickly, and then they’re on their way. While to-go coffees have become a little more common post-Covid, it’s still relatively rare. Honestly, it just doesn’t make much sense to take something with you that will be gone in 3 or 4 sips!  

Something important to be aware of, however, is the price differences you’ll find in some of the larger cities and downtown areas. There could be a significant price difference between choosing to sit down, where there is table service, versus ordering at the bar itself. An espresso that costs 1€ at the bar can easily cost you 5€ sitting down.

The idea of sitting outside a little Italian café and people-watching while sipping your coffee can be alluring, and, honestly, a great way to start your Italian morning. Just know that…if someone is bring that coffee to you…it’s going to be more expensive. Possibly 5x so. 

6. “Creamer” does not exist

I alluded to this in the beginning of this 10 Things, but I’ve got some bad news for those that dig their flavored creamers. You are not going to find a French Vanilla creamer in Italy (guess you can tell what I loved in my coffee before moving here!). In fact, it’s rare to find any sort of cream to add to your coffee here, even in a grocery store. Italians typically only use milk if they want to soften the taste (or, I suppose, add to it?).

As for plant-based milks, while it isn’t impossible to find them in bars that are located in the bigger, more touristy cities, they are still rare for a bar in Italy to have. I’ve found almond or soy milk to be the most common milk-alternatives available, and it seems that they may be gaining in popularity like in the US, but it’s not a foregone conclusion your Italian bar will offer them.  Best advice – just ask the barista if they have any they can offer you.

7. Cappuccinos only before 11am

This one is common knowledge in Italy, and typically how Italians can spot tourists right away: its customary to only order cappuccino before 11am in the morning, and to never ever EVER drink cappuccino with lunch or dinner. An espresso is the choice drink for those that desire a caffeine pick-me-up…or those that love the taste.

The reasoning is that because cappuccinos contain a lot of milk, they’re too “heavy” to be drank after morning time. Of course, you can drink whatever you want at whatever time of day you want, but just be prepared that ordering one outside of the Italian accepted time frame may lead to some confused looks.

If you’re someone who just loves milk in your coffee and thus really doesn’t do espresso, try ordering a “Caffe Macchiato” – it still has milk in it, but less than a cappuccino. It is more acceptable to drink at any other times of the day post-morning. 

If I’m being honest though…I still drink cappuccinos in the afternoon sometimes. I really love cappuccinos. Like a lot. What can I say, I’m a rebel.

8. Coffee is Cheap!

When I first came to Italy, I was expecting the coffee to be comparable to the price of a cup of coffee in NYC where I’m from – boy was I wrong. A regular espresso typically costs between 0.80€-1.10€ – I think the highest I’ve seen an espresso go for is 1.70€, and that was because we were having a coffee in a world-renowned bar smack-dab in the middle of a city center.

More complex, “fancy” drinks (as I like to call them) like cappuccinos and macchiatos don’t typically cost more than 2€. Unless you are sitting down and receiving table service, as I mentioned before. 

@kacierose4 I drank far too much coffee and didn’t sleep this night but it was worth it 😂 #americansinitaly #coldcoffee #italiancoffee #travelitaly #florence ♬ Happy and fun corporate music for advertising. – TimTaj

9. Traditional “American” Iced Coffee doesn’t exist

I know. I was sad about this one too. The reason sort of combines everything I’ve talked about, really. Large coffees don’t exist here, with a traditional Italian coffee order being just a shot or double shot of espresso. Therefore just as you won’t be finding extra large to-go coffees, you won’t find their “American” iced coffee siblings neither. 

If you’re in the mood for a cold coffee, you can try ordering a “Caffe Shakerato”, which is actually a very creamy, chilled drink typically served in a martini glass. In various parts of Italy, a “Caffe Freddo” is popular to find in bars, which is essentially a coffee slushie, and the closest thing you will find to an “American Iced Coffee”. 

The above picture is an example of a Caffè Fredo (Bar Stampa, Turin).  Mmm….Yummy!

10. When in Doubt…Just Ask!

If there’s anything I’ve learned since moving to Italy, it’s that the people here are extraordinarily kind and helpful. While trying to immerse yourself in Italian culture, if there is something specific that isn’t making much sense, or that you were hoping to find – just ask.

As it pertains to coffee, you may have to explain what your drink of choice is, and it may result in not being exactly what you are used to, but they’ll try! In my experience Italian bars will be happy to try and make something you desire…just maybe not like the “Pink Drink” from Starbucks. Maybe you don’t ask an Italian barista to make that 😉

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How to spend a day in Florence for under 25€


How to…
Spend a day in Florence

for under 25 Euro

When many people think “Wow, I’d love to go to Europe!”, their very next thought is often “…but damn it must be expensive!” I must admit, I was one of those people too.  It’s a shame, because this fear costs people a whole lot more — the chance to travel and experience the world, to be exposed to cultures & locales far removed from their status quo.

Let’s just say that dirty little word out-loud together — Tourist. As a traveler, especially abroad, it almost seems to invoke random fees & inflate costs with every step you take. There is a reason “tourism” is its own industry, afterall — entire economies are built & supported by it. But that doesn’t mean you have to take out a second mortgage just to sail across the Atlantic. I’m here to tell you that you can have a blast on your trip — and not file bankruptcy afterwords.

In this post I want to tell you a bit about Florence, one of Italy’s most beautiful cities. And, of course, how you can spend a day exploring this amazing city for the cost of your monthly Amazon Prime membership (or maybe Disney+. Yeah lets go with that!).   

As someone who began living in New York City as a typical college student, careful (sometimes even extreme) budgeting became second nature, continuing as I embarked on a post-graduation solo trip through Europe. That first trip through Europe by myself taught me so much. One of the most important things I learned? You can enjoy a new city without it costing your first-born child. That, combined with what I’ve experienced since moving abroad, lets me confidently say that Florence is no exception.

As birthplace of the Renaissance and the center of art & culture in Italy, there is a combination of unmatched beauty & history in Florence. Without further ado, here is a few ways to enjoy this magnificent city — and do so for under 25 euro! 

Coffee and pastry at a local bar or café


Coming from NYC, one of the best parts of coming to Italy for the first time was finding out that the same delicious croissant that would cost you $4 in NYC costs only around 1.10€-1.50€ in Italy – and it’s like, 10x better. Paired with the discovery that Italian coffee is incredibly cheap (an espresso typically costs 1€-1.10€ while a cappuccino is like, 1.30€-1.80€), you can start off your day with a very Italian breakfast like a true local. Just be aware – if you sit down at a café or bar where there is table service, the prices are different – a coffee that costs you 1€ to drink standing at the bar can easily costs 4€-5€ sitting down. My suggestion again is to do as the Italians do: drink your coffee and eat your pastry while standing at the bar.

Want to learn more about coffee culture in Italy? Check out the 10 things I wish I’d known about coffee culture in Italy 

Rick Steves Audio Guide Europe App


If you haven’t heard of Rick Steves (or even if you have), you need to pull out your phone this second and download his FREE app, “Rick Steves Audio Guide Europe”. I’ll wait.

Did you download it? Good.

Not only is his app completely and totally FREE, but he covers dozens of travel destinations all over the world – including Florence. I have used his app in almost every city I’ve visited, due to the accessibility and informative things you can find on it.

Under the Florence section, you can put in your headphones and listen to the free Florence Walking Tour he offers, filled with interesting historical facts that make you appreciate the beautiful sculptures and buildings even more than just viewing them and not knowing what you’re actually looking at. Make sure to pay close attention and listen to the full tour without skipping through though – because the tour moves fluidly, if you skip forward through any part, you’ll be completely lost as to where or what you’re supposed to be looking at.

Visit the famous markets, Mercato Centrale or Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio


Arguably the most famous Market in Florence, Mercato Centrale is the ultimate hub in Florence to buy, sample, and eat fresh produce by local artisians. A two-level food market set in the famous San Lorenzo market, you can find, sample, and eat produce from dozens of food & specialty shops. They sell  a bit of everything, such as meat, cheese, pasta, pizza, oil, fish, fruits and vegetables.

I highly recommend visiting Mercato Centrale, if only for the fact that it is quite the spectacle to walk around and view  different types of flavors and produce essential to Tuscan and Florentine cuisine. AND if you see something that you’d like to take back with you home, just ask the vendor – they are very knowledgeable about what can be transported across international borders. They will even vacuum seal your goods to ensure safe transport — and to keep them nice and tasty for when you get home!  

Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio is lesser known (and less frequented) by tourists due to its location on the edge of the city center, making it a more common and popular stop for locals compared to Mercato Centrale. In the outdoor market you can find dozens of vendors selling everything you could imagine – fresh fruits and veggies, vintage clothing, plants, household items, you name it — while in the indoor market you can find stands selling meat, fish, and cheese. The market is open only from 7am to 2pm every day, so make sure you plan accordingly! 

View famous art replicas at Palazzo Vecchio


One of the three main squares in the city center, Palazzo Vecchio  is the jackpot for free outdoor art in Florence, where you can view both originals and replicas of some of the most famous art sculptures in history, such as Michelangelo’s David and Cellini’s Perseus.
And guess what! Rick Steves has a free audio guide for this too 😉 )

**Tip: Right behind the big water fountain there is a free water-bottle refill station! The water is very clean, so carry a water bottle around in your bag to fill it up here throughout the day.

grab a panino at Pino’s Sandwiches


Ok ok ok – if you’ve followed me for a bit, you know I’m a little bit biased…but I truly do think Pino’s serves up some of the best panini in the Florence city center. The pricing is very affordable, and there is such a variety of options that it makes for the perfect, family friendly, satisfy-everyone quick lunch stop. Besides the portions being absolutely massive (for real though, the panini are bigger than my head), they also have vegetarian options AND gluten-free bread, so no matter your dietary restriction you can find something to eat here. And if you’re not wanting a panino, don’t fret – they also have an entire “gastronomia” section, which is essentially like a deli counter for hot and cold pre-prepared foods.

Beyond that however, Pino and his family are some of the most wonderful and kind people I’ve ever met. Pino is known as the “study-abroad dad” in Florence, so inside the shop you can find dozens of university banners given to Pino from grateful past and present study-abroad students as well as pictures from those students that have made trips back to see Pino after 10, 15, or 20 years. It’s not hard to see why he is so popular — Pino has been known to help study-abroad students fill out confusing government documents, or navigate Italian bureaucracy, but most importantly, he simply genuinely offers a space for the homesick to feel a bit closer to home when they need it. 

Basically, go to Pino’s. Just do it, alright?

Pino’s Sandwiches: Via Giuseppe Verdi, 36R

Gelato at the oldest gelato shop in Florence:
Vivoli Gelato


You might need to first walk off that amazing Pino’s lunch, but no meal is complete in Italy without a cup of delicious, fresh gelato – and one of my favorite places to do it is at the oldest gelato shop in all of Florence, Vivoli Gelato.

Yep, you heard that right – the OLDEST gelato shop in all of Florence.

Vivoli il Gelato opened up in 1930 in the historic center of Florence, where it still stands today. Beyond their amazingly fresh gelato and seasonal flavors, something that really makes Vivoli special is that the shop is completely family-run and operated, so you can likely find different generations of the family working inside the shop each day. If you’ve heard the name before but can’t figure out where you know it from, I gotchu – not only has the shop been featured in many different food travel shows, they also have a shop in Epcot at Disney World!

Vivoli GelatoVia Isola delle Stinche, 7R

View gold shops on the Ponte Vecchio bridge


The Ponte Vecchio Bridge is the oldest and most famous bridge in Florence, and the only bridge across the Arno River in Florence that survived World War ll. The sight of it is absolutely breathtaking and (in my mind) fulfills the perfect history-meets-present image of Italy one would search for. 

Back during the Medici rule, the Ponte Vecchio was where the butcher shops were located – and as you can probably imagine, it was…pretty gross. The stench was horrible and the river was tainted from all the animal waste being dumped in the river. Yuck. Makes me feel better about the Hudson River, I suppose.

Interested in making Florence wealthier (and sick of the god awful smell), Ferdinand Medici passed a law in the late 16th century that all the shops on the Ponte Vecchio bridge must be gold or jewelry shops – and that still holds true to this day. Viewing the incredible craftsmanship of these goldsmiths and jewelers, combined with the fascinating history, makes this a memorable stop to visit.

[There’s also a secret tunnel running above the Ponte Vecchio called the ‘Vasari Corridor’ that was used by the Medici family back in the day to travel – if you look closely, you can see part of the tunnel popping out around the stone tower.]

On another note – as I mentioned above, the Ponte Vecchio bridge is the only bridge in Florence that survived World War ll. As they were prone to do, during the Nazi retreat from Florence they destroyed every piece of infrastructure they could. There’s a rumor that Hitler saw the bridge and thought it was too beautiful to destroy, but that’s not true – in fact, the saving of the bridge comes down to one person, a Nazi official named Gerhard Wolf. You can read more about this story here.

Gerhard Wolf (1886–1962) German consul, born at Dresden—subsequently twinned with the city of Florence— played a decisive role in the salvation of the Ponte Vecchio (1944) from the barbarism of the Second World War and was instrumental in rescuing political prisoners and Jews from persecution at the height of the Nazi occupation. The commune places this plaque on 11 April 2007 in memory of the granting of honorary citizenship.”  

@kacierose4 Points if you climbed it in Assassins Creed 😂 #americansinitaly #lifeinitaly #florenceitaly ♬ original sound – Owen

Local street food at Sergio Pollini OR GustaPizza


If you’re feeling up for the challenge, there’s no better way to fully immerse yourself in Florentine culture than heading on over to Sergio Pollini Lampredotto and trying a panino containing the typical Florentine street foods, “lampredotto” and “trippa”, which is…cow stomach.

I know the look you just made. I swear I’m not crazy. Okay, I’m maybe a little crazy, I mean, I am a woman afterall. That surprise-slash-disgusted look upon your face is completely normal. But don’t worry – Sergio Pollini is arguably the most famous lampredotto street food stand in the city center so they know what they’re doing. I promise!

If you prefer something a little less daring, head over to Gustapizza across the river in Santo Spirito. They offer a range of pizzas at all different price points, but a classic Margherita pizza will only cost you 6€. You can even ask for it to be made in the shape of a heart, which doesn’t change the flavor at all but is very instagrammable 😉
(and, in case you didn’t know, Florence just happens to be one of the most romantic cities in the world, so that heart-shaped pie sort of fits perfectly!)

Sergio Pollini Lampredotto: Via dei Macci, 126

GustaPizza: Via Maggio, 46r

Walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo and grab a drink


After dinner, do what any sane person would do and take a nice, steep walk uphill to Piazzale Michelangelo.

I know, it doesn’t sound the most appealing, but I promise you, it’s worth it – Piazzale Michelangelo has the best view of Florence, and it truly is magical. Opt to take the walk through the “Giardino delle Rose” (The Rose Garden) to get up to Piazzale Michelangelo. You can stop and rest if needed in a beautiful garden surrounded by roses. Not that Kacie Rose would be biased or anything, of course. 

At the top there are plenty of food and drink stands where you can buy a beverage for relatively cheap — especially considering the view from one of Florence’s most popular attractions.

Watch the sunset over the red roofs of Florence


No further words needed 😉

Total for the day:


Well, I’m beat! We fit a whole lot into this spectacular day in Florence…and we did it without having to beg friends for a little Venmo loan too! The most important thing to remember is that if you want to see the world, do it – the cost of visiting places like Florence pales in comparison to the cost of regret.

Happy traveling! ❤️
–Kacie Rose

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The Ultimate Florence Street Food Tour

10 October 2022

The Ultimate Florence Street Food Tour

With Florence being the birthplace of the Renaissance. It beams with art and culture, history in every nook and cranny, and, of course, incredibly great food.  When visiting somewhere new I love to be immersed in the culture of the locals and, in my opinion, there is no better way to do that than a street food tour guided by a local. 

Annnnd this, my friends, is where my good friend Marco and his street food company, Streaty Food Tours comes in. Marco hosts street food tours in Sicily, Florence, Naples, Venice. Marco also believes you get the best experience when you have the local insider scoop. We love Marco. We stan Marco.

Anyway, on a sunny Wednesday morning, Marco called me up to let me know that Streaty was hosting a tour in Florence – for those of you that don’t know, Florence is my personal stomping ground. So of course, I jumped at the chance to experience the place I call home through the lens of a local. (and eat ALL of the food)

Please note: this post contains affiliate links which means if you buy something following a link on this page, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only promote products and services that I use and love myself. Thanks for supporting my blog 🙂

streaty food tour in Florence

We met our Streaty guide, Alice, in Piazza Santa Croce and made our way over to Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio. 

Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio is one of two major indoor markets in the Florence city center, the other being Mercato Centrale. While Mercato Centrale is the older market and much more well-known to tourists, Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio is the place where the locals go. 

At the market you can find everything from fresh produce to local meats and cheeses, pastas and sauces, and of course, plenty of food stalls where you can sit and eat all the delicious food lining the market.

Mercato di Sant'Ambrogio

Alice gave us a quick rundown of typical pastas and dishes you’ll find in Florence, such as pici pasta (a type of pasta made without egg), wild boar, and truffle EVERYTHING. Honestly no complaints over here, it all looked delicious.

market in italy

We started off in typical Italian fashion with a glass of wine before being served typical Tuscan crostini topped with “ragu di cinghale”, or wild boar ragu. These were incredible and so, so flavorful. I saw stars when I ate it, literal bursts of flavor! Rich, tender, spiced so perfectly but not overwhelming. 

Plus Tuscan bread historically doesn’t contain salt, which was actually a good thing because it didn’t overpower the ragu and instead just acted as a vehicle FOR the ragu, it’s not often that the bread isn’t the star of the show, but I just couldn’t get enough of the ragu!  (pictured below)

Fun Fact: Tuscany is known for wild boar – they don’t have any natural predators so there are actually way too many of them in Tuscany. As Alice said, “They are destroying the countryside so we must eat them!” Can’t argue with that logic!

tuscan crostini
tuscan crostini

Cue music *I always feel like somebody’s watching me.” 

We also had a type of beef stew called “Peposo” which is a slow-cooked, peppery beef stew with Chianti red wine. 

Workers back in the day would prepare this stew after a long day’s work because it was satisfying, filling, and relatively cheap to make. Think of the most tender, slow-cooked pot roast you’ve ever had and then times that by 10. The meat was so tender and so flavorful. (Don’t lick the screen! You can always book a tour.)

peposo beef strew
peposo beef strew

After we were super satisfied with our first stop we went over to the outdoor part of the market and sat down at a stall that had a total of 3 tables and chairs placed randomly around the stall. 

We were greeted with a huge platter of typical Tuscan mixed bites – Prosciutto, Sorpressata, and other Tuscan cured meats, a mixture of fresh cheeses, a bowl of olives, and, as if that wasn’t enough, a platter of the most beautiful bruschetta I think I have ever seen. 

Fun fact: I hate tomatoes in the US but love them here. How could you not!! Look at how cute it is 😉

tomatoes in italy

Ok for this next part just stick with me – this may or may not make you squeamish depending on where you come from. 

One of the MOST typical Florentine street food sandwiches is something called Lampredotto…. AKA, cow stomach. And it was our next stop – a local food cart known around Florence for making one of the best Lampredotto sandwiches out there.  

lampredotto sandwich florence

Lampredotto is Darios (aka my boyfriend, who is Florentine through and through) fav sandwich, but it doesn’t quite make my list of favorite foods. But, Alice said a glass of wine always helps to settle the nerves. So, that’s what we did before receiving our sandwiches. 

Here’s the thing about lampredotto: the flavor actually is quite good, which is probably why it’s a Florentine favorite. They boil it, top it with parsley sauce and spicy sauce, and all together the flavors work well together. 

If you grew up eating it and it being a common food you consume, I can see why you like it so much. However, this is not my cup of tea.

It is perfectly ok to not like something. But missing out on an experience because you’re scared or it’s out of your comfort zone is NOT.  As my friend Marco always says, you don’t have to LIKE everything, but it’s important that you at least TRY it. And he’s right – I’m glad I did! But in the future it’s probably not going to be my first choice of sandwich. 

street food in catania, sicily

With our lampredotto adventure complete, we made our way to try one of my favorite Florentine street foods, Coccoli! 

Coccoli are little balls of, you guessed it, fried dough, typically either stuffed or wrapped with cheese and prosciutto. I mean come on, it can’t get better than that. 

street food in catania, sicily

To end our Streaty tour we had to get gelato of course. You can’t not have gelato on a food tour in Florence!

dessert, catania, sicily

In conclusion, my dear readers…

If you’re in Florence, I HIGHLY recommend doing this street food tour with Streaty. It was such a great way to not only see the city I call home and learn more about what I walk through everyday, but also to understand the city and more of its history through food. 

Book your Streaty Tour here

And if you’re visiting Naples, Sicily, or Venice, make sure to check out their tours there too! 

Happy eating, friends!

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How to find good food in Venice

10 October 2022

How to Find Good Food in Venice

It’s common knowledge that when you visit Venice for the first time, you either fall in love with it or you hate it. Many people find Venice to be crowded, smelly, and filled with bad food. Personally, I have a soft spot for Venice. It was the first city I ever visited in Italy when I came on my solo trip in 2018, and I immediately fell in love with the beauty of it. 

However, that being said though, it’s time to be real with you all – it is really hard to find good food in Venice if you don’t know where to look. Venice is beautiful (IMO), but it does cater mainly to tourists – in fact, while over 22 million people visit the floating city every year, there are actually only about 220,000 actual residents left on the island. Therefore, food places in the main parts of the island where locals frequent are far and few in between. 

However that doesn’t mean they don’t exist – which is why, if you go to Venice, you absolutely should do a local street food tour through Streaty Food Tours. You get to have a local Venetian take you around to the best secret food spots.

Before we dive into this blog, it’s important to chat about what type of street food you’ll find in Venice and why. 

Venetian Street Food Breakdown:

In Venice there is something called a Bacaro tour, which is the most ancient and traditional thing to do in Venice. 

What is a Bacaro? I’m so glad you’ve asked! It’s a rich Venetian tradition passed down from generation to generation where you go from Bacaro to Bacaro (or bar to bar) to get something called “cicchetti” and “ombra.” So, basically a bar crawl but with way better food.

**If you want to learn more about what a Bacaro looks like you can find it here. However I suggest if you are visiting Venice for the first time, or even if you’ve been already and want to try something new, I would book with Streaty Food Tours. That way you don’t have to plan everything, you get local insight, a smidge of history sprinkled in, and most importantly, you can focus on the food.

With that, let’s go! 

Please note: this post contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something following a link on this page, I’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only promote products and services that I use and love myself. Thanks for supporting my blog 🙂

We met our guide, Anna, near the Rialto bridge, but didn’t stay there for long – she quickly ushered us away from the mass groups of tourists, down some alleyways, and into a quieter part of the city. *Insert deep introverted breath here. Along the way we stopped so that she could point out different cool and historical things we were passing that I normally wouldn’t have even paid much attention to.

Street food tour in Venice, Italy

We turned a corner eventually and found ourselves in the midst of a bustling marketplace in the corner of the city, right on the edge of the water. You could see locals pulling up in their boats to pick up produce and fish before hopping back on and pulling away. It was so cool to feel like we were in one of the more authentic places in Venice! 

fish market in Venice

Passing through some of the many small and narrow alleyways, typical of Venice, we eventually made our way to the tiniest little hole in the wall place that was bursting with old-fashioned charm. Pots hanging from the ceiling, etc. Here we made our first stop to try the first bites of local Venetian food of our trip! 

Bacaro in Venice

We had a moment to soak in the atmosphere while Anna communicated with the shop employee. Anna quickly came back over with glasses of wine to begin and plates full of different bites – fresh cheese from Veneto, Cicchetti topped with seasoned anchovies and sweet onions and Venetian braised artichoke bottoms – yes, artichoke bottoms. When these are in season, you can find them everywhere in Venice. 

Cicchetti in Venice

Now is probably the time to tell you that I don’t really like fish. Never have. But being a city on the water, typical Venetian food is…fish. I made a promise to always try the typical food from the city that I am in and today was no exception, so I said bottoms up and downed my sardine cicchetti. 

To my surprise, it was delicious! The sweet onions balanced well with the anchovies so much so that you could barely tell it was fish beneath them. 

The cheese was flavorful and simple, and the artichoke bottoms provided a hint of vinegar that paired all 3 plates together nicely. 

Cicchetti in Venice

A short walk later we ended up at our next Bacaro to try two different types of signature Venetian Cicchetti: “Baccala alla Vicentina”, which is stockfish, onions, anchovies, milk and cheese, as well as the most typical Cicchetti you can find in Venice, “baccalà mantecato”, or whipped, salted codfish: I feel if Venice had a signature dish, it would be this one. I’d like to, at this point, remind you that I am not a fish fan, so having two of them in front of me was a little daunting. Of course, the wine Anna brought over helped 😉 

cicchetti in venice

First up was the baccalà mantecato – you guys. *Insert happy food shimmy* You GUYS. It was so light and fresh. You could barely even tell it was fish! Tour guide Anna said that this is the “Cicchetti for everyone” since it is super light and mild in flavor, so, no matter who you are you will like it. And she was 1,000% right – I can see why it’s easily the most popular Cicchetti topping in Venice. 

cicchetti in venice

Next up was the “Baccala alla Vicentina” – in full transparency, I took 2 bites of this and decided it wasn’t for me. If you enjoy seafood and don’t mind the taste of the sea, then you’d love it. I am the exact opposite but that’s ok! As Marco and I always say, you don’t have to LIKE everything, but it’s important that you at least TRY it 😉

cicchetti in venice

We moved on to another small, modest shop where we sat down to enjoy one of the most beautiful tagliare boards I have ever seen full of fresh meats, cheese, crostini (bread with toppings) and veggies. 

We also of course took this opportunity to try *drumroll* – SPRITZ! 

Spritz was made in Venice, but what you may not know is that Aperol Spritz is NOT the type of Spritz that Venetians actually make – they use a type of liquor called “Select” instead of Aperol! It’s slightly more bitter in taste and actually what I prefer much more than Aperol, which is a little too sweet for me. 

Streaty Food Tours ALSO has a Venice Spritz tour, which is where they take you around to try 4 different types of “unknown” spritz typical of Venice. If this sounds like its up your alley, check it out below:

Venice Spritz Tour!

Also – did you know that in Venice it’s typical to serve Spritz with an olive? You might think it’s weird, but the flavorings actually work so well together.

spritz in venice

At this point we were feeling full and happy, but you simply cannot leave a food tour without dessert. And in Venice, you have to eat TIRAMISU because it was invented here 😉 

This is where I have unfortunate news. I ate the tiramisu before I took a picture of it because it looked so beautiful and yummy. So here instead is a pic of me in my shame. I guess this means you’ll have to tag me in all of your IG stories of you trying tiramisu in Venice.

spritz in venice

In conclusion, my dear readers…

Whether visiting Venice for the first time or making a return visit, I will always recommend booking a Streaty Food Tour. Yes you get to taste the most authentic and amazing Venetian food but you also get to unlock hidden gems that only the locals know about.

There is nothing wrong with hitting the top tourist spots but you’ll be missing out on what venice really has to offer if you don’t dig a little deeper.

Use code “kacierose” for 5% off your Streaty Food Tour!

Book a Streaty Food Tour!

And as a reminder if you haven’t read my other blogs and plan to visit Sicily, Naples, and/or Florence, you can check them out here and read about those Streaty Food Tours as well 😉

Happy eating, friends!

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The BEST street food tour in Catania, Sicily

8 September 2022

The absolute BEST Street Food Tour in Catania, Sicily

The rich history, stunning beaches, and the incredibly kind people make the Island of Sicily one of my favorite places in Italy. But what really swept me off my feet was the FOOD. 

Because of Sicily’s rich and diverse history you get one of the best melting pots that reflects in their amazing food. You can taste the different cultures and the stories they tell with each bite.

When visiting somewhere new I love to get swept away in the daily lives and adventures of the locals and, in my opinion, there is no better way to do that than a street food tour guided by a local. I love Sicilian street food, so when I decided to visit Catania, one of the biggest cities in Sicily located on the Eastern side of the Island, for the first time, I of course had to take a street food tour – the opportunity to have a local take me around the city to try THEIR favorite street food spots wasn’t one I could pass up! 

Street food tour

My friend Marco, who is Sicilian born and raised, runs the company Streaty Food Tours. They give street food tours in Sicily (Palermo & Catania), Florence, Naples, and Venice! Marco and I share the similar view that street food is the best way to understand the soul of a city, so when I decided to take this trip to Catania I reached out to him immediately. (Best decision ever!)

La Peschiera, Catania, Sicily

We started out our tour in La Peschiera, the famous fish market that’s been around as long as the city of Catania has been and is commonly regarded as one of the best fish markets in all of Italy. 

**Full disclosure: it is chaotic and crazy and unapologetically gritty (wear closed-toe shoes haha), but here you’ll also find some of the best authentic seafood and street food that Catania has to offer. It’s so worth it, trust me!

olives, la peschiera, street food tour, sicily

We dove right into the tour with fresh olives, eggplant, and cloves of some of the freshest garlic I’ve ever tasted. I never thought I’d be eating cloves of garlic, but here I am, living my best life, eating cloves of garlic.

street food, catania, sicily

Being in one of the best fish markets in the country, of course we had to try the fresh seafood that Catania has to offer in the form of Frutti di Mare which is – you guessed it – a cone of fried seafood. I’m not typically a seafood person, but I surprisingly enjoyed this and didn’t feel heavy or sick after eating it. Let’s be real though, I think you could fry a shoe and it would be good. 

As we were finishing up our Frutti di Mare, our wonderful guide hustled over with a tray of what looked like sparkling water. They explained it’s the original electrolyte hydration drink of just seltzer water, lemon, and salt – Sicilians have been drinking this for centuries in order to stay hydrated in the hot climate, and to my relief I did feel much more hydrated afterward! (We can’t have a #HotGirlSummer if we are dehydrated)

As if you need more reasons to love street food tours with Streaty, the guides are so knowledgeable. The entire experience is always so much more than just a food tour – they also include bits of history and show you hidden spots around the city that you would have passed right by if you weren’t a local. 

For example, on this tour, while we were walking in between food stops, our guide took the time to point out pieces of history around us before taking us to a little, unassuming cafe nearby. 

She led us through the cafe and down a set of stairs, and then all of a sudden it opened up into a secret underground lava cave that was a result of the eruption of Mt. Etna in the 17th century that buried half the city, including the rivers running through Catania! I never would have known this spot was here without our guide. It was such a cool unexpected stop that I never expected to get on a food tour. History buffs and foodies unite! Best of both worlds with a glass of wine to top it off!

Check this out!

Lava cave, sicily

You can have lunch in a lava tube! 

Ok, let’s get back to the food tour before I get too off topic with the amazingness of this place.

We made our way over to eat one of my favorite typical Sicilian street foods, Arancini (or Arancine, depending on where in Sicily you are). Arancini is a breaded, fried rice ball filled with things like cheese and prosciutto or ragu. I frickin love it so much. Are you drooling yet? Cause I am.

arancini, sicily, catania

We also tried another fried street food called “Siciliana”, which is a type of pizza dough pocket thing that is stuffed with cheese and anchovies. I know the thought of anchovies might sound icky if you aren’t used to them being a normal part of your food culture, but they were salty, didn’t taste fishy and paired so nicely with the cheese you would never know you were eating a fish. Remember what we say “Do the sh!t that scares you!” 😉

street food in catania, sicily

We walked around a bit letting our food digest to make room for what might be my new favorite Sicilian street food. (I know I’m surprised too)

Pictured below, my lovely readers, is called “Cipollina”. It’s a pastry filled with sweet onion and I seriously could’ve eaten 10 of these! They were that good. I love aranicini and have always said it was my favorite Sicilian street food, but after trying Cipollina everything has changed.

street food in catania, sicily

Of course we couldn’t end the food tour without dessert, so we hurried over to try one of the most typical desserts from Sicily, “Minne di Sant’Agata”. It is a pastry filled with sweetened ricotta cream, covered with white icing with a cherry on top. This pastry actually has a really morbid history behind it, which our guide told us all about (again, so much more than a food tour). 

If you’re interested in learning more about the history behind this tasty little treat you can find that here.

dessert, catania, sicily

In conclusion, my dear readers…

All in all, if you’re in Sicily I HIGHLY recommend checking out Streaty Food Tours. They are simply awesome and provide such an awesome experience for tourists to not only see and enjoy the city, but to fully immerse themselves in the culture. And because I cannot recommend them enough, Marco gave me a discount code to share with all of you!

They also hold tours in Naples, Florence, and Venice, so if you are in any of these cities and want to experience Italian food the way locals do, check them out and then tag me in all of the food goodness!! 

Happy eating, friends!

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5 Places to get Panini in Florence

15 July 2022

5 places to get Panini in Florence

I love Italian food.

I know – you’re shocked, right?

There’s few things I love more than chowing down on a panini – they’re an easy, fresh, and delicious way to enjoy authentic Italian food on a budget.

When I moved to Florence, I made it a mission to find my favorite panini shops in the city. I’ve happily tried dozens of panini shops ranging from famous tourist go-to’s, to off the beaten path, hole-in-the-wall spots unknown to tourists (quite the sacrifice, I know).

So with no further adieu, here is a comprehensive list of my favorite panini shops I’ve tried in Florence so far. Andiamo!

Some bonus tips:

  • “Panini” in Italian is plural, so if you just want ONE, order a “PaninO” 😉
  • No one will look at you weird if you ask for a panino with no meat
  • Italian panini are typically made with just two or three ingredients just to the freshness of Italian products – before you ask for additional toppings, try it as it was made to be first! 

NOW – lets get to it!! 

1. Pinos Sandwiches – Salumeria Verdi

Via Giuseppe Verdi, 36R

Price: 4€-6€

Pros: Wide variety of options for cheap and Pino & his family are the kindest people you’ll ever meet

pinos sandwiches

Ok ok, If you’ve been here for a while, you know how much I love Pino’s. It is my favorite panini shop in Florence, hands down (and I’m not just saying that because I’m a little biased – it really is delicious). On top of having a wide variety of food in addition to panini, vegetarian options, and gluten-free bread options, Pino and his family are just simply put, the best. It’s a popular spot for study abroad students, so much so that Pino has decorated the inside of his shop with dozens of U.S. University flags he has been gifted over 30 years from Study Abroad students. Completely family-run, you’ll always find Pino or his family busily working inside, complete with a smile and a happy “Ciao!” to everyone that walks through the door. I also think you get the most bang for your buck here – with giant panini for only 5€, there’s no way you’ll leave hungry.

2. Panini Toscani

Piazza del Duomo, 34/R

Price: 5€-10€

Pros: You get to taste test their different meats and cheeses and build your own panino.

panini in florence italy

Located right behind the famous Duomo, Panini Toscani offers a unique experience to its patrons You won’t find a written menu inside – instead, you will be greeted with samples of the different meats and cheeses they currently have, and from there you build your own panino based on your tastebuds – like Subway, but 10x better (obviously). They also carry a wide variety of toppings, such as eggplant, roasted tomato, truffle cream – my suggestion? Ask them to top it with whatever they think would taste best based on the flavors of the meats and cheeses you chose.

3. i Fratellini

Via dei Cimatori, 38/R

Price: 4/each, +0.50 for additional toppings

Pros: Overall cheapest option!

panini in florence italy

Open since 1875, I Fratellini is a small, open store-front spot smack-dab in the historical center of Florence. With such a perfect location, I Fratellini offers a delicious, fresh, and cheap option with incredibly friendly workers – make sure to ask for your panini on focaccia bread when they ask. Since the shop is just a storefront, there are limited seats available especially during the lunch rush, but if that’s the case I’d suggest taking your panini over to the nearby Piazza della Signoria.

4. Da’ Vinattieri

Via Santa Margherita, 4/6R

Price: 4.50

Pros: Frequented by Florentine people, little known to tourists

Travel Essentials For Going Abroad

Tucked away in an alley way off the main strip of Florence, Da’ Vinattieri is a popular spot amongst Florentine people – and little known to tourists. A true hole-in-the-wall spot, this shop offers fresh Italian ingredients and basic but delicious panini. They also sell one of my favorite Florentine street foods, Coccoli, which is basically balls of fried dough that are stuffed or wrapped with cheese or prosciutto, amongst other things. They’re delicious. If you’re eager to try an off-the-beaten path spot, Divinatory is a go-to.

5. SandwiCHIC

Via S. Gallo, 3R

Price: 4.50-5

Pros: Tons of student discounts and the sweet red pepper jam is insane

Travel Essentials For Going Abroad

Located above the Duomo and ever-so-slightly out of the highest trafficked footpaths in the city center is another hidden gem with an unassuming storefront – SandwiChic. Popular amongst study abroad students but maybe not so much tourists, SandiChic loads on the ingredients and offers a TON of panini flavor combinations to satisfy every palate. They also do have some seating inside, which is a refuge for the summer heat.

Because I know alot of people are going to ask why it’s not on the list…

All’Antico Vinaio

Via Ricasoli, 121R

Price: 8

Pros: Very famous

Travel Essentials For Going Abroad

Ok, I’m including this one on the list because it is famous worldwide and is a popular tourist hotspot, but in all honesty (and I may get some heat from this), I’m not a fan and I 100% think you can skip it.

While the panino was good, for the price (being on the more pricey end of panini places in Florence) and the line wait time, I didn’t see what was so special about it. I’ve gone back multiple times attempting to find what was so out-of-this-world about the panini’s that make this spot so popular, but unfortunately I’ve found the same thing every time – rude workers and long wait times for just an OK panino. If you’re spending multiple days in Florence and are eager to try the famous shop then definitely give it a go (again – the paninis aren’t bad!), but if you are just looking to grab a quick bite, there are plenty of other delicious, underrated and family-owned panini shops nearby to try.

If you’re still hungry (which, I don’t blame you, the food here is incredible), then check out my Florence Food Guide – a 85 page 3-book filled with 50+ restaurant suggestions in Florence 😉

Happy eating!! 

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How to Find Good Gelato in Italy

26 April 2022

How to Find Good Gelato in Italy

This is very important information

Oh gelato. One of the most important parts of assuring you are enjoying a true, authentic Italian experience – having a refreshing cone of Italian gelato while IN Italy gives you bragging rights and a story to tell at parties for years to come. Everywhere you look in Italy it seems there are a million gelaterias filled with tubs of delicious, creamy gelato calling your name – unfortunately however, not all gelato is created equal, so while there are tons of places where you can enjoy authentic gelato, there are just as many that rely on the unsuspecting prey that are eager tourists.

So in a sea of gelato…how do you find the real deal? 

Listen, I’ve eaten really good gelato in Italy. I’ve also eaten really terrible gelato in Italy. I understand how important this is, so I’ve made it my personal mission to tell you exactly how to find the real deal and live your Italian gelato fantasy dreams. Let’s go. 

1. Avoid the huge mountains of gelato

Bad Gelato

One of the first hints to if the gelato you’re looking at is one that you should KEEP looking at is if it is piled up in huge mountains or not – if it is, it’s time to turn around and keep looking.

Sure, they look exciting – but only the metal tub that the gelato is actually kept in is cold, so if you see huge mountains of gelato (like in this picture above), it means something has been put in the gelato to make sure it can stay out of the cold without melting. Yikes.

Additionally, authentic gelaterias will make their gelato fresh every single day – sometimes even TWICE a day, with a batch made in the morning and a batch made in the evening to assure that what they are serving is fresh. Even in the busiest of city centers, there is just no way that gelaterias could sell through an entire mountain of gelato (like pictured above) in one day, which means that the gelato you’re eating likely isn’t fresh.

Instead, your first tip will be to look for gelato that is in line with the base of the tub it is in (remember – that’s the only part that is the temperature needed to keep the gelato frozen without melting). 

Good Gelato

2. Look for the natural colors

You know how some predators are vibrant and brightly-colored in order to attract their prey? Yeah. Same story here. 

As beautiful as they might look, fresh fruit and other natural ingredients when blended are actually a lot duller than you’d think. If the gelato you’re looking at is super vibrant and bright colored, it means something unnatural has been added to it to make it that way.

One of the best tricks to determine this is to look  are pistacchios – pistacchios when blended actually come out to be a light brownish green, so the gelato should be that way too 😉

Fun Tip:

The “ch” in Italian sounds like the “k” in English, so in Italy, Pistacchio is pronounced “Pis-tak-ee-oh”! 😉

Good Pistacchio Gelato

3. Gelato is cheaper than you’d think

Cone of gelato

I feel like there’s this weird thing where people, for some reason, view gelato as something super fancy, and therefore they believe that it must be expensive. As a result, they don’t think twice when asked to fork over 6€ or 7€  for a small cup or cone, which just makes my heart hurt.

Even in big touristy cities, a small cup or cone of gelato shouldn’t cost you more than 2.50-3 Euro at the MOST. It’s cheap. It’s yummy. There’s no excuse you shouldn’t eat it every single day of your trip.

4. Bonus tip -look for metal canisters

Metal cannisters of gelato

We talked about the huge mountains above and how to avoid them BUT if you find gelato that isn’t even visible at ALL – you’ve hit the jackpot. If you see a Gelateria that has a bunch of tiny, fully covered circular canisters in the serving table, I need you to run to it. Because that…THAT is good gelato.

Note: this does NOT mean that gelato that ISN’T served in these metal cannisters is bad, it just means you have to “vet” it more 😉

And that is how exactly to find good gelato in Italy my friends. Happy eating! <3

Woman pointing to gelato sign

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