Italy has some of the world's best food, but it's also highly regional.
Food and books both tell Italy's story. Pasticcio is a Renaissance dish still enjoyed in Ferrara. Pasticcio mixes sweet and savoury. It's a heavy pie filled with macaroni cheese, meat ragu, and bechamel sauce, with sweet pastry on top.
Cappon magro is a layered seafood salad. It starts with a garlic-rubbed biscuit base, then layers white fish, vegetables like potatoes and green beans, and shrimp, anchovies, and hard boiled eggs. Liguria's best creation isn't pesto.
Norcia, Umbria, is so famous for its delis that "norcino" is the Italian word for pork butcher. Its most famous export is pasta swirled in cream, topped with a classic Norcia sausage, and dusted with local pecorino. It's delicate and delicious despite its description.
Penne alla norcina
Bologna isn't complete without tagliatelle al ragu, but during carnival it's even sweeter. Tagliatelle fritte are fried tagliatelle dusted in sugar with orange and lemon peel. This is a seasonal dish, so look for it at Carnevale or at Atti, which sells pastries and sweets.
Basilicata, in the Italian south, is known for this flavorful lamb stew with local vegetables like spring onion, tomatoes, and rosemary, as well as chilli pepper. People couldn't afford meat year-round, so this was an Easter dish. Now that they can, it's a year-round secondo.
Ischia's people, in the Bay of Naples, northwest of Capri, are farmers at heart. The island was overrun with rabbits 2,500 years ago, so their signature dish is rabbit stew. The meat is stewed with tomato, garlic, and wild thyme, which grows abundantly on the island.