The best cities in which to explore the food of Italy’s islands reveal the embodiment of cultural and culinary traditions in Sicily and Sardinia.
The traditions of Sicilian and Sardinian kitchens include ingredients from the land and sea, unveiling ancient pastoral customs and the simple appreciation of good food. The islands have absorbed the various customs of the variety of cultures which have settled there over the past two millennia, including Greek, Spanish, French, and Arab influences.
The mixture of Mediterranean heritages on the Italian islands enriches the cuisines with a range of cooking techniques and flavors you can learn about on your tours of Italy’s islands.
Palermo is the capital city of Sicily, with a cuisine based on the ancient gastronomic traditions of Phoenician tribes, Greek settlers, the Roman and Byzantine Empires, as well as Arab rulers, Norman invaders, and the House of Bourbon.
The quality of the ingredients bolsters the flavorful dishes for which the city is known. The variety of tastes and styles reflect mainly the Arab, Spanish, and French traditions, especially in the famous desserts that reflect the island’s place at the center of Mediterranean trade for millennia.
On Sicily tours and vacation packages, you can wander Palermo’s neighborhoods, following the aromas of fresh seafood dishes to seaside restaurants serving authentic cuisine against a backdrop of the sprawling Tyrrhenian Sea.
Famous Dishes of Palermo: Caponata • Pasta with Sardines • Baby Goat with Potatoes • Stuffed Artichokes with Sauce
Learn more: 3 Best Cities to Explore the Food of Sicily
The rustic cuisine of Syracuse stems from poor shepherds utilizing meat and ancient preservation methods that connect to the surrounding harsh soil. Women customarily produced a hardy bread, while meat and fish were often rolled in leaves to form small packages for shepherds to eat later.
To this day, skilled fishers catch tuna and mullet, chefs cure roe, and seafarers gather lobster. Home cooks serve pasta with decadent sauces and rich cheeses, while honey and almonds decorate confections.
Sicily is also home to several wineries and travelers can enjoy pairings with classic Syracuse dishes on Sicily wine tours and vacations.
Famous Dishes of Syracuse: Pasta with Sicilian Zucchini • Spaghetti with Cuttlefish Ink • Spaghetti alla Siracusana • Tuna with Peppers • Babbaluci
Learn more: 7 Dishes to Try on Your Trip to Sicily
Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia, with gastronomic traditions based on the simple but refined flavors of cucina povera, shaped by the fresh ingredients of the mountainous terrain and accessible seafood.
Traces of Sicilian, Genoese, and Catalan influences remain in the culinary heritage, but the gastronomy of Sardinia’s capital city has a distinctive character separate from the greater traditions of the island.
The cuisine utilizes meat, seafood, and cheeses, as well as olive oil, wine, and locally grown fruits and vegetables. As one of the best islands to visit in Italy, Sardinia’s capital can complete a culinary tour of the country’s islands.
Famous Dishes of Cagliari: Malloreddus • Pecorino Sardo DOP • Bottarga di Muggine
Portoscuso is a fishing port capped by a Spanish-era tower that accesses Sardinia’s colorful streets and beaches accentuated by the local cuisine.
Portoscuso celebrates the flavors of the typical Mediterranean diet and represents the culinary traditions of southern Sardinia. Many dishes in southern Sardinian gastronomy utilize traditional ingredients, from capers to peppers, saffron to fennel, and beans.
Renowned for its tuna and crab, the customs of earthenware emerge from the dishes that have been preserved in time, and you can explore the culinary heritage with our best Italian island itineraries.
Famous Dishes of Portoscuso: Spaghetti conditi con la bottarga • Culurgionis all'ogliastrina • Aranciata nuorese • Sospiri
The cities across the islands of Italy capture a vibrant panorama of the culinary bounty of the land and sea, with ancient traditions dating back to the Greeks and Phoenicians. With local and seasonal ingredients highlighting past and present culinary customs, you can find the bountiful flavors of Italy and more on our Italy food tours and vacation packages.
You can also learn more about the food of Italy and how to experience the best on a culinary vacation in our Italy food and wine travel guide.