5 best things to eat for breakfast in Italy
If there’s one meal I always make time for, it’s breakfast.
It’s an opinion that I’m sure many of you would disagree with. However, for me, breakfast is more than just a bowl of soggy cereal and a cup of bland tea.
It’s a time of the morning where I can enjoy the quiet of the day before it begins. Add to this something delicious to eat coupled with a steaming cappuccino, and I’m ready to start my day.
Speaking of cappuccinos, there’s nothing better than when drinking one in Italy.
From Sicily in the south, to Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol in the north, these are 5 must-try breakfast foods in Italy.
West vs south — breakfast food in Italy
Unlike an American-style or English-style breakfast, you’ll rarely find any kind of egg dish in a typical Italian breakfast.
The exception, of course, is a hotel, where they’ll cook your request to order. Any kind of oatmeal or porridge is also usually non-existent.
In many regions around Italy, starting the day with something sweet — and an espresso — is the norm.
Many coffee bars will have rows of freshly baked croissants and pastries behind the counter. You’ll also notice the lack of regular breakfast items like toast, but it won’t matter once you see the display.
1. Sicily — Granita Siciliana
Of all my breakfast experiences in Italy, there’s one place that’s surpasses them all.
Sicily, for me, is the best region for breakfast. It’s the home of the Sicilian classic, Granita Siciliana, and is unmissable when visiting the island.
Take some crushed ice, add plenty of fresh fruits, blend it together, and then serve.
This is the basic process behind making the Sicilian favorite. Granita may sound similar to a slush puppy, but believe me, it’s far more superior in every way.
Granita loosely means ‘grain’, a reference to the granular texure of the ice. It’s my absolute favorite thing to eat for breakfast when we’re back in Sicily, especially on hot summer mornings.
The granita extras — breakfast food in Italy
Granita Siciliana is something that you’ll see served in many places across Sicily. Many serve it with a dollop of freshly whipped cream (say yes), and a buttery brioche roll.
The roll, called ‘brioche col tuppo’, is equally delicious on its own; the ‘tuppo’ being a small circular topping. It doubles up as another Sicilian dessert, this time filled with creamy gelato.
Flavors of Granita Siciliana include lemon, strawberry, coffee, peach, mulberry and chocolate (also say yes).
For an authentic Sicilian foodie experience, take a chunk of the brioche and dunk it into the icy liquid. Let the bread soak up the icy concoction with a little bit of whipped cream and devour accordingly.
Depending on what part of Sicily you visit, some bars will serve up different varieties of granita to others. One of my most memorable flavors was peach with basil.
Light, fragrant and wholly refreshing, give it a try if you ever come across it.
A must-try for breakfast in Sicily, Granita Siciliana
Cappuccino is a must when having breakfast in Italy, just not after lunch
“Let the bread soak up the icy concoction with a little bit of whipped cream and devour accordingly.”
2. Rome — bombolone
When in Rome, there’s only one breakfast item that tops the list, and it’s the mighty bombolone.
While the pillowy soft donut has primary roots in Tuscany, other regions in Italy also make their own varieties.
Its name comes from the donut’s circular shape: ‘bomba’ meaning bomb in Italian. Fillings range from a creamy custard (crema pasticcera) to an explosion of chocolate.
Deep fried and doughy, you’ll find many pastry shops and bars selling them. One place that does bomboloni very well is I Dolci di Nonna Vincenza.
The patisserie actually has Sicilian roots, but they also serve some of the best bomboloni in Rome.
Influences of Austria — breakfast food in Italy
The north of Italy also has their own variety of bomboloni, a version derived from the Austrians, called ‘krapfen’.
Regions of the north including Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto were once under Austrian rule, hence its culinary influence.
Where the two differ is that the bombolone recipe doesn’t include eggs, whereas the krapfen does. Another difference is that the bombolone is hollow inside so as to allow for the filling.
One more thing to note is the range of fillings. Krapfen usually consists of jam or marmalade, while the bomboloni is more varied.
Whichever one you try, the bomboloni or krapfen deserves a place on your Italy breakfast food list.
A mouthwatering chocolate bombolone — breakfast food in Italy
3. Naples — sfogliatella
Crispy, flaky and utterly delicious, the sfogliatella is a tantalizing start to your day.
The name sfogliatella comes from the thin layers of pastry, that when cooked, resemble a stack of leaves (foglia).
A recipe that dates to the 17th century from the province of Salerno, sfogliatella is something that’s still enjoyed today.
Choose your pastry
There are 2 versions of the sfogliatella to choose from: ‘riccia’ and ‘frolla’. Riccia is the classic exterior stack of leaves, while the frolla is smoother and without any ridges.
The sfogliatella frolla is also made from shortcrust pastry, and has more of a firmer than a crunchy bite.
Both versions are typically filled with ricotta cheese, and after one bite, you’ll understand why it’s a beloved favorite.
Don’t even think about skipping on out on trying a sfogliatella when in Naples
4. Veneto — brioche
In truth, there’s not really a particular breakfast food in Veneto.
The morning routine follows those in other parts of Italy, wherein a coffee with something sweet is the norm.
However, one thing I should point out are the variety of pastries. What we know as a croissant is called ‘brioche’ in the north, and ‘cornetto’ in the central and south.
As many as I’ve tried, I’ve found no defining difference between the two. In Vicenza, I tried a perfectly baked brioche with a gooey filling of pistachio cream.
Down south in Sicily, I savored an equally delicious cornetto, this time with a generous center of hazelnut chocolate (nocciola).
It’s more than possible to try a new filling each day while in Italy. Other varieties I’ve come across include ricotta and raisin, marmalade and crema pasticcera.
Cornetto or brioche — it all depends which part of Italy you’re in
5. Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol — hams and cheeses
The further north you venture in Italy, the more you’ll begin to see its neighboring influences.
Alpine breakfast — breakfast food in Italy
While you won’t find it everywhere, you’re more likely to see items like muesli on the menu in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol.
It’ll vary from town and hotel, but the Austrian influence is clear.
Another popular item you’ll see on the breakfast table is the selection of cheeses. Keep an eye out for varieties like Grana del Trentino, Asiago and Vezzena, all alpine cheeses made to original recipes.
Cured meats popular in the region include carne salada, a lean meat served in thin slices, and speck.
These pork legs are seasoned, lightly smoked and then hung up to ripen. The Trentino version is less smoked than the South Tyrolean one, but both are equally delicious.
Cured meats such as speck bacon are popular in Trentino
One for apple lovers
Trentino is one of the largest apple growers in Europe, cultivating several varieties such as Golden Delicious and Braeburn.
Because of this, apple dishes are in abundance in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, especially of the dessert kind.
Though it may not be on the breakfast menu, keep an eye out for an apple cake called Apfelküchel.
We spotted some on our visit to the Dolomites, and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t try any. Another famous dish is the beloved apple strudel.
Again, it’s not typical for breakfast, but you may just see it being served in hotels or at local bakeries.
Other notable breakfast foods in Italy
When staying at a guesthouse or a family house, you’ll most likely find some form of cookie for breakfast.
In Tuscany, they’ve their local version, called cantucci. This oblong-shaped almond cookie, which is twice-baked, is dry and has a firm crunch.
The drying-out process of the cantucci is to ensure a longer shelf life. Its solid texture makes it ideal for dipping (or dunking) in your morning coffee.
Are you a breakfast person? Which of these breakfast foods would you most like to try in Italy? Let me know in the comments below.
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Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience, a demographic (late 20s onward) that enjoys glamping over camping and staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels. Flashpackers also like to indulge in the local food and wine, cultural activities, as well as a spot of wellness on their travels. Want to know more? Read on....