For the sweet toothed traveller, Italy is the perfect place to visit – just like for every other kind of foodie really.
There’s a huge range of different desserts the length and breadth of the country. Whether your favourite kind of dessert is fruity, creamy, chocolatey, or coffee-y (definitely a word), you will find something to tantalise your taste buds. In this post, we’ll look at ten of the best Italian desserts. Keep a tissue nearby, your mouth is going to start watering!
Let’s start off with the best known of all the Italian desserts. Doing a cooking class in Italy? This is probably going to be on there! For example, our cooking class in Rome to make pasta and tiramisù!
If you’re not planning that, then let us give you the real traditional recipe. It includes ladyfingers dipped or bathed in coffee (only made by moka!), while eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese are whipped and layered on top.
It’s then left in the fridge before being served cold. No, traditional tiramisu does not include strawberries, beer, or Baileys. These are just several of the ways that tiramisu can be done wrong, which happens more than you’d hope outside of Italy. Head to our beautiful country to taste the real one!
Should you be nice and helpful to a Neapolitan, you’ll probably here the phrase “si nu’ babbà”, meaning you are a babà.
They’re calling you charming and sweet, which is exactly what this dessert is, while being a symbol of Naples at the same time. But what exactly is it? Well, babà is an oven baked sweet covered in alcohol – usually rum or limoncello. It looks like a mushroom, but it was actually inspired by the dome of St. Sofia’s church! The one rule of babà is that it’s delicious on its own. So, if you’re offer strawberries, chocolate, or cream on yours, head to the next shop!
As you are probably already starting to gather from this list, Neapolitans do love their desserts.
English speakers might know this as a lobster tail, but down in Campania it’s a sfogliatella! Unlike babà, a sfogliatella is a filled pastry with some of the most popular being whipped cream, almond paste, or a custard mixture. There are two types of Sfogliatella. Sfogliatella Riccia should be eaten straight from the oven, like a croissant, whereas sfogliatella frolla uses a shortcrust pastry like in tarts and pies.
Wish to taste that? Book our tour of the centre of Naples, with pizza, sfogliatella and coffee included!
We imagine that this is one of the best-known on our list, but here’s a quick explanation of cannoli anyway.
This delicious dessert, which hails from Sicily, starts off with deep fried pastry dough which is rolled into a tube. This makes up the outer shell of the cannolo. Then, you have the filling. Usually, it’s something sweet and creamy that’s made with ricotta cheese. Cannoli are so delicious that it’s very easy to overdo it! They come in a variation of sizes – if you have 4 or 5 cannulichi that’s totally fine. They’re tiny! However, many bakers do large and extravagant cannoli the size of hot dogs. These are probably best shared!
5. Sicilian granita
If you’ve been walking around Rome or Florence on a hot summer’s today, you’ve probably tried a granita.
Refreshing crushed ice flavoured with fruit is a great way to cool offer in the relentless sun after all. However, these are nothing compared with the original Sicilian version! This semi-frozen dessert is made of sugar and water before the flavourings are added. The Sicilian version is coarser than you’ll get on the mainland, and we recommend it with fresh lemon!
If you get caught by the delicious taste of granita, we highly suggest to try it the very sicilian way: paired with a big, soft brioche!
Get to taste the specialties of Sicilian cuisine, including cannoli, with our 6 days escorted tour to Sicily.
6. Delizia al Limone
When tourists visit the Amalfi Coast, one thing they can’t fail to notice is just how big the lemons are! So, it’s only natural that they are used in local cooking, right?!
These large and juicy fruits give delizia al limone a light and airy texture, coupled with little puffs filled with custard. They are best enjoyed with a view of the sea, perfectly complimenting a cappuccino in one of the gorgeous sun-drenched squares in Capri or the Amalfi coast.
Seada is a big of an unusual one, because it’s not really that sweet. Especially considering that it’s a dessert, typical of Sardinia!
The base of Seada consists of puff pastry or semolina, deep fried with lard or pecorino cheese. However, with the logic that adding sugar or honey makes something a dessert, there we have it! We may joke, but this unusual combination of flavours is certainly worth a try. If you don’t see Seada on the menu when you’re in Sardinia, try looking for sabada, seatta, or casgiulatam instead! They’re all the same thing.
8. Cantucci & vinsanto
Whether it’s a restaurant in Tuscany or you’re invited into the home of a Tuscan friend, a meal is likely to be rounded off with Cantucci and Vin Santo.
Rather than being one entire dessert, this consists of two aspects. Cantucci are like biscotto – almond flavoured biscuits which were popular during the Renaissance and have stayed that way until today! They’re dipped in Vin Santo – a sweet dessert wine, making a light and perfect aperitif to a delicious (but sometimes heavy and gamey) Tuscan meal, or a perfect dessert at the end.
9. Caprese Cake
Back to Naples again! You may be disappointed that early in our list we insisted you don’t try babà with chocolate, and we didn’t mention chocolate as a sfogliatella filling (although you’ll probably be able to find that if you try)!
Well, chocolate lovers who are heading to Naples, you can relax. Caprese Cake is a traditional delicacy from the island of Capri, made with dark chocolate and almonds, with no flour! If you’re in Campania, the perfect 3 course meal is a Caprese Salad, followed by a traditional Neapolitan thin crust pizza, rounded off with this for dessert!
If you have a nut allergy, skip this one and move on to the next item in our list! Torrone is a popular gift item around Christmas between friends and family members across the Mediterranean (Spain has a version too called turron).
This nougat has a base of egg whites, sugar, and honey, but many a time you’ll find nuts or almonds in there too. It’s often baked into a tablet or a round cake before being gobbled up in a matter of minutes.