Italian cuisine might be more closely associated with long, lazy sit-down lunches with multiple courses, stretching out over many enjoyable hours. But Italiy also excels at street food, a fact that's just been recognised in a new index published by travel site My Late Deals.
Rome and Palermo were named as some of the top 20 street food cities in the world, alongside places like Bangkok, Berlin and Sydney. Rome took 6th place on the list, while Palermo was 16th.
The cities were ranked on the number of street food vendors, affordability, number of street food tours or experiences, and sanitation.
Wondering what exactly Italian street food looks like? Here's a round-up of just ten of the best-loved sweet and savoury dishes to go from around the country.
Pizza al taglio
We all think we know Italian pizza, but Rome has another way of doing it. Pizza al taglio, or pizza by the slice, is baked in large rectangular trays and cut up, often with scissors, and slices are sold by weight on the streets of Rome.
These crunchy deep-fried rice balls, usually stuffed with meat ragu, cheese, and peas, originated in Sicily in the 10th century and are now known around the world. They remain the pride of Sicilian cuisine and make the perfect snack.
Rome's favourite budget-friendly snack, trapizzino is what you get when you turn a slice of pizza bianca into a sandwich. It's slit down the middle, almost like a pita bread, then filled with your choice of delicous filling; popular choices include polpette in sugo (meatballs in tomato sauce) or parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant parmigiana) While some Italian street foods date back centuries or longer, trapizzino was only invented in 2008 by a local chef – and it quickly became a fashionable favourite.
These breaded olives, stuffed with meat and fried, originated in the town of Ascoli Piceno in the southern part of the Le Marche region. The particular green olive used is a special variety found only in this area. They're a staple at wine bars and trattorie in the Le Marche region, and can often be bought in cartoccio (a paper cone) to eat on the go.
Pok stuffed with garlic, rosemary and other herbs and slowly roasted on a spit, then sliced and sold on a panino (sandwich) or by the kilo from food trucks. It's popular all throughout Italy, but it originated in Ariccia, near Rome, hence the name.
The fourth and final stomach of a cow may not sound immediately appetising, but when in Florence it's the must-try local street food; slowly simmered in a herb-infused tomato broth and served on a bun. You'll see Florentines buying their panino con lampredotto from vans around the city centre; and we strongly recommend you give it a try.
If you like falafel, try these crunchy, golden fried chickpea fritters, which can be eaten alone or on a bread roll like a sandwich. Like so many Sicilian specialties, they're thought to have Arab origins.
These crunchy shells of flaky, ricotta-filled pastry are the ultimate sweet snack. The name refers to a thin layer, or leaf, because of the layered effect of the pastry, however sfogliatelle are far from light. The rich pastry is traditionally made with lard, then filled with thick, cinnamon and lemon-spiked ricotta. Made well, they're worth every single calorie. They're beloved in Naples and the surrounding region, and they're best when freshly baked.
One of the most classic Italian desserts, cannoli are known worldwide – but you'll only get the real thing in Palermo. The pastry is shaped into a tube and fried, then filled with sweet ricotta, often with chocolate chips, all topped off with pieces of candied orange peel and cherries. Warning: this gets messy, so take a few extra napkins!
While there's no doubt gelat is one of Italy's best-selling street foods, here's another way to eat it. Brioche buns stuffed with gelato are the go-to snack or even breakfast treat during summer in Sicily. Said to originally hail from Messina, they're now eaten all over the island and also found in parts of Calabria and Salento. While you can just order the brioche on its own, you'll generally be encouraged to pile it high with plenty of gelato.