Italy Roundtable: How to Pack the Perfect Picnic in Italy

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The Italy Roundtable will be returning from its summer break with a food topic FARM to TABLE to guide us into harvest season. Plus, a brand new member!

It is FARM TO TABLE that makes great Italian food . I struggled to find the right words because of this. It was then that I realized that FARM TO TABLE can be experienced in a simple way for travelers – with a picnic.

We are thrilled to welcome the charming Georgette from Girl in Florence to our happy band! We are so happy to have her join us!

A stroll through an Italian market is something I enjoy doing in every Italian town. This allows me to fulfill my fantasy of living in the town. I make my weekly market visit to stock up my pantry and fridge. The markets are vibrant and colorful, which is something that many tourists crave.

Italy’s outdoor market is also a great place to visit if you want to make a picnic.

There are plenty of great restaurants in Italy so you don’t really need to take a picnic. A picnic is a great option if the weather is good, if your plans are to spend any time in Italy, if money is tight, or if it’s just a casual lunch with the locals in the park.

A little bit of Italian picnic language knowledge:

The No-Cook Italian Picnic

Visitors may not always have access to a fully-stocked kitchen to make a meal or bake a dish for a picnic. Even if you rent an apartment, you might find it too difficult to purchase all the staples that you won’t use to make just one meal. There are plenty of great things that you can find at an Italian market that make a perfect picnic food.

A side note: Shopping for picnics can be a great way to discover local specialties that you may not have otherwise known about. For example, local cheeses and breads may not be exported outside of a certain area. This is a great way expand your Italian culinary knowledge.

  • bread– Fresh bread is an excellent way to start a picnic, whether it comes from a bakery or a market.
  • cheese Many outdoor market vendors will allow you to taste before you buy. This allows you to try out new cheeses without worrying about whether you like them. Ask for “posso assaggiare”, which is Italian for “may I taste?”
  • Cured meats The “try-before-you buy” policy is usually applicable to all vendors who sell cured meats.
  • canned tuna– Go to any Italian grocery store and pick up a can. Make sure the top is pull-tab so that you don’t have to open it. Oil-packed fish tastes great straight from the can, or on slices of bread.
  • Fritti– Italians love their deep-fried finger food, fritti, and will fry many things (zucchini flowers cheese, vegetables, meats, potatoes, etc.). Fritti can be found in almost any rosticceria. You can purchase prepared foods, sometimes including fritti, from some grocery stores. These items may also be available at outdoor markets. Just stop by any stall that has what appears to be a deli case and see what they have to offer.
  • Poloppe– This Italian term for “meatballs” can be translated as “polpette”. However, you can also find polpette made from non-meat ingredients (like beans). These are often served with a sauce or without. They’re more common in the rosticceria. They may also be found in the above-mentioned deli-style section of a grocery or outdoor market.
  • fruit– This is a great addition to a picnic, and can be used as a dessert, especially if it’s citrus season. Sicilian oranges are like candy.
  • pastries– Grab some sweet treats from the bakery next time you stop by to buy bread.
  • wine — Unless you have a corkscrew, make sure you take a screw-top bottle with you when you travel.

Italian Picnic Dishes to Make When You Have a Kitchen

Your picnic options can be even more inventive if you have access to a kitchen on your Italy trip. These are just some of the items that Italians may bring to their picnics.

  • bruschetta: Slice some bread and brush it with olive oil. Grill or toast the bread, then rub the warm slices with fresh garlic. (Cut a clove in half to reveal the pungent parts). Add a pinch of salt to your bread and you are good to go. You can either eat it as is or add toppings to make it even more delicious.
  • panzanella This Tuscan classic summer salad features fresh tomatoes, small hunks made from day-old Tuscan bread, fresh basil, thinly-sliced red onions, cucumber, and occasionally, a little bit of salt. Mix the ingredients together with olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper. This recipe doesn’t require any cooking. If you have a well-stocked kitchen with olive oil and vinegar (or other staples such as vinegar and wine), this one is easy to prepare. This is also easy to add to your no-cook picnic. Make sure to not drown the salad with olive oil or vinegar. It should only coat the bread and be used to revive it.
  • polpette You can either buy them at a restaurant or make your own. You can make a picnic contribution by packing some toothpicks.
  • Frittata You can either buy the ingredients or just use what you have. For easy serving, you can slice it into a pie or use it as a sandwich filling.
  • caponata This Sicilian sweet and sour vegetable dish can either be eaten by itself or with the bruschetta-ready bread slices you brought.
  • caprese Mix fresh tomato, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese with olive oils and salt (optional). This can be used as a filling for a sandwich or salad. As long as you have olive oil and salt, this can make a great picnic side dish.
  • focaccia– Focaccia can either be left plain to make a panino or you can add vegetables, meats and other ingredients. You can make it more like a meal.

I love the idea of these chilled involtini with both meat and non-meat options. This article also has many other Italian picnic ideas.

Italy Roundtable: Other Voices

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8 Responses to “Italy Roundtable – Packing the Perfect Picnic in Italy”

  • These tips and descriptions are great! I add some homemade hummus (not Italian) to my sandwiches and keep it in an unused container. It goes great with picnic food. Ps. Thank you for having me in your amazing group. It’s an honor!

  • Lisa Barr says:

    Picnics saved our lives when we first got married. We were still paying student loans and couldn’t afford to travel to Italy, but we did. To save money, we secretly assembled picnic lunches using the hotel’s continental breakfast. We gave our children (and us) a break from eating out and opted to have a picnic when we traveled with small children. Even though the quality of the food has improved, I still enjoy a good picnic even at 55.

    • Jess has the following:

      It’s not unusual for someone to put together a picnic using a hotel’s continental breakfast buffet. Picnics are great fun for children, who may be more bored at restaurants. Thank you for your note!

  • The biggest cultural shock I experienced when I arrived in Italy was the Italian-style “picnic”. This involves using a gas stove to boil pasta, at least four courses and proper tables and chairs. Here, they don’t waste their time with sandwhich foolishness.

    • Jess has the following:

      Heh. Are Italians able to upgrade camping the same way? That’s something I would definitely support.

  • Ahhhh… I love a good picnic! Combining a hike along the Amalfi Coast and a picnic is my favorite. You can also enjoy amazing beach picnics here.

  • Bleeding Espresso says:

    Now I am starving. Although it’s not particularly Italian, a great alternative is the roasted chicken you can buy at the supermarket or butcher. These chickens seem to keep warm in the little bags and the bones make a great broth. Hand wipes are recommended. Yup. You must eat something …….


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