Calling all cheese lovers! If you’re planning a trip to Italy or love Italian food, then don’t miss these 10 most popular Italian cheeses which are a must-try!
Whether you’re lazing away on the beautiful beaches near Palermo, wandering through the streets of fashion-forward Milan, exploring historic Florence or Rome, or discovering the incredible cities and towns of Puglia, one thing is for sure, Italian cuisine will no doubt be top of mind!
Italians are known the world over for their delectable fare, having produced some of the most-loved dishes that have been replicated throughout the globe, from pizzas to pasta, to famous Italian drinks, and not to forget delicious desserts such as Cannoli, you’ll definitely never be left hungry when visiting this beautiful country.
Another worthwhile Italian food fact is that the country is also the producer of some of the best cheeses in the world.
In this guide on the 10 best cheeses in Italy, I’ve teamed up with fellow travel bloggers to bring you our most favoured Italian cheese types and hopefully inspire you to try them all! P.s. these will also make fantastic Italian souvenirs or gifts to take home with you from your trip too!
Before you go, be sure to plan & book your Italian Travel Essentials:
- Search & Book flights here on Skyscanner
- Book your car rental through AutoEurope
- Search hotels here on Booking.com, or on VRBO for apartment-style stays
- Click here to browse & book bus and train tickets
- Lastly, don’t forget about travel insurance for your trip!
Pssst…Have you packed all your essentials? Make sure to read our European packing list post to ensure you’ve ticked all the packing necessities off your list!
Best Cheese in Italy – 10 Cheeses in Italy To Try!
Soft Italian Cheese
By Sophie from Solo Sophie
Of course, everyone has heard of mozzarella, a creamy and mild soft cheese that originates in Italy and is now a food staple throughout the world, particularly on pizzas.
Well, yet another Italian soft cheese which is, much like mozzarella, made from buffalo or cow’s milk, is that of a burrata. This mild, soft cheese is characterised by its harder outer casing and is filled with stracciatella and cream.
Though no one quite knows the history of burrata, it was most likely created in the early 1900s in the South of Italy. Today, much of the burrata is produced in the region of Apulia (i.e. the ‘heel of the boot’ of Italy).
Due to its harder casing, it’s best eaten within 24 hours of being cut open. Once cut open, the inner cheese is more liquid and creamy. As such, burrata is typically served as a starter (with bread or truffle), on a pizza, on pasta, or in a Caprese salad.
By Sophie from We Dream of Travel
Lombardy in northern Italy is one of the country’s most prolific cheesemaking regions and is home to some of the most famous cheeses in Italy, including mascarpone.
Originating just south of Milan in the late 16th or early 17th century, mascarpone’s popularity soon spread and is now considered a speciality of the Lombardy region.
Mascarpone is a soft cream cheese and its mild flavour makes it a very versatile cheese. It is one of the easier cheeses to make, you can even make it yourself to get a taste of Italy at home! Mascarpone is made by heating heavy cream and adding an acid such as tartaric acid, citric acid or lemon juice to solidify and thicken it. Once the cream has cooled, it is poured through a cheesecloth to strain excess liquid whey then chilled for 1-2 days.
It can be enjoyed on its own or as an ingredient in a number of dishes including risotto, pasta, cheesecake and most commonly as one of the main ingredients in the traditional Italian dessert tiramisu. For some of the best tiramisu in Italy, take a day trip to Lake Como and go to Ristorante Hosterietta!
By Lara from The Best Travel Gifts
Ricotta is one of the best soft Italian cheeses. It’s generally made from cow’s or goat’s milk and it has this slightly sweet taste, making it a perfect cheese to use in desserts. Ricotta is often used in cheesecakes and cannoli. However, it also works really well in savoury dishes to add that creamy taste, for example in pasta, lasagna, or on pizzas.
Ricotta literally means recooked or refined and it’s classified as a whey cheese. It’s made by making the whey more acidic and then heating it to near boiling temperature. This process results in a curd, which is then separated using a cloth ending with the delicious ricotta curds.
Ricotta cheese originated from the Italian peninsula back in the Bronze Age, the Romans later continued this process, and now Ricotta is still produced throughout Italy.
Besides the traditional ricotta cheese, you can also find some aged ricotta, which all have a unique taste. For example ricotta salata, ricotta infornata, ricotta affumicata, and ricotta forte.
For the unfortunate ones who won’t be travelling to Italy anytime soon to try these delicious Italian cheeses, there is an alternative. Because one of the best Italian gifts is this DIY Italian cheese-making kit, which includes ricotta ánd ricotta Salata !
Italian Semi-Soft Cheese
By Nicole from Go Far Grow Close
Mozzarella cheese was first made in Naples from the milk of water buffaloes. Legend has it that it was discovered when cheese curds accidentally fell into a bucket of hot water. It is a semi-soft cheese – it can be made into blocks of cheese, but it is easily broken down with your fingers and grated.
Originally, Mozzarella was not made from pasteurized milk so it did not have a long shelf life. As a result, it rarely left the southern region of Italy. Today, with advanced cheese technology and refrigerated trucks, Mozzarella can now be found all over the world.
The most common use of Mozzarella in North America is on pizza because of its light and creamy texture. This type of Mozzarella is made from cow’s milk. Typically, it is the base for every cheese pizza while other pizzas, like the Margherita, include mozzarella.
In more upscale restaurants, you will find Mozzarella being used in a Caprese salad. That is thick slices of tomato and mozzarella, flavored with fresh basil leaves, olive oil, and a balsamic vinegar reduction.
However, you can also find a creamier version of Mozzarella called Burrata. Burrata is Mozzarella made from buffalo milk and creamy curd is added to making it even softer and creamier.
Scamorza – Popular Cheeses in Italy
By Ingrid from Ingrid Zen Moments
While it is safe to say that Italy offers hundreds of types of delicious cheese, with some more popular than others, Scamorza can still be considered a hidden gem.
Scamorza cheese is a semi-soft cheese that comes from Southern Italy, particularly popular in Apuglia, Basilicata, or Calabria. It has a particular shape that makes it hard to miss in any local shop in Italy – two balls, one smaller and one bigger. It is thought that this particular shape gave it also the name: “testa mozzata” in Italian means severed head.
You can choose from its fresh taste or the smoked one (affumicata). Harder than mozzarella, Scamorza can and is used as a substitute for the worldwide popular Italian cheese. Use it as a topping for pizza, together with Prosciutto in Piadine, plenty of oven-baked dishes with vegetables and Scamorza, or simply with a glass of good Italian wine.
By Dan from Urban Abroad
When on the lookout for the best Cheese from Italy, you will find Taleggio is a traditional Italian cheese that gets its name from the region it was produced. Having been produced exclusively in the Val Taleggio area of Italy until the late 1800s, it was later made to be produced in other regions such as Lombardy in the north.
It is no secret that Italy is known for its cheeses, and some people even believe that Taleggio was the first soft cheese in the world. Despite its pungent smell, it has a surprisingly mild taste with a fruity tang that makes it very popular with cheese fans.
Taleggio is divine when grilled or eaten with focaccia bread and it also makes a great addition to risotto, as well as chopped up or grated onto salads and other popular Italian dishes such as bruschetta. The cheese is protected by a thin crust and has a semi-soft texture which makes it very pleasant to eat.
Hard Italian Cheeses
By Shelley from Travel Mexico Solo
Many have heard of and also used parmesan cheese. However, few know that it is really just a version of a very famous Italian cheese called Parmigiano Reggiano.
This is one of the most beloved of all the hard Italian cheeses and comes from Parma, Italy (and a few other nearby cities). Basically, parmesan is a more generic form of Parmigiano Reggiano, as to be true Parmigiano Reggiano, the cheese has to come from Parma in the Emilia-Romagna Region of Italy.
Parmigiano Reggiano is made from cow’s milk. During the process of making it, the cheese will have to age in a cave for anywhere from 12 to 36 months.
As it’s such a time-intensive process, Parmigiano Reggiano can be a pricey cheese. After it ages and is ready to consume, cheesemakers sell it off in giant circular “wheels.” The prices vary but can cost about $2,500USD for a 75 lbs / 34 kg wheel of authentic Parmigiano Reggiano.
This nutty-flavoured cheese is often eaten grated over pasta, soups, risottos and more. You can also eat it on its own, and makes a great addition to an antipasti platter or charcuterie board.
By Martina from PlacesofJuma
The delicious Pecorino cheese is a real highlight of Italian cuisine. The original comes from the town of Pienza in Tuscany. Its history goes back to the 1950s when people from Sardinia brought their sheep, and with them this cheese to Tuscany.
Its flavour is spicy with a walnut leaf note. This mature, semi-hard to hard cheese is a true delicacy of the region and therefore available in any good food store! A real insider tip is a combination with fresh jam or with regional honey, both of which go really well with this cheese. In addition, a piece of fresh white bread and a strong white or red wine make a tasting a perfect pleasure!
For the traditional cheese, ageing in barrels is a must. It matures for at least 90 days in oak barrels, which were previously used for noble wines such as Brunello di Montalcino or Nobile di Montepulciano. To achieve the longest possible maturation, the Pecorino is rubbed with ‘Morchia’ during cheese care. The result is a cheese with an intense aroma and delicate flavour!
Provolone – Semi-Hard Cheese
By Lori from Italy Foodies
Known throughout the world as one of the very best Italian cheeses, Provolone has been made in the Campania region in southern Italy as early as the 18th century.
Today, it is one of Campania’s most famous foods. The smooth-skinned provolone is made from cow’s milk, and typically has a pear shape with a small ball at the top from which it is hanged in Italian shops and delis, or it can be made long in the shape of a sausage.
The taste of this semi-hard cheese varies greatly depending on where it’s produced. The most typical types are provolone dolce with a mild flavour and provolone piccante which is aged for at least four months and has a very sharp taste.
Provolone that is produced in the Naples area have received the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) from the European Union making them unique to the area.
Provolone pairs well with full-bodied red wines. It’s generally sliced and eaten on sandwiches, or along with salami and soppressata, or just with a good crusty bread.
Other Italian Cheese Types
By Coralie from Grey Globetrotters
Gorgonzola is a soft and crumbly, blue-veined cheese that is traditionally produced in Piedmont and Lombardy in northern Italy. With a surprisingly low-fat content (25-30%), Gorgonzola is a much healthier option than many other soft, creamy kinds of cheese.
The distinctive odour and sharp, almost nutty flavour of Gorgonzola comes from the unique blend of unskimmed, pasteurised cow’s milk and the cultures of the Penicillium mould that give it its distinctive appearance. Gorgonzola is also a surprisingly nutritious cheese, with just one ounce (28g) containing 33% of the recommended daily intake of calcium for an adult.
On your cheese board, pair Gorgonzola with delicate, crisp multigrain crackers, and a selection of tart berries or a sweet fruit-based chutney for the ultimate crowd-pleasing burst of flavour. Alternatively, Gorgonzola is the perfect cheese to turn a simple pasta dish into something grown-up and insanely tasty. If you have a chunk of left-over Gorgonzola, a dash of cream and a touch of good quality butter, it only takes a few minutes to whip up an authentic Italian pasta dish to swoon over!