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BlogGlobal cuisineWhere to find the best cheese in Italy: 6 types you need to try
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Global cuisine

Where to find the best cheese in Italy: 6 types you need to try

Jan 05, 2022 by Kara Kramer

Cheese is an integral part of life in Italy, like wine with dinner, or cappuccinos in the morning. It’s the star of any classic Italian dish, like cacio e pepe, caprese, and spaghetti. And no formal Italian dinner would be complete without various cheeses on an antipasti plate to start the meal. Discover the different types of Italian cheeses in our Italian cheese guide and ways you can use this delicious ingredient. Once you’ve worked up an appetite reading our Italian cheese list, taste the real thing on one of our tours of Italy.

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Caciocavallo

Caciocavallo has one of the most distinctive shapes on our Italian cheese list. Meaning “cheese on horseback,” the name comes from how the cheese is made. It is formed by tying the cheese at the neck with a rope and then suspending it from a wooden rod to mature. This causes it to stretch into its unique pear shape.

You can find this type of Italian cheese throughout Southern Italy and in the Apennine Mountains—and can even sample local caciocavallo cheese in Sorrento as part of our Amalfi Coast Walking Tour! Follow a local guide on a downhill hike through charming villages in the Italian countryside in search of some tasty Italian cheese. As you make your way through the small fishing village of Lobra, you’ll sample bruschetta with olive oil, lemon juice, caciocavallo cheese, and salami at a local shop.

  • Region: Apennine Mountains and Southern Italy
  • Tasting profile: Mild, sweet
  • A key ingredient in: Formaggio fritto caciocavallo all’Argentiera (pan fried cheese with olives and oregano)
  • Pairs well with: Quince preserves, fig sauce, onion jam

Taste Italian cheese on tour

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Parmigiano Reggiano

Parmigiano Reggiano is one of the most famous cheeses from Italy. It comes from the Emilia-Romagna region and is the most popular Italian cheese to eat with pasta around the world. Stop at a local Parmigiano Reggiano producer where you’ll watch a cheesemaking demonstration and enjoy a tasting in the cheese storage room on our Food & Wine: Northern Italy & the Italian Riviera tour.

“It was so impressive how hard the cheesemakers work,” said Go Ahead staffer Marina. Every single day they work from the very early morning hours into the afternoon producing so many wheels of cheese, which then age for many months (and often years)! I loved seeing the endless rows of cheese at the end of the tour. We tasted a 24 and 36 month old Parmigiano Reggiano and let me tell you—the wait is well worth it! The cheesemakers are so dedicated to their craft.”

  • Region: Emilia-Romagna, Italy
  • Tasting profile: Sharp, nutty
  • A key ingredient in: Spaghetti pomodoro al Parmigiano Reggiano (spaghetti with olive oil, fresh tomatoes, Parmigiano Reggiano, and basil)
  • Pairs well with: Fresh apples, pears, grapes, strawberries

Read what an Italian agriturismo is and why you should visit →

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Pecorino Toscano

This hard cheese is one of the best types of Italian cheese. It’s made from sheep’s milk and has a mild, buttery flavor. Known as one of the oldest cheeses in Italy, it was a staple in ancient Rome. This Italian cheese name comes from the Italian word for sheep: pecora. Pay a visit to a local cheesemaker during an excursion on our on our small group Tuscany Adventure: Lucca, Siena & Maremma tour. After learning about the characteristics that make a top-notch Pecorino Toscano, sample some of the flavorful local cheese during a tasting.

  • Region: Tuscany, Italy
  • Tasting profile: Hard, earthy, buttery
  • A key ingredient in: Sugo all’amatriciana (pasta sauce with guanciale, pecorino, and tomato), cacio e pepe (pecorino and black pepper pasta), pasta alla Gricia (guanciale, pecorino, and olive oil pasta)
  • Pairs well with: Honey, walnuts, melon

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Burrata

Of all the cheese in Italy, burrata provides the most contrast in texture. With an outer shell of mozzarella and a soft filling of cream inside, it’s one of the most interesting types of Italian cheese on our list. Try a taste of burrata at a local shop as an expert Tour Director leads you on a food tour through Bari, an ancient port city built on the cliffs of the Adriatic coast. Experience this and more on our Food & Wine: Campania, Puglia & the Amalfi Coast tour.

  • Region: Apulia, Italy
  • Tasting profile: Soft, rich, buttery
  • A key ingredient: As a salad topping or bruschetta spread
  • Pairs well with: Prosciutto, crusty bread, fresh tomato, extra-virgin olive oil, cracked black pepper

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Buffalo mozzarella

Made from the milk of Italian Mediterranean buffalo, Buffalo mozzarella, also known as mozzarella di Buffala, is creamier and softer than its cow counterpart. With a flavor all its own, Buffalo mozzarella ranks high as one of the best Italian cheeses. Sample delicious bites of this popular Italian cheese with a local guide as you enjoy views of the beautiful Gulf of Naples and Mount Vesuvius on our Amalfi Coast Walking Tour. Or, experience a local organic dairy farm and savor farm-fresh mozzarella during a light lunch and tasting on our Food & Wine: Southern Italy & Sicily tour.

  • Region: Campania, Italy
  • Tasting profile: Soft, sweet, sour
  • A key ingredient in: Caprese salad with Buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomato, and fresh basil
  • Pairs well with: Arugula, fresh peaches, balsamic vinegar

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Robiola

This soft-ripened cheese that hails from the hillsides of the Langhe region of northwestern Italy is considered one of the best Italian cheeses. It combines cow, goat, and sheep’s milk creating a unique taste and creamy texture that’s great as a spread on bruschetta or crackers.

Enjoy a tasting of robiola cheese, truffles, and salami on a truffle hunt during our Food & Wine: Piedmont & Tuscany with America’s Test Kitchen tour in the idyllic countryside of Alba, famous for its Barolo wine and white truffles. Try your hand at finding truffles with the help of an experienced truffle hunter and dog. Then, head to the White Truffle Fair, where you’ll have plenty of free time to enjoy the festival, browse the markets, and sample local dishes.

  • Region: Langhe, Italy
  • Tasting profile: Creamy, tangy, nutty
  • A key ingredient in: Risotto with robiola cheese, aglio robiola spaghetti (spaghetti with extra-virgin olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, and robiola cheese)
  • Pairs well with: Serve warm with fresh oregano, roasted red peppers, pine nuts, black olives, golden raisins, or extra-virgin olive oil

Read our Italian truffle guide →

What’s your favorite cheese in Italy? Let us know on our Facebook page.


Food & Wine Tours
About the author | Kara Kramer
Growing up, Kara’s backyard was the Sonoran Desert where her love for exploration was ignited by dirt roads leading to petroglyphs and family road trips to sleepy Mexican fishing villages. Kara’s enjoyment for charting new territory continued with teaching abroad in Thailand, roaming wine cellar caves in Portugal, and swimming in the bioluminescent waters of the Caribbean. She’s always on the lookout for dive bars and a bowl of Vietnamese Pho (lime, basil, and jalapeño is the holy trinity).

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