There’s always something fun to do in Italy, eating included. If you’re looking for a break from the typical trattorie and fine dining locales, Swide shares ten unusual yet uniquely Italian restaurants in Italy.
It’s no secret that Italy’s food alone makes il bel paese worth the trip. From Michelin-starred fine dining establishments to simple street food stands to the charming trattorie and osterie that dot the streets and piazze, there is no shortage of options for keeping your appetite at bay. However, it’s always fun to look beyond convention and take a seat at a table with an unfamiliar backdrop, whether it be the world’s smallest restaurant, a high-security prison, or an Etruscan cavern. Here are ten of the most unusual restaurants in Italy.
Unconventional Eats: 10 Unusual Restaurants in Italy
- All’Oste Che Non C’è – A self-service restaurant in Valdobbiadene where guests help themselves to food and their bill.
- Solo Per Due – The world’s smallest restaurant in Vacone, with seating for just 2 people.
- Convento dei Neveri – A restaurant in converted monk’s chambers in a 15th century convent in Bariano.
- Fortezza Medicea – A restaurant in a 15th century fortress prison in Volterra, operated by prisoners.
- Da Pancrazio – A restaurant in Rome located in the Theater of Pompeo where Julius Caesar was murdered.
- La Fornace di Barbablu – A restaurant in a 2000-year-old Roman furnace in Vado Ligure.
- Le Grotte del Funaro – A restaurant built in Etruscan caves in Orvieto.
- Il Fungo – A restaurant on the 14th floor of a mushroom-shaped water tower in Rome.
- The Summer Cave at Grotta Palazzese – A cliffside cave restaurant in Polignano A Mare.
- Ristoaereo Fiumicino – A restaurant built inside a former presidential airplane at the Rome airport.
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Self-service with a difference
All’Oste Che Non C’è; Valdobbiadene, Veneto- Blink, and you might miss this charming osteria hidden among the hills of Valdobbiadene, home to Italy’s finest prosecco makers. Its name translates to “the innkeeper who’s not there,” a fitting moniker for this no-frills, feels-like-home joint where guests help themselves to everything, including their bill. The food showcases the territory’s bounty, pairing perfectly with the refreshing local sparkler.
The Smallest restaurant in the world
Solo Per Due, Vacone, Lazio- Solo Per Due’s name indicates just how many people the restaurant accommodates: two. Located in the beautiful, unsung Laziale countryside, Solo Per Due opens nightly to serve just one couple. The local menu changes daily, and the chef will tailor the menu to meet any specific needs or requirements. Reservations are accepted via email only, as far in advance as you would like—dinner: 250€ per person.
Enjoy your repas in a former monk’s chamber
Convento dei Neveri, Bariano, Lombardia – Located in the Bergamo lowlands, Convento dei Neveri is an unexpected Lombardian treasure. The restored 15th-century Roman Catholic basilica and convent’s second-floor restaurant sits in a hallway comprised of ten former monk sleeping cells, all of which have been converted into private dining rooms that range from two to eight people in capacity.
Dine in a prison, served by inmates
Fortezza Medicea, Volterra – Located in a 15th-century Medieval fortress in Volterra, Fortezza Medicea, a high-security prison, offers an unprecedented dining experience operated by the prisoners themselves. All potential patrons must book tables weeks in advance to allow ample time for the required background check.
Treat your taste buds in the theatre where Julius Theatre was murdered
Da Pancrazio, Rome – Since 1922, Da Pancrazio has been serving a classic taste of Rome in a classically Roman backdrop: The Theater of Pompeo, an iconic landmark named for the general of the Roman Republic and outspoken Caesar opponent. Patrons literally dine amid history, as the theater was also the site of Caesar’s legendary assassination.
Turn up the heat in a 2000-year-old furnace
La Fornace di Barbablu, Vado Ligure – Located in a 2000-year-old Roman furnace in Liguria, La Fornace di Barbablu’s dimly lit interiors and stone walls provide an intimate, pleasant atmosphere. Expect traditional Ligurian dishes that showcase the territory, particularly the seafood and herbs. Especially noteworthy is the kitchen, which is built into the quarry’s original bones and spans three floors.
Enjoy chianina in an Etruscan Grotto
Le Grotte del Funaro, Orvieto – For more than 30 years, the Branca family has been cooking local Umbrian cuisine at this restaurant built inside Etruscan caves. Spread across different levels, this underground grotto became a naval rope laboratory in the Middle Ages. Expect typical Umbrian fare like Chianina beef and truffle and ricotta ravioli.
Be a part of film history in Rome’s EUR
Il Fungo, Rome – This landmark water tower’s name is derived from its mushroom-shaped top. Located near Rome’s EUR neighborhood, Il Fungho’s fourteenth-floor restaurant was originally intended to rotate. Although the rotation didn’t go according to plan, the dining experience hasn’t diminished, thanks to its impressive view. This historical structure, which dates back to the 1960s, has appeared in iconic Italian films such as Antonioni’s L’eclisse.
The finest food in the finest cave in Italy
The Summer Cave at Grotta Palazzese, Polignano A Mare – Open from just May to October, the cliffside Summer Cave sits at Puglia’s Grotta Palazzese hotel and stands 74 feet above sea level. The sparkling blue Adriatic, coupled with dim candlelight, illuminates the restaurant. Enjoy exquisite local cuisine to the soundtrack of the waves gently lapping against the shore below. This enchanting locale has hosted banquets since the seventeenth century.
Plane food has never looked so good
Ristoaereo Fiumicino, Rome – Flying in and out of Rome isn’t the only reason to make the trek to Fiumicino airport; there’s also Ristoaereo restaurant. Built inside a former presidential airplane, Ristoaereo seats just 18 people. The private Presidential Privé suite features the original sofa that belonged to three of Italy’s previous presidents.
Tired of the Usual Trattorie? Try Italy’s Unconventional Fare
Italy is a country renowned for its food, but these 10 restaurants prove there is more to Italian dining than pizza and pasta. From converted medieval ruins to airplane galleys, Italy’s most unique eateries offer not just unforgettable meals but memorable experiences.
Whether you’re looking for fine cliffside dining or casual self-service in a country osteria, Italy has an unusual restaurant to delight and surprise even the most seasoned traveler.
The next time you’re craving carbonara in Rome or orecchiette in Puglia, consider stepping off the well-worn path. You may just find yourself dining in a 2000-year-old cave or Dante’s neighborhood, enjoying the flavors of Italy in the most unexpected yet delightful settings.
Cover Credits: www.mondoaeroporto.it
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