The Unexpected Food Pairing Tourists Visiting Italy In Summer Must Try

When it comes to countries with world-class cuisine, few do it better than Italy. Whether it's peak summer travel time or you're getting an early start planning in winter, it's time to work up an appetite to head to the boot-shaped country. There's a common misconception that the only things to eat in Italy are pizza and pasta, and while you are guaranteed to get the best pizza and pasta of your life while visiting, there's so much more to the diverse culinary scene in Italy. Some dishes offered might even leave you a little bit surprised.

For one of the most unusual but refreshing summer dishes, try prosciutto e melone, or thinly sliced prosciutto (a popular cured pork product) with thick hunks of cantaloupe. While it might seem strange to mix a sweet, juicy fruit with salty, cured pork, don't knock it 'til you try it. This dish has longstanding history and is just as refreshing as an Aperol spritz on a hot Italian summer day.

The origins of prosciutto e melone

Maybe it's just us, but food often tastes better once you know the story behind it — and prosciutto e melone is no exception. The origins of this simple "no cooking necessary" dish traces back to Roman times, but its modern day popularity surged in the 1960s.

Legend has it that during the Roman Empire, people believed that the balance of combining cold, juicy food with hot, dry ingredients had healing properties. Thus, eating sweet fruit with cured, salty meats was a given, because hey, it was considered good for your health! However, prosciutto e melone hadn't yet made its public debut. That didn't happen until 1891 when Pellegrino Artusi put the recipe in his cookbook, "Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well." And yet still, prosciutto e melone didn't gain mainstream popularity until the 1960s, when locals caught on to how refreshing this particular dish is in the notoriously hot Italian summers.

Other unexpected Italian food pairings

Prosciutto e melone is not the only unique refreshing dish you'll want to get your hands on during your summer abroad. Italy offers plenty of snacks and plates that are particularly restoring in the heat. Take gelato with balsamic vinegar, for example. While it's unlikely you'd ever order ice cream or gelato topped with tangy balsamic vinegar back home, in Modena (an underrated destination where you can get a truly authentic Italian vacation), where balsamic vinegar originated, this is a common dish to eat, especially in the summertime. Get out to a balsamic vinegar farm, such as Acetaia Villa San Donnino, and pick up your own bottle before heading over for some of the best gelato at Gelateria La Romana to discover this delicious pairing.

Speaking of refreshing gelato in the summertime, if you head further down south to Sicily (a colorful island that has some of the best food in Italy), you'll want to get your hands on brioche con gelato. As the name suggests, this is quite literally a gelato sandwich on brioche bread, and it is commonly eaten throughout the region in hotter months.