The ultimate list of the best traditional Italian desserts: from easy Italian desserts to the most popular Italian desserts and the best Italian desserts in Italy!
23 BEST ITALIAN DESSERTS IN ITALY
But, Italian traditional desserts represent some of the most delicious bites on Earth too. And, here is a guide to the best desserts in Italy.
This collection of the best Italian desserts in Italy covers the most common Italian desserts, the best frozen Italian desserts (iconic Italian gelato and Italian semifreddo), famous Italian cakes, popular Italian sweets, and the best Italian pastries.
This is the finest selection of the most popular Italian desserts covering the most famous Italian sweets, most famous Italian cakes, the most famous Italian pastries, the most popular Italian cookies, the most popular Italian breads, and Italian pies.
Here’s the ultimate list of Italian desserts with names of Italian desserts, descriptions of Italian desserts, and photos of Italian desserts.
1. GELATO – Iconic Italian ice cream is the most famous Italian dessert
Italian gelato, along with pizza, and pasta, is the epitome of Italian food.
Even more, this to-die-for Italian dessert is the most popular frozen dessert in the world.
Therefore, this list of the best Italian desserts starts with Italian gelato.
Authentic Italian gelato is a creamy custard made of whole milk and eggs. Italian gelato is traditionally flavored with chocolate, vanilla, stracciatella, hazelnut, and pistachio. Modern gelato is flavored with some fruity flavors.
Regardless of the flavor, yummy and creamy gelato is undeniably the most famous Italian dessert.
Where to have this top Italian dessert in Italy?
If you want to try a scoop of the very best Italian gelato in Italy, please head to Gelateria Fatamorgana and Gelateria dei Gracchi in Rome, Gelateria Vivoli and Gelateria dei Neri in Florence, Gelateria Dondoli in San Gimignano, Tuscany or Suso Gelatoteca in Venice!
These gelato shops have won awards for the best gelato in the world.
2. SEMIFREDDO – Popular Italian frozen dessert
Famous Semifreddo is one of the most popular desserts in Italy.
‘Semifreddo‘ literally means ‘half cold‘ in Italian. Semifreddo got its name because of its unique texture.
This ‘half mousse – half ice cream’ dessert is typically made with egg yolks, sugar and cream. Some of the most popular semifreddos are chocolate semifreddo, lemon semifreddo, nougat semifreddo, pistachio semifredo, berry semifreddo, tiramisu semifreddo…
Gelato and semifreddo are favorite Italian desserts in Italy in the summertime.
3. PANNA COTTA – Megapopular Italian ‘cooked cream’
This Italian dessert list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning panna cotta.
Panna cotta is another world-famous dessert from Italy.
Panna cotta in Italian literally means ‘cooked cream‘. But panna cotta is much more than simple cooked cream.
It might be an easy Italian dessert to make, but above all, panna cotta is a superb dessert made of flavored cream (often with coffee, rum, or vanilla) and served with berries, chocolate, or caramel sauce. In addition, this great Italian dessert can be garnished with some liquors and fruits.
Panna cotta originates from the Piedmont region in northwest Italy.
4. CORNETTO – Typical Italian croissant
Cornetto (also called brioche in northern Italy) is an Italian pastry similar to a French croissant.
Italian cornetti (plural) are less buttery and softer than French croissants. A typical Italian cornetto can be empty or filled with custard, vanilla, chocolate, or apricot jam.
Classic Italian breakfast includes coffee (espresso, latte, macchiato, cappuccino) and a cornetto.
5. TIRAMISU – Famous coffee-flavored Italian cheese dessert from Treviso
Looking for easy Italian desserts to make? Check out tiramisu!
Tiramisu is one of the most famous coffee-flavored Italian desserts. Actually, tiramisu is the most famous Italian dessert with mascarpone cheese.
Creamy mascarpone is the most famous Italian dessert cheese and tiramisu is the most famous Italian cheese dessert.
This rather simple Italian dessert is made of sweet ‘savoiardi’ biscuits soaked in coffee and sweet cream made of mascarpone cheese, eggs and sugar, and sometimes liqueur.
Tiramisu is an easy Italian dessert to make but without any doubt one of the best Italian desserts ever!
The birth town of tiramisu is Treviso in the Veneto region, but over time tiramisu has become one of the most popular desserts in Italy.
6. CANNOLI – Famous tube-shaped Italian pastry from Sicily
Cannoli are probably the most famous Italian pastries.
Sweet cannoli are tube-shaped and finger-sized Italian pastries filled with sweet cream that quite often contains ricotta cheese.
Authentic Sicilian cannoli are filled with ricotta cheese, Sicilian Marsala wine, white vinegar, chocolate chips, and optionally chopped pistachios.
Cannoli originate from Palermo and Messina in Sicily. Today this iconic Italian dessert is one of the most famous Italian desserts in Italy and beyond!
7. BISCOTTI – CANTUCCINI – Traditional Italian almond cookies
Biscotti or cantuccini are traditional Italian almond biscuits originating from the city of Prato in Tuscany Italy.
Original Prato cantuccini are called biscotti di Prato. These oblong-shaped crispy cookies are traditionally consumed with sweet dessert wine, aka Italian Vin Santo.
If you are taking a trip to Tuscany, Tuscany biscotti or biscotti di Prato are a must-try Italian dessert.
8. CROSTATA – Famous Italian pie
Crostata is a famous Italian pie or baked tart with inconsistent thick fillings.
There are sweet and savory crostata pies depending on the filling. Sweet crostata comes with sweet fruits, most commonly cherries, apricots, and peaches. Savory crostata is filled with vegetables, cheese, meat, seafood, and fish.
One of the most popular crostata pies is ricotta and lemon zest-based crostata called crostata di ricotta from central Italy.
9. FRITTELLE (or FRITOLE ALLA VENEZIANA) – Yummy Italian Carnival fritters from Venice
Frittelle, or fritolle, are classic Italian doughnuts prepared traditionally in Carnival time.
These round-shaped traditional Carnival donuts are filled with raisins and sometimes even pine nuts. Frittele donuts originate from Venice and the Veneto region. These Venetian pastries are also known in Venice as Fritelle Veneziane.
Besides Frittelle Veneziane that are typically filled with raisins and pine nuts, there are also Frittelle con cioccolata filled with chocolate, Frittelle con zabaione filled with Marsala wine, Frittelle con crema chantilly filled with vanilla.
Where to get the best fritelle in Venice?
10. GALANI – Crispy pastry from Venice – Venetian crostoli are popular desserts in Venice Italy
If you are going to Venice for the Venice carnival, you should try a traditional Italian carnival pastry called galani.
Galani pastries are fried, sweet, and thin pastry strips sold in every bakery and pastry shop in Venice.
11. TORRONE – Popular Italian nut and nougat confection
Italian torrone is a confection made of egg whites, sugar, honey, and toasted nuts (most frequently almonds, but also can be whole hazelnuts, and pistachios) in a most commonly rectangular shape.
Torrone is a traditional Italian Christmas dessert in Italy.
12. PANETTONE – Famous Italian Christmas bread from Milan
Panettone is sweet Italian bread traditionally prepared for Christmas.
Panettone originates from the city of Milan in Italy, but over time it has become one of the most famous Christmas bread in the World.
This cupola-shaped bread is flavored with candied oranges, citrons, lemon zest, raisins, and sometimes chocolate. Sweet panettone matches well sweet dessert wines and liquors.
13. PANDORO – Famous sweet Chrismas bread from Verona
If you think that panettone is the only Italian Christmas bread, I need to correct you immediately.
Pandoro is another sweet Christmas bread from Italy.
The name of pandoro comes from ‘Pan d’Oro‘, meaning ‘golden bread‘.
Sweet and soft pandoro Christmas bread is made with eggs, sugar, butter, flour, and yeast. Vanilla aroma is also added. Pandoro can also be flavored with lemon zest and orange zest.
However, Classic pandoro never contains raisins or candied fruits, unlike panettone.
The hometown of panettone is Milan, but the hometown of pandoro is Verona.
This famous Verona Christmas bread is known for its frustum shape which resembles a Christmas tree.
14. COLOMBA DI PASQUA – Famous Italian Easter bread from Milan
While panettone and pandoro are sweet Italian Christmas bread, colomba di Pasqua is sweet Italian Easter bread.
Delicious Easter Dove, or Colomba di Pasqua in Italian, tastes similar to panettone. The dough is made pretty much the same.
But unlike panettone, colomba di Pasqua is made without raisins, and the dough is traditionally covered with almonds and nib sugar.
Colomba di Pasqua originates from Milan, just like Panettone.
15. ZABAIONE – Italian liquid egg custard with wine
Zabaglione, or also Zabaione, is a custard-like Italian dessert.
This yummy dessert is made with egg yolks, sugar, and marsala wine from Sicily (but sometimes also vin santo or passito).
Zabaglione can be made as a beverage or dessert.
It’s traditionally enjoyed with some fruits and cookies at Christmastime in Italy.
Zabaglione originates from the Piedmont region in northwest Italy. Today Zabaglione is one of those easy Italian desserts that can be enjoyed all over Italy.
16. AFFOGATO – Easy Italian dessert made with ice cream and coffee
Affogato is a popular coffee-based Italian dessert made of a scoop of vanilla gelato and a shot of espresso.
Quite often some berries, honey, and some other gelato flavors are added as well.
To tell the truth, affogato is something between a dessert and a beverage.
Coffee aficionados equally love coffee-based affogato and coffee-tiramisu.
17. SFOGLIATELLE – Popular Italian dessert from Salerno
Sfogliatelle pastries are some of the most popular Italian desserts.
These crispy Italian pastries are made in the shape of a shell that is filled with a delicious filling. The most common filling is almond paste, candied lemon, or orange-flavored ricotta.
Sfogliatelle originates from Salerno near Naples in the Campania region in Italy.
18. RICCIARELLI – Famous Italian almond cookies from Siena
Tuscan ricciarelli cookies are popular Italian almond cookies.
Italian ricciarelli biscuits are somewhat similar to French macarons.
The cookies are made from egg white, sugar, honey, and grounded almonds. They are most usually sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Ricciarelli cookies originate in the city of Siena in Tuscany.
Ricciarelli biscuits are traditionally served with sweet dessert wine aka Vin Santo at Christmas time.
19. PIZZELLE – Elegant Italian waffle cookies
Pizzelle refer to Italian waffle cookies.
Italian pizzelle are thin and elegant cookies made from eggs, sugar, fleur, and oil and baked in ‘pizzelle iron‘ (waffle iron). Pizzelle are typically flavored with anise. Pizzelle are known for the distinctive pizzelle pattern made by pizzelle waffle machine.
They come in various shapes: from round and flat to tube-shaped pizzelle.
Pizzelle are a classic Italian dessert served at weddings, Christmas, and Easter in Italy.
20. BOMBOLONI – Italian doughnuts are some of the most popular desserts of Italy
Bomboloni are Italian doughnuts. Bombolini doughnuts are named after ‘bombe‘ (bombs).
Italian bombolini are filled with limoncello-flavored Italian pastry cream (cremma pasticciera) and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.
Bombolini are traditional Italian dessert in the regions of Tuscany, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige. Bombolini are the most popular in Tuscany though.
Bombolini doughnuts are typically served for breakfast along with espresso and cappuccino in bars. They are also sold on beaches in seaside towns.
Deep-friend and cream-filled Italian bombolini doughnuts resemble krapfen from neighboring Austria.
21. BUDINO – Famous Italian pudding
Budino means pudding in Italian.
But, delicious budino is much more than a pudding in Italy.
Italian budino is an ‘upgraded’ custard pudding and one of the most popular desserts in Italy.
Sweet budino is made with milk, egg custard, sugar, butter, cornstarch, and flavors (most typically chocolate, and vanilla). Budino is thickened with eggs, unlike classic pudding.
The most popular budino desserts in Italy are caramel budino (budino al caramello), chocolate budino (budino al cioccolato), vanilla budino (budino alla vaniglia), honey budino (budino al miele) and coffee budino (budino al caffè).
Lemon budino (budino al limone) might not be the most common Budino pudding, but it is certainly one of the most refreshing and one of the most delicious Italian desserts.
Budino is traditionally topped with crunched cookies (like biscotti) and smashed nuts (like pistachio).
Creamy budino is traditionally served in a glass. But, modern budino can be served on a plate too.
22. GRANITA – Popular semi-frozen Italian dessert from Sicily
Sicilian granita is one of the most popular desserts in Italy.
Granita is a cooling semi-frozen dessert, similar to sorbet, and is enjoyed widely in Italy on hot summer days.
Granita is made from water, sugar, and various flavorings (most popular are lemon, orange, strawberry, coffee, chocolate, almond, peach, and mint).
Granita is similar to sorbet. But granita has a chunkier texture than sorbet, while sorbet has a creamier texture.
Chunky and flavored ice crystals of granita are a favorite summer treat not only in Sicily but across Italy.
23. STRUFFOLI – HONEY BALLS FROM NAPLES
Struffoli is a famous Italian dessert originating in Naples.
Finger-licking struffoli are basically deep-fried dough balls flavored with honey, cinnamon, and orange rid.
Napoletean struffoli are known as scalilli in the Calabria region in southern Italy and as cicerchiata in the Abruzzo region in central Italy.
Regardless of its name, struffoli honey balls are a popular dessert in Italy at Christmastime.