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Our Guide To The Best Italian Breads 

Whether you’re visiting Italy or just enjoying an Italian meal, don’t skip out on the bread.

Italian cuisine may be known best for its pasta and original pizzas, but it also has many unique and distinctive types of bread.

Rustic loaf of homemade bread sliced on dark wooden table

Here are some of the best types of Italian bread available worldwide.

People’s tastes vary, so this list isn’t organized by the best types of bread.

Instead, consider this a starting point to find the best bread to pair with your next Italian-style meal.

They all come in various flavors, sizes, textures, and shapes, so you’re bound to find one that fits your meal’s needs. 

Types of Italian Bread

There’s nothing like a good loaf of Italian bread to soak up your sauce. Check out our favorite types below!


Pane Toscano

Pane Toscano, or Tuscan bread, is a specialty of Italy’s Tuscany region.

This hearty white bread has a firm outer crust, making it easy to hold and tear apart while serving.

It’s relatively round, with a springiness that holds up when dipping it into things.

This bread goes well with most Tuscan-style meals, including thicker soups and stews.

The best versions cook in a wood-fired oven, which helps give it a distinctive, faintly smoky flavor that regular ovens and bread machines lack.


Piadina Romagnola

Piadina Romagnola is a thin flatbread, more so than many of the other flatbreads on this list.

The simple recipe includes flour, olive oil or lard, water, and a little bit of salt, cooked in a terracotta dish.

Originally made as a staple for peasants in the area, it has since become a popular and affordable way to hold other ingredients.

This bread is best when paired with other Italian foods, as it’s too thin and floppy to be a meal by itself.

It’s also too cheap to see for sale outside its home region, so try making it at home with similar ingredients if you want to try the flavor.


Ciabatta

Ciabatta is a particularly popular Italian bread, so there’s a good chance you can find it in stores with a large bakery department.

This thick bread has a distinctively robust texture. Some people describe it as being close to plastic in a good way, and while I’m not sure that’s the best comparison, it’s not entirely wrong.

Ciabatta also works well in a roll form, where you can split it in half and layer it with your choice of meat and other toppings.

Alternatively, you can dip it into a soup. Overall, it’s extraordinarily versatile, which is one of the main reasons for its popularity.


Focaccia

Focaccia is a flatbread baked in the oven and made with a texture similar to pizza dough.

It’s thicker than pizza, though, and often baked into a square instead of a circle. Focaccia usually comes with olive oil and herbs on top, adding more of a distinctly Italian flare to the final flavor.

Variations of Focaccia are essentially pizza-like, with some options including meat or vegetable toppings.

When serving, some people cut this bread into long strips, making dipping it a little easier. It goes well alongside most dishes that use tomato, including many kinds of pasta.

Focaccia holds a special place in my heart. In many ways, this is the epitome of Italian bread. It’s hearty and delicious, pairs well with many other ingredients, and it’s easy to make at home.

So if you’re trying a single bread from this list, make it a quality Focaccia. You won’t regret your decision.


Pane Pugliese

Pane Pugliese is an excellent but time-consuming bread, usually made into round and flattish loaves.

Thick and hearty, it has a sturdy interior and a crisp exterior after cooking. That’s true for many types of bread on this list, though.

Pugliese stands apart with its ingredient list, which occasionally adds mashed potatoes for more flavor and added starch to the bread.

Pane Pugliese is easier to make by using a machine, so it’s relatively common outside of Italy. If you want to make this bread at home, allow enough fermentation time for the flavors to unlock.

If you’re in a hurry, you won’t get to experience this bread’s real potential.


Coppia Ferrarese

Coppia Ferrarese is an unusual type of sourdough bread, and it may be a little harder to find in markets than other options.

It starts with a distinctive malt made in the Ferrara region, which gives it a different flavor than other sourdoughs.

It’s also a protected product, so real Coppia Ferrarese needs to have at least part of its production in the area.

Once the dough is ready, it’s separated into four twisted strands. The result is an unusual spiral shape that makes it much more fun to eat than many other pieces of bread.

It works best with an Italian dipping sauce, so consider getting one of those if you can find this.


Filone

Tuscany is known for many things, but I’m constantly amazed at how many incredible breads they’ve produced.

Filone is a naturally-leavened sourdough with a softer flavor than most other options in its category.

It’s moist to start with, so it lasts several days after baking and is an excellent daily bread.

However, what stands out the most with Filone is its darker crust. Most Italian pieces of bread have either soft or golden crusts, but proper Filone has a dark-brown, almost burnt exterior that gives it a much more distinctive bite.

Consider using darker flour like rye rather than wheat if you want to make this at home.


Brioche col Tuppo

Brioche col Tuppo is a variation of the traditional recipe for brioche.

I’m fond of this bread because it has a specific process for eating it. You take off the round dome at the top and eat that first, then enjoy the rest.

Brioche col Tuppo is a flexible bread, and I’ve seen recipes that add orange rind, apples, and even more unusual ingredients.

It pairs well with gelato and most other sweet desserts. However, like many Italian loaves of bread, it’s something of a regional specialty, and you may have difficulty finding it elsewhere.


Ciriola

Ciriola is an unusual flame-shaped bread, which is where it gets its name.

Thought to have Roman origins, this bread is relatively small and has a soft inside protected by a curved, golden outside.

It’s great for mopping up sauces while still being substantial enough for people working outside. Ciriola is cheap and easy to make, too, so in some ways, it’s a perfect bread.

If it has one flaw, it’s the shape. Many people prefer bread designs they find easier to store, including circular and rectangular bread.

Unfortunately, Ciriola’s odder shape puts it at odds with mainstream preferences, so you don’t see it around as much these days. Instead, consider making this one at home and serving it when guests arrive.


Panettone

Panettone is a sweet Italian bread, often served around Christmas as a treat.

Although some people treat it as more of a cake, its actual baking process and ingredients mean it falls squarely into the bread category. I usually have this at least once a year.

Panettone has a distinctive domed shape, with a butter-like texture that softens the inside.

Most versions of this bread have some combination of citrus, nuts like almonds, and raisins, with the fruit often soaked in rum to give even more flavor to it.

You can find them in stores around Christmas time, but for the rest of the year, you will have to make them yourself.


Grissini

Grissini is a pencil-like breadstick with a slightly unfinished, bone-like look.

They look much more homemade than many other breadsticks, which are usually smooth and even in comparison.

Grissini is quick and easy to make, with options for adding herbs, red pepper, or other flavorings into the dough before baking.

They go well alongside most Italian dishes, especially if you can dip them into a soup that softens them up.


Fugassa

Fugassa is quite similar to Focaccia, and the resemblance in their names is no coincidence.

It’s one of the first recipes made when Italian bakers learned to integrate eggs and sugar into their bread-making process.

I’ve seen quite a few recipes for this bread, but classic versions have a sweet inside and sugar granules on the outside.

It’s not quite a cake, but it’s in the same neighborhood, and it’s an excellent go-to if you’re looking for dessert bread.


Buccellato di Lucca

Although it may resemble a bagel on the surface, Buccellato di Lucca is a somewhat larger product.

This sweet bread has a mix of raisins and anise inside, with sugar on the outside to provide a sweet coating.

Although originally made for special church events, Buccellato di Lucca has become a popular staple food in the Lucca province.

Unfortunately, it’s also hard to find elsewhere, so I make a point of grabbing at least one whenever I’m passing through the area. Consider making this one at home if you want to try it.


Cornetto

Cornetto is fundamentally similar to French croissants and fills much of the same role.

Made with butter, eggs, sugar, water, and good pastry dough, Cornetto is usually wrapped around to create a horn-like shape with an open area.

Fillings for Cornetto are usually on the sweeter side, with options like custard and jam among the most common.

This bread is a frequent breakfast food in Italy, available throughout the country.

You can also find Cornetto at many Italian bakeries, though they may compete with the croissant at places serving bread from other places around the world.


Pane Altopascio

Pane Altopascio is a saltless bread from the Tuscany area, made exclusively with flour, water, and natural yeast.

Most people cover it with hemp cloth while it’s rising, which can slightly alter the flavor of the final version. Usually baked into a rectangle, it has a crunchy outside and a softer inside.

This bread bakes for one hour. It has almost nothing to provide flavor outside of the wheat and yeast, so it is best when eaten with very flavorful cured meats and cheeses


Friselle

Friselle is a bagel-like bread, typically round with a hole in the middle.

However, while bagels are soft and boiled, Friselle is twice-baked and noticeably crunchier than most other breads on this list.

In addition, it has an outstanding shelf life, making it popular with travelers hundreds of years ago, while adding a little olive oil softens it up enough to make it easier.

If you want to try something more historical, you can dip Friselle in saltwater right before serving, a common technique among sailors to soften the bread.

Alternatively, I suggest drizzling it with water, tossing on a bit of salt, and adding some tomatoes.


Torta al Testo

Torta al Testo is a traditional Italian flatbread, similar to Focaccia, and made with essentially the same ingredients.

However, two things set it apart from its more-popular cousin. First, it’s a little flatter and drier.

Second, it’s cooked in a circular Testo pan, which helps manage the heat distribution and ensure it cooks correctly.

Unusually for a thin bread, the normal way to serve this is by stuffing meat, cheese, and leafy greens into it after cutting it in half.

The bread can be a little thin and fragile after slicing, so be careful about handling it if you want the best meal.


Pane Carasau

Pane Carasau is a crisp flatbread from the Sardinian area.

While it looks like a tortilla or possibly a cracker, the best versions are usually somewhat larger and have more texture than either of those options.

Bubbles and curves are quite common. Pane Carasau is also a twice-baked bread, with the second baking best immediately before serving.

Olive oil and rosemary are must-haves for bringing out the true flavor of this bread. However, it can be a little hard to eat this alone.

If you find that it’s missing something, consider serving it alongside something a little wet, like a tomato. I also enjoy this with a side of cheese.


Crescia

Crescia is technically an Easter cheese bread, though many places make it throughout the year.

The recipe can vary significantly by area, so it’s fine if you want to make it at home instead of buying it elsewhere.

The proper versions of Crescia are relatively high, with specks of cheese visible on the outside.

The best cheese for this bread is Pecorino Romano, rather than the Parmesan you see with many other breads.

Pecorino is hard and salty, and in larger chunks, it can make fun cheese pockets within the bread.

Some versions of Crescia also have a little pepper inside, which adds some zing to the final flavor.

I enjoy variety in bread, so I encourage adding a tablespoon or two to the recipe if you want to make this at home.


Pizza Bianca

Pizza Bianca is impressively close to pizza without quite crossing the line into it.

Like Focaccia, Pizza Bianca is flat but served relatively thick, noticeably more so than a traditional pizza crust. However, it’s still relatively chewy and easy to eat.

Common ways to serve this Italian bread include topping it with mozzarella, olive oil, and possibly a few sliced olives.

However, it doesn’t have nearly as much mozzarella as a typical pizza, which is another difference.

This bread is best fresh out of the oven, so consider baking it at home instead of waiting.


Baba Rustico

Baba Rustico is a savory bread, often made for parties or other festivities.

I’ve seen several recipes for this. However, a typical version has some combination of meat like salami or prosciutto, parmesan, and cubes of additional cheese, like provolone or fontina, baked right into the bread.

All these ingredients can last for a little while at room temperature if you package them properly, but the best versions are fresh loaves that have had time to cool. 

When you are eating the bread, try to avoid dipping it into too much sauce. Other sauces or accompaniments can hide the natural flavors of the meat and cheese already present.


Types of Italian Bread

  1. Pane Toscano
  2. Piadina Romagnola
  3. Ciabatta
  4. Focaccia
  5. Pane Pugliese
  6. Coppia Ferrarese
  7. Filone
  8. Brioche col Tuppo
  9. Ciriola
  10. Panettone
  11. Grissini
  12. Fugassa
  13. Buccellato di Lucca
  14. Cornetto
  15. Pane Altopascio
  16. Friselle
  17. Torta al Testo
  18. Pane Carasau
  19. Crescia
  20. Pizza Bianca
  21. Baba Rustico

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many types of Italian bread available.

Some of these breads are regional specialties, while others are available in grocery stores worldwide. However, regardless of availability, there’s no denying that Italy has made some of the best bread on the planet.

Pictures are never a substitute for trying a bread yourself, though. Consider buying some Italian bread the next time you’re at an appropriate store, or make it at home if you have a little time.

Many Italian breads are made to be easy for peasants to bake, so they take even less effort with modern equipment.

If you’re looking for something sweeter, check out our favorite Italian desserts!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.