Traditional Italian Pizza: Where to Find It in Italy + Its History

When visiting Italy, we inevitably all share at least one common bucket list item: eating really good, traditional Italian pizza. But what exactly is really good, traditional Italian pizza? Truth be told, it can mean many things.

In Italy, pizza isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal—it changes depending on where you are. Whether you’re down south, up north, or exploring the shores of Sicily, you’ll find many unique renditions.

Let’s break down the various types of traditional Italian pizza you’ll find when visiting Italy and some of the best places to try each type. Mangiamo!

Insider’s Tip: Even if you’re only spending one day in Rome, it’s worth doing your research to find great places to eat. When in Rome…you have to eat quality!

There’s a lot to cover when it comes to traditional Italian pizza.

The history of pizza

The blueprint for the type of pizza most of us know and love today—crust + Marinara sauce + mozzarella cheese—originated in Naples, Italy, during the 18th century. It was a simple and inexpensive food sold by street vendors to the working class.

But before the era of Neapolitan pizza, ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans were already experimenting with their own versions of simple flatbreads. These early creations paved the way for the world of pizza that we enjoy today.

After the boom of pizza in Naples, it gained popularity far and wide as Italians migrated to other regions and countries. Many regions in Italy went on to develop their own variations of pizza, using local ingredients and culinary traditions.

Today, there are many different types of traditional Italian pizza. Let’s dive in.

traditional Italian pizza
When it comes to the best traditional Italian pizza, there’s not one definitive answer.

Types of traditional Italian pizza

Neapolitan-style pizza

Neapolitan pizza features a soft, chewy crust with a slightly charred exterior. It’s typically cooked in a wood-fired oven at very high temperatures for a short period. Since pizza originated in Naples, many stick to this type on principle.

pizza from naples
Pizza from Naples with its signature soft, fluffy crusty. Photo credit: Denyse Pantaleo

Pizza a portafoglio (“wallet pizza”)

Wallet pizza is a classic street food staple in Naples. Crafted from simple ingredients—sauce, cheese, and basil—it’s folded in half and reminiscent of a wallet, hence the name. Not only is it street food, but it’s the quintessential Neapolitan fast food.

pizza folded
“Wallet pizza”: the perfect on-the-go snack. Photo credit: KKPCW

Fried pizza

Another popular street food originating from Naples. Pizza fritta is made by deep-frying dough filled with sauce and cheese, and sometimes other toppings.

friend pizza
Have you ever tried fried pizza?

Roman-style pizza

Pizza Romana typically has a thin crust that’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. This type of pizza is most similar to the New York-style pizza that’s beloved in the US, for the shape and the crust’s ability to be folded properly.

This is also the style that’s made in our pizza-making class in Rome!


pizza with argula and olives
Are you team Roman-style pizza or team Neapolitan-style pizza?

Pizza al taglio

This style of Roman pizza is rectangular and sold by weight. It has a thick, fluffy crust and various different toppings. Sometimes referred to as pizza al trancio.

slices of pizza with different toppings
Pizza al taglio is perfect for trying different flavors. Photo credit: Alpha

Pizza alla pala

Similar to pizza al taglio but is baked on a long wooden paddle (pala).

pizza on a paddle
Pizza alla pala: lots of goodness to go around.

Pizza bianca

“White pizza,” which is a simple Roman specialty consisting of a thin, crispy crust brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. No cheese here!

Insider’s Tip: If you’re looking for the type of white pizza popular in the US (that is, no red sauce but lots of cheese), try a pizza quattro formaggi (“four cheeses”).

White Roman pizza
If you’re accustomed to “white pizza” in the US, you might be surprised to discover that white pizza in Rome is totally different. Photo credit: Su-lin

Pizza rossa

Another super simple Roman pizza, but made with delicious red tomato sauce—hence the name (“rossa” means red in Italian). You won’t find any cheese on this pizza, either. The high-quality red sauce is the star.

pizza bianca and pizza rossa side by side, two traditional italian pizza types
Pizza rossa and pizza bianca: so simple, but so delicious. Photo credit: Mary Kresge


A unique Roman-style pizza with a light and airy crust achieved from using a blend of wheat, soy, and rice flours.

little small pizzas with various toppings
Pinsa: a unique little Roman pizza. Photo credit: Diana Simon.


While not really a type of “traditional pizza,” focaccia is a close cousin. Originating from Liguria, Italy, focaccia is a flatbread typically seasoned with olive oil, salt, and herbs. Focaccia can be enjoyed plain or with toppings, stuffed, or even in the form of a pizza-focaccia hybrid!

pizza and focaccia
What do you get when you combine pizza and focaccia? A pizzaccia! Photo credit: Mary Kresge

Pizza Siciliana

Sfincione is known for its thick, rectangular crust. Its topped with a thick tomato sauce, breadcrumbs, onions, and anchovies, occasionally with pecorino or caciocavallo cheese.

pizza from Sicily
Sfincione originated in Palermo, Sicily. Photo credit: Rino Porrovecchio

Where to enjoy traditional Italian pizza

Looking for the best spots to devour authentic Italian pizza? We’ve got you covered for six major Italian cities (all of which we operate tours in!).

poeple eating pizza
So many great places to eat traditional Italian pizza.


  • L’elementare: A popular spot in Trastevere and frequently ranked among the top in Rome.
  • Da Remo: A pizza spot in Testaccio known for its ultra-thin pizzas.
  • Pantera: Renowned pizza al taglio found in the Trastevere neighborhood.
  • 180grammi Pizzeria Romana: Not directly in the center but worth the trek for their decadent thin-crust style pizza.
  • Ai Marmi: Famous for their pizza and decadent supplì.
  • Il Grottino: A local favorite serving up fabulous pizza plus beer, and fried potato croquettes.




  • Berberè: Artisanal sourdough pizza. Variety of pizza flavors with choices of special doughs and dipping sauces.
  • Giotto Pizzeria Bistrot: Featured on the list of 50 Top Pizza Italia 2022.
  • Il Vecchio e il Mare: Another feature on the 50 Top Pizza list six years in a row!


  • Pizzeria Da Giuliano: In the heart of Chinatown on Paolo Sarpi street since the 1960s.
  • Sorbillo: World-famous Neapolitan pizza originating from the renowned Via Tribunali in Naples.
  • Spontini: A casual eatery founded by Tuscan immigrants in 1853, now a Milan institution. Celiac friendly options available.


  • Ranzani 13: Known not only for its pizza, but also craft beer and burgers.
  • Bianco Farina: Neapolitan-style pizza located a stone’s throw from the city’s central train station.
  • Porta Pazienza: Famed for its delicious pizzas and efforts to give back to the local community.

Make your own traditional Italian pizza

Once you have a taste of traditional Italian pizza during your travels, you’ll be wanting it again (and again and again).

So why not learn how to make it yourself?

At our Rome cooking school you can take a pizza-making class led by an expert Italian pizza maker. You’ll get hands-on experience learning how to pick the best ingredients, perfect your dough-making skills, and master the cooking techniques needed to create the pizza of your dreams.


…When in Rome!

a group of people learning to make traditonal italian pizza in a class
Love traditional Italian pizza? Learn to make your own!

(But if you’re not in Rome and still want to learn the art of traditional Italian pizza making, you can do it from the comfort of home following our step-by-step guide).

Watch our pizza experts at Devour take on a Roman pizza challenge:

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About the author

US-born, Spain-based. Lover of good food, discovering new places, vibrant colors, consuming content, and creating new things.

More by Mary Kresge

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