The Best Italian Pastries

If we have ever traveled together, or even if you have been reading my blog for a bit, you know I have a sweet tooth. I enjoy sweets more than I should. And while I try to avoid sweet indulgences at home, I get my fill of Italian pastries while I’m in Italy. Italian pastries are second to none. And while you will find delicious Italian pastries all over Italy, areas such as Sicily and Naples have some of the best ones. With our travel season coming up in just a few months and with trips to Sicily and the Amalfi Coast planned for this year, I thought it would be fitting to highlight Italy’s “Dolce” Vita. Dolce means sweets in Italian. So here you’ll find a list of my favorite Italian sweets, and you’ll know what to ask for when visiting Italy. 

Delizia al Limone

Because I love anything lemon and love the Amalfi Coast, it’s only befitting that I would start with the Delizia al Limone, known in English as the Lemon Delight. Lemon delights are a “spoon” dessert originally from Sorrento, but later became typical of Neapolitan cuisine in general. These are soft domes of sponge cake with a heart center filled with a mix of custard and lemon cream, moistened with limoncello syrup. They are then covered with a delicate lemon-scented glaze. The original was created in 1978 by the Sorrentine pastry chef Carmine Marzuillo. It was originally formed as a cake. It later turned into single portions, making it the perfect treat when visiting a local pastry shop.

While you will find them all over the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento, including on the dessert menu of many restaurants, my favorite is at Pasticceria Pansa, in Amalfi. Ironically, our hotel during our week-long culinary tour is located just steps from this famous pastry shop. I swear I didn’t pick this hotel with this in mind. Or did I?

Delizia al limone pastry.
A cappuccino and a Delizia al Limone from Pasticceria Pansa makes for the perfect treat when vacationing on the Amalfi Coast. Photo credit: Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures


One of Italy’s most recognized desserts is the classic Tiramisú. Another favorite of mine, (but again, aren’t they all?) Tiramisú is an exquisite spoon dessert, a great classic of Italian cuisine, loved worldwide. Prepared with a classic sponge cake or pre-made ladyfingers, that are soaked in espresso coffee, alternating in layers with mascarpone cream. They are then covered in bitter cocoa, and finally put in the fridge to rest. It is then served cold. Imagine the creaminess and softness combined with the intense flavor of espresso! Tiramisú is a unique delight whose origins are uncertain and disputed between Piedmont, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Tuscany, and Veneto. You can find an easy recipe for Tiramisú here or order an authentic one, where the cream is prepared with raw eggs, during your next trip to Italy. 

I enjoyed this delicious Tiramisú cup at Caffe Gilli in Florence. Photo credit: Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures


Sicilian cannoli are one of the symbolic desserts of Sicilian pastry making, among the best known and loved in the world, together with the cassata. These are thin shells made of fresh egg dough, flavored with Marsala wine, wrapped in special steel cylinders, and fried in abundant oil or in lard, as the most rigorous tradition requires. When the shells are golden brown and have released their characteristic bubbles during frying, they are drained and filled with ricotta cream. The cream is often enriched with dark chocolate chips and then garnished with candied fruit, chopped pistachios, and additional chocolate chips. They were traditionally prepared for Carnival, but today, it is possible to enjoy them anytime and on all occasions. I enjoyed this one in the picture below at Artale in Ortigia during our Sicilian Culinary Adventure. Grab your own when you join us in September!

Ricotta filled cannoli on gold tray.
These delicious cannoli come from Artale in Ortigia. I swear I only ate one, the rest were to share! Photo credit: Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures


The Sicilian cassata is another great classic of Sicilian pastry making, particularly that of Palermo. And, together with cannoli, one of the most loved and well-known traditional regional desserts. Originally prepared for Easter, it is now also enjoyed at other times of the year, especially at Christmas. Cassata has a sponge cake base, sweetened sheep’s ricotta, chocolate chips, and royal icing. But what makes it immediately recognizable and distinguishable from simpler baked cakes is the sumptuous decoration made with sugar icing and candied fruit, sometimes embellished with baroque-inspired designs and ornaments. You’ll find it by the slice at many Sicilian pastry shops.

A beautiful cassata cake on display in Taormina. Photo credit: Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures

Sfogliatelle Ricce

Sfogliatelle ricce hold a special place in my heart as they were my grandmother’s favorite dessert. They are the most typical dessert of the Neapolitan pastry collection, but they can now be found all over Italy. The sfogliatelle ricce are characterized by their shell shape and laborious preparation process. The pastry, thin and with a tenacious consistency, is sprinkled with lard and then wrapped around itself to form a very narrow roll to be cut into rounds. The slices obtained, so-called caps, are worked with fingertips greased with lard and prepped in the shape of a shell. After shaped, they are filled with the classic filling. Once formed, the pastries are cooked in a scorching oven to become golden and crunchy. Fragrant and delicious, they are perfect for any occasion, from breakfast to dessert, to end Sunday lunch, or lunch any day of the week. 

Sfogliatella ricce are as delicious as they are crunchy. Grab one on your next trip to Italy. Photo credit: Maxim Morales.

Pasticciotti Leccese

Pasticciotti Leccese are oval pastry-based sweets typical of the Apulian tradition, especially from the cities of Lecce and Galatina. In the classic version, they are short-crust pastry domes filled with custard and dark cherries in syrup. Delicious and crumbly, pasticciotti are always present in pastry shops throughout most of Puglia and are perfect for a mouth-watering breakfast or snack. Together with taralli and panzerotti, they are one of the symbols of excellence from the heel of Italy.

The 2023 group from our culinary tour of Puglia enjoying a Pasticciotto in Galatina. Photo credit: Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures

Cream-Filled Maritozzi

Maritozzi with cream are sweet brioches typical of Roman pastry making, which are generally eaten for breakfast in the bars of the Italian capital, but also found elsewhere in Italy. These are soft, sweet rolls made with a leavened dough prepared from flour, eggs, milk, sugar, oil, honey, and citrus fruit peel, such as orange and lemon. Once cooked, they are cut lengthwise and filled with whipped cream. Soft and spongy, they are a specialty that is impossible to resist. I have made it a tradition to always grab a maritozzo pastry immediately upon landing at the Rome airport! 

While delicious at any time of the day, I think cream filled maritozzi are the perfect breakfast treat! Photo credit: Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures

Zuppa Inglese

Zuppa Inglese is a trifle dessert originally from Emilia Romagna but like many other pastries mentioned, it is now known and loved throughout Italy. So much so that, over time, it has become one of the symbols of local homemade pastry making. Easy and quick to prepare, you can even use store-bought sponge cake if preparing this at home. The zuppa inglese now has several variations, but the original version is made up of layers of soft sponge cake soaked in Alchermes liquor. Sometimes, Alchermes is replaced by the easier-to-find rum. The Alchermes gives zuppa inglese its typical red color. The soaked sponge is then layered with classic vanilla and chocolate custard. It is another delicious spoon dessert that perfectly ends any meal. 

Since it’s a traditional dessert of Emilia Romagna, we enjoyed this lovely individual sized zuppa inglese during our culinary tour of Bologna. Photo credit: Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures

Torta Diplomatica

The diplomatic cake is a great classic of Italian pastries. It consists of two layers of puff pastry, a heart of sponge cake soaked in rum to make it soft and aromatic, and a delicious diplomatic cream, which is the union between custard and Chantilly creams. Its sumptuous appearance makes it ideal for special occasions, and it is often ordered at pastry shops for birthdays and parties. You can find it by the slice at most pastry shops throughout Italy. Despite its uncertain origins, it was believed to have been created for the first time in the fifteenth century as a gift sent to Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, by a diplomat from Parma. The diplomatic cake is an elegant dessert with a delicate flavor, which you can serve sprinkled with icing sugar or decorate with whipped cream. 

I love the diplomatica cake for its combination of crunchy top and bottom, and super soft and moist middle. Photo credit: The Italian Spoon

Babà Napolitano

Neapolitan babà is a typical dessert of the Neapolitan tradition. It is leavened and not very sweet dough cooked in the classic fluted Gugelhupf mold or in individual aluminum glasses for the single-portion version. This dessert is very generously soaked in a rum dip. So much so that a large portion of this from Naples may be enough to get you a little tipsy! But the result is a soft, moist dessert with a markedly alcoholic flavor, which can be completed with whipped cream, custard, and fresh fruit. 

Cream-filled babas on display in Amalfi.
Photo credit: Pasticceria Pansa


The bigné are timeless classics that no one can give up if they ever decide even to try! They consist of choux pastry, also known as cream puff pastry of French origin. The peculiarity is the double cooking and the neutrality of the dough, which is easily adaptable to any cream. In Italy, bignes are filled with various pastry creams such as vanilla, chocolate, coffee, and Chantilly. These are the most loved types of pastries in Italy and worldwide. They are also one of the most popular “mignon” versions of pastries, which are much smaller versions of a full-sized pastry. Mignons are among the most popular host gifts for dinner when invited to someone’s house. The guest will undoubtedly bring a large tray of mignons from the local pastry shop. 

A large (not mignon) version of a lemon cream filled bigne I enjoyed in Amalfi. Photo credit: Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures

Minne di Sant’Agata

Minne di Sant’Agata, or Sant’Agata’s breasts, are ricotta cassatine covered in white icing on the outside and finished with a candied cherry on top. They are the symbol of Catania and its patron saint, Sant’Agata. The minne of Sant’Agata evoke the shape of the breasts torn from Agata during her martyrdom. They are outrageously soft and sweet and satisfy the palate of even the most greedy person, such as myself. They are made with sponge cake soaked in liqueur and filled with ricotta, chocolate chips, and candied fruit. The ricotta is made strictly with sheep’s milk. The sweets dedicated to Sant’Agata fall into that sweet tradition of Sicily, much of which is based on ricotta cream. As you’ve noted by now, Sicilian ricotta desserts are among the world’s most famous and loved. 

A beautiful tray of the minne di Sant’Agata in Catania, Sicily. We enjoyed some during our street food tour of Catania during our week in Sicily. Photo credit: Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures


Italy is home to some of the best pastries in the world. As with all Italian food, the flavors are pronounced, the cream fillings are amazing, and the selection is vast. While I am not proud of my sweet tooth, I think even folks who typically classify themselves as “not sweet eaters” will enjoy these amazing treats. Enjoy this short video from Pasticceria Pansa in Amalfi. Which one will be your first to enjoy? And I bet you can’t have just one!

Which one will you select first? Video credit: Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures
The vast collection of pastries at Pasticceria Savoia in Amalfi. Photo credit: Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures
Trays of mignon pastries are ready for purchase at Savoia Pasticceria. These are perfect to bring to guests for an after dinner treat. Phot credit: Lazy Italian Culinary Adventures

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Cosa Mettere in Valigia per l'Italia

Everyone is always asking me what they should pack for Italy,
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