Spaghetti ai ricci di mare, Sicily

There’s nothing quite like the taste of ricci di mare – sea urchins – once they’ve been freed from their spiky shells.

Fresh and salty, the flavour is almost like diving into the sea. In Sicily, they’re added at the last minute to spaghetti and a simple sauce of garlic, chilli and olive oil.

Nduja, Calabria

Down in the toe of the Italian boot, Calabria produces some of the country’s spiciest food – and few are quite as piquant as nduja.

This spreadable sausage is made from the less appealing parts of the pig and packed with vivid red Calabrian chillies.

Culatello, Emilia-Romagna

While Parma ham gets all the attention, there’s another ham that some say tastes even better. Culatello, made from pigs’ haunches, is cured in just eight villages in the Pianura Padana, the low plains of the Po Valley in Emilia-Romagna.

Frittura di cervello, Rome

Fried brains doesn’t sound nearly as alluring as frittura di cervello, but the delicate flavour of this typically Roman dish makes up for any off-putting associations.

Lightly battered and fried, the lamb or veal brains often come with a vegetable that’s been put through the same process – usually artichokes, courgette.

Finanziera, Piedmont

Finanziera certainly doesn’t let much go to waste. This northern Italian speciality is a dish of chicken and pork livers, calf and pork giblets, brains, kidneys and – as a crowning touch – chickens’ cockscombs.

It’s all cooked in Barolo wine to add to its incredible richness.

Pajata, Rome

This Roman dish was banned from Italy for 14 years thanks to mad cow disease, but it’s firmly back on the menu. That might not be good news to people who find the thought of milk-filled calves’ intestines less than appealing…

Pani ca meusa, Sicily

If you really want to feel like a local in Palermo, you have to try its street food. Pani ca meusa sounds rather lovely in Sicilian – “bread with spleen”.

This snack, served at street stalls from huge pots, is well worth trying – eat it in a sesame bun with a dash of lemon juice and shavings of a stretchy curd cheese.

Casu marzu, Sardinia

Sardinians live to a greater age than their fellow Italians. Whether this is down to the fact they include a maggot-infested cheese in their diet is unknown.

Sanguinaccio dolce, Naples

Blood and chocolate make unusual partners in this dessert. Sanguinaccio dolce is found in regions of Italy, including Naples, where it’s a special treat during Carnival.

Lampredotto, Florence

Forget about how tripe usually looks and generally tastes and try this traditional Florentine snack, which is served from street carts.

Lampredotto comes from the cow’s fourth stomach, and once it’s simmered in onions, tomatoes and celery, it’s served in a hefty bun that can be sprinkled with broth.