The 25 most popular foods in Italy


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A land rich in warmth, art, music, architecture, history, and certainly also cuisine: beautiful Italy is known the world over for its extraordinary culinary delights— a country that offers dishes that are appreciated by the entire globe, unique and inimitable.

Who doesn’t know pizza, lasagne, spaghetti, or gelato? These and many others are among the delicious foods that were born in Italy and are appreciated everywhere. Let’s discover the main Italian foods, a gastronomic journey through this boot-shaped peninsula, from north to south, to the sound of a fork to whet your appetite.

Buon appetito!

1. Risotto

Risotto is a typical northern Italian dish that can be cooked in an infinite number of ways. Creamy and rich in cheese, it is prepared with rice typical of northern areas, such as the Arborio, Carnaroli, and Vialone varieties, and cooked slowly in broth.

Among the most popular is “risotto alla milanese”, which is prepared with white wine, Parmesan cheese, butter, onions, and saffron, which gives it its unmistakable yellow color. But it can also be made with many other ingredients such as pumpkin, red radicchio, mushrooms, sausage, or shellfish.

2. Pizza

Pizza. Inevitable if we speak about Italian food: pizza is a national symbol, a food that represents Italy in the world, and has been recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The original pizza was created in Naples, in southern Italy, at the end of the 18th century in honor of the Queen of Italy, Margherita di Savoia. It is presented with a high “cornicione” (the edge) and is lower in the center, and is strictly baked in a wood-fired oven.

The “pizza margherita” is the most famous and simplest of pizzas, with its tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil recalling the colors of the national flag.

3. Pasta

Another symbol, a national icon, loved all over the world, is pasta. Born in Sicily, in a short time it expanded its production to other regions by the sea that at the time had ports and an ideal climate for the drying of the product. Among the most famous areas are Naples and Imperia.

The recipe has changed little over the years and now includes bacon, egg yolk, and cheese. In the Italian capital, they also eat “bucatini al cacio e pepe” made with just butter, pepper, and pecorino cheese. The secret is to mix them at the right times. Another famous pasta dish is the “penne all’arrabbiata”—pasta with a spicy tomato sauce.

Yet another classic example of Italian pasta is “tagliatella al ragù”, originally from Bologna, with long-cooked meat and tomato sauce.

4. Gnocchi

And after pasta, we had to follow with gnocchi, another typical Italian dish. Gnocchi are small rounds of (usually) potato dough. Each region has its own variation, but the most typical ingredients are cheese, spinach, eggs, and a variety of sauces.


5. Pesto alla Genovese

Pesto is a delight that comes from Genoa, Liguria. A traditional sauce, simple, but to be prepared strictly with a marble mortar, a wooden pestle, and 7 essential ingredients: Genoese basil DOP, extra virgin olive oil, preferably from the Ligurian Riviera, Parmesan cheese, Pecorino cheese, pine nuts, garlic, and salt.

6. Lasagne

Another cornerstone of Italian cuisine is lasagne. This baked dish, typical of Bologna, is made up of layers of fresh pasta covered in béchamel sauce and the famous “ragù bolognese.”

7. Gelato (Ice cream)

In Italy, it is a traditional dessert that is enjoyed all year round. It is eaten on walks, as a snack, or as a dessert at the end of a meal. It tends to be more consistent and richer than other “semifreddos,” and there are hundreds of flavors. It will not be difficult, in Italy, to find places that make it perfectly.

8. Prosciutto di Parma (Parma Ham)

Italy is the kingdom of cured meats. Among the famous mortadella, salami, coppa, and culatello, the cured raw ham stands out, usually served as an appetizer.

It is also excellent as a snack in a sandwich or as a main course, cut into thin slices and accompanied by “piadina,” “gnocco” or “torta fritta,” “tigella,” “grissini,” “focaccia,” “pitta,” “michetta,” “mafalda,” “parrozzo,” or “biga,” depending on the city in which you are.

Each region has its own variant, but Parma ham is the best known. It is a DOC product, with an unmistakable sweetness, and has its ‘crown’, the branding mark, impressed with fire, which is only present on the original. It also has to pass strict tests to be considered authentic.


9. Ribollita

Originally from Tuscany, ribollita is a rural soup, a symbol of poor people’s cuisine, which dates back to the Middle Ages. The story goes that in those days the peasant families were numerous and could not afford meat, so they prepared soups in large quantities with the ingredients available in the countryside. They also added bread to increase the volume. The soup lasted for weeks and was reheated several times.

Today, it is an appetizing, easy-to-cook dish, combining vegetables, beans, herbs, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese with pieces of dry bread.

10. Bagna cauda

A typical Piedmontese dish, bagna cauda (translated from the dialect into “hot sauce”) is a preparation based on extra virgin olive oil, anchovies, and garlic, all reduced to a sauce after long cooking.

It is a hearty dish, and, for this reason, it is considered a main course, but can also be served as an appetizer. More than food, it is a ritual, a convivial moment of sharing among the diners, who all eat from a single terracotta container.

11. Polenta

Its origins date back to the days of ancient Rome, and it is a simple dish made of corn flour from all regions of northern Italy. Polenta is served in slices, and can also be fried, to be brought to the table without seasoning, or as an accompaniment to various types of meat, with butter, soft cheeses, fish, or dishes that contain a lot of sauce.

12. Tortelli and ravioli

The family of stuffed pasta in Italy is really very large. From north to south, almost every region has its own preparation. And many are well known, such as “tortellini” from Emilia, made of pork with prosciutto and mortadella, to be eaten in meat broth, and the dry “tortelli,” with a larger rectangular shape, stuffed with herbs, pumpkin, or potatoes and served with butter and cheese.

“Agnolotti del plin,” from Piedmont, filled with mixed meats and vegetables, are served seasoned with roast sauce or butter and sage.

The traditional Ligurian ravioli are stuffed with meat cooked in tomato sauce, chard, and borage, or filled with fish.

13. Focaccia

A humble mixture of flour, water, yeast, and salt, with the final touch of olive oil: these are the ingredients that have decreed the success of focaccia — a food that originated in Liguria but has conquered Italy and the world with its infinite number of variations.

An ancient preparation that must follow its tricks: the quality of the flour and oil, the manual skill of those who prepare and manipulate the dough, and a very hot oven.


14. Arancini

A must-eat Sicilian dish that is perfect to enjoy when you are out for a walk: arancini. These are balls of rice with meat sauce, peas, and cheese that are breaded and then fried. Tasty and appetizing, every bite is a real pleasure.

15. I formaggi (the cheeses)

How can we fail to mention Italian cheeses, national excellences that have crossed the world’s borders? They can be tasted alone, at any time during the meal, or as an accompaniment to many dishes.

Among the many are the mozzarella, the soft cheese that originated in southern Italy and has been produced for centuries; Gorgonzola, a DOP blue cheese, produced from whole cow’s milk, originating in the province of Milan; and Parmigiano Reggiano, a hard DOP cheese, made from raw cow’s milk, partially skimmed, with no additives, and with a production area that includes the provinces of Reggio Emilia, Modena, Parma, and Bologna.

Check out our in-depth review of the most popular Italian cheeses.

16. Il tartufo (the truffle)

Italian truffles add a unique flavor to first courses, meat, and mushrooms, and in some side dishes they are added as flakes.

Known for their opulence, truffles are as expensive as they are delicious. The best known and most sought after are the white truffles found in Alba, Piedmont, where you can taste delicious dishes and participate in a festival dedicated to them.

17. Panzerotto fritto (fried panzerotto)

A small crescent of pizza dough filled with mozzarella and tomato, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It can be bought and enjoyed hot as a snack in the alleys of Bari or, in countless variations, in any rotisserie in the Puglia region.

The panzerotto dates back to the 17th century and was born from the invention of a housewife who mixed the few ingredients she had available, creating a masterpiece of taste.

18. Fiorentina

The most famous Italian beef steak bears the name of its city: Florence. The real Fiorentina is made from specimens of the Chianina breed. The meat must be matured for about 20 days and when cut looks like a classic T-bone steak.

It follows a very precise weight and cut, as well as cooking times and methods, and must remain rare. No aromatics are added and coarse salt is only added at the end.

19. Minestrone

Minestrone is a dish that unites the country from the far north to the deep south; a symbol of the Italian dinner until the 1970s.

It is a soup based on a mixture of vegetables, different from region to region, sometimes accompanied by rice or pasta. A noble and nutritious meal, even if the very word “minestrone” has become synonymous, in a negative way, with great mixing and enormous confusion.

20. Frico

Let’s go to Friuli Venezia Giulia to taste the typical frico. It is a type of omelet cooked in a pan with onions, butter, and Montasio cheese (a local semi-hard cheese, made from cow’s milk), which can also be served as a single dish.

There is a soft version and a crunchier one. It was the typical dish of woodcutters and farmers, who took it with them when they went to work in the fields.

21. Arrosticini

A typical specialty that comes from Abruzzo are arrosticini. They are lamb meat cut into small pieces, skewered on a stick and grilled or barbecued. It is a dish that is quick and easy to eat, and can also be taken away.

fried olives

22. Olive ascolante (Ascoli olives)

They come from the Marche region and are large olives stuffed with meat and then fried. This dish dates back to the 19th century when the cooks of noble families invented this filling to consume the large quantities of meat they had available.

23. Sardine in Saor

“Saor” means flavor and this speaks for itself: a humble dish consisting of fried sardines seasoned with vinegar and sweet and sour onions. In Venice, sardines in saor are real institutions.

24. Fritto misto piemontese

This is one of the most famous dishes of Piedmontese cuisine. Traditionally it was served as an appetizer, but over the years many new ‘pieces’ have been added to make it more suitable as a second course.

It may seem like an easy dish to prepare, but it’s not: the cooking times are all different, but everything should be freshly cooked and piping hot when served. It should consist of no less than 18 pieces, both savory and sweet. Along with various pieces of meat such as veal, pork sausages, lamb chops together with brains, liver, and sweetbreads, fruit and vegetables are also added. Everything is breaded and fried.

25. Tiramisù

And dulcis in fundo (last but not least), we conclude this culinary journey through Italian tables with one of the most famous and envied national desserts, now known throughout the world: tiramisù.

Originally from the Veneto region, this cold dessert owes its name to its alleged aphrodisiac effects. It consists of a base of Savoiardi biscuits, dipped in coffee and Marsala (a liqueur wine), covered with mascarpone cream, eggs, and sugar, with a sprinkling of cocoa.

This article originally appeared on Chef’s Pencil and was syndicated by

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40 global fast foods that everyone should try

40 global fast foods that everyone should try

You may not be able to travel the globe right now, but you can bring the flavors of the world into your house. 

Since the pandemic started, half of Americans are eating at home more often. Are you out of ideas for this week’s meals? Fire up your grill, get out your air-fryer, stroll the supermarket international aisle, or order in from a new restaurant.

Spice up your meals with inspiration from these 40 fast food items from around the globe.

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Translating to “sausage bread,” this fast-food sandwich is commonly sold by roadside pop-up carts. Made with a French baguette-style mini roll and chorizo sausage, it’s served with a variety of toppings like onions, cheese and a herb vinaigrette sauce.

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This burger “with the lot” is made of local minced beef, pickled beetroot, sliced pineapple and other familiar toppings, like ketchup lettuce, tomato and onion. It used to be on McDonald’s menu as the McOz but today is found in cafes, pubs and restaurants across the county.

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Made from local sea snails and combined with onions, tomatoes, celery, bell peppers and spicy Caribbean seasoning, these hushpuppy-like bites are fried until golden brown. The national food of the Bahamas can be found everywhere from roadside stands, casual restaurants and even luxury hotel dining rooms.

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Despite its common name, french fries, many believe that this worldwide favorite originated in Belgium. They are a daily staple sold in “friteries” and practically every restaurant. Take your pick of dipping sauces from the usual ketchup, and mayo or international remixes like garlic aioli, curry ketchup and mayonnaise with Tunisian chili.

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The national dish consists of a 10-piece of grilled minced meat sausages seasoned with simple spices and served on flatbread. They are typically accompanied by onions, sour cream, and ajvar – an eggplant and red pepper condiment.

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Brazil’s most popular street food is a teardrop-shaped fried chicken “meatball” made with shredded chicken and gooey ricotta-like cheese mixed with onions and parsley. They are rolled in batter and breadcrumbs and fried to a golden brown. Served with a variety of condiments like hot sauce and garlic mayonnaise, Coxinha is eaten mostly on the go.

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Created in Quebec, the French-speaking province of Canada, this is the ultimate comfort fast food. Large ultra-crispy, yet fluffy, french fries are covered in gravy and cheese curds. It can be found everywhere from roadside stalls to food trucks, fast food chains and even upscale restaurants.

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This Chinese breakfast sandwich is cooked by street vendors. A thin crepe-like batter of bean or wheat flour is cooked to order and filled with eggs, your choice of vegetables, meat, hoisin or chili sauces.

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Roughly translated to “married,” this national dish and lunch favorite marries all the best food of the country together on one plate. You can mix and match rice, beans, meat, veggies, plantains and even some surprising sides like potato salad.

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Hot dog stands, or pølsevogns, are everywhere in Denmark and this red-skinned pork sausage is one of the country’s national dishes. This boiled hot dog is served on a bun with familiar mustard, ketchup, onions and pickles plus remoulade –  a European mayo-based condiment with curry and capers. Eat one with a cold Pilsner beer for an authentic Danish meal.

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The national dish of Egypt reflects the country’s location – a bridge from Africa to the Middle East, Europe, India and beyond. This popular vegetarian street food combines rice, lentils, macaroni pasta with spicy cumin tomato sauce, chickpeas, lemon and fried onions.

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Handmade flour tortillas are stuffed with a variety of ingredients like cheese, beans, or meat and fried on a griddle. They can be found in every corner of the country and are even honored with a national holiday in November.

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Originating over 150 years ago, it’s still a favorite English “take away” with thousands of “chippy” shops across the country and beyond. The battered and freshly fried white fish fillet is served with french fries, a slice of lemon and a range of dipping sauces from ketchup, malt vinegar and even curry sauce.

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If a hamburger and a sub sandwich had a baby it would be a Porilainen. This white bread sub is made with thick flat jagdwurst sausage, diced onion, pickles, mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise.

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These ultra-thin pancakes are made from either wheat or gluten-free buckwheat flour depending on their sweet or savory fillings. For a sweet treat, add powdered sugar, Nutella, fruit or whipped cream. Savory omelet-like options include eggs, ham and spinach.

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These hot dog-like sausages are popular in Germany and around the world. Traditionally made with pork, veal or beef, they are served with sauerkraut, potato salad and horseradish. Enjoy one closer to home at Oktoberfest festivals or traditional restaurants in Amish Country.

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One of Ghana’s street foods, this kebab-style meat is seasoned with suya – a dried spice mix of ground peanuts, cayenne pepper, ground ginger, smoked paprika and garlic powder. Cook on a grill and serve with rice, plantains and local vegetables for a complete meal.

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Gyro comes from the words “to circle” or “turn,” as this popular street sandwich is made from pork or chicken turning on a vertical rotisserie. Crispy pieces are sliced to order and served in a pita with onions, tomatoes and tzatziki – a yogurt-cucumber sauce.

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Shucos is a mix between a hot dog and a taco and can be found in food carts across the country. A long sausage is placed in a soft tortilla or bun and topped with traditional taco fillings like guacamole, onions, tomatoes, and chilies, plus ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise.

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From the Hawaiian word “to slice,” this fresh fish dish has modern-day influences from Japanese cuisine. Tuna or salmon is cut and seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, seaweed, onions and garlic. This umami-rich dish can be eaten alone or as part of a poke bowl.

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This breakfast burrito is one of the most common, and inexpensive, street foods in Honduras. It’s made with a tortilla, smashed beans, thick sour cream and local cheese plus eggs, guacamole and sausage. Add a dash of hot sauce if you please!

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One of the most popular street snacks in Hong Kong is also known as the bubble waffle. These giant, fluffy waffles come in different flavors and are filled with fruit, spreads, candy and even ice cream.

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Translating to “mixed spiced chickpeas,” it is India’s most popular vegetarian dish. Chickpeas are cooked in clarified butter, spices, onions and tomatoes. Enjoy them with rice, roti or naan bread.

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Considered to be the country’s national dish, it’s a street food vegetarian sandwich. It’s made from smashed protein-rich chickpeas mixed with parsley, garlic, cumin and coriander. They are formed into small balls, fried and wrapped in pita bread slathered with tahini or hummus and other sandwich fillings.

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Every street in Italy has a shop selling delicious pizza by the slice. The version was created to match Italy’s flag colors for Queen Margherita. The combination of fresh dough, crushed ripe tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil is still loved around the world 130 years later.

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A combination of African, Indian and English influences, Jamaican patties can be found in roadside stalls, cafes and restaurants throughout the country. A take on British meat pies, these turmeric colored fried pastries are filled with ground beef seasoned with local scotch bonnet hot peppers, Indian curry powder, onions and garlic.

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Whether it’s businessmen (with ties slung over their shoulders) eating a post-work snack at a train station cafe or groups of friends gathering for jovial dinners, ramen is a beloved fast food in Japan. Tonkotsu ramen is made of slow-cooked pork broth, noodles, soft-yolk eggs and tender pork belly. Make it your own by adding sour, spicy or umami toppings.

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This popular street food is made possible by the vertical rotisseries brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants. Pork is marinated in a variety of Mexican chilies, spices and pineapple and spun on a rotisserie creating crispy pork pieces. They are shaved to order and added to soft flour tortillas with onions, cilantro, chilies, salsa and even more pineapple.

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If you’re a fan of Nando’s then you know why this spicy dish is so popular! Chicken is marinated in a sauce made from local peri peri chilis, spices, garlic and lemon juice. Grilled or roasted over a large fire, it is often served with french fries. Grab pre-made bottles of peri peri sauce to spice up your home-cooked meals!

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This recent fast-food creation illustrates Dutch’s multicultural population. It’s made with pomme frites from Belgium, shawarma meat from the Middle East and melted local Gouda cheese. Top it off with lettuce, garlic sauce and sambal hot sauce from Indonesia.

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What started as a vegetarian stuffed dumpling for holiday meals, the national dish of Poland now has a variety of sweet and savory fillings. Varieties include potato, chicken, cheese, mushroom, meat and cabbage as well as strawberries and blueberries. Top it off with sweetened sour cream or even bacon!

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Most commonly known as the thin pancake portion of blintz, this wheat flour crepe is Russian fast food that’s deeply ingrained in the culture. Add a variety of toppings from sour cream, jam, savory meats to, of course, caviar.

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First created by Chinese immigrants, it’s now one of the country’s national dishes. This meal is made up of rice, chicken, chili sauce and garnished with vegetables, cucumber, soy sauce and sesame oil. Hainanese chicken rice can be found at street vendors and in food courts across the country.

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This glazed doughnut-like snack can be found on almost every street in South Africa. Braided strips of dough are fried and then covered in a sweet glaze. Locals top them with cinnamon or lemon juice.

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Born as a way to use leftovers, this dish is South Korea’s comfort food. Mix rice, meat and vegetables with gochujang – a spicy, savory and sweet fermented condiment. Top it off with a raw or hard-cooked egg.

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A common street food dish consisting of stir-fried rice noodles, your choice of meat, a scrambled egg, bean sprouts and vegetables. It’s cooked in a wok, with a tamarind-based sauce and topped with peanuts and lime juice. This national dish combines sweet, salty and sour flavors for a delicious and fast meal.

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It’s a super-thin, crunchy “pizza.” Semolina dough is topped with beef or lamb, onions, tomatoes and a variety of spices like cayenne, cinnamon,  and paprika—but never any cheese. It’s cooked in an ultra-hot oven and then topped with a squeeze of lemon juice.

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This iconic red-hued soup is beloved well beyond Europe. It even lends its name to The Catskills’ Borscht Belt, a region made famous, again, by “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” The country’s renowned dish is made from beetroot and fermented beet juice, meat stock and a variety of vegetables.

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Sold all across the country, and the world, this beloved fast food is all-American. Make your perfect cheeseburger from a toasted bun, ground beef patty, melted American or cheddar cheese, tomatoes, pickles, onions, lettuce, mustard and ketchup. Ingredients forever immortalized by the catchy “Two All Beef Patties” jingle.

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A sub-like sandwich influenced by the country’s former French rule, banh-mi can be found in food carts and stalls across the county. Take a French baguette, slather on spicy chili sauce and mayo, add sliced pork or pork belly as the cold cuts, and pile high cilantro, pickled vegetables and chilis.

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This article originally appeared on YourMoneyGeek.comand was syndicated by

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