Italy has always been one of those countries I have been dying to visit for years. After two years of taking Italian in college and a failed attempt at studying abroad in Milan, I was anxious to make it happen. So when I found out we’d be stopping there on our way back from Bali, I was ecstatic. The landscapes of the country (that I had only seen through movies and pinterest) were jaw dropping to me. Not to mention, I was fascinated with the Italian people, their language, their food and their overall culture. Even though we would only be there for a week, I planned to make the most out of my stay. My mom and I started off in Rome for two days, then headed to Venice for another two days and finished the trip with a two day stay in Florence. The short visits to each city were not nearly enough and I desperately hope to head back to Italy soon ;).
There are so many reasons one should make the trek to Europe and visit Italy, however, I’ve narrowed it down to my absolute favorites in this post. Below you’ll find the most enjoyable aspects of my trip to the country and pictures showcasing the 8 things Italians do better =).
*All below pictures are mine unless otherwise noted
Yup.. If you know me (or have traveled with me) you know that I judge the enjoyment of my visit by the quality of a country’s food. Italy most deff did not disappoint. Being half Portuguese, I love me some carbs, and Italy does carbs right. From the bread with their mediterranean spreads to their re-knowned pizza and pastas, I was in fat girl heaven. In fact, I often times asked myself how the locals weren’t obese (fun fact: statistically, Italians are amongst the slimmest people in the world- yup, mind blown!). In addition to the main courses, their desserts and gelato were to die for. I have a huge sweet tooth and pretty much indulged every chance I could. Below are some pictures of my meals.
What I mean by “canals” are the distinct ones that interconnect and surround Venice . I only added this to the list because I fell in love with the city . It reminded me so much of Amsterdam with its abundant supply of endless waterways, yet, the Italian version was even more enchanting. There are no cars throughout the entire city meaning you can get anywhere either by foot or by “bus” boat. Every corner I turned I would continually be astounded by the pure beauty the city exuded. I was definitely not disappointed and I plan on coming back to enjoy more of this place.
Ahhh the Italian people. Such a vibrant, outgoing, hilarious, proud, warm and welcoming bunch. Big on family and food, I felt as if I could easily convert (if such a thing were possible). Probably the most evident characteristic of the locals is their animated and intense way of communicating. Italians love to talk, and heavily incorporate their hands when doing so. As you walk throughout any Italian city, you’ll notice discussions of a wide variety occurring between people of all ages.
Moreover, I noticed that, whereas Americans like to wind down after a long day from work, in front of a TV, Italians spend a lot of their free time socializing with friends or family members. Frequently, in the evening, I would walk by cafes, homes, store fronts, etc. to a group of locals sharing the news of the day and catching up. I loved this about Italy. It’s as though they haven’t lost or forgotten the importance of actual real time conversation and spending time with others. In the States, I often feel like we’ve substituted human interaction with technology. I’m guilty of this myself and have to be better at it, but I truly miss the days of calling someone on my house phone and meeting up to actually talk (or even better, just showing up!) Not that it doesn’t happen at all anymore, its just much more culturally prevalent in Europe. Not to mention (esp. as a business major) we’ve become so ingrained with the vitality of “networking” for career purposes, that, sometimes, the thought of making new friends or having a conversation for the hell of it can actually seem exhausting. I nostalgically miss the simplicity of genuine human connection that seems to be decreasing more and more in the US.
In addition to taking the time to connect with one another, Italians know the importance of and thoroughly enjoy the art of “doing nothing.” They are expert “relaxers” and despite the country’s problems (political, governmental, and economical), Italians boast a high quality of life. They simply enjoy living and do not “forcefully feel bad” when having an unproductive moment . When they clock out, they mean it. They are excellent at taking the needed time for themselves to relax without the overbearing stress of work, money, etc. In the States, it’s all about the daily hustle and grind; the need to “keep up with the Joneses ” at all costs. Italians believe and know that money and status will not necessarily make them happy… and frankly, they’re right. So instead of obsessing over work and busy schedules…they take the time to delight in the blessings around them (no matter how big or small)…A definitive lesson that I learned while being amongst them.. to learn how to live in and enjoy the moment without worrying about the problems the next day might bring.
4. Narrow Alleys and Streets
I absolutely loved the narrow alleys of Italy. These streets are a huge perpetuator of why so many Italians walk everywhere, which I love. In the Bay Area, we literally use our car to get anywhere (even to a grocery store a 10 minute walk away). It’s nice to take the time to actually use our feet as a primary means of transportation. Walking around and allowing yourself to get lost is the best way to get to know and familiarize yourself with a new city. Any visiting traveler will have an appreciation for the aesthetic beauty exuded by these streets.
Italian architecture is breathtakingly beautiful. A country home to a vast amount of history, Italy is known for its considerable architectural achievements. Several of the finest works in Western architecture, such as the Colosseum, the Vatican and the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence are found within the country. Italy has an estimated total of 100,000 monuments of all varieties (museums, palaces, buildings, statues, churches, art galleries, villas, fountains, historic houses and archaeological remains). Italian architecture has also widely influenced the architecture of the world. You can find romanesque, gothic, renaissance, , neoclassical and 19th century architecture representative of several different eras and regions within the country.
Italy is fascinating simply because of the amalgamation of history and modernization captured and displayed all throughout the country. One moment your standing in front of the Colosseum basking in the impressive architecture of Ancient Rome (Rome, alone, spans 2,766 years), and the next block your using the wifi at a modern cafe located across the street from a newly constructed train station. The combination is very impressive and I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. Moreover, the country’s history is incredibly expansive, dating all the way back to the 1st century BC. I could give a detailed timeline of the various significant historical events of the country, but that information would take up an entire post in itself lol. So below, I gave a bit of a background on some on the oldest architectural structures and traditional landmarks that we visited. I actually really enjoyed history in school so this aspect of the country excited me lol.
7. Quaint and Charming Cafes and Coffee Shops
If you know me, you know I am a huge coffee enthusiast and absolutely adore any cute and quaint coffee shop. I stopped and had a cappuccino at, at least, one cafe everyday. The coffee in Europe is amazing (boasting a bold flavor without giving me the anxiety really high caffeine levels might give me lol). The cafes themselves were also super charming. Whether they were located in a narrow alleyway, by a Venetian canal, near the Roman Colosseum or in a Florentine Gucci Museum (yes, Gucci the brand… the pretentiousness was alive and real), I loved every single one I visited. Ironically, I must have really been enjoying the moments I was in these cafes because I barely took any pictures of any of them! However, I found a few pics online that captured theses quintessential Italian coffee shops and posted them below.
And last but certainlyyyyy not least, the amazing fashion! Although we didn’t get a chance to visit Milan, the fashion capital of the world, the passion that Italians share for couture and fine luxurious clothing was very apparent. Every city had a shopping area filled with all the famous and popular high end brands, which included but were not limited to, Chanel, Gucci, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Christian Dior and many more. In addition, I would often see fabulous outfits (for both men and women) modeled throughout the Italian streets. Men and women really know how to dress in Italy, and they dressed stunningly for all occasions. I aspire to look as good as they do on a daily basis hah.
Once again, I didn’t take many pictures of the stores or the everyday Italians modeling the clothing (totally my bad) but please take my word for it, these people have style and fashion down.
* Btw the leather goods in Florence (especially the bags and boots) are to die for. Deff a necessary purchase when visiting =)
My recommendation (and I intend to do this the next time I have the opportunity to visit Italy) is to spend 2-3 weeks just in Italy, and backpack from city to city. The best way to go about doing this is renting a car and driving throughout the whole country. There are so many cute and authentic towns that are unknown to travelers and the best way to acquaint yourself with them is to find one on your own, by driving through the country side, and getting wonderfully lost. Not to mention, it can get tiring (in Rome, in particular) dealing with all the tourists. In my opinion, the best way to guarantee a genuine Italian experience is venturing off and visiting the less popular regions of the country. You can find these areas by simply asking any Italian, once you’re already there, what places they recommend you visit. =) The locals are super helpful and eager to help travelers enjoy the most out of their country.