8 Things Italians do Better
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.
The Altare della Patria building in Rome
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 famous 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.
I'm such a tourist, my first meal in Rome was pizza ! ... and it was delicious =)
The best spaghetti I've ever eaten in my life (from Venice)
My mom and I shared this hefty Florentine steak in Rome.. Florence (which we didn't find out until after we left lol) is known for its premium steaks.. This was one of the best pieces of meat I've ever had.. Dipped in a rosemary and olive oil
Side of veggies to go with that massive steak
Spagetti alla carbonara (specialty dish in rome) made with eggs, cheese, black pepper, and bacon
In Florence, the bread is baked without salt to accentuate the flavors of the individual spreads
Gelato we got at a shop in front of the Trevi Fountain
Mouth-watering tiramisu from Florence
More gelato =)
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 endearing. 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 radiated. 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, it's just much more culturally prevalent in Europe. Not to mention (esp. as a business major) we’ve become so ingrained with the necessity of “networking” for career purposes, that, sometimes, the thought of making new friends or having a conversation for the heck 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.
"The sweetness of doing nothing."
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, finances, etc.
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 California, 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 beauty found within 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 is also diverse; you can find romanesque, gothic, renaissance, neoclassical and 19th century architecture representative of several different eras and regions within the country.
St. Peter's Basilica from the outside (up close)
St. Peter's Basilica
The Vatican museum, which displays centuries' old art pieces and monuments that represent the history of Catholicism and the Roman Catholic Church
St. Peter's Basilica - the most gorgeous church I have ever been inside of
Mural inside the Vatican museum
Outside of the Palazzo Vecchio which is the town hall of Florence.
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (ordinarily called Il Duomo) in Florence
The Duomo of Florence
A replica of Michelangelo's David statue in Florence (located outside the city)
Italy is fascinating simply because of the mix 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 newly built, hipster cafe. The combination is very impressive (it's a city of contrasts ! ) 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.
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.
The Pantheon of Rome, a temple originally dedicated to the worship of Pagan gods, is the most preserved and influential building of ancient Rome. Now, it has been converted into a catholic church, in addition to the more than 900 churches already in Rome.
The colosseum is another stunning piece of ancient Roman architecture (with the construction of it having started in 70 AD). The structure was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on classical mythology.
The Forum: a rectangular plaza surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city. It was for centuries the center of Roman public life: the site of elections, public speeches, criminal trials, more gladiatorial matches and served as the center of commercial affairs.
Many of the oldest and most important structures of the ancient city were located on or near the Forum.
The Ponte Vecchio (Italian for Old Bridge) is a famous medieval bridge over the Arno, in Florence, Italy, noted for having shops (mainly jewelers) built along it. It is Europe's oldest segmental arch bridge
The above two pictures are of Florence- the city is often given the title of being the "largest museum in the world" and birthed the great cultural Renaissance.
Sunset in Florence
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 beautiful. 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… LOL), 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! I included only two pics below.
Café in Venice we walked by.
Having a latte at the Gucci Museum in Florence
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 so great. 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, 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.