Italy is without a doubt an absolutely stunning country – good food, amazing fashion and attitude to boot.
From top to toe of this boot shaped country, there is a something that ticks every box.
While some of the smaller towns can be down over a lazy afternoon, many other spots deserve a good week (at the least!).
From the colder north where business comes first, to the warmer south where life moves at a slower pace there is so much to see and do that it would be impossible to be bored.
With one hand firmly in the past and a well dressed foot in the future you can understand why they are also some of the most exasperating people around! (I say this as a Portuguese/Australian/Italian).
They find it impossible to talk with their hands still, there are strict rules about food (no mixing chicken with your pasta), road rules (any rules really) are just guides and volume control does not exist when they talk.
But they are also romantic, passionate and generous. If you find yourself suddenly adopted, give in, you will get some of the best food of your life – no one starves if an Italian has anything to say about it!
Why do I love Italy?
My mother’s family is Italian/Maltese. My grandmother comes from a little town outside Verona called San Giovanni Lupatoto. When I was planning my last Europe trip (pre pandemic of course), my grandmother pulled me aside, pulled out a map and made sure I knew exactly how to get to there – including the bus number from Verona station.
And that is what I did, I took a train from Milan to Verona then onto the bus. 30 minutes south of Verona I got out at this tiny town with one main road and a giant water tank in the centre. There is absolutely nothing in this town to put it on a tourists map, but knowing the family history and that my grandmother grew up there, made it one of the most meaningful stops on my trip. I made sure to visit the Church and picked up a pastry for my bus ride back.
I’ve been to Italy a few times, and at one stage spent over a month exploring Italy alone, starting from the north in Milan and slowly finding my way along the coast down to Naples.
Maybe it is because I grew up around so many Italians that I have some idea on how to communicate with them, and how to behave (always accept a coffee!), but each stop was lovely and the people I met – both Italians and tourists – were all kind, generous and cheerful.
Visiting Italy is like taking a step back in time
Italy has managed to embrace their past in a way that is inspirational – they literally live in and around archaeological ruins. History is at their doorstep.
Preserving this past is a massive undertaking, and extremely difficult when you realise there are nearly 3 million people living in Rome alone. Now add the tourists…
Canals, bridges, towns built on and over ruins, modern lives have been woven into the bricks of the past, where its people live with an appreciation of life. There is a story behind every step you take.
Italian food really is amazing
Italians have every right to be proud of their food.
Simple, made with fresh ingredients and served al dente – there is nothing complicated about how the Italians cook. It is all about appreciating the produce and enhancing its flavours.
As the Italian actress Sophia Loren once said about her famous figure “everything you see I owe to spaghetti”.
Coffee is something else that Italians are experts at – but keep in mind don’t expect to find soy or almond milk. Even dairy is only acceptable in the mornings – where it is cappuccinos not lattes (a note to Australians reading this!) after lunch it espressos only.
Make sure to enjoy Aperitivo, think of it as after work drinks but with antipasti and a delicious sparkling drink.
Art, Galleries and Museums
As much as Italy is a living breathing museum, it is filled to the brim with thousands of museums and galleries.
From grand Duomo’s (cathedrals) to tiny chapels, statues of marble (The Veiled Christ) that look like they could start breathing at any moment, hall ways filled with renaissance marvels, ancient cities unearthed from under volcanic ash (Pompeii) or giant passage ways under cities that once hid citizens from raining bombs (Naples).
Each part of Italy is a reflection of different times of its history and you can literally walk through it with a gelato in your hand.
Escape to the Outdoors
As much as there is to see and experience in the cities, there is just as much to appreciate outside as well.
Walk the five villages of Cinque Terre (just remember to pack water and snacks), sunbake along the Amalfi, sail around Lake Como, walk through endless vineyards in Tuscany or climb the Dolomite Alps to the north.
If you love the outdoors then there truly is something for all tastes here.