7 best travel tips for seeing the real Italy

The key to enjoying Italy is to travel like a local. I’ve learnt so much from marrying into an Italian family and taking on that passion the Italians have for life. Here are our tips for getting the most out of your trip to the Old Country, and also how you can win a trip for 2 to this incredible destination (at the end of this post).

Brought to you by Lavazza

7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

Mrs Romance was brought up the old-fashioned way – as part of a community; an Italian community. And still now these lifelong friends her parents made when they were young get together regularly.

There’s always lots of talking, laughing and especially eating.

Mrs R warned me about The Italians from the start, and tried to give me crib notes on their names and who they were. It didn’t help much; I still felt overwhelmed.

No, perhaps ‘overwhelmed’ isn’t right. I felt… immersion.

7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

It was like I was being allowed to look through – and eventually climb through – a window into a culture; to live it, to understand it, to fall in love with it.

It was like discovering the real Italy. And it’s definitely helped to make things clearer whenever Mrs Romance and I have travelled through that great country.

7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

We now know what to look for, where to go and what to do to enjoy Italy to the max, and to have truly unique authentic experiences there.

7 ways to find the passion in Italy

1. Go beyond the tourist perimeter

7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

You don’t have to go far from the crowds in Italy to find something amazing yet not overrun.

Even with the really big draw cards like the Trevi Fountain in Rome or St Mark’s Square in Venice, you only have to go a street or two back and you’ll find what Italy is really about. The prices will be lower, the food more authentic and the people friendlier.

The best example of this is when we were in Milan. In the main piazza – Piazza del Duomo – you’ll pay €12 for a Coke whereas two streets back, we were buying coffee for one Euro!




7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

Extra tip:

Even in Venice, the busiest tourist spot in the country, we found peace and space. Go north-west to the island of Burano and leave the madding crowd behind.

2. Don’t rush

7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

Accept that you’re not going to see Italy all in one go, so don’t worry about trying to get to 7 cities in 5 days or visit every castle in the country.

Take your time in each place you visit and enjoy its passion, its romance, its soul. Pick a region and really get to know it properly.

We once decided to drive from the Cinque Terre in the north-west down to Naples in the south. We only had about 3 or 4 days to do it and – although we had a great time – we wish we’d had more time to spend travelling down.

7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

Extra tip:

Hire a car and drive the country. Italy’s one of the best places to explore by road.

Try not to get stuck in the big cities in Italy. You could spend a month just in Rome or Florence or Naples, but the real Italy isn’t necessarily in these places. It’s out in the little towns and villages scattered across the country.

3. Aperitivo hour

7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

Happy hour for Italians is more about food than drink. Buy a drink from certain bars at around 6pm any night and you’re free to fill a plate as many times as you like.

The best example of this we found was in the backstreets of Milan in a place called Pandenus.

Extra tip:

What’s more, every time you buy a drink in a bar, you’ll probably be presented with a bowl of nuts, some pizza, some biscotti, chips… a little snack ‘to keep you going’!

4. Coffee

7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

Coffee in Italy is a religion. They take it as seriously as their football, and it’s just as good.

Drink coffee like a local – only order a cappuccino before noon. Most Italians treat it like a breakfast meal. After that, it’s espresso all the way, perhaps a macchiato.

And if you want to make your waiter smile at dinner, ask for a ‘caffe corretto’ or corrected coffee after your meal. Caffe corretto is an espresso with a ‘blessing’ of spirit in it. Choose between Cointreau, Grand Marnier, possibly sambucca or (my favourite) grappa – or petrol, as Mrs R calls it.

7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

Extra tip:

Buying coffee in cafés in Italy can be a little fraught. There’s an art to it: order and pay at one counter, give your ticket to the barista then pay attention.

Mrs Romance has more details in her post here.

5. Aperol spritz

7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

One of the most popular drinks in Italy is the Aperol spritz. It has an orange flavour and is a little bitter like Campari, but has a sweeter edge.

In Italy, you’ll see everyone drinking this brightly coloured, delicious cocktail. It’s a refreshing mix of Aperol, prosecco and soda water. Depending on where you are, it’ll be served slightly differently and priced differently too.




Extra tip:

The cheapest we found was in Venice, where we paid €2.00 each – though it’s usually about €6-10!

6. Gelato

7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

Italians LOVE their dolce! And gelato is like a staple for them. Gelato and ice cream are not the same thing, as Mrs R explains here.

The thing to look for in Italy for really good gelato is if they’ve got it covered or piled up high. If the gelato is covered, it’s going to be the best.

Avoid touristy gelatorias – look for where the locals are getting theirs. If all else fails, look for a Grom!

Extra tip:

Ask for la coppa for a little cup of gelato or il cono for a cone.

7. EAT!

7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

To Italians, food is a big deal. The words ‘mangia!’ and ‘buon appetito’ are mantras repeated with incredible frequency and passion at our parties with The Italians.

Be daring – there are a few things that Italians eat that are a bit weird but very few that don’t taste good.

Our favourite thing to do in Italy is to find a little salumeria and buy a selection of cut meats and cheese, a bottle of local wine and have a picnic somewhere.

7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

Extra tip:

Each region has its own specialty food so do your research and tap into that. Tuscany has its own special wild boar prosciutto, Venice specializes in squid dishes, Naples has its pizzas, and everywhere has good cheese!

7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

Visiting Italy isn’t just about seeing the sights. It’s about plugging yourself into the passion of a nation that loves to love.

Whether you do that through the food that you eat, the place you go, the people you meet – the best thing about Italy is it will love you back.

Sharing the love of Italy

Lavazza are all about the passion of Italy. To celebrate the launch of their new pod-based coffee machine, the Minu, Lavazza are offering you the chance to win two tickets to the Old Country.

When you enter you also have the chance to win a taste of Italy in your own home with Lavazza’s very cool new Minu pod-based coffee machine that makes awesome espresso coffee – and I’m not just saying that. It really is molto buono!

To have a crack at this competition, check out Lavazza’s site FromItalyWithPassion.com.au for more details.

** Competition now closed **

Do make sure you check out Lavazza’s new Minu coffee machine. It’s a cracking little machine. We were really impressed with the coffee it produces and the range is fantastic too.

7 travel tips for seeing the real Italy

There’ll also be updates on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds about new chances for you to win, so keep your eyes peeled for the #FromItalyWithPassion tag.

** Competition now closed **

Buona fortuna!

Images by Mrs Romance.

29 Comments

  • Great tips! Aperol Spritz and Aperitivo Hour are the best. I feel quite hungry and very thirsty after reading that post! We had an awesome time in Venice and can’t wait to explore more of Italy. It’s so deliciously beautiful, innit?
    Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid recently posted..Meatless Monday – Mini Veggie FrittatasMy Profile

    • Reply December 18, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Thanks Sammie! Yeah, those Italians really do know how to make you wish you were face down in a plate of their food, don’t they? You’ll love the rest of Italy, I’m absolutely certain of it. Such a beautiful country… and don’t forget, they’re coffee’s exceptional too! 😉
      Cheers – or perhaps cin cin!
      Jxx

  • Oh shite. This post has seriously left me yearning to travel again. I haven’t done any of Europe outside of London {oh, and the Paris airport haa}. Great post guys – what an adventure. I SOOOOOOO want to win this one 🙂
    x
    Claire Chadwick: Mum’s Closet Blog recently posted..Luxe or Less: Gift Ideas for ChristmasMy Profile

    • Reply December 18, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Hey Claire. Sorry to make those travel bugs bite. It’s hard not to talk about places like Italy without yearning to book flights. Got everything crossed for you for this comp. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
      Best of luck!
      Jxx
      Oh and by the way, Paris airport totally counts – add it to your list of places visited for sure!

  • Reply December 15, 2014

    Sonia from Sonia Styling

    Oh my gosh you guys, what an AWESOME post! I was smiling and nodding my head all the way through, as I fondly recalled our first ever trip to Italy while on our honeymoon last year. We spent 10 days in the country and visited Rome, Florence and the Amalfi Coast. Nowhere near enough time, but that’s just the motivation we need to go back again (and again)!
    (PS: thanks for the tip about the caffe corretto!)
    Sonia from Sonia Styling recently posted..My Fave Room: Nikki from Styling YouMy Profile

    • Reply December 18, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Thanks Sonia! So glad it resonated with you. Means a lot. 🙂 Your honeymoon looked so beautiful – and neither of us can wait to meet your cutest souvenir from your trip! How is that furry little rascal anyway?
      You did really well to get round so many places in Italy in 10 days by the way. I know what you mean about it not being long enough, but then we were there for a month and it still wasn’t long enough! I suppose it just means we’ll have to keep going back!
      Cheers
      Jxx

  • Reply December 15, 2014

    Maureen

    I’ve been to Italy several times but I never come away thinking that I understand it. I think you have to live there and be friends with people before that happens. One day I’ll do just that.
    Maureen recently posted..A MasterClass in Cooking at Palazzo VersaceMy Profile

    • Reply December 18, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Oh I agree, Maureen! Even the number of times we’ve been, the family connections and the dear friends we have living there we catch up with, we still feel like we’re dusting the surface off when we visit. There’s just so much to the place, isn’t there?! I think living in Italy would be awesome – though I’d have to invest in more stretchy pants I think!
      Cheers
      Jxx

  • OMG, i bloody loved Italy. I used to live in Austria, and i would travel there as often as I could. My favourite place was probably Rome (how cliche) but Luca and Florence were close up there too. I seriously loved Apertivo hour (my first experience was in Bologna, with the most insane italian cocktail) and loved the Italian mannerisms. Ahhh, I cannot wait to go back next year.

    Lucy x
    http://www.thewanderlustscout.com || http://www.skeeterandscout.com
    Lucy @ The Wanderlust Scout recently posted..THE SWANSTON HOTEL, MELBOURNEMy Profile

    • Reply December 18, 2014

      Mr Romance

      Hey Lucy! Not including Vienna airport, I’ve never been to Austria – though I’d LOVE to go. I’ve got a couple of friends there who are constantly pestering me to come and visit.
      Yeah, those Italians and their big hand gestures ay? I thought it was a bit of an urban myth or a cliche, but they really do it all the time! We love Rome, it’s such an incredible city – so dense with culture and history. Luca – also a thumbs-up from us! I haven’t been to Florence (yet) but I’d love to go. Mrs R’s been but she reckons it’s like Rome and you could make just visiting that one city a holiday in itself. On day…!
      Cheers
      Jxx

  • Reply December 18, 2014

    Nick Deane

    Thanks for taking me there guys, I want to go back to Italy so bad. There is no way you can view Italy in a few days, it is an experience. Glad to see you two having fun and happy holidays!
    Nick Deane recently posted..Hawke & Co Men’s Packable Down Puffer JacketMy Profile

  • I love Italy and completely agree with all of your tips here. We were always going a street or two back to get away from the tourist crowds, a much more authentic experience is always there to be found.
    Malinda @mybrownpaperpackages recently posted..Wanderlust Link Party & The Middle EastMy Profile

    • Reply January 8, 2015

      Mr Romance

      Hi Malinda. It’s surprising, isn’t it – how easy it is to get away from the crowd. I’m always surprised that more people don’t do the same!
      Cheers
      Jim

  • Awesome tips and photos! I haven’t been to Italy yet and I know I have to go soon. It just seems like such an amazing place. Definitely want to do Italy like a local. Saving this!
    Keisha | The Girl Next Door is Black recently posted..Getting the Cold Shoulder in BerlinMy Profile

    • Reply January 8, 2015

      Mr Romance

      Hey Keisha. Sounds like you’ve moved about quite a bit already! But yes, make sure Italy’s right up there on your bucket list. It’s such a magical place to visit. So glad you liked the post!
      Cheers
      Jim

  • Reply January 8, 2015

    Me my best and I

    Mrs R – THAT pic in the red dress #swoon

    • Reply January 9, 2015

      Mrs Romance

      awww shuck *blushes* xx

  • Reply January 8, 2015

    Aleney

    I adore Italy. Have been three times now and barely covered a tenth of what I want to see… or eat! I think our next visit will be a road trip.

    • Reply January 9, 2015

      Mr Romance

      It’s amazing, isn’t it, Aleney?! Just so much to cover in such a surprisingly small space (I was referring to my stomach by the way!). I was really surprised how easy it was to drive in Italy. Even in Naples where things got a little crazy, it was still a lot less stressful than I was expecting. And the autostradas are amazing – especially if you like driving really fast!
      Jxx

  • Reply January 17, 2015

    Leah ~ KidBucketList

    Oh oh oh! Italy will always be my favourite destination. I’m yet to take the kids, but it is on our list. I have no blood ties to the country, but it still feels like home. I adore your tips! We found just trying to speak Italian brought a smile to our host’s face and instantly endeared us to them. Oh, I want to go back. We found the best spots through serendipity – wrong turns took us to the most amazing places! #teamwanderlust

    • Reply January 18, 2015

      Mr Romance

      Hey Leah! Yes, it’s a brilliant country to get lost in and find everything you hope for, isn’t it? It’s also one of those countries that seems like a perfect place to travel with the little’uns.
      Cheers
      Jxx

  • Reply January 28, 2015

    Talia

    I felt the same way when we travelled to Italy in 2013 to visit Luke’s family – totally immersed in their culture (and me & Lior sticking out like sore thumbs I think!!). Love your tips! Italy is so beautiful, and I do enjoy it there even if all my more recent memories are of having terrible morning sickness!

    #wanderlust
    Talia recently posted..Things I’ve Learnt From My First Year of Project LifeMy Profile

    • Reply January 29, 2015

      Mr Romance

      Yes, immersion is the way to go, Talia – especially somewhere like Italy where everyone’s pretty friendly and the culture’s so close to the surface. Sounds like you need another trip to Italy to wipe the slate clean, so to speak!
      Jxx

  • Reply April 20, 2016

    Fiona

    Hi there, Romances – I hope you are still getting these replies. Quick question… we have booked into Naples for three nights to explore Capri or Pompeii and Amalfi coast. Everyone we have mentioned this to has recoiled in horror at the fact we are staying in Naples. In your opinion, are we safe? Thanks

    • Reply April 20, 2016

      Mr Romance

      Hi Fiona! Ignore every single person who reacts that way to Naples. It’s an incredible city and they’ve probably just watched Gomorrah too many times! We had the best time in Naples and would go there again in a heartbeat. Pompeii was absolutely fascinating – I could spend a week just walking the streets there. Capri is one of our favourite places – especially when you get away from all the crowds, which isn’t too hard. We haven’t been to the Amalfi Coast but friends that have been love it so much.
      No, Naples is a top spot and truly Italian to its very core. We stayed in a hotel right on the seafront, which was absolutely devine. There are a string of old hotels on Via Partenope – we stayed in the Grand Hotel Santa Lucia.
      When you’re in a big city like Naples, you have to be cautious, but it’s no more dangerous than London or Paris. You just have to keep your wits about you, make sure you haven’t strayed into any dodgy bits (Naples does have more than its fair share of them) and – our best tip – follow the local families and couples. They know where they’re going!
      Have the best time there – oh and for a bit more Napolinspiration, check out our friend Carla Coulson’s amazing photography book on Naples. It’s beautiful!
      Jxx

  • Reply April 20, 2016

    Fiona

    Thank you, thank you, thank you … I feel better than I have in 6 weeks ! Appreciate your prompt reply :)))

    • Reply April 23, 2016

      Mr Romance

      Bless your heart, Fiona! So glad we’ve made you feel better about going to Naples. Honestly, you’ll have the best time! Let us know how you get on.
      Jxx

      • Reply June 9, 2016

        Fiona

        Buongiorno !! Just a quick note to thank you again for your advice. I have to report that our 3 night stay in Naples was brilliant! Granted, we did not have time to see the city, we stayed at the Royal Continental directly across from Castel dell’ovo (which by chance was holding a winefest that weekend!) There was also some other kind of food festival on, so Saturday night we strolled down the road and enjoyed ourselves so much – a highlight for me was seeing the outdoor roller rink 🙂
        The views from the room and local dining places were fabulous, there were families, teenagers and smooching couples everywhere. I think some people must have the wrong idea.. or we were just lucky. We filled our days with visits to Pompei,Amalfi and Capri.
        I will be back – my favourite new word ? Andiamo !!!!

        • Reply June 9, 2016

          Mr Romance

          Hi Fiona! Thank you so much for filling us in on your trip. Really glad you had a great time in Naples. I have a saying about travel – it’s not that you’re lucky that you didn’t have anything bad happen to you while you were away; it’s just that the people who have had bad experiences there had some bad luck. The majority of places – and the people who live in those places – are friendly and safe.
          Sounds like your timing for your visit to Naples was absolutely perfect. A wine fest? Sounds amazing. And how lovely is it to look out over the castle on the water?
          Thank you again for your message. Really made our day!
          Ciao – Jim & Christina xx

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