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
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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.
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
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.
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’!
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.
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
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.
The cheapest we found was in Venice, where we paid €2.00 each – though it’s usually about €6-10!
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!
Ask for la coppa for a little cup of gelato or il cono for a cone.
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.
Each region has its own specialty food so do your research and tap into that. Tuscany has its own special wild boar prosciutto, Venice specialises in squid dishes, Naples has its pizzas, and everywhere has good cheese!
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.
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 **