Grand buildings compel you to draw your gaze upwards and admire the fine architecture. Walking along pretty tree-lined streets with scooters whizzing by and locals going about their business, you feel happiness rising within you and cannot quite believe you are here. In Italy, where dreams are made of! Art, history, and food seem to permeate nearly every corner whether you are making your way to Piazza San Marco and into Basilica di San Marco, floating aboard a gondola and passing under the ancient Rialto Bridge or dining on Italian favorites the world cannot get enough of.
Hello, gastronomy, my old friend!
It is easy to get lost in Italy. In fact, a part of you wants to. There is just so much to see and experience. Where do you even start? Perhaps the best way to begin is by diving into the glorious cuisine as you explore the many alleys and boulevards. First stop: a gelato parlor to help you indulge in decadence! Gelateria Giolitti (Rome), Suso (San Marco) and Gelateria Dondoli (Tuscany) are some of the places to head to. Creamy, frozen rich delights await, and each shop has its own specialty.
Then, it is on to something wholesome and what Italy’s famous for: pasta! Dal Moro in Venice has some of the best pasta you will ever eat. Just ask the long queue of people waiting patiently for its to-go orders. If you are in Rome, Ciao Checca will leave you hungry for more. Its take on wholesome, balanced pasta is just what today’s health-conscious millennials crave.
Following the footsteps of masters
Raphael, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Bellini, Modigliani – what do these master artists have in common aside from their amazing skills? They were born in Italy! The country is famed for producing some of the finest artists the world has ever seen and while you are here, you cannot leave without paying a visit to their hometowns and admiring their art.
Time seems to stop when you enter the village of Caprese Michelangelo in Tuscany, the birthplace of the Renaissance master. The slightly unkempt grounds surrounding his home serve to emphasize the passage of time. Although there is not a lot to do, laying eyes on his place of birth and imagining him as a child is well worth the visit.
For a chance to see some of the most famous art, make your way to the Vatican museums. With over 50 galleries, you can really immerse yourself in the works of the greats, which include the likes of the Oddi Altarpiece by Raphael and St. Jerome in the Wilderness by da Vinci.
Exploring a striking contemporary world
Italy is known for its art and culture, but it also has a vibrant contemporariness that can be startling for first-time visitors. Just look at Milan. It’s easy to forget that this is the place of high fashion and a pulsating nightlife in the midst of towering cathedrals and museums. Stroll through one of the oldest shopping malls in the world, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, to get a sense of this mix of old and new. Designed in the mid-nineteenth century, it now houses high-end boutiques and designer brands like Armani and Louis Vuitton. Do not forget to set your eyes on the stunning iron and glass roof of the building and its massive dome!
As night falls, the city seems to come alive even more with bars and clubs enticing you to let your hair down. The chic area of Garibaldi-Isola boasts venues such as Alcatraz and Hollywood with a heavy celeb presence. You might just get lucky and spot someone famous! Over at Brera, a boho vibe permeates and Milan’s trendsetting crowds gather to chat and mingle over drinks. The elegant Bulgari Hotel bar and La Tartina are two of the best places to get a taste of the action.
Italy stands out; not just for its cuisine or art or contemporary scene. It is one of those rare gems that offers something to travelers no matter which part of the country you visit. Rome, Tuscany, Milan – each region envelops you in its embrace and you come away with a deep longing to go back. Again and again.
Picture courtesy: Pixabay