Destination Guide: Italy

If you dream of eating pasta, pizza, cannolis and gelato without end, you may want to look into taking a trip to Italy in the near future. In a land where food is life and cooking is more of a love affair than an actual job, you’re sure to walk (or roll) away with a few stories to tell. You’ll be dazzled by the architecture, by the art, by the language, the people, and the cuisine to no end, and will find yourself in a world of possibilities. Welcome to Italy.

Venice, famed for its canals and waterways, is one of the most visited cities in the country.

First Things First: The Food

You could write books (and people have) on all the different types of Italian food. Pizza, Pasta, Lasagne, Prosciutto, Gelato, Tiramisu, the choices are endless. Depending on what area of the country you are in will show in the recipes as well. In a city like Trieste or Venice you’ll find a heavy seafood influence in all of the dishes because of the ports along the water. In the heart of the country you’ll find a heavy pasta influence. In places like Lazio (the region that includes Rome) pasta alla carbonara and pasta all'amatriciana can be found in most restaurants, as well as arrabbiata (one of the regions traditional dishes) with spicy tomato sauce. Calabria in the south pulls heavy influence from meats, cheeses, and fresh bread. The ‘Calabrian diet’ has also been identified as one of the healthiest in the world, so either way you win!

In heaven, after antipasti, the first course will be pasta.
— Steve Albini, Singer Songwriter

The Remains of the Roman Empire

Centuries ago the Romans had control of most of Western civilization. They were a force to be reckoned with and dominated over 5 million square kilometers at its peak. Stretching from the Westernmost parts of continental Europe (Portugal, Spain, etc.) to deep into Asia and parts of North Africa, the Roman Empire was undeniably powerful. Fast-Forward to today and you can still see and tour remains of this once great regime across Italy, but more importantly in the epicenter of it all in Rome. The Coliseum, the Roman Aqueducts, the Baths of Caracalla, and the Pantheon all still stand tall today, not to mention countless castles, tombs, and mausoleums to spare. Italy and Rome are packed with history, more so than many other places, so why not try to see as much of it as you can while you’re there.

Drinking the Cup of Life

It’s no secret that Italy is known for its wine; you can practically buy bottles of it on every corner and in every shop in the country. Italians drink so much wine that it’s ingrained in their blood. Whether you’re a fan of a robust red or a light bodied white, Italy will have you covered in the wine department. In fact, why not try a new vineyard or flavor with every meal? That way you get the full wine tour of Italy while here. Every region has its own flavor, its own twist, its own flare that makes the wines stand out; it all has to do with where the grapes are from and how they are prepared. Tuscany is easily the most recognized wine region in the country; there was even a movie made about that very point (Hello! Under the Tuscan Sun!). Wine tours in the area can be a bit pricey but will have you feeling like a real sommelier by the end of it all. Afterall, you’re in the ‘vino motherland’ now, you better enjoy it while it lasts.

Let’s Talk About Sicily.

Talk to anyone from mainland Italy and they’ll tell you that being ‘italian’ and being ‘sicilian’ are two very different things. If you don’t already know, Sicily is the large island off the coast of the Italian “boot” and is home to cities like Catania and Palermo. While the cultures aren’t that different, it’s a point of pride for Sicilians and Italians alike to distinguish themselves apart from the other. Sicily also acts as a melting pot for a lot of other cultures as well, drawing in people from Greece, Spain, France, and Albania, and cultivating Norman, Byzantine, and Aragonese cultures to create a mishmosh of people longing for a sole identity. It may seem crazy, it may seem like chaos, but somehow it works and the region is all the better for it. Nowhere else in Italy will you find such a variety of people living amongst each other.

The Amalfi Coast is Every Instagrammer’s Dream!

Yes, Italy is home to some truly beautiful countrysides, some awe-inspiring mountains, and some mesmerizing canals, but nowhere in the country is quite as beautiful as the Amalfi Coast. Spend a long weekend here and you’ll quickly realize why most Italians believe it to be the most beautiful part of their country. The breathtaking views of cliffside houses, the turquoise blue waters of the Mediterranean, just looking at pictures online is enough to make you want to quit your job and pursue a career as a fisherman here. If you’re lucky enough to get the chance to visit, you’ll quickly realize that the place is perfect, and you’re Instagram photos will show that too (no filter necessary).

When to Go

There’s never a “bad time” to go to Italy. In the winter you’ll be treated to Christmas markets and chaotic New Years celebrations. In the summer you’ll enjoy soaking in the sun’s rays on the beaches of the Mediterranean. And in the inbetweens you’ll have plenty of food, museums, monuments, football matches, wine tastings and other activities to keep you occupied. Seriously, there’s never a bad time to go to Italy.

Jake Allegro