When you choose Italy as your holiday destination, prepare for the excitement that lays ahead . Everything about this trip is going to be exciting. Over the next few days, your life is going to be full of adventure. Embrace this mindset and your trip to Italy is sure to be an experience of a lifetime.
In Italy, there is so much to see, and there is so much to do. It is virtually impossible to cram everything in a single guided tour. So, what I did was to pick the most eclectic aspects and stitch them together to create a unique yet rewarding experience for my guests. Rather than simply rushing from one tourist destination to another, you relish the destinations revel in their beauty and remember the experience for as long as you live.
To derive the most out of Italy, be like the Italians. Interact with the local population at every opportunity and try conversing with them in Italian. People love it when they watch you make an effort to learn more about their country. They will even go a step further to correct you when you go wrong and try replying in English.
Also, do try not to annoy the locals. This could mean conforming to a certain dress code while visiting churches, chapels and cathedrals. It also entails respecting the local mindset of going about the daily chores unhindered by flocks of tourists. That being said, absorb the historical legacy at some of the most well-known cities –
Rome – While in Rome, do as the Romans do. But unlike the Romans do visit some of the local attractions that have become synonymous with Italy. Sistine Chapel is amazing as always no matter what time of the year you visit. The Vatican stands as an embodiment of spirituality and The Coliseum appears as imposing and overwhelming in its broken form.
Florence – Also known as the city of lilies, Florence is as picturesque as it is projected in the numerous movies. In addition to being the capital city of Tuscany, it also takes pride in having gifted the country its language. Italian that is spoken today is derived from Tuscan lingua franca that was spoken during the 14th century.
Another noteworthy attraction is the Cathedral of Florence, locally known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. A celebration of Gothic architecture, you must check out the almond-shaped aureole on the outside and the numerous works of art lining the interiors.
La Spezia – Well-known for its sea-faring heritage, La Spezia is home to an Italian Naval Base and also serves as a commercial harbor. Rail and water connectivity is the highlight of this city. As a group, we took advantage of this infrastructure to get to Cinque Terre.
Particularly enticing in this locale was the beach at Camogli. Like all the other beaches in this region, this one was equally inviting. As a group we revelled in the sun and sand and enjoyed the amenities offered by the beach club.
Food and Wine – The Soul of Italy
If there is anything that Italians love more than their language and culture, it is food. From street food to 5-star hotels, Italy has something for every type of foodie no matter what your taste-buds might be. Some local fares that we made it a point to try are gelato, an Italian-style ice-cream, and varieties of pizza, the world renowned Italian bread. Something that truly gave us a taste of tradition was Focaccia al Formaggio, which basically comprises of the Italian flatbread filled with cheese.
Barbara organized an ‘Eat with me’ dinner party at her house. It was a one-of-a-kind experience and there was plenty of food, wine, music and dancing. We partied till the wee hours of the morning. And all of us had a wonderful time.
Any experience of food and wine in Italy would be incomplete without the mention of multi-course meals at 5-star hotels. Fine dining formed an important part of the itinerary and entailed meals comprising of several courses. Some group members were overwhelmed, but overall everyone was quite amazed.
Lake Como – The Y-Shaped Gem of Italy
In Lombardy, Italy, nestled amidst the mountains is Lake Como and being of glacial origin, it resembles an inverted ‘Y’. For centuries the rich, royal and the famous have treated it as their ‘home away from home’. On Lake Como is the village of Bellagio, which offers everything from cobbled streets to 18th century gardens. We felt that it lived up to its reputation of being a pearl of Lake Como in every way.
Yet another unique dining experience was at Chef Elli’s restaurant. Although the Chef himself was busy this time, he did manage to look up the group once in a while. On our part, we relished the fish preparations as also the scallops with truffles. Only one group member tasted meat – a rare combination of pasta and pork – which Chef Elli himself prepared, and he loved every bite of it.
Cinque Terre – The String of Five Villages
Cinque Terre, meaning Five Lands, dots the coastal Italian Riviera. It gets its name from the picturesque villages that form the string. Much of the charm stems from the fact that this chain is not as accessible. La Spezia is one of the very few towns that is connected to all five villages by rail and this was the route that we followed. While in Cinque Terre, do try the Italian flatbread Focaccio along with pesto, anchovies and gelato.
We covered a total of 9 villages within a time-span of 9 hours at Cinque Terre. The experience was both rustic as also enlightening in many ways.
Like all good things that come to an end, so did the July tour of Italy. When we arrived we were a motley bunch of tourists. But while departing we had become connoisseurs in more ways than one. When the moment of saying ‘good-bye’ arrived, we eventually bid adieu with a wonderful taste in our mouths and plenty of warmth in our hearts.
Success of this tour has inspired me to start planning for the October tour when truffles will be in season. I intend to include a visit to Piedmont region to experience the goodness of fresh truffles and enable my guests to do the same. This also means that I am going to spend a lot of time in Italy. So I might as well move down there for half a year.