Considering the incredible amount of art history entrenched in Italy, it is understandable that a non-art loving traveler would think twice before choosing it as a holiday destination. It is true that there is an overwhelming amount of art from celebrated artists displayed in renowned museums. But don’t be misled! There is plenty to do in Italy which will make it a most romantic and memorable vacation spot for even those who find art and museums superficially boring. The only caveat is, to truly enjoy Italy, you must be an appreciator of beauty in general.
There are many ancient castles in Tuscany that have been repurposed as castle hotels. Imagine dwelling in the aura of an actual ninth or tenth century hotel, admiring its architecture, exploring its vineyards all while enjoying the facilities of a modern resort! Swimming pools, jacuzzis, tennis courts, you name it. And yet you can retain the feeling of having lived like a king or a queen in a medieval castle overlooking the countryside, visiting the nearby villages and pastures. The Castello Banfi El Borgo is one example, amongst countless others, of a medieval fort hotel on a hillside surrounded by old vineyards.
Take a romantic gondola ride at sunset. Or enjoy one during the day-time for a complete sightseeing trip. Or traverse the Grand Canal atop the Venetian waterbus. Climb to the top of Venice’s tallest building, the Campanile, and a get a bird’s eye view of the whole city. Wander the interesting neighborhoods of Cannaregio and Campo San Polo. Enjoy the local cuisine, especially the fresh and unusual seafood and top it all off with a palate cooling scoop of Gelato. Walk in James bond’s footsteps at the impressive 17th century Palazzo Pisani where a shoot-out was filmed in the movie Casino Royale. Finally, don’t forget to go shopping for some souvenirs! You can purchase the iconic period costumes created by the Guidecca’s women’s prison and join the hustle bustle at the masked festival of Carnevale. Or, you can shop for some venetian gems such as original glass lamps at the Vittorio Costantini, local lace and fine fabrics at Martinuzzi and Gaggio and eye-catching jewellery at Attombri.
Italian food is globally adored. But we’re not talking about the American-turned-Italian food we eat on a daily basis, we’re talking about authentic, mouthwatering Italian treats that any traveler would be fool to miss. Let’s start with their signature thin crust Margherita pizzas. Basil, tomato sauce and mozarella cheese may sound simple, but they make for an exquisite combo. Then of course, we have the gelatos. Every flavor you could possibly imagine, just waiting in sugary softness around almost every corner. Tiramisu, like Gelato, comes in a variety of styles but is inherently a creamy espresso dessert you can find at any Italian restaurant. Of course you can douse the creaminess with an actual Italian coffee, known as Caffee, which comes as a bold shot of espresso. And must we mention the myriad pastas that characterise Italian cuisine? We may think that pastas are all about creaminess but Italians leave out the cream, giving the pastas a freshly tossed feel. Then there are the risottos and the gnocchi, well the list could go on forever. But let us end with the absolutely essential treat for any traveler: the ‘Turista Menu’, Italian four course buffets. Appetizers, pastas, meat, desserts and beverages; these dishes will be the perfect and satiating end to your exploration of Italian cuisine.
If you were crossing Rome off your list as a city filled only with boring art history, think again! For one thing, Rome hosts an extremely festive nightlife. From the Madonna dei Monti, the ultimate fashion stop during the daytime and hipster area at night, to the San Lorenzo hang out spot for young adults, there is plenty of fun and frolic to be had in Rome. Let yourself soak up some real Italian culture and lifestyle while enjoying the food scene at the neighbourhood of Testaccio and stop by the graves of English poets, Keats and Shelley, while you’re at it. Toss a coin and make a wish at the Trevi fountain before heading to the top of Gianicolo hill to get a beautiful aerial view of the city. Allow a local to drive you around the treacherous Roman streets on a Vespa (don’t try this on your own!). After all this, do head out of the city for a bit to indulge in some ancient Roman lavishness at the villas in Tivoli, just outside Rome.
Begin by climbing the 150 steps to the top of the gothic cathedral known as Duomo. Breathe in the view of the entire city and beyond, all the way to the snow-capped Alps. Then, hop onto a classic Milan tram, with its polished wooden seats and glass lampshades, and have some dinner while taking in some of Milan’s most famous monuments. Follow up with some exposure to culture at the Teatro alla Scala for some world-class opera and ballet performances. Visit the Villa Necchi Campiglio to fall through time into 1930s Italy, exquisitely preserved. Indulge your inner shopaholic at the glamorous Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele including shops like Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Armani, etc. For another interesting shopping experience, head over to the 10 Corso Como, combination bookshop, cafe, shops, galleries. Prices may be a bit steep but you might find something on sale that will fit a budget. In any case it is enchanting for anyone with an interest in fashion, from the gorgeous interiors to their intricately designed paper bags. Of course, the best spot for window shopping is along the Quadrilatero della moda, the rectangle of gold. The clothes are straight off the cat-walk and the prices are definitely not for the fainthearted. For football fans, watching a football match at the San Siro stadium will be a thrilling experience. And lastly, for lovers of old-school romance, the Navigli waterways, lined with vintage shops and galleries will be the perfect end to a lovely stay in Milan.
So, you see, it is not obligatory to be an art-lover in order to enjoy Italy. This country has so much to offer for anyone who appreciates beauty. And don’t we all fall in that category. If we have enticed you to take a nostalgic trip around Italy, what are you waiting for? Round up your friends and loved ones and begin your thrilling (and relaxing, by turn) adventure in Italy today
Written by: Staghorn
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