“Mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto” is the famous quote I think of when I reminisce about our time in Italy! It means “Eat well, laugh often, love much,” and it perfectly describes what Italy is all about. We spent the last 4 days of our adventure with Princess Cruises exploring different areas of Italy… you can see our experiences in France and Spain here! Like everyone else who has been to Italy, Zan and I both fell in love with the country. The culture, the food and the gorgeous historical scenery was everything we thought it would be and then some. There were many parts of it that actually reminded me of California… a much older version of course! When visiting wine country and the coastal towns, the similarities to our Napa region and beautiful beach towns are very apparent! The palm trees, bougainvilleas and rolling hills almost made us feel at home! During our 4 days in Italy, we visited Rome, Tuscany, Florence, Genoa, Positano and Portofino. We loved so many things about Italy and will definitely be back to explore more, but here are 10 of my favorite things about Italy from this trip!
1. Shopping in Florence – The friendly maze of cobblestone, store-lined streets, unique boutiques and delicious cafes made Florence not only my favorite city, but also my favorite city for shopping! I picked up a classic red leather jacket and some chic leather shoes for probably half of what they would’ve cost in the States.
2. The Roman Colosseum – I usually don’t get sentimental when visiting historical sites, but for some reason the Colosseum was absolutely incredible to see in person. While standing inside this monstrous structure, we learned some brutal history that was hard to process, but it was remarkable to be in an amphitheatre so famous and iconic. And thanks to our guide, we didn’t have to wait even 5 minutes in line because I was pregnant! Those Italians know how to treat a pregnant lady!
3. The Gelato at Giolitti – Hands down, Giolitti was the best gelato we had during our entire stay in Europe… and in life! The chocolate is so thick and rich, I was convinced that it was some kind of chocolate sauce, not gelato! Regardless, it was GOOD!
4. Affordable – We tried to go to local places and when we did, the prices were so affordable, especially on food! It was so nice to order whatever we wanted and when the bill came, it would be less than half of what we would pay in the US! You can find really good deals on house rentals too… it’s a place we could actually afford to stay for a month or two!
5. The Wine – When we visited Tuscany, we went to a few wineries. Our favorite was an off the beaten path winery, called Castelli di Verrazzano. It’s not the typical tourist type of place and more of a local favorite. The views and the castle were exceptional. Wine tasting in Italy was a dream come true! AND, just like the food, we brought home the most delicious bottles of wine for only $7!!!
6. Santa Maria del Fiore – This was the most stunning Cathedral I’ve ever seen, right in the center of Florence!
7. Breakfast and Espresso – I love how the mornings for most Italians start with an espresso and a pastry! And the espresso and cappuccinos were off the charts perfection. And I like how they eat pastries, pasta, drink coffee and wine and people don’t seem overly concerned with the “health” part of it, because like I TRULY believe… everything in moderation! They don’t stuff themselves or overeat! Such a simple way to enjoy life.
8. Freshness – I noticed there really aren’t semi-trucks on the roads because it’s more small, local markets, so there doesn’t seem like a need for huge deliveries. So much of the bread, food, pastries, fruits and vegetables are produced in a much smaller batch than in America! I really loved that. The pasta of course was amazing!!!
9. Exploring the beach towns – Those charming coastal towns are too good not to visit! We had a blast taking a boat ride to Portofino, having a leisurely lunch and relaxing by the Mediterranean Sea!
10. The Aventine Keyhole view – This was pretty unique – you drive to the Aventine Hill to see the rose gardens, the orange groves and to peek through the most fascinating semi-secret keyhole!! You can see the Vatican’s St. Peter’s dome through the hole, lined with stunning gardens! It was a quick, fun and memorable thing to do.