Your first time Bella Italia?! Warning, spoilers: It will be WOW. Rome, Florence, Venice and Naples too, you’ll probably try (quite logically) to see as much as possible. But: no matter how full your sightseeing calendar is – if you take your time for these things, you will experience Italy like a local. 100 percent and pure.
The best news beforehand: It costs you no or only a few cents and it has nothing to do with mainstream tourist programs. Find your own way to get acquainted with Italy and the Italian way of life.
To experience the real Italy, you should just do “nothing” sometimes:enjoy the Bella Vita. Here our TOP 5…
1. Italy in its Purest Form: Have a Look around in Private…
This is pure iItalian life. When Signora Rossi is hanging the laundry out of the window, and after a long time she discovers Donna Ferrari downstairs again: Oh no, what a joy – what are the children doing? The joy gets thanks to volume all with. Then the baker’s boy rattles up with the bread delivery on his Vespa – how are the sister’s wedding preparations going?
Even if you don’t understand a word of Italian – just walk through a normal Italian residential area. It’s best to do it in the late afternoon, early evening – when the smell of fresh tomato sauce wafts out of the windows, while the pensioners from the bar still have their eyes firmly on the street, the kids are playing soccer in the street and everyone has time for a little chat.
Italy in its pure form is best enjoyed pure. Camera away, just look and feel. And apart from that: No one probably wants to be photographed hanging out the laundry.
2. A Round of Appetite: Go to a Supermercato or Mercato
Central Market Florence
In and around the tourist areas you will usually find many small stores and kiosks offering products for everyday needs, drinks and snacks – usually also souvenirs and sunglasses. This may be practical for the quick in between, but Italian shopping looks quite different…
Go to a supermercato sometime. Attention, spoiler: It will be WOW. When you see the meter-long rows of shelves of pasta and spaghetti, in the next aisle a giant pallet of tomato can vendors, oglio and balsamico one more aisle. This is food porn to behold.
You will feel very much the same at a market. The sales talk, the strolling, huge lemons (the size of a honeydew melon) and the most fragrant tomatoes ever. Maximum sensory overload. And chats in between are included.
Along the way, you see the extremely well-groomed senior citizen with freshly ondulated curls and pearl earrings pushing her basket on her walker (such style only exists among Italian pensioners), the mom shopping for dinner with four kids, the young couple smooching more than anything else.
P.S. Before you strike, think again exactly HOW MANY kilos of air you still have in your suitcase.
3. Out of the Tourist Class: Take a Normal Bus or a Tram…
A little bit of adventure is allowed: Find the nearest bus, train or water cab stop and just hop on. In the big cities there are day tickets. A very inexpensive pleasure – and you are right in the middle and see real life!
It doesn’t matter if you go around in circles or just get off where you like. A really inexpensive way to immerse yourself. Italian everyday life is on the side, watch and enjoy.
4. A Taste of University Air: Get Inspiration…
Italy has shaped the European university landscape. Europe’s first university was founded in 1088 – in Bologna. Today, there are 89 universities in Italy. Europe’s largest university in Europe today is in Rome, the University of La Sapienza (Italian: sapienza = wisdom), officially Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”. A good 30 percent of Italian women and about 20 percent of Italians have a university degree.
If you’re in a town with a university (virtually every town in Italy has a university), take a breath of academic air. Whether you sit down in the square in front of the university with a panino or treat yourself to a coffee in a student cafe, the atmosphere is incredibly invigorating. And – betcha – you’ll have at least one to three nice conversations….
5. Hello Everyone: Just Say Buongiorno….
You’re strolling through a few sleepy alleys, a nice elderly gentleman is sitting on a bench in front of his house, the pizza maker is looking out of the back door, a woman is hanging the laundry out of the window – all of them are looking at you somehow questioningly. Just say: Biongiorno.
Especially in the countryside, in a small village, it’s kind of expected of you. As a guest you say hello, and 79 percent of the time you’ll have a nice chat (if you don’t speak Italian, probably with hands and feet).
And if you meet your new acquaintance maybe even a day later on the street again, then it feels somehow already like your first Italian friend.
P.S. It’s best to say “buongiorno” (until about 5 p.m.) or “buonasera” (from about 5 p.m.), “Ciao” is used in Italy for friends, acquaintances, family.
And the best thing at the end: in principle, you can’t do anything wrong in Italy. Keep an open mind, let yourself be inspired and don’t completely over schedule your schedule. Time for Bella Vita is always allowed – and that feels like Italy. …
>>> FOR MORE STORIES: check out our online magazine
written by Annie Kayser