Yes, I love Italy. It wasn’t love at first sight, though. It was more of a “best friend turned lover” situation for me. My first trip to Italy was in March 2012. A very budget trip, with a super cheap flight we managed to grab from WizzAir. I discovered the olives, cheeses and that I didn’t quite like Rome. Then we went back for more, a year later, in September. And suddenly, I started to love it. We even lived and worked from Italy for a while.
Here are my reasons for this love affair.
The incredible archaeological sites
While I am still not a major fan of Rome, I have to say that the Roman Forum is majestic and interesting. But the sites which will always be in my heart are Pompeii and Herculaneum . One is enormous and super popular among tourists, the other is smaller, yet sends you shivers down the spine. I fell in love with Herculaneum and want to go back for more.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alberobello is located close to Bari and is known for the trulli houses. I felt as if I was exploring a fairy-tale city when I was walking its streets in May 2016. It is a site you have to explore.
Sure, here comes to cliché: pizza! I swear I have never had bad pizza in Italy. Of course , the best one was in Naples, the birthplace of this food. But I’ve had amazing pizza in small places tucked away in small cities at the Adriatic Sea.
Cornetto & Cappuccino
The staple Italian breakfast is a cornetto and coffee. Since the espresso is way too short and too strong for me, while in Italy I go for a cappuccino. I love this combination so much that when I start craving it back home I know I have to plan to go back to Italy.
Olive oil, Olives and Cheese
Go in any farmer’s market and you’ll find a lot of olives. And olive oil and a lot of cheeses to choose from. And you will want to taste them all. For our wedding anniversary in 2016, we ended up in a tavernola. They served only local products and one of them was fresh bread with olive oil and olives. Everything made by them. It was heaven.
While translated as “ice cream”, it is not the same thing. Gelato is thicker and heartier. And amazing! Yes, you need to be careful where you buy it from and it is a good idea only to go where the locals go. But when you do find the perfect place, you’ll be in heaven.
There are a lot of hiking paths available, you only need to have time and good walking shoes. This year (n.a. 2016) we did a lovely hike in Puglia, among olive groves and wild, colorful flowers. On our first trip (n.a. 2012) we did a short hike up a hill to find a place for lovely views across the Adriatic coast.
The mellow way of life
You cannot but relax and fall right in the Italian way of life. The lunch break is king …and long. Especially when the sun is high and hot, all you want to do is hide inside and sleep. It was hard to adjust at first, since we visited during winter, but during the first summer visit, it was very clear why this nap time is needed. And how much I missed this life once I left the country.
Meals are rituals
Our host had set meals times and dinner was always a ritual. Sometimes they started preparing dinner right after lunch. The dishes weren’t very complicated, but they were a delight for the senses.
The Adriatic coast
I am not a major beach fan – aside from walking on it when it’s almost deserted – but I do like the rugged Adriatic coast in Puglia. Cliffs, beaches, caves…and the greenish-blue hue make for perfect photos.
The Medieval castles
I have a thing for medieval castles and when I find one to explore, you bet I’m going to do it. It’s hard to decide which one I like more out of all I’ve visited in Italy but the torture chamber at Peschici’s Castle is still a vivid memory.
Note: the article was written in Sep 2016, updated and republished in Sep 2017.