Italy is the ultimate heart-throb; breath-taking landscapes, mouth-watering cuisine and illustrious art –they really do have it all. A country made up of twenty regions, each remarkable within their own right, full of grandeur and acclaimed culture Italy has an incredible amount to offer – a place to bathe in culture craved by thousands.
A month in this wondrous country left me damning my painfully British ancestors and questioning why one is living in a below average English suburb, when you could be blown away daily living in this paradise across the ocean. Alas, Brexit may have ruined that pipeline dream for anyone and everyone forever, but let’s not talk about the excruciatingly bleak situation we’ve somehow got ourselves into ey?
You can’t mutter the word Italy without first showing sovereign appreciation for Italian cuisine. Something us Brits can’t get enough off; but the real deal is a long way from the processed, additive overloaded pasta sauces in a jar, or the pizzas you can get made to order a la ASDA. A month in Italy left my clothes a little tighter and my stomach a little larger but it was most definitely welcomed. As quick as I could gobble down as much gorgonzola as I could get my hands on, I lost all the shits given about my weight.
Each region offered a twist on Italian food, making their mark on the bricks and mortar that define the cuisine. Far from any of the “authentic” Italian dishes you’ll find down at Zizzi’s, Italian food is earthy and rustic but always holds an air of sophistication and demure, most importantly it relies on the land and only ever comprises of the freshest, seasonal ingredients.
Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance and home to one of the most papped views in the country. Peering over the city from the viewpoint on the hill, morning noon or night is an incredible feast for the eyes. But it’s also the city where Tuscan food comes to life, historically the root of all other Italian cuisine, Florence has a strong argument as the face of Italy’s gastronomy and my all round winner. Pizza like you’ve never tasted before, with thick focaccia bread bases topped with plenty of cured meats and pungent blue cheeses. Gelato is to be religiously eaten after every savoury meal, impossible to find a bad ice cream parlour, visiting these beautiful establishments is a hobby in itself.
The Italians make a big deal over their food and rightly so, a trip to an ice cream parlour isn’t a simple dash in and out with your ice cream slopped in a cardboard tub. It’s an intricate process of picking the exact flavour combinations, deliberating over a crispy cone whether that be chocolate covered or plain and finally how many scoops you think you can fit in before you practically explode. The creamiest ice cream, with traditional Italian flavours like tiramisu alongside increasingly popular flavours like Nutella and Kinder. The Florence ice cream parlours are grand and traditionally decorated with seating for you to ponder over your dessert like only the Italians know how.
Florence’s chunky pizzas with masses of toppings are opposite ends of the pizza scale to that you’ll find in Pisa, an extremely thin base with only the two key ingredients, fresh basil infused tomato base with a sprinkle of creamy mozzarella and hard cows cheese. Seafood, obviously, plays a big part near the coast and pasta served with creamy butter takes the podium in Bologna. Each region offering something that little bit different from the next, if you were to visit Italy for the only reason of sampling such edible delights with disregard for the other wonders it has on offer, you honestly wouldn’t care. Food will always pip other cultural activities, Colosseum anyone? And if you actually think museums are better than pizza, then there’s the queue for the ticket office.
The bolshie Roman Empire cannot be unappreciated, the city is an architectural wonderland, so much of it well preserved and still intact – a great feast for the eyes. The Trevi Fountain is everything you’d ever hoped for from first seeing it on the Lizzie McGuire Movie; the intricate white stone, statues are something only the romans could produce, standing tall and proud in all their half-naked glory. Obviously, the Vatican City is an incredible visit, for the smallest city in the world their collection of art is pretty impressive. The Sistine Chapel is next level, breath-taking and sneaking a photo of such wonder is a mission in itself and God help you if that cheeky auto-flash decides to make an appearance. Rome is a city that can be rivalled like no other, no other city offers so much history and mythology combined with nightlife, gastronomic goodness and of course fashion.
Italian fashion is a far cry from the white wash of Nike Huaraches in the big smoke; tailored and clean cut, the fashionistas of Italy have their very own chic style, something many of us mere mortals could only dream of emulating. The fashion forward nation, housing some big name designers, sends ripples through the fashion world, with Fendi recently claiming the Trevi Fountain as their runway, what could get much better.
Foodies, fashionistas, culture queens and history heroes; Italy is a haven for us all. Italy is like that kid you used to get jealous of in school, who was musical, sporty and top of the class in all the subjects, so not fair. Italians have it all, everything that surrounds them is beautiful and this reflects on the people themselves. They appreciate life, and the splendour that surrounds them. They have an intense, passionate love for family, friends and partners, no one can love like the Italians do, that’s a fact. You begin to really believe and understand why they so strongly support the mantra, ‘La Vita E Bella’ meaning the beautiful life, it’s almost impossible not to.
Words by Liv Rafferty