Italy is known as a country of art, architecture culture, fashion and gourmet Italian food so when I finally got a chance to take my vacation there as my partner completed a job in Rome, I was thrilled. I must say that although I went in ready to experience all these things, I was delightfully surprised by experience after experience. If you haven’t planned your next vacation yet, I seriously recommend Italy. You can use this as a travel guide if you wish.
Getting to Italy
We were delighted to find out that there are cheap alternative flights to get into Rome from London. It cost us both less than £200 and the flight was short and comfortable. As it turns out, Italy is very accessible from almost all parts of the world. The country is dotted with airports so you can very easily land as near as your destination as possible. Within Italy, there are connecting flights, there are plenty that fly from city to city so getting around is no problem. If you are coming in from any country in the Mediterranean region, you will be pleased to know that you can get to Italy through the sea via a cruise. To get around as my partner was working I decided to hire a car. The maps we bought at our hotel were quite detailed so I didn’t really have much of a tough time getting around.
Communicating with Italians
For someone with very little working knowledge of the Italian language, I must say that I got around with very little trouble. Italians are friendly people and it is to understand why; their country has had foreign visitors as far back as the 10th century. It happens to be home to the oldest university in Europe so it is easy to see why it attracted so many visitors back tenth.
Many Italians are quite fluent in English although they of course have an Italian accent. In restaurants and other shopping spots, almost everyone I interacted with was able to understand me and answer my questions quite well. Travel guides don’t tell you just how lively Italians are. What I immediately noticed was that Italians are rarely quiet whether they are talking to each other or with visitors. The long silences of my English culture are out of place in Italy. So is the British stiff communication that I am used to. Italians are vivacious and they use a lot of and gestures. They are also a hearty people and they are very generous to visitors. Overall, I must say that I was quite happy with the way I was treated and I was impressed that everyone was so pleasant and communicative.
Eating in Italy
One of the reasons I recommend Italy as a destination is the food. I had read so much about the gourmet delights of Italy and I had already booked a food tour in the Italian food capital Bologna. Bologna is home to 3 food items that you will not find in any other place in the world: Parma ham, Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar. Our one day tour was to take us around Bologna so that we could see how these foods are made. Our guide for the day was a tall, middle-aged Italian man called Paolo and he told us that he is a native of Bologna so he was quite familiar with how everything is done and he was quite thorough in explaining.
We started at a Parmesan cheese factory early in the morning and we saw the whole process right from when the milk arrives, how it is turned into cheese, how the cheese is shaped and how it is stored. The best part of the visit was that we got to taste some fresh Parmesan cheese right there in the factory. Paolo explained to us that the EU has laid out guidelines limiting the production of this cheese to this region only. Te cows that give the milk to make this cheese are all bred in Bologna and they are fed grass and hay from this area only.
Our next stop was at a Balsamic vinegar maker and we saw how the vinegar is slowly aged as it is changed from barrel to barrel. The barrels are made from a special kind of wood so as to flavor the vinegar. Don’t imagine that this is balsamic vinegar as you know it; it is actually a thick, dark liquid that transforms any meal into a delectable surprise. Our food tour ended with a tour of a Parma ham maker and here, we also saw the salting and curing this very special ham.
Accommodation in Italy
With the architecture and fantastic hospitality, finding a place to stay in Italy is easier than in most destinations. You will find B&Bs with antique furnitures and great breakfasts, apartments for rent in big cities with high ceilings, country houses and cottages in the rural regions. A popular category that is specific to Italy is the Farm Stay or Agrotourism. Farm owners will convert one of the houses on the land or even a beautiful old barn for you and your family to enjoy.
Conclusion? I know for certain that I will be going back soon!
Gabriele is a dedicated travel writer and he lives in Modena about 60 km from Bologna.
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