10 Things To Love About Italy

Madness and mayhem aside, there are a ton of things to love about Italy. I could make countless lists. Lists of favorite foods, most memorable hilltop towns, top stunning views. Cultural quirks. Regional accents.

It goes on…

Instead, I’ll start with just one list: ten of the more memorable things Italy has to offer. Who knows…maybe this is just one of many lists to come.

1. “Ciao, Paolo!” said with such gusto, I’m convinced it must be stage acting — walking through a piazza (town square) in Bologna in spring of 2013, a lady greeted another man, “Ciao, Paolo!” She kissed him vigorously on the cheeks, like she were saying to her best girlfriend, “I just love you dress!” in her best sorority girl uptalk. As a southern girl, I’m accustomed to over-the-top greetings, but this was another kind of exuberance, and it was one of those defining moments where I realized I was a very American fish swimming in superbly Latin waters.

J and our friend Marco near Lake Como (Italy)
J and our friend Marco near Lake Como (Italy)

2. Horse meat macellerie — where you can find the All-American favorite equine meat display case (I kid). Seriously, though…there are horse steaks and sausages, ground horse meat, and horse involtini (meat thinly sliced and layered with cheese or vegetables, then rolled). Don’t believe me? Read all about it.

3. The turquoise waters of Puglia — need I say more?

J standing in the sea (Puglia, Italy)
J standing in the sea (Puglia, Italy)

4. Altamura’s bell-shaped bread — a culinary staple worth the trek to far-off Puglia (the heel of Italy’s “boot”). Even after living in Italy for three-and-a-half years, this bread remains my absolute favorite. Like any Chanel bag, you can find knock-offs all over the country, but the real thing can only be found in the town of Altamura, itself.

5. 400 year-old buildings people call “young” — back in the winter of 2012, taking a walk with one of Jason’s cousins in a town called Don (Trentino), I pointed to an old church that dated to the 1600s, and Jason’s cousin turned to me, shrugged, and said, “Eh. È giovane.” (“It’s young.”)

Very old Tyrolean building in Val di Non (Trentino, Italy)
Very old Tyrolean building in Val di Non (Trentino, Italy)
You can see the date when the building was built: 1716 (Val di Non, Italy)
You can see the date when it was built: 1716. Renovated in 1963. (Val di Non, Italy)

6. The Piedmont Countryside  — a birthday bike ride through the poppy fields to an old religious sanctuary is a day not to be forgotten. The Piedmont countryside is a certain unadorned paradise made for getting away from the fray.

7. The fact that any Oceanside strip of land, even one covered in rocks, is considered a “beach” — Italy has the second-most coastline in Europe (Norway being first), but still…a place to lay out and swim in the azure Mediterranean is priceless, no matter what it’s made of.

A friend's kid at a beach on the Amalfi Coast (Italy)
A friend’s kid at a “beach” full of rocks on the Amalfi Coast (Italy)

8. Stracciatella cheese from Puglia — it’s a simple concoction of fresh mozzarella that’s been stretched and shredded, officially known as “stracciatella di bufala.” This is one of the first cheeses I tasted in Puglia, remaining an all-time Italian favorite (stay tuned for my forthcoming “Making The Face” series to learn more about stracciatella cheese).

9. Scooter riding in Naples — whoever said spontaneity isn’t worth the ride? In this case, the best way to get the feel for Naples, Italy, is on the back of a scooter. Preferably at rush hour.

Scooter in Perugia, Italy.
Scooter in Perugia, Italy.

10. The Autogrill and its proliferation of high-quality food — there’s a reason Italian’s don’t lead the world in obesity. Even highway pitstops provide fresh sandwiches, good (decent, according to Jason) coffee, and reasonable snack foods. Sometimes there are even restaurants where you can dine on actual dish ware. Who doesn’t love stopping at the Autogrill?

Don’t forget to check out the links above to learn more, and stay tuned for more great lists to come!

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