To the Tricolore! A locals’ guide to Italy
Thu Sep 2014
Italy is famous for many things. Rolling hills, fabulous fashion, amazing cuisine and culture unrivalled elsewhere in Europe have helped to see millions of tourists the world over flock to the country, but what do the locals think of life in Italy? From the northern reaches of Piedmont near the Alps to the southernmost tip of Sicily, Italy has plenty to offer, whatever your personal taste or preference.
Big cities such as Milan, Florence and capital city Rome all have their own vibes, while the vast expanse of Italian countryside has a myriad of delights. Wherever you choose to visit, you’re sure to find something that arouses your interest, whether you want a great night out on the town, a stroll around a museum or art gallery, or perhaps a tour of the local vineyards.
Using cities as an example, Rome has a plethora of historical sites such as the Coliseum and, of course, the Vatican within its historic centre. Also, it has plenty of places to grab a bite to eat and take in sports such as football.
Milan is perhaps best-known for its fashion, but it’s great for buying other things besides great outfits from world-famous designers. The northern city is also famous for football and motor racing, while it also has more of a cosmopolitan vibe than just about anywhere else in Italy.
Florence is where culture vultures are most likely to head to. The splendid architecture and array of galleries make it as good a place as any to get a feel for how life in the middle of Tuscany was like several centuries ago. Many famous artists came from the city, including the celebrated Renaissance artist, Michelangelo.
Way out there
Away from the hustle and bustle of Milan et al, there are plenty of places in Italy which are more serene. Umbria is a good example, being home to numerous lakes which are perfect for sailing or walking/cycling around. The countryside there is where you can experience the real Italy.
To give you an idea of what people currently living in different parts of Italy is like, we have asked a handful of bloggers to share their experiences with you, revealing what there is to do in their home towns. They profile Milan, Rome, Florence and part of Umbria’s Lake District near the city of Perugia:
Heather Carlson - http://cafecarlson.com - Milan
“Living in Milan is hectic and delicious, beautiful and maddening at times! We have loved being able to explore the city, discovering its many hidden treasures and delicious spots.
Milan is also close to so many beautiful places. We can take day trips to dozens of stunning locations in the mountains, near the lakes, to foodie destinations like Bologna and Parma or to the glorious Mediterranean.
Read more about our expat adventures in Italy at Café Carlson.
A favourite spot of ours is the oldest church in Milano, Chiesa San Lorenzo. In front of the church lies a gorgeous Roman ruin, the Colonne di San Lorenzo. For dinner nearby, we love Cantina della Vetra, just around the corner behind the church. Start with the Gnocco Fritto con Affetati (fried dough with salami) and burrata and you will be in heaven! The staff are delightful and will help you find the perfect bottle of wine to accompany your dinner.”
Jillian Crocker - http://jillianinitaly.com/ - Lago Magione
"Being one of the world's most family-centric cultures makes Italy an ideal destination for family travel. Kids and parents alike will be able to experience first-hand many of the places where great music, art and culture flourished, famous historic events occurred and enjoy the stunning scope of natural beauty that the country has to offer. Not to mention the gelato. The Northern Lake District (where we live) offers tourists of every age world-class hiking, many gorgeous lakes for swimming and boating and important historical sites such as Santa Caterina Del Sasso and the famous Borromean Islands."
Gillian McGuire - http://www.gillianslists.com/ - Rome
“Life in Italy is an adventure. The different language, the chaos of Rome, the unspoken rules about when to drink what type of coffee and keeping up "la bella fugura."
Most people think of lounging on the beach when they plan to come to Italy and an Amalfi Coast holiday but if you are looking for something a little more active, the coast is full of wonderful walks.
The most well-known is the Walk of the Gods (Sentiero Degli Dei). The full walk covers seven kilometres (just over four miles) and begins in the town of Bomerano, near Agerola and finishes in Positano. You can do a shorter version by stopping for lunch in Nocelle and then catching the local bus (or the 1500 stairs) down to Positano.
The entire walk will take you approximately four and a half hours but if you chose to finish in Nocelle, it should take around three hours. Some parts of the path are better marked than others. Make sure you have water and comfortable shoes. Don’t forget your camera, the views are extraordinary.”
Tiana at http://blog.tianakai.com/ - Florence
After studying in Florence 10 years ago, the stars aligned and I'm back living in Florence with my Florentine husband. I love Italy, everything from its food, passionate people to the special hues that only exist here. It is a place that helped me fall back in love with photography and cooking seasonal dishes.Living in Italy has been rewarding in so many ways and now after being here for two years, I really feel like a local! I have grown into the slow pace of the lifestyle, eaten better than anywhere else, and made amazing friends. There are few places where everyone should live at least once, and that's anywhere in Italy!
The best things I love about Florence—besides the killer views of the duomo—are the churches, alleyways, bicycles, the Arno River and the small town feeling. It's big enough to not bump into the same people twice and get lost in, but small enough to feel like home.