Feeling like family in Italy.
The list of reasons to love Italy is endless.The food, wine, architecture, history, and beaches are one of a kind. But for our family, we love it because it’s a chance for us to visit our parents. Our parents, Hans andJanet Huenink, have lived in Italy for the last 10 years, first as diplomats at the American Embassy in Rome and now as retirees in Anzio. It’s a town that does not closedown in the off-season, and instead stays lively year-round due to the proximity to Rome.
Anzio sits on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is accessible directly from Rome via a 45-minute train ride, making for an easy day trip to the beach. There’s always some type of festival on the weekends with live music.The town’s hidden gems are its marina and port, miles of beaches, and abundance of outstanding seafood. Anzio’s beach is famous for the ruins of an ancient villa belong-ing to the infamous Roman Emperor Nero. It is a unique experience to lounge on soft sand with turquoise water in front of you and 2,000-year-old ancient ruins behind.
But of course, you must visit Rome (Roma) when visiting Italy. If you’re visiting for the first time, Trastevere is one of the best places to stay in Rome. The surviving bit of medieval Rome charms with its crumbling buildings scattered among trendy bars, cobbled lanes, and the Basilica of Santa Maria. However, the €1.50 Peronis beers at Bar San Calis to might be the main thing callingRomans to this side of the river!
At any turn, you’ll walk into live music or street art.A longtime favorite is the Lungo il Tevere festival, which is held every year along the banks of the Tiber River at the beginning of June through the end of August. If you enjoy cooking, this is a great area to take a pasta-making class! Some of the highlights of Rome are the SpanishSteps, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and of course, The Vatican. If you travel in the summer months, try to book a Colosseum night tour.
Next up is Cinque Terre. To hike along this scenic coastline is the best way to explore the five villages. Monterosso is the largest and has the best beach options if you go in the summer. If you take the 2-hour hike from Monterosso to Vernazza, you’ll come across the most magical view of Vernazza. Ideally, you’d want to spend three or four days visiting the Cinque Terre to give you time to explore. There’s a sense of peace with the minimal vehicle traffic. Taking the train is the easiest way to reach the Cinque Terre — purchase the train/hiking combo pass.Be sure to make a reservation to get a sea view for meals and try the homemade pesto or take a pesto-making class! Also, there’s a good chance you’ll run into a celebrity.
Driving the Amalfi Coast is also a wonderful experience. The scenery is unbelievable. However, the drive requires the utmost attention to navigate the hairpin turns and very narrow passages. Enjoy the wonderful hospitality of the locals and take in the sites. Plan a day near the clear blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, or rent a boat to view the villages and cliffs.
Food is a huge part of Italian culture and should be a highlight of your vacation. American Italian foods are not, in fact, Italian at all (such as fettuccine alfredo, mozzarella sticks, and chicken parmigiana). Chicken or meatballs are served as separate dishes rather than on pasta. Pepperonis are not a thing (try diavola, a slightly spicy salami, instead). If you see these things on a restaurant menu, you are likely at a tourist trap and probably need to look elsewhere for good food.
Italians take food very seriously. A little research before you travel will endear you to the locals and improve your experience. “When in Rome,” as they say. Buon appetito!
Good to Know
• Italians don’t walk and drink coffee.
• Traditionally cappuccino is a breakfast drink only, and the standard caffѐ that Italians drink all day is what we call espresso. An Americanois close enough to American drip-style coffee and a nice summer drink is shakerato, basically a virgin espresso martini.
• Breakfast is typically very light such as a cafe and a small pastry or fruit.
• Rome’s classic pastas are perfect for a light lunch as a solo dish:carbonara, cacio e’ pepe, amatriciana, and gricia. These are simple, but delicious, pastas that use classic ingredients like pecorino cheese and guanciale (pig cheek).
• Italian happy hour isaperitivo and their version of “5 o’clock somewhere.” It almost always includes little snacks with your cocktail.The quintessential summer aperitivo is an aperol spritz (an orange bitter and prosecco blend).
• If you have several days in Rome, get up early and explore, take a nap in the afternoon, and go out in the evening
Before You Dine
• Research before you dine. Tripadvisor is a pretty reliable source.
• Avoid restaurants close to tourist attractions, pushy waiters trying to lure you to sit, and places where the majority of people dining are not Italian.
• Eat when Italians eat, which is typically no earlier than 8 p.m. If a restaurant is open for dinner at 5 p.m., that’s a warning sign.
• Don’t expect wait staff to be as attentive. They don’t work for tips, and they expect you to be there a long time, as dining is usually a two-hour (or more) experience.
• Italian food is highly regional. Try the local specialties.
• Many traditional Italian foods that Americans know are from southern Italy. Pizza came from Naples. Pasta is more prevalent in the south while the north offers more rice and potato-based starches.
• Steak lovers should try a Florentine steak (Bistecca alla Fiorentina) in Florence. But if you’re on the coast, the catch of the day is a good bet.
• Branch out from gelato, and try the variety of desserts (ordolci) local to the region.