When in Italy – Twenty essential things to do

Sitting at the table one night, after a few bottles of Chianti with some old friends, most of whom had spent time as European tour guides and backpackers, I asked them to name the best things to see or do during their time in Italy. There was a lot of discussion out loud, as some tried to praise the less obvious over the more conventional, but there was also great unanimous agreement for others.

In no particular order, I can present you the 20 best things to do in Italy as decided by my peers.

1. Observation of nuns in Piazza San Pietro

There is something serene about seeing a line of nuns on tour, especially on specific Saints days, taking photos of the facade of St. Peter’s or crawling one behind the other inside the massive basilica. They are second only to pigeons, which parents, who hate their children, encourage to sit on the heads of their young in the hope that they will pick them up and fly away, perhaps dropping them somewhere above the Forum.

2. Eat Gelati 3 times a day

This is mandatory for anyone traveling during the months of June, July and August. I don’t understand how Italians get it so creamy and flavorful and drippy, but you never feel full. It’s the best after a long hot day queuing for hours to see all those magnificent works of art. It’s made with all-natural ingredients and everyone claims to have the best ice cream shop in Italy, which is credible, but some even go further, experimenting with weird flavors like tomato and believe it or not basil.

3. Holding up the leaning tower of Pisa

You have all seen it. The mandatory photo of someone and their companions holding the Leaning Tower, either with one finger or with both hands. Probably the best thing after climbing it, which is all anyone is going to do in Pisa. And holding it is the cheapest there is.

4. Dodging cars in Rome

After parachuting in Switzerland and a taxi ride in the Czech Republic, this is probably the most adrenaline-pumping activity you can do in Europe. To cross the street you must keep walking, be sure to maintain eye contact with any driver who approaches like a bullfighter and keeps moving. Cars and bikes will get very close, never actually touching you, as long as you keep going.

5. Parking on a sidewalk

Everyone else does.

6. Sing a duet with a gondolier

He may not be the next Pavarotti, but your gondolier should have a pretty good voice. They know all the old favorites and it makes the experience even more authentic. They usually ask for a little more for the service in addition to the rental fee. The most favored time is at dusk, as the lights come on, causing the reflections in the water to add to the atmosphere.

7. Go out with the Pope on Wednesday

Tourists, nuns, priests, locals and pigeons flock to Piazza San Pietro for his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI’s weekly address at around 10 a.m. Later, you can visit the interior of the Basilica and the crypt where the remains of Saint Peter are kept.

8. Take a look at David’s A – e

You could stand in line and pay to see the original inside the Accademia, where it was changed in the late 19th century to protect it from vandals and the elements. Either you can examine your copy closely at Piazza Signoria for free, or you can climb the hill above Ponte Vecchio to see the bronze version at Piazza Michelangelo. Or you can see all 3 and make a comparison.

9. Drink wine and watch the sunset in Cinque Terre

There is something quite unique about sitting on the rocks next to where the fishing boats stop, the lanterns swinging along the cables around the cove in the sea breeze, listening to a boy practicing his baritone opera through an open window, watching the sun sink into the horizon sipping a locally made red wine after eating homemade pasta and pesto sauce. Perfect.

10. Eat pizza in Naples

Home of Pizza Margherita. A famous local pizza maker, Rafaelle Espositi, heard that the Queen of Naples was interested in trying a pizza, so he made a patriotic one using basil, tomato and mozzarella for the colors of the Italian flag. He liked it so much that he gave it his name. To enjoy while watching the kamikaze scooters and the cars going to hell for leather through the narrow streets.

11. Cliff Diving in Sorrento

Not for the faint of heart. Locals, usually children, climb steep cliffs to jump and drop dozens of meters into the great blue below. If that’s too much of a stretch, you can always wear a mask and snorkel and wait underneath.

12. Calling your mom from the top of the Campanile in Venice

Believe it or not, there is a pay phone at the top of the steeple so you can make that important call to your mother, or maybe order a pizza for dinner.

13. Wine tasting in Chianti

There is a theory that the word Chianti comes from the old Etruscan word for water ‘Clante’, which is an obvious connection if you drink a lot of Chianti. The strict production standards set by the Consortium mean that the quality of all types of wine is constant and it is difficult to find a bad one.

14. Toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain

But don’t go swimming unless you want to pay a big fine. One coin means that he returns to Rome, two coins means that he returns and receives a kiss, and three coins means that he returns and gets married. All money is collected regularly and goes to charity. The authorities also do not take kindly to anyone who steals from the source. Put the coin (s) in your right hand and toss it over your left shoulder. It’s a fun thing to do with your third ice cream change.

15. Visiting the Sistine Chapel

If you survive the 3km walk through the opulent papal rooms of the Vatican Museum, you will be rewarded with the sensational view of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Created in situ by Michelangelo, he often painted freehand directly onto wet plaster, through belligerent papal outbursts, financial difficulties, personnel problems, slippery foundations, wars, and finally completed after 4 years in 1512. Carry mini binoculars and some kind of key for each fresco. The noise of everyone whispering is only drowned out by the guard who yells ‘silence’ from time to time.

And you don’t sit on the steps.

16. Walking the tables in a flooded Venice

One of the most original experiences when visiting this aquatic city. The winter rains flood the lagoon and when the tide is in the level they can rise to the knees. The practical locals have come up with the solution in the form of raised platforms so that you can walk the boards around Piazza San Marco without getting your toes wet. Or you could invest in some fancy rubber ankle boots.

17. Get Grappa-ed (drink too much Grappa)

Each country has its fire water. In Russia and Poland it is vodka, in Mexico it is Tequila, in Czech it is Absinthe and in Italy it is Grappa. Distilled from the leftovers of pressing the grapes for wine, all the seeds, skins and stems, it is generally drunk at the end of a meal after espresso. The first shot takes care of any sensation in the throat and the second and third take care of the rest of the nervous system.

18. Buy a Ferrari cap

After football, the Pope and his own mother come the country’s almost religious followers of that little red car from Maranello. Most Italian drivers seem to envision themselves as the next Schumacher along the autostrada, truck drivers included, but you have to admit the car is cool.

19. Riding a scooter in Tuscany

Winding roads between green hills, rows of vines that carefully cut the slopes, wildflowers in the fields and those tall cypress trees that line the driveway to a medieval village. All that fresh air and the opportunity to live at the local rhythm while preparing a delicious picnic in a farmer’s field.

20. Finish a Bistecca alla Fiorentina (T bone Steak)

The resurrection of the Florentine favorite steak made national news. Famous local Panzano butcher Dario Cecchini had held a public funeral and memorial service when the EU banned the sale of beef in bone products after the mad cow scare a few years ago. Now he’s back and everyone is celebrating. Just make sure you’re really looking forward to this one as it’s huge.

The general consensus was that these were all things that should be done during a trip to Italy, along with all the usual things of art and history, of course, to get the most out of the trip.

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