First Time On Surviving In Italy?

Your First Time Here? STOP. This is not a traditional travel blog. If you’re offended easily or struggle with sarcasm or irony you should skip my website and watch this instead. Also, I swear ALL THE TIME and ramble on about the capybara. You still there? Winning! I’ve Put Together Some Of My Most Popular Posts For You To Start With:

LIFE IN ITALY

21 Ways To Survive Being An Expat 

Why Everyone Should Live In Italy At Least Once In Their Lives

Christmas In Italy 2013: The Time The Blowdryer Ate My Mother-In-Law’s Head

13 Things That I’ve Learned From Marrying An Italian Man

17 Signs That Italy Might Make You Crazy Or Homicidal

Italian The Hard Way

10 Reasons That I’m Surprised That Someone Married M.E.

In My Husband’s Family, Leaving The Table Is Like Announcing You’ve Eaten A Child 

TRAVEL ITALY

7 Best Things To Prepare You For Italy

Dining In Italy: How To Avoid Making An Ass Of Yourself

Rome With Rick Zullo

Travel Bologna With Sarah Dowling

5 Steps To A Non-Conventional Night In Florence

A Weekend In Chianti

Vacation Apartments In Florence: How To Overcome Writer’s Block (Or Just Hang Out).

MOVING TO ITALY

Moving To Italy: Studying And Living 

Frequently Asked Questions: Jobs, Immigration, Circumcision, Love

31 Reasons You Would Be Better Off In Italy

How To Move To Italy

 

See Something You Like? Pass It On! Share On FB Or Twitter!

Newsletter

(The newsletter is rad and you’ll get things that everyone else doesn’t. Winning!)

images

7 Things I Love About Italy That Might Surprise You

1. Italy is a visual paradise in most places. Sure, some of the newer cities are kind of ghetto with lackluster architecture, but for the most part the cities are absolutely stunning. Old cement buildings with charming flower beds in windows, the cobblestone, the massive churches with well-preserved Fresco paintings, and greener than Crayola-green hills. If Italy was a person it would be a Victoria’s Secret model. Probably one of the transgender ones because their bodies are the most toned.

Florence Italy

2. The dramatic graffiti. There’s nothing like teenage angst and love to make walking the dog a poetic experience. There’s a freakish amount of graffiti in Italy which seems ghetto and sketchy until you can read it and it’s all, “Dear Maria, you’re an angel sent from God. I love you, for now, for always, your love, Giorgio.” I also love how they will have love letter battles, like one person will write his girlfriend something, then a few days later a different guy will write his girlfriend a poem directly over it. Ah, those teens in Italy, such rascals. And also? Didn’t their parents teach them anything about pens or paper or the beauty of a simple email (or a mixed tape….)?

3. There is never an impending feeling of doom, or the need to be productive whatsoever. People seem to do everything in slow motion, even at the emergency room. It’s like nothing matters, the world stands still, and we’re all just hanging out. Italy is possibly the most relaxing place I’ve ever been simply because the general demeanor of its inhabitants seem not at all concerned with anything. In public. This doesn’t extend to when you actually know people or see them in their homes. That’s when the crazy comes out.

4. Clothing. It’s the best place to shop on the planet if you’re into monochromatic color schemes, neutrals, black outfits, warm grays, and a look that screams, “Serious on the outside, fun on the inside!” Naturally.

Florence Italy Fashion

5. A different kind of “manly.” There is definitely a lot of sexism in Italy (let’s just call a spade, a spade, eh?) but the idea of “manliness,” is different. Guys have no shame when it comes to dressing well, taking incredible care of their bodies or clothing, and will give zero second-thoughts to cruising around in a suit on a bicycle of any color. Sometimes with a poodle in the basket and a baby strapped to their back. Men often carry their female partner’s purses around, and are not concerned with small banners of manhood. For example, Francesco had a work trip in the US with all Americans and during dinner one of the American guys actually said, “White wine is a woman’s drink.” And Francesco nearly lost his shit. He tried to correct him and say that white wine pairs better with different types of food but the men at the table stood firm that “red wine is for men.” Weird.

Man on bike in Florence Italy

6. Speedos and naked boobs. Look, yes, it can be a bit traumatic to witness two overweight Italian men with gorillia-like body hair wrestling on the beach in Gaeta. But, I love that there is a different relationship with the body in Italy. Women will occasionally pop their tops off at certain beaches, they don’t put swimming-suit tops on 4 year old girls (and seriously why would you? What are we covering?), and the guys proudly display their banana packages with no remorse whatsoever. I kind of like that. Not that I love to go to the beach to stare at semi-naked dudes…but, I like the confidence. Look, here’s my penis and all of my man-hair and potbelly for all to see, displayed triumphantly on the sand.

7. An extreme attention to detail. I don’t know if you’ve ever went into a chocolate shop in Italy to buy a gift for a friend but if you haven’t, do it. Even if you purchase four pieces, at any given store, they’ll spend 15 minutes making it cute for you. Paper, tags, ribbons, all of it. If you’re in a hurry it can also make you crazy but if you have time go check it out. They have an acute, almost manic, attention to detail that is probably unrivaled by anyone ever.

Travel Small Town Italy: Off The Beaten Path Like A Boss

2

The other day I was wrote an article on Choosing Where To Travel In Italy. I decided to elaborate on that post because I know a lot of you are really into a specific kind of tourism: The Off-The-Beaten-Path Kind (what did you think I was going to say? Pervs).

Italy has a lot to offer and choosing the right vacation for you can be the difference between a mind-blowing trip or one that is frustratingly so-so. My favorite parts of Italy are the places that nobody sees, the places that are as far removed from my own culture as possible. I mean, Florence is amazing and it’s my home-hub BUT the tiny villages are where I go on vacation because they offer a different flavor entirely. Small villages offer a more “authentic” cultural experience because larger cities cater to foreigners like ME and sometimes the Italian-ness gets “diluted,” (or enriched depending how you look at it) along the way. Really, it just gets less obvious for tourists and you can spend your entire trip looking for something authentic in a city like Florence. When I was in school we stalked people to find the real “locals” and studied them like demented anthropologists for a little taste of authenticity. Save yourself all of that weirdness, skip the big cities, go off-the-beaten-path.

1

The first thing I would recommend (and I honestly can’t recommend it enough) when visiting Italy is to rent a car. Italy is big in terms of what it has to offer, but tiny in terms of actual size, a car will allow you to do more stuff with less difficulty at your own leisure. It’s an absolute must if you want to stay in small cities and avoid the tourist traps but you also want to stop in larger cities to take in the historical sites and museums. You can find plenty of international companies that you’ll recognize but we usually go with Europcar or Sixt. Renting a car is affordable (especially if you consider train tickets, etc) plus it gives you a freedom that you can’t get with trains, especially if you consider all of the strikes are likely to happen at least once during your stay. Book in advance, get GPS, and try to get a car that can use Metanol (am I spelling that right? Anyway, corn fuel that is cheap in Italy) plan out your trip, and you’ll be fine. Trust me, it’s impossible to suck at driving worse than me (my sister will happily agree with this) and I managed to drive halfway across the country without dying.

3

NORTHERN ITALY

Piedimonte: I haven’t actually been here  yet. Yeah, I know, so why is it here, right? Well, my friends keep recommending it and it’s on my list of places I’m going this year because it’s gorgeous, delicious, and supposedly free from waves of tourism. So, it counts as “one of my favorite non-touristy places that I wish I had gone to and will but haven’t yet.” Take that, logic!

Brescia: This place is diverse and more “german” than Italian but it’s near Milan and a fairly cool city in terms of culture. It’s not saturated by tourists, and you’ll find an interesting northern Italian culture here.

Bassano Del Grappa: A small city near Venice. This is a great place to stay and then you can pop over to Venice for a day or two. Venice is amazing but it’s so packed with tourists during high-season that sometimes you just want to pop in and get the hell out of there before a family from south Jersey mows you over.

 

CENTRAL-ISH

Gaiole In Chianti: This is a teeny-tiny town is in the Province of Siena in Tuscany. It’s southeast of Florence. There is a castle nearby that is the single most romantic place I’ve ever stayed with my husband. We had a fireplace in our room. We spent a lot of time in that room. There may or may not have been rolling hills of Oliver groves that were also sort of sexy in a newlywed kind of way except that I was afraid of snakes so it was more like romantic with periodic OH MY GOD IS THAT A VIPER!? So, in the end, not that sexy.

Castiglione D’Orcia in Val D’Orcia: Francesco took me here for a romantic weekend. It was beautiful. But the host of the vacation rentals showed us his dead animal wall and I was convinced that I was in an Italian version of Texas Chainsaw Massecre. Notice how I am a terrible date? On the upside, gorgeous vineyards, and absolutely no tourists. Also, in D’Orcia, stop in Montalcino for some of the best wine in Italy. Tell them you were sent by ME, this wino you randomly found on the internet.

Panzano In Chianti: This little village isn’t touristy at all. It’s adorable. And, most importantly,  you can find Dario Cecchini there, a veterinarian student, turned butcher who recites the divine comedy while gutting animals (yeah, that’s him in the pic below). He’s an eighth generation butcher and is extremely famous in Italy. You can visit his gem of a butcher shop and restaurant Antica Macelleria Cecchini for a taste of the most authentic Bistecca Fiorentina in Tuscany.

DARIO-10

Arezzo: Located in Southeast Tuscany. A one-hour train ride from Florence. It’s a very cute city with a huge market every week where you can buy everything from Italian lace to cookware. I’d highly recommend staying here for a few days at least, check out the locals, make friends, enjoy local cuisine, and watch grandmas take their grandkids for gelato.

Umbria: This region is still relatively unspoiled by tourists. It’s green and beautiful and you can breathe without busloads of people stepping on top of you. In Umbria you’ll also find the province of Perugia which is amazing, and boasts some of the best small cities like Assisi. All mentioned places are relatively free from tourists and about as authentic as you can get.

SOUTHERN ITALY

Sicily: I love Sicily. Despite it’s gorgeous landscape, nearly unmatched cuisine, and clean beaches, Sicily is often overlooked by tourists. I have no idea why (maybe they’re afraid of the Godfather?). Francesco proposed to me for the first time in Scopello in the Trapani province.

Sardegna: Holy crap is this place gorgeous. Seriously, like pristine waters, warm, friendly culture, and food that could win over even the pickiest of eaters.

Palestrina: Is located near Rome and is a gorgeous mountain area. The air is clear, tourists hardly ever frequent the place, and the locals are kind and interesting. Plus, it’s close enough to Rome for a day visit (or two).

Cellole: This is the least touristy place I’ve ever been in Italy. It’s green, old-school, and totally closed-off from the rest of the world for the most part and when I’m there I feel like I’ve time-travelled back to the 1950’s. It’s the south of Italy at it’s finest, simple living, amazing food, and it’s incredibly cheap. It’s near Naples and Rome for fun day trips.

Cassino: The wonderful Cassino, home to…things? This is another example of small-town living that is totally unspoiled by tourists. A great place for younger people to go who also want to see Rome and Naples. The squares are packed with young people drinking and talking, restaurants like Bianco Noir are amazing and addictive (one of my favorite restaurants in Italy), and you can check out some historical WWII sites (the battle of Montecassino is quite famous). Also, I have a friend who just started a supper club here. Message me for details. ;)

Sperlonga: This little city is located in Lazio and there were zero tourists the last time I was there with my husband. It’s on the sea and it was a really beautiful place that was super relaxing. Absolutely no crowded streets, no hustle and bustle, and every old man in the entire city gathered in the square at lunch tim to smoke cigarettes and gossip.

Sperlonga, Italy

Highly Recommended Non-Touristy Places By My Badass Readers

I haven’t been to all of these places but on my last post a bunch of you badass readers offered up your favorite off-the-beaten-path destinations in Italy because you’re amazing and always have great advice. So, check out these places also while planning your trip! Bagni di Lucca, La Marche, Perugia, Costacciaro,Turin, Puglia, and Basilicata.

What did I forget about? Any other amazing destinations I accidentally left out? Tell me in the comments below!

Remember, be safe, and have a blast. YOLO and all that.

Ahoy! Planning A Spring Vacation? Join Me For A Twitter Q&A, Ya’ll

Ahoy friends!

FKI’ve been asked to participate in a Twitter Q&A with my friends over at Flipkey who are hosting this lovely event. It’s tomorrow, Tuesday 14th at NOON EST for 30 minutes. It will be me alongside other badass bloggers like Georgette from Girl In Florence, among other international bloggers talking about spring travel and our favorite places to vacation globally (ideally places with a beach, alcohol, where clothing is optional…etc).

COME HANG OUT WITH US! You can find ME here: @survivingitaly. Look for the hashtag #FKSpringVaca.

Also? Flipkey has this crazy awesome virtual tour of Tuscany that you have to check out. It’s surreal, and I wish I was fancy and thought of something like this. They sent it to me and I just checked it out. See what Tuscany looks like before you visit!

Travel Tips: Choosing Where To Travel In Italy

It’s summer and the emails are starting to come in asking for my recommendations for travel. Since I’m working on a series of guides and some super in-depth posts about travel that I’ll have up soon, I’m just going to keep this short and sweet with the highlights of my favorite places to go. I hope this helps at least some of you plan your Italy trip this year.

Choosing a destination depends on what kind of traveler you are and what you’re seeking. Are you a history buff? A food lover? Wino? Artist? Do you love culture and people-watching (legal stalking)?

I’m personally really into culture. I love watching people. If you see me in Florence I’m probably sitting on a bench taking photos of perfect strangers while they smoke cigarettes or talk about their partner or cake recipes. If this sounds like you then you might want to do an off-the-beaten-path trip. Honestly, one of the best ways to travel Italy in my opinion is to pick somewhere less touristy and spend a good amount of time there. There are tiny towns and villages throughout Italy that don’t get a lot of attention in tourism magazines but are well worth visiting if you’re looking for an authentic cultural experience.

Florence, Rome, and all of those places are beautiful, historical, and amazing but they’re swamped with visitors and because of that a lot of the charm is lost as restaurants, stores, try to accomodate visitors. I’m not entirely complaining about that because it did bring large coffee cups to Florence, God bless ya’ll, but it also removes the “authenticity,” and love that normally goes into Italian products, and food, from certain areas. Sometimes in larger cities if you want to really experience them the best way to do it is with a local, or a ton of research to avoid tourist traps which can certainly be exhausting. However, if art, history, and architecture are important to you then working larger cities into your trip is probably a good idea. I vote for going off of the beaten path and spending most of your vacation there but maybe taking short weekend trips to larger cities. For example, I love Gaiole in Chianti. Obviously, it depends on how long you have off.

Gaiole In Chianti

Gaiole In Chianti

Continue reading

A Glimpse Of The Real Florence, Italy. By Kari Varner

I’m really excited to feature photos from this amazing photographer Kari Varner. Kari is also a former SACI student and she’s incredibly talented (Unlike me. My photos look like a child took them after over-dosing on baby Benadryl). I love her style of photography, it’s super intimate and I feel like I’m standing right there with her. But not so much in a stalker sort of way. This series really captures the feel of Florence. I know you guys are going to love them as much as I do. Tell me which one is your favorite in the comments below (I especially like the dead pigeon since I’ve stepped over many of them on the streets of Florence and I have a weird love/hate relationship with bird corpses because of it. But not like a serial killer.).

REFLECTIVE PUDDLES (or, where I fell down)

1_ReflectivePuddles

Continue reading

What Does It Mean To Be Authentically Italian?

“Yeah, but does the place have real Italian food? I mean, is it authentic in your opinion?” my friend asked when I told her about this new restaurant that was opening in our home town. Since moving to Italy in 2009, I’d been deemed the Great Authenticator by people back home regarding anything related to Italy. No, chicken alfredo is not “Italian.” Yes, I suppose being romantic might be an Italian thing depending on your definition of “romantic.” No, bbq chicken pizza is not really a thing. Yes, real people drive scooters in Italy.

us

My husband is proudly, authentically Italian. I am proudly not (I’ve got enough crazy up in my life). This is us, in Naples a few years ago. Naples is debatably not “Italian,” depending on who you ask.

Where Italy is concerned, the struggle to pin down what is “authentic” versus what isn’t can be a full time job. Pretty much everything is up for debate and not even Italians can really agree on what makes something Italian or not.

“Prada isn’t Italian anymore, they have Chinese workers in their factories,” my hairstylist said to the old lady with the hot pink lipstick sitting next to me. If a foreign national touches it, it’s no longer authentic, and it’s probably contaminated with icky “otherness.”

Continue reading

Raising Multicultural Children: The USA Versus Italy

If you follow this blog you already know that my husband, Francesco, and I are talking about having children. For those of you that don’t come here often, it scares the holy shit out of me. Like every couple thinking about having children we have a lot to think about. Like any multicultural family, we have some additional things to consider as well. Here’s my list of things that I’ve been considering/worrying about. Not in the order of importance. Actually the opposite of that. I really just like to delay the not amusing things because I avoid my problems.

*Talking about raising kids in Italy really makes some expats crazy pissed because they think that Italy is flawless and maybe it is perfect to them. I get it, people  want to defend their decision to raise their kids in the US.  But just a warning, if anyone is a dick I’ll change their comments to say something about how they can’t stop eating cat turds or something equally as hilarious to me.

1. My vagina. Goddamnit I like her. But, I did call around to all of my married male friends with children to ask about their wives vaginas and they all said, “Dude, it’s totally the same.” And I was like, “Okay but define the same.” And one friend screamed, “You are fucking crazy! The same means the same! As in it’s the same size and looks the same as before. You need therapy. Er, more therapy. Stop worrying about your vagina!” So that’s the blessing and the curse of having mostly male friends. They can fill you in about their wives vaginas but then they get an attitude when you ask them if they took measurements. This is the problem with testosterone. They hate measuring things.

Continue reading