Tag Archives: italy

Rome, Italy

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Rome is likely to be magical any time of the year, but I think I lucked out in particular by going during Christmas.  As is often the case with me, I stayed with a good friend, an Italian I had met senior year of college while representing the Italian department as its only major that year (You’re welcome, Bryn Mawr).

If you can find an Italian family for Christmas, especially one with mid-Italy/southern Italy roots, I highly recommend getting yourself a dinner invitation.

For my friend’s family, all mid-south Italians, Christmas is serious, regardless of the fact that they didn’t actually believe in Christ. Their manger scene alone was enough to make me rethink my paltry-by-comparison Christmas traditions. You know, like actually celebrating Jesus…

Anyway, we went through a litany of fish and seafood dishes, boiled hen, fried zucchini flowers, pasta dishes, a special ricotta cake from the Jewish quarter, breakfast pastries called maritozzi, various traditional fruit cakes, chocolate bars, marshmallow bars, and many, many, bottles of wine. The wine was imported from their favorite southern winemaker, of course.

My friend was so happy to get his mom’s cooking (he had just come back from his time abroad in Philadelphia) that he ate too much and got sick. Fortunately I had more self control.

Rome is gorgeous, and because it is further south, it can be quite warm even in December. During Christmas everything is lit up, there are Christmas trees set up by the Colosseum, and the city has an almost magical air. Transportation sucks, though. We ended up doing a fair bit of walking because it was easier than trying to do the trains, but it’s worth the view. Plus, while all the typical attractions are worth seeing, walking the city allows for a little spice and adventure that you might otherwise miss. My favorite was coming across a guy giving out free hugs. I had always wanted to meet one of those people! I was skeptical at first, but it turns out he was a good hugger and was quite the gentleman.

It’s also fun to see the various people in Roman soldier outfits ready to pose in pictures with you for your euros.

Rome in and of itself is a museum, so between the amazing sites just there as you walk down the street and the free concert the day after Christmas, I was quite fine not paying to go to museums.

Tips:

  • Be prepared to walk. That means proper footwear, protection, and hydration.
  • Again, Rome is further south. That means in the summer months you’ll be in the 90’s and 100 degree weather. Choose spring, early summer, fall or even winter travel times if this weather will prove difficult.
  • Have fun! Rome is an amazing city to just wander, eat well, and just get lost in the romance of it all.

Milan, Italy

1015139_10151691382280569_977761929_oItaly, the land of sunshine, great food, serious eye candy, and beautiful towns, villages, and cities.

Well, sort of.

Most people would agree with me that Milan is one of the uglier cities Italy has to offer, complete with pollution, traffic, and a grey pallor that not even the scorching hot summers seem to be able to burn away. The eye candy is still pretty serious though. And the food…

The Duomo is the main church of Milan, and I have to say they outdid themselves with this one. It’s huge, amazing, and being terribly disserviced by my lackluster adjectives. You can enter for free, but pictures cost a few euros. If you’ve got a few extra bucks for a ticket I recommend going to to the roof, which can be accessed by stairs or by elevator for a small price increase.

Nearby is San Maurizio, a smaller, but no less impressive, gem. Constructed in 1503, this little church is literally covered in frescoes and has free entry every day. It is right next to the Architectural Museum.

It’s difficult to go wrong with gelaterias in Milan, but some places are exceptionally exceptional. By far, Ciocolatitaliani has the most amazing ice cream ever. They fill your cone with melted chocolate of your choice (white, milk or dark), and then you pick your choice of 2-3 flavors. Add whipped cream for the full sugar overload effect.

If you’re really craving chocolate, you can get your choice of white, milk or dark right in a cup, no superfluous cone and ice-cream involved.

This place is so legit that you have to take a number, place and pay for your order, and then wait for your number to be served. Near the Duomo, Ciocolatialiani is easy to add into your day’s activities.

Luini’s is conveniently located across the street from Ciocolatialiani, which makes this one corner of Milan a one-stop-shop to gastrological decadence. Stop here for a savory panzerotto (fried or baked stuffed bread), or even a pastry if the ice-cream across the street isn’t your thing. I recommend the ricotta and spinach, the tomato mozzarella, or spicy salami and mozzarella. You can get two for about 5 euros.

If you can walk anymore, it’s worth it to visit the Castello Sforzesco and the attached gardens in the back, where you can find lovely landscaping, sculptures, and L’Arco della Pace, or The Arch of Peace. The only cost is if you want to enter the museum.

If you can navigate the city reasonably well, I recommend La Reginella and Pizza Man for some of the most amazing pizza you will ever taste in your life. Ever.

Finish your day with an aperitivo along the softly lit navigli, or canals. Generally, for no more than 8-10 euros you can have a drink of your choice and unlimited finger foods that put U.S. happy hour to shame. At one happy hour I chose from clams, pasta dishes, pizzas, cheeses, cured meats, fresh fruit, and desserts. Now that’s how you do it.

Tips:

  • In early Spring, Milan might as well be flooded. In the summer you might as well be in the desert. Stick to late April, June, and September for visits, or make sure you’re hydrated and protected.
  • Most museums are either free or discounted for visitors 25 and under
  • The Architectural Museum and Museo del Novecento (both in the historical district) have free entry on Fridays after 1:00PM for all ages.
  • In center city, avoid the people who try to give you bracelets. Be firm. They can handle it. Unless of course you want to pay a euro for the bracelets.
  • If you’re not completely grossed out by having dozens of city pigeons land on or near you, pay no more than a euro to the guy who gives you a handful of rice. He might ask for five.

Traveling missionaries can check out Pearl House for accommodations. Contact me for more info.