I had in mind for quite some time now to create a “travel the world from home” series, as almost nobody can travel all the time. Now, with the coronavirus pandemy, we are all stuck at home. Virtual traveling has become our only option to explore this beautiful world for the moment. I’m not going to tell you again to stay home, as we all know that already. We are a little too much informed. I’ll rather join you on a trip to Italy… from your own couch. This way we stay safe and keep everybody else safe.
For many, Italy was on the bucket list for years and is probably connected to beautiful memories from one of the first trips abroad. Even if we can’t enjoy a gelatto a la Bella Italia right now, we can find out more about the history, culture and art of this wonderful country. This way, we’ll understand it better and appreciate it more on our next trip there. Many books and movies are set in Italy, which makes it pretty accessible from this point of view. Should I even start to say anything about the gastronomy? Italian dishes are delicious, fresh, unanimously enjoyed and easy to cook. Even me (and I don’t know much about cooking) can make some tasty penne all’ arrabbiata and tiramisu. The required ingredients are nothing out of the ordinary and can be found in almost any shop. Let’s enjoy one or more Italian evenings at home!
Books set in Italy
Eat, pray, love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The book is highly autobiographical. After divorce, Liz falls into depression and decides to leave for one year on a trip to three countries that start with “I” to refind happiness. The first country she travels to is Italy, where she gains the happiest 12 kilos in her life. After tasting “la dolce vita”, she leaves for India looking for spiritual tranquility and joy. The last country her trip takes to is Indonesia, where she’ll try to make peace with herself, her body and soul. The book has many bad and good reviews. Make yourself a favor and read it. It won’t take more than a few hours and you’ll be able to make your own opinion on it.
My brilliant friend by Elena Ferrante
This is the first part of the so-called “The Neapolitan tetralogy”. This book also had her share of criticism, but I enjoyed it greatly. I read all four volumes in about two weeks. In the end, I wished it had stayed a trilogy, as the last volume was a little too sad. It would be best to read the first volume yourself and decide if you want more or not. I believe you will. Anyway, if you don’t like the author’s style or the subject, no-one can force you to read the rest of it. The story begins in the outskirts of Napoli 60 years ago, when the mafia made the law and violence was far too common. The author presents the friendship between two girls, Lenu and Lina and the evolution of their relationship along more than 50 years, on the background of a Napoli and Italy that passes through radical economical, social and political changes.
The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato
In the 17th century, the glassblowers of Murano were practically imprisoned on the island, so that they could not teach others. Back in the present times, Leonora Manin, a descendant of a glassblower, leaves behind her life in London in order to move to Venice and become the apprentice of a Murano glassblower. While she gets accustomed to a new way of life, various intrigues and secrets of her ancestors come to light and impact her current life.
Movies set in Italy
Under the Tuscan Sun
Frances Mayes is a writer and literary reviewer. During an event, she finds out from a frustrated writer, whom she made a negative review, that her husband is cheating on her. After divorce, the husband gets the common economies and half of the house. She sells him the other half and is only left with some money and depression. Her best friend tries to cheer her up and gives her plane tickets and a bus trip to Tuscany as a gift. In the beginning, Frances it’s not convinced she should do it, but in the end, she leaves and while there decides spontaneously to buy an old house. Frances learns a new way of life in beautiful Italy surrounded by interesting and diverse characters. The story is sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious, funny and romantic. The action takes place in Florence, rural Tuscany, and the Amalfi coast at Positano.
The subject of the movie has become cliche at Hollywood, but the version from 1953, with a still unknown Audrey Hepburn, was a nice surprise. Princess Ann, exhausted because of her full schedule, has a crisis. Her doctor administrates her a sleeping pill. As its effect is delayed, the princess goes out alone on the streets at night. In the meantime, the sleeping pill takes effect and the princess falls asleep on a bench. A young reporter finds her and takes her home, without knowing who she really is. The next day, when he realizes, he pretends in front of her that he doesn’t know who she is. This way, he hopes to obtain an exclusive article about her. The two spend a day together and Ann cand do whatever she wants as Anya, a normal girl. I’ll leave it to you to find out what happens to the article and the relationships between them. The action is set in Rome and Princess Ann visits some of the most touristic places on an elegant Vespa: Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Castel San Angello.
Letters to Juliet
The last movie I suggest for your cinematographic trip to Italy is slightly more emotional, making one think about losses, what could have been and reencounters. The American Sophie travels with her fiancé to Verona on a pre-honeymoon. He’s not interested in spending time with Sophie and neglects her, preferring to go to a cooking course. Sophie walks around alone and discovers a wall where people that have lost their love or need a piece of advice leave notes to Juliet. Wanting to know what happens to the letters at the end of the day, Sophie finds out about the Secretaries of Juliet, that answer personally to every letter that has an address on it. By mistake, Sophie finds in the wall a letter from 1957. The other secretaries encourage her to answer the letter herself. Sophie’s replay makes Claire embark on a trip to find the love she had lost 50 years before. Sophie and her nephew, Charles, accompanied her. The story is set in Verona, Siena and picturesque rural Italy.
Your Italian dinner
I don’t usually cook much, but anybody can make some decent pasta. My favorites are penne all’ arrabbiata. As per dessert, I suggest tiramisu. Add a glass of white wine and your Italian dinner is complete.
Others ideas to explore Italy from home
- Learn to prepare pasta in the company of a nice grandma from Italy online through Airbnb Experience. Using my link you get 13$ discount for your first experience and 40$ for the first room you book on Airbnb (when we’ll be able to travel again).
- Learn some easy Italian words that will come in handy on your next real trip or when talking to that nice grandma that teaches you to make pasta. You can either use Duolingo or fluentu, which even has a special list of words and phrases useful for tourists.
- Visit the Uffizi Galleries online. I never had much patience to analyze the paintings in museums, but from my couch, without being pushed by other tourists or in a hurry, it gets better. I clicked the link without many expectations, but I found operas of many Italian painters from the Renaissance and not only: Sandro Botticelli, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrand, Albert Dürer, and many others.
- Listen to a playlist of Italian music. You could even dance a little. It’s good for your health and mind.
- Watch an Italian opera, for example, Verdi’s La Traviata. Here you can find the version with Spanish subtitles.
These are only some of the activities that could take you on a virtual trip to Italy. Of course, you can also plan your future trips for when the times get better. I suggest a city-break in one of my favorite cities, Bologna, or, why not, a summer week at the Adriatic Sea. You can make Rimini your base.
Do you have any other idea for a virtual trip to Italy? Share them in the comments!
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