You know that photo we use on our landing page of our website? Well, it's one of our biggest secrets.
It looks like we took it in the rolling hills of Tuscany but the truth is that we actually snapped this photo in a friend's backyard... in Southern California! Miles and miles from Italy, but full of all the warmth and vibes of our beloved 2nd home.
While we find ourselves in month 8 of sheltering at home, and over a year without stepping foot in Italy, we're looking for ways to bring bits of Italia into our home as a comfort and to keep the withdrawals at bay.
Back in 2009 when I first ventured to Italy, the only easy way to communicate with my family back home was via email. And that was dependent upon our already spotty wifi in our giant converted convent in Castiglion Fiorentino that was shared amongst 100+ college students.
I could of course call my family from my cell phone directly but that would result in a ridiculously expensive phone bill as soon as I got home. Skype was just becoming popular but that also had the added expense of buying a plug in camera for my laptop, and my family back home having a Skype account and a similar set up.
Meandering Italian streets was done by paper maps and lots of guesswork. To navigate the trains you had to read the paper schedules at the train stations to check what time you were expected to roll into your stop, and then be listening for the garbled loudspeaker on the train to announce that you were next.
Deciphering menus at restaurants was done by asking the friend in the group that knew the most Italian, or by quickly thumbing through our pocket Italian-English dictionaries under the table. Or just sticking to the words you knew...or thought you knew. I have seen many people order pizza with "peperone" only to have bell peppers on their pizza instead of pepperoni salami!
SO. MUCH. has changed in just 10 years that has transformed traveling in Italy from being a stressful (albeit exciting) adventure to one that's much easier to navigate (of course still with the Italian quirks). These are some of our go-to apps that we recommend all our guests download prior to their departure to the bel paese.
And even better, all of these are FREE to download!