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!
One of the hardest challenges about traveling to Italy is budgeting. How do you live "la dolce vita" to the fullest and still have euro for that second gelato of the day?
I’ve compiled some recommendations of ways you can save a little money during your trip to Italy that will hopefully give you some more room in your budget to play, eat and explore more.
Because when in Italia...we want our prosecco, and to drink it too! ;)
There's few things I love more than freshly baked focaccia. When it's still warm from the oven and crispy and has enough oil that it starts dribbling down your face. I'm a focaccia fiend! One of the first friends I made in Italy with the local focaccia lady, Carmen. Those early conversation days over a slice of fresh focaccia will always be a sweet memory.
Luckily, this addictive bread is surprisingly easy to make. A little time consuming but if you have a lazy day at home to multitask and make some fresh focaccia, it's totally worth the effort. Since it has no preservatives, it can go stale in a few days. If you don't eat it all in time, use the leftover stale focaccia to make some EPIC Panzanella!
One of my favorite things about returning to Italy every summer is being able to step off the plane, walk up to the first cafe counter I can find and order a cappuccino and a pastry (or a sandwich...or all three ;) in Italian. Sometimes I get over excited about being back and end up slurring my words together but either way I end up with a cappuccino in hand.
It sometimes takes them by surprise that a little curly blonde can order in Italian. But it wasn't always this way...
When I was living in Austin, Texas while going to college, my aunt and uncle lived just north of me. Being avid bakers and cooks (my step-uncle is Italian), I spent many weekends and Holiday breaks up at their house learning to make some tasty Italian treats!
One of my favorites (besides focaccia) is freshly baked biscotti. Biscotti, also known as cantucci, are long, flat cookies that are baked twice...once as a flat loaf and again when cut into slices to crisp them up on all sides. I already have a weakness for freshly baked cookies but these biscotti are another level...especially with the chopped almonds, I'll justify eating a dozen because there's protein in them.
Regardless of my addiction to sweets, these are easier to make than you might think and are great when paired with your morning cappuccino...or just after dinner as a quick dessert served with vin santo! They also make a great housewarming or hostess gift.