Fun facts about Italy:
1. It has the best food
2. It has the best culture
3. It has the best wine
Ok, so I may be a bit biased, but Italy truly is my favourite country in the world! I have travelled extensively around “The Boot”, as Italy is commonly known, and having returned from my latest two-week Italian adventure spent on the stunningly eclectic island of Sicily, We Drifters founder Naudia asked me to share a few of my best Italy facts and travel tips!
First things first, I travelled in September 2020 when COVID-19 case rates were low, both in the UK and in Italy and especially in Sicily. There was no need to quarantine or get tested in either country on arrival. Also, we booked our trip less than a week before departing to minimise the risk of cancellation due to new regulations being introduced. Remember, it is always important to check the latest FCO advice before booking a trip abroad and to check your travel insurance policy.
So why do I love Italy so much? Let me share my favourite facts about Italy with you and I’m sure that I’ll have you pulling out your 2021 calendar to book your next trip in no time!
Pasta is the staple food of Italy, so it will come as no surprise that on average Italians eat 23kg of pasta every year! To put it into context, people in the UK only eat about 6kg per year!
Plus, one of my favourite things to do in Italy is to try all of the different regional varieties of pasta. There are approximately 350 different kinds of pasta in Italy and each one is designed to hold its sauce in the perfect way.
As I learned in Bologna, the only acceptable way to eat tortellini is with broth (al brodo) and you will never find bolognese sauce (ragù) served with spaghetti, but rather tagliatelle.
Also, top Italian eating tip: NEVER EVER cut up long pasta like spaghetti. Instead, use a fork and a spoon to wind the pasta around the fork and eat it in one mouthful...buon appetito!
Sticking with the carbohydrate theme, Italians also know how to make bread very well!
My favourite new Italian phrase is “fare la scarpetta”. La scarpetta refers to the bread that is used at the end of a meal to mop up the sauce. So next time a basket of bread is placed on your table at the beginning of your meal, don’t tuck in. Instead, save it until last so that you don’t waste a single drop of the delicious sauce!
Also, if you find yourself in Sicily, make sure that you try the pan cunzatu which is freshly baked bread slathered in olive oil and stuffed with fresh ingredients such as tomatoes, mozzarella, anchovies, olives, tuna etc. Each area offers a regional variation and my favourite one was from the local bakery in the village of Scopello.
Coffee might not be grown in Italy, but the Italians have perfected the art of roasting and coffee is an integral part of Italian life.
However, don’t expect to be able to walk into a bar in Italy and order a “venti” or a “latte”. These words might be Italian, but they mean absolutely nothing to the Italian coffee drinker!
If you order “un caffè” (a coffee) you will receive an espresso as standard and if you want to be really Italian, make sure that you don’t order a cappuccino after 11am!
Feeling tired from all of your sight-seeing? Embrace la dolce vita completely and drink your espresso at the bar quickly like the locals for an instant energy hit!
Italy is the largest wine producer in the world with every region producing their own version. In total, 7.56 billion bottles of wine were produced in Italy in 2018. This means that, if the ENTIRE population of Italy drank 1 bottle each day, there would be enough bottles to last 4 months!
In Sicily we expected to drink lots of Nero d’Avola which is their famed red wine, but in fact we ended up drinking much more of the crisp local white wine as we ate so much fish. Our favourites were Cataratto and Grillo. Plus, if you visit local organic farm shops you can even buy a litre of organic wine for €2!
As well as having amazing food and drink, Italy is also home to the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. As of 2019, Italy is home to 55 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
From the Colosseum to the entire city of Venice; ancient forests and active volcanoes, Italy has so much to keep tourists returning time and again.
We were extremely privileged in Sicily to be able to visit the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, as well as the ancient Greek and Roman archaeological park in Syracuse with only a handful of other tourists.
I absolutely adore watching La Passegiata which is the art of taking a walk in the evening. However, this is no ordinary walk.
In the evening between 5 - 8pm, particularly on a Sunday, Italians will dress up in their finest clothes and go for a stroll through the centre of town or along the sea front with their friends and family. There is no destination. Instead, the purpose of La Passegiata is to see and be seen; to flirt; to show off new babies and find out the latest gossip, perhaps accompanied by a gelato or stopping off for an aperitivo.
You will even see people taking part in La Passegiata on mopeds and in cars too, slowly driving and honking their horns at friends and acquaintances.
The phenomenon is more common in the south of Italy and is particularly prominent in Sicily and Sardinia. The best spot in which we witnessed it was the Piazza del Duomo on the island of Ortygia in Syracuse where families and friends gathered (in face masks) to come together and enjoy the end of the summer.
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