As a non-native Italian person (una straniera) coming to Florence two years ago, I only knew how to say Ciao and Grazie (hi and thank you). I was struggling to learn the language, and I quickly realized that understanding the words and grammar was only half the battle. We all know that every country, region and city has their own written and unwritten rules, that native people learn from the cradle, with traditions passed from generation to generation. I felt that it was not enough to try to master the language fluently, I needed a different type of understanding. I wanted to know the unwritten rules, the cultural do’s and don'ts, anything that could help me open doors to better appreciate and participate in Italian culture.
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I came across Victoria De Maio’s book “Victoria's Travel Tipz Italian Style” on a hot summer day on the way to the beach with my best friend. She knew that I'd been looking for a book like this for a long time…so when she handed me the book it was a real 'hallelujah' moment for me! Victoria’s book gives you the “street smarts” needed to confidently navigate life in Italy- whether you are a traveler or a new resident.
Victoria's inspiration to write the book was to prepare visitors to adjust to the Italian way of living ahead of time- instead of learning it the hard way.
“Whether it's your first (and possibly once - in - a - lifetime), or your fifth trip to Italy, I want this to be your absolute best trip to Italy! I want you to enjoy 'la dolce vita' - the sweet life, not frustration, disappointment and/or culture shock,” says Victoria.
Her insider tips give you practical, no-nonsense advice, aim to minimize surprises (at least the unpleasant ones), and enhance and enrich your experience. Victoria really wants you to enjoy, appreciate and love Italy as much as she does! Victoria's three words that best describe her book is: short, sweet and to the point- making it the perfect travel companion.
Some book highlights that are helpful for any visitor:
Si deve mangiare per vivere - non vivere per mangiare: Eat to live - don't live to eat
Unlike other books that tell you where to eat, Victoria tells you HOW to eat. Little things like knowing not to order a cappuccino after 11am (especially not after lunch or dinner) go a long way towards helping you seem more local and less tourista. In case you’re wondering why, Italians feel the milk isn’t good on your stomach, especially after a big meal. No wonder they always looked at me funny when I ordered a cappuccino after lunch! I thought it was a language barrier, when in reality it was a cultural barrier- they just didn’t understand- or maybe believe- that I really wanted a cappuccino after a big plate of pasta!
Other important things to know about food- the Italians are obsessed with high quality ingredients and like to keep it simple. You won’t find a lot of complicated dishes and you don’t need to obsessively ask for organic- most ingredients used are as high quality and fresh as possible. Other tips for dining out:
Some restaurants are closed on Mondays, some are closed on Wednesdays. Check ahead to avoid disappointment.
Recommendations for the best food? Ask a local for their favorites. (Also there are outstanding apps by locals/expats with excellent recommendations.)
Seek out places where it looks like only locals go (in other words, run when you see a large group of tourists crowding into a restaurant!)
Believe it or not, you can find good food at unexpected places, e.g,.airports, train stations and Autogrills (along the autostrada).
Quando a Roma vai - fai come vedrai: When in Rome - do as the Romans do
Victoria reminds us that it's important to show respect and observe local customs, rules guidelines and dress codes. As she says - be a good and thoughtful guest! She notes that over the past years many cities and regions have been compelled to enact rules and restrictions to punish naughty tourists and to protect their precious cultural and historical treasures. For example: in churches, museums and major sights, when the sign says - No photos, it really means - NO photos. Likewise - Silence please, means - Silence please. It may seem obvious but you’d be surprised how many people loudly ask “can I take a photo?” right in front of these two signs!
A personal tip from Victoria: don't spend all of your time taking photos or with your nose in the guidebook. Look up, look around, pause, people watch, soak it in, enjoy it…now!
La dolce far niente: The sweetness of doing nothing
There are many typical Italian ways that never change and never should, because that's what makes Italy so special and magical. For example, a good friend of mine was walking down her street one grey morning. You could really feel that the rain was in the air. She saw two friends from her street sitting on a bench (two older men working as car mechanics), she said hi and wondered what they were up to. They answered that they were simply waiting for the rain to come…just enjoying slowing down and doing nothing. The more you slow down while in Italy (or anywhere for that matter), the more you can enjoy the little things that make life special- a good lesson whether you’re traveling or staying close to home.
Other Italian ways that Italians sometimes take for granted that are outlined in Victoria's book:
La bella figura, is literally - the beautiful figure. Italy and Italians are known for their sense of style and this is personified in, la bella figura, always putting forth one's best appearance. You'll rarely see sloppy here. So, save your workout clothes, flip flops, beach togs and baseball caps for the gym or beach where they belong.
Life is a bit of an opera. Drama, emotion, gesturing, even a little theater…life is to be lived and lived with passion!
La vita è bella! Life is beautiful! There is a genuine deep-rooted appreciation for beauty in all aspects of life whether it's expressed in the cut of a suit, the elegant lines of a car, a stunning window display, enjoying a wonderful meal with family and friends, admiring a lovely woman or man and appreciating a classic work of art. Surrounded by beauty, life is beautiful.
In addition to planning dream trips to Italy for others, Victoria recently relocated to Florence to make her dream of living Italian full time a reality! You can follow her journey from getting here to staying here, and find more tips for your visitors at www.PostcardZfromVictoria.com
As I mentioned before, this is the book I wished I had at the beginning of my own journey. It's a true helping hand and the perfect travel companion that opens up the doors to the real Italian culture and ways. I highly recommend this book to anybody who wants to get prepared and inspired before their next visit or perhaps even a bit move! To get your hands on this book or to get in contact with Victoria, find Victoria here:
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