How to Experience the Real Italy
If you’re heading to Italy this year then you’re probably expecting balconies worthy of Romeo and Juliet, Tuscan sunsets and Venetian gondolas. Yes, Italy offers all of these things, but there is so much more to the country than its major tourist attractions. If you delve beyond the cliches it’s possible to get a glimpse of the “true” Italian culture, without forking out for expensive excursions. Here are five ways to experience Italian culture the authentic way. Enjoy!
Get a walking tour from a local
Many eager tourists make the mistake of getting a native English tour guide, in the misguided belief that they are the only ones who will deliver a tour they can understand. Not true! There are plenty of independently established walking tours in Italy’s cities where you can book a guided tour, in perfect English, from someone who actually comes from Italy. These tours are usually delivered in a much more heartfelt way, with fascinating snippets of insider information. Best of all, they are often given in smaller groups which can be much more enjoyable. So, give the tour buses and corporate tour companies a miss when you arrive in Italy, and have yourself a more genuine experience instead.
Take a cookery class
From gourmet pizza to gorgeous gelato, Italy’s food is world famous and sampling some delicious dishes is probably going to be high on your list of experiences. Rather than sampling Italian food from one of the overpriced restaurants you’ll find on the tourist trail, why not take a cookery class yourself, from an established Italian chef? Taking new skills and authentic recipes home with you is going to be far more memorable than all those Instagram snaps of restaurant food. We promise.
Go to a football match
Want to take yourself away from the sea of English speaking faces on the tourist trail? Head to a football match and surround yourself with impassioned Italian football fans. Football in Italy is a national obsession and what better way is there to immerse yourself in the local community than attending a match between two Italian teams? A spot of Serie A betting (Italy’s drama-filled and famously unpredictable football league) is a great way to soak up the excitement of one of the country’s favourite pastimes.
Head to a traditional festival
Italy has some beautiful towns and villages off the tourist trail where traditional local festivals are held each year. You’d be mad not to include at least one festival in your itinerary – after all, it’s a great chance to see a side to Italian culture that you won’t find in guidebooks.
One example you could try is the Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea, Piedmont, where people pelt each other with oranges every year, representing a historical uprising against Ranieri di Biandrate. Or for another traditional Italian festival, head to Sicily during Easter to see some of the breathtaking religious processions and staged performances of the life of Christ.
Photo Credit: Harold Litwiler