The Ultimate Guide to Italy by Rory McClenaghan
One man’s insights about going on holiday correctly…
Italy is a land of contrasts. From pizza to pasta, this place is riddled with contradictions. But fear not traveller, I’ve dissected this boot-shaped landmass to find out exactly what makes it tick, so you don’t have to. Follow these four simple rules and you’ll be a full blown native before you can say “TWO BEERS.” Just joking guys, the Italian for two beers is actually “DOOAY BEERAY”. Let’s begin.
1. Wear sunglasses
One of the best bits about going to a foreign country is that you are unlikely to meet anyone you know. This means you can reinvent yourself, like David Bowie or Madonna and make your wildest fashion fantasies a reality. Slap on a wifebeater, wear shoes with no socks and hey presto, you’re the chameleon of pop.
The most important fashion accessory you will need is a pair of sunglasses. Over 85% of Italians wear sunglasses all the time (even in bed!), so if you’re not packing a pair you’re sure to stick out like a hen in a foxhouse. When selecting shades, the more ambitious the better – remember, those mugs at home can’t see you now, you’re Ziggy Stardust for pete’s sake!
CH CH CH CH CHANGES: reinvent yourself with a pair of shades
2. Prepare to be disappointed by pizza
Any Italian worth his/her weight in salt will tell you that pizza is what his/her people do best. While it’s true that Italians invented the pizza in 44BC (thanks Julius Caesar!), they’ve fallen way behind since then. In truth, their skills haven’t moved on much from the days of the basic cheese and tomato. If you’re a deep pan lover like me, your simple, if insistent, request will be met with blank stares. And if it’s stuffed crust you’re after? FAHGEDDABBBOUUDDIT. My advice? Get yourself to Pizza Hut for an all-you-can-eat before you go.
GET STUFFED: Italian pizza lags behind
3. Stay in someone else’s house
What better way to get under the skin of a country and its people than to stay in a local’s house and spend ages rooting around in their smalls? Thanks to sites like AirBnB it’s never been easier or safer to challenge social norms around privacy and personal property.
Within just hours you can build a detailed profile of your unsuspecting host. Stefano is 45, divorced, has a 36-inch waist, suffers from angina and appears to be struggling with his child support payments. Quick word of warning here guys, probably best to keep your findings to yourself. When I offered Stefano a sympathetic ear to discuss his financial woes and estranged daughter he turned a little hostile. Some people!
4. Sample the local delicacies
If, like me, you’ve passed your 30th birthday, the chances are you already know exactly what you like and what you don’t like, so you can start winding down towards the grave in complete comfort. But hold on there, friend! Haven’t you heard of a little thing called politeness? That’s right, sometimes it’s nice to try things, just to make other people feel better.
In the spirit of improving Anglo-Italian relations I opted to finish off each meal with a shot of Fernet Branca, just like Alfred in the Batman films. Did I like it? Let me put it this way, is the Pope Italian? That’s right, I didn’t like it, but I hid my revulsion and in the end, that’s what counts.
MANNERS: Try new things even if you know you’ll hate them
5. Take tons of pictures
I don’t know about you, but my memory stopped working in 2012, just months after I snapped up my first smart phone. Luckily said phone does exactly the same job, but even better. The snag is you have to make sure to be constantly documenting your trip, otherwise it will have been a massive waste of time.
Remembering to constantly take snaps is difficult due to the aforementioned memory loss, but chill the chuff out, your phone can help. Here’s a little tip: set an alarm to go off every ten minutes. Once it goes off, take a pic of whatever you’re looking at in that very moment. The results will fill you with shock and awe, even if your travelling companion may not agree.
SNAP HAPPY: Take a pic every ten minutes
That’s it guys! That’s all there is to it. Hope you all have a great time in Italy. Got any tips of your own? Leave them in the comments below, but remember these five are the really important ones.