Italy has a special place in my heart because my aunt and cousin are Italian. I’ve visited countless times over the years and each time is unique and special in its own way.
The tiny little town of Padua where my aunt lives makes me think of her home cooked pasta and pizza that’s more like a hearty casserole. In the winter we walk through the town center and eat warm chestnuts from the street vendors. And when I just want to reflect and read a book, I visit the Scrovegni Chapel with its beautifully frescoed walls or the St. Anthony. Sometimes, we drive up to the Dolmite mountains to the little town Cortina. It's a special place for Italians and much less visited by tourists. My favorite restaurants are Ristorante Ospitale, Ristorante Al Camin, and a more local place, Scoiattoli Restaurant has the most stunning view of the mountains!
Milan & Venice
Sometimes, my cousin and I would travel to Milan for a fashion show or go shopping in the Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (I know I’m mixing my Italian and English here). There’s an endless assortment of cathedrals and castles and my personal favorite is the Castello Sforzesco because of its extensive grounds and gardens. In Venice we like to be tourists and ride gondolas through the canals. I love the blown glass and Venetian mask artists. My favorite is the Murano Glass Factory on “blown glass island” where you can take a tour and watch the blown glass demonstrations. But, we usually just wander and get lost because it’s a great walking city. I only visited Saint Mark’s Basilica in St. Mark’s Square once because I’m not a fan of all the pigeons outside that land on you! Regardless, it’s still a beautiful, landmark cathedral.
Firenze is where my Italian heart lives. Whenever I see the Duomo I know I’m there! I’ll usually rent a Vespa and mob around the cobblestone streets with friends, eating authentic gelato or enjoying a three hour lunch (afterwards, I climb the Duomo stairs to work off all those carbs!). At sunset I like to be near the Piazzale Michelangelo so I can catch a golden view of the Florence skyline. If you’re there in the spring, don’t miss Note Bianca, “White Night!” At the end of April, Firenze hosts its hottest block party with live music, performances and art all throughout the city. Most importantly, I love to get out of the city and drive through the Fiesole hills. It’s breathtaking and you can always find small restaurants serving food made from the produce grown from their own garden. To me, the Tuscan country life is truly Italian.