The Italy Comparative

One of the many amazing statues in Italy (this one is in Florence) telling stories that persist through the centuries

So my visit in Italy has come to an end.  I am now in Sweden.  What can I say about Italy?  So much.  Italy geographically is diverse and beautiful – the amazing mountains in the Abruzzo region, the heat and surf in Puglia, and the stunning arts and culture in Tuscany.  But really aside from the mountains, which are certainly in more than one region, Italy is filled with history and culture.  I have yet to be able to visit Italy and not put on weight.  it is about pizza, pasta, gelato and wine.  Everything tastes so good.

A view from within a watering hole

It is a country filled with people with passion.  They love sports and they do sports.  Everywhere I went were people on bikes.  It didn’t matter how windy or hilly the road, they were biking it.  Jogging, swimming, they love their sports.  They also love their leisure time.  I am not sure how in the business world they get everything done. In the morning it is a bustle of activity.  But by 1:30 pm everything shuts down except for some bars and cafes.  And everything remains shut until about 5:30.  That’s a 4 hour siesta.  And this goes on all year.  They make no excuses for this down time.  It is family time, it is recharge time, it is leisure time.  And it is what the rest of the world should do instead of work work work.

The beauty in the details, everywhere

But it is not without its downside.  Certainly it can be a little frustrating when everything is shut down and you need to buy groceries or eat and you’ve just arrived in town.  Patience is something you have to engage.  And if you rent a car and drive in Italy, you have the opposite experience.  Italian drivers seem to have no patience and all of them think they are race car drivers.  I am surprised I did not witness more accidents.  Speed limits seem to be suggestions instead of rules.  They drive right up behind you impatiently waiting to pass.  And it doesn’t matter if you are on a windy road with no distant visuals, they will pass.

The cutest little electric car. I saw a lot of these throughout Italy

This is a culture that has been around for ages, building monuments and spectacular infrastructure to honour their leaders.  With all its antiquity is its modernity.  The history screams to be acknowledged and the sheer size of what has been constructed over the centuries is mind blowing.  But of course the government can’t restore and protect everything but it does its best.

The World Unesco Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, construction started in 1296

But with all that to see, you must contend with masses of tourists in the main cities such as Florence, Venice, Rome, Milan.  So if I can recommend one thing, don’t go during the summer months.  I could not avoid it but if you must, visit lesser known areas.  They are just as rich with their culture and the people are more friendly since they need and want your business.  But if you have been reading my blog, you know I have a love hate issue regarding tourism versus travelling (I still must post about that to explain).  But it can’t be helped.  It’s just that you will find some Italians brusk and get a feeling that you are not really welcome but they have to tolerate you.

Symbolism throughout

But then you meet amazing people as I did, like Lavinia and Caterina.  They welcome you into their home and feed you.  They are generous and kind.

And everywhere, my favourite animal - horses

The other thing about the summer is that the costs go up exorbitantly.  The country becomes expensive.  Too expensive for a backpacker traveller like myself and I got out just in time before spending all my money.

Just a good looking Italian guy.

So how do you save money?  The train system is great although you will always want to take the slower train as its cost is much more affordable than the high speed trains, so be prepared not to be in a hurry.  You can survive on pizza slices and fruit to bring food costs down.  Wine however, is already cheap as borscht so that is not a concern.  Accommodation be prepared to do dorms if you can find them because they are the cheapest otherwise that is certainly your biggest costs.  Other than that – use the ankle express and walk everywhere.

The beautiful countryside