Italy. With a history that evolved under the dominance of Greeks, Etruscans, Celts and Romans, what emerged from the melee of influences and countless battles is a country with a spirit so singular and passionate it has gone on to inspire the entire world.
“In Napoli where love is king, when boy meets girl here’s what they say…”
And, when Dean Martin took the world by storm with his tuneful comparison of big pizza pies and the moon in your eye, he encapsulated the essence of Italy in that one simple song: art, food and love.
Art and Italy are synonymous: the birthplace of the Renaissance, which spawned so many movements, including Baroque and Neoclassicism, Italy established its artistic dominance early and never gave back the crown.
The work of Renaissance masters Donatello, Brunelleschi, Giotto, da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo are displayed in head-spinning glory in the galleries, museums, and architecture of Florence – one of the most exquisite and culturally rich cities in the world.
While in Rome, you can discover an endless cache of artistic treasures, not just in the many museums, but also on the streets of a city that is a gallery in itself. Stumbled-upon medieval piazzas revealing centuries-old sculptures; the old world elegance of Trastevere’s ancient architecture; and the graceful determination of the crumbling Coliseum, are all symbols of Italy’s enduring dedication to its art.
What can we say that you haven’t already heard about Italian food? Birthplace of the pizza (that’s Napoli), pasta carbonara (that’s Rome), spaghetti Bolognese (that’s Bologna), arancini (that’s Sicily), and risotto (that’s Milan), Italy is just like one big family sized, mouth-watering pizza-pie, and you can reach for a slice wherever you like!
The regional cuisines are as diverse as they are delicious and it’s a mistake to lump them under the broad ‘Italian food’ heading – just as every region’s culture deserves to be explored on its own merits, so too does its cuisine. So, when in Rome, eat Pizza Bianchi, carbonara and Quinto Quarto (but just check that one first!), and when in Puglia, eat calzone, braciole, and pasta Cavatelli.
While the French might put up a fight, there’s no country more romantic than Italy – and that sense of romance doesn’t just extend to affairs of the heart. It’s imbued through the very history and culture of the country and, intangible as it is, whatever ‘the romance of Italy’ may be, it’s certainly more than a peck on the cheek.
Dante, Lord Byron and Percy Shelley all found endless inspiration in the lifestyle and landscapes of Italy, while Fellini’s La Dolce Vita became the quintessential tale of the search for love and happiness – because where else would one look?
But for the most iconic love story of them all, travel into the mind of Shakespeare and visit the very real city of Verona, the setting of Romeo and Juliet. Whether the characters were real or a figment of his imagination is a mystery, but in the shady courtyard of an elegant 13th century stone villa, standing on a tiny balcony making like Miss Capulet, nobody would blame you if your heart missed a beat or two.
“Scuzza me, but you see, back in old Napoli, that’s amore…”
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