It is that time again….but we have surprisingly few final thoughts on Italy.
I was surprised at how completely different parts of Italy are. Naples is dirty and gritty and covered with graffiti. It actually in some ways reminded us of Vietnam — all the sidewalks are used for parking and crossing streets involves just taking your life into your hands and going. Monopoli is quiet and quaint and not very touristy (well, at least in November). Florence is beautiful, but you hear more English than Italian on the street. And Rome is a crazy, big city with ancient Roman ruins around every corner and restaurants that make it a game to screw over the tourists. Seriously, we were repeatedly scammed in Rome. A 7 Euro gelato (normal price around 3 Euros)? Check. A 8.50 euro cover charge on a 30 Euro meal? Check.
The aperitivo game is on-point in Italy. In Naples, we could not go out for pre-dinner drinks. If we went out for drinks, dinner was all the food served (for free) with the drinks. We would get potato chips, nuts, bruschetta, crackers, and even sandwiches with our glasses of wine. In Florence, we paid for our glasses of wine plus 3 Euro extra per person and got access to an all-we-could-eat buffet of meat, cheese, pasta, fried pasta, chicken wings, sauteed chicken, pizza, and more. Crazy!
Public toilets in Italy typically don’t have seats. A porcelain bowl, clean more often than not, but no seat. Go figure.
We will never understand why in Florence they still refuse to put salt in their bread. Rumor is this all stems back to a tax imposed on salt centuries ago. All well and good, but they’ve managed to take the gluten out of their bread in the last few years to cater to all the people who refuse to eat gluten so why can’t they add some salt to their bread now that there is no special salty bread tax? Seriously, gluten-free is fine but salt in the bread isn’t????
People actually eat panettone (a sweet bread with dried fruit in it). Who knew? We thought it was one of those disgusting things that people don’t actually like, like fruitcake.
I didn’t eat nearly enough gelato in Italy. Flavors change in Italy depending on the season and the fall flavors just weren’t doing it for me. But then I found white chocolate with cinnamon and white chocolate with rice crispies….
We found rosemary and olive oil saltine crackers in Florence. OMG, they were delicious.
Fashion in Italy is strange, to say the least. The men love their track suits. Seriously. The women love jeans with super high waists and big flared legs. Everyone loves their high-water pants. And, at least until it gets cold, everyone loves their sneakers.
Robert tried several Italian beers. His conclusion is Italian beers are so bad Italy needs access to and can never leave the common EU market.
We found it hilarious that so many historical religions were referred to as “cults.” The “cult of death,” the “cult of Isis,” etc. Seems to us all religions are “cults,” so we don’t understand why only Catholicism gets a pass in Italy.
It was weird to see all the public water fountains in Rome. These are small faucets scattered all over the city that provide fresh drinking water (and we saw numerous locals filling up water bottles at these fountains). The water runs continually. I wish I knew if the water was recycled or just wasted.
Prior to visiting Italy, we had theorized that the worst food in Italy would be better than the mediocre Italian food in Chicago. Well, that theory was completely blown out of the water in Lucca. We had one of the worst meals of our lives in Lucca. Pizza that had clearly been frozen and that was covered in some kind of fake cheese that didn’t melt. Pasta sauce not worth eating. We should have known better than to eat in a tourist location, but we had grown lackadaisical because everything we had eaten to that point had been so good. Oh well, lesson learned.
We loved Italy. We can’t wait to return.