My Summer in Italy: Exploring the Country’s Culture and Food

summer in italy

My summer in Italy was the adventure of a lifetime. While this was only my first time in Europe, I fell head over heels in love with the culture and lifestyle.

My first stop was Venice.

Famous for its gondolas, this city was my absolute favorite. The Grand Canal consisted of colorful buildings and the Rialto Bridge looked as if it came from a painting. In addition, Venice was very tourist friendly. It was so convenient to walk around the city and easily reach all the must-sees, such as Piazza San Marco and Bridge of Sighs.

summer in italy
Venice, Italy. Photo by TingTing Bi.

The restaurants that lined the coast of Venice allowed me to admire breathtaking sunsets while dining. However, there are some restaurants that have waiters stand outside to persuade customers to dine there. These may not serve food that is worth the price— I learned this the hard way.

It is extremely critical to pay attention to tourist traps.

Before I left Venice, I made sure to purchase some classic Murano glass art. Glass earrings were my favorite souvenir by far and they made great gifts, too!

After spending five days in Venice, I ventured to Florence, about a two-hour train ride away. Riding the train was such a pleasant experience for me; there were refreshments and the seats were very comfortable.

summer in italy

Florence was vastly different from Venice.

Instead of colorful buildings like in Venice, most of Florence’s buildings were brown and tan. Some must-do’s in Florence include touring the prestigious Accademia Gallery (home to Michelangelo’s Statue of David), Ponte Vecchio, Uffizi Museum, and Piazza del Duomo. I had the time of my life learning about the Medici family’s influence in Florence, climbing to the top of Giotti’s Bell Tower, and appreciating the unique Greek and Roman sculptures in the museums. During my one-week stay in Florence, I also took two day trips to Cinque de Terre, the northern coastline of Italy, and the Tuscan countryside.

summer in italy

Cinque Terre was truly breathtaking. This destination was about a two-hour car ride from Florence. Its beauty completely blew me away. Cinque Terre consists of five separate villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Even though all five villages had the same colorful buildings, each village had a distinct characteristic and vibe. For example, Vernazza has a lighthouse while Monterosso has a very tourist-friendly beach. I have never seen a body of water that was more clear and sparkly blue. This paradise was without a doubt my favorite part of Italy.

summer in italy

After our Cinque Terre excursion, my family took another day trip to Tuscany.

Surrounded by vineyards, Tuscany gave off a very rustic vibe. Our two main stops included San Gimignano and Siena. San Gimignano had a medieval charm, and mainly included castle-like architecture. Most importantly, it is home to Italy’s best gelato, Gelateria di Piazza (yum!). On the other hand, Siena was very similar to Florence and even had its very own Duomo.

After Tuscany, we traveled to Rome.

In my opinion, no trip to Italy is complete without spending some time in its capital. Our stay in Rome focused on the popular tourist destinations. The Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Pantheon were jaw-dropping. Still, I was slightly disappointed in Rome. Navigating this city was very difficult due to traffic and the overwhelming number of tourists.

While I was in Venice, I stayed at Splendid Venice a very accommodating hotel that served a wide variety of foods for breakfast, and was conveniently located next to the Piazza San Marco, making it very easy to for my family to take a break from exploring. In Florence, we lived in an apartment located in the center of town. This was very different than staying at a hotel, but was still a valuable experience. In Rome, my family stayed at the Morgana Hotel, which was located right next to the train station. Overall, I was very satisfied by Italy’s service and hospitality.

Finally, food.

During any trip to a foreign country, it is essential to appreciate the authentic food of the region. There is much more to Italian food than just the classic pizza, pasta, and gelato. One dish that particularly stood out to me was their T-bone steak. At almost all the restaurants where I tried this, the taste was exquisite and exceptional.

My Italy trip was an experience that I will treasure forever. Every aspect of Italy amazed me, from its culture to its food. I learned how to value the unique aspects of each city, which dramatically changed the way that I view the world.

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Also published on Medium.