A Travel Guide to Rome and Southern Italy
Over the next few weeks I’ll be doing a series of posts called Discovering Italy, where I’ll be exploring the city of Rome and the regions of Campania, Basilicata and Puglia in Southern Italy.
I’ll be sharing with you everything I learned about the food, history and people who live in this incredible part of the world.
I started planning this trip in January of 2016. Exactly two years ago on today’s date, May 7th, 2016, I began my two week journey to Italy, starting in Rome and traveling down to the heel of the boot. When I first started planning this trip I knew very little about Southern Italy. A quick google search revealed that not only was it surrounded by gorgeous coastline on nearly every side, the interior was filled with fascinating places to visit and a cornucopia of incredible food to try. I also learned that the regions of Basilicata and Puglia are amongst the least visited regions in all of Italy. This presented me with the opportunity to get to know the Italian people and their culture in a very genuine way. I decided to focus the itinerary of my two week trip to Rome and Southern Italy on three areas of interest: the food, history and people. Here are a few highlights from my upcoming posts:
Prior to going I spent hours on TripAdvisor, Michelin Guide and other sites searching for the best places to eat and drink in Rome and through out Southern Italy. I looked for restaurants that had a personal feel, places where I would be welcomed with open arms. That is exactly what I found everywhere I went throughout Rome and Southern Italy. In Rome I ate gelato, dripping from the cone as I strolled down the cobbled streets. I drank coffee while standing up at a bar Roman style. I sat outside in a piazza sipping a cappuccino while gazing up at 12th century cathedral. I walked through vast markets selling an array of delectable cheese, meats and vegetables from every corner of Italy. I dined on Roman specialties in a neighborhood trattoria tucked into an alleyway. On the Amalfi coast I had seafood so fresh it practically danced across my plate and drank a little too limoncello. In Puglia, I discovered the “Cucina Povera,” the “Cooking of the Poor,” which has inspired my own cooking over the last two years. And then there was the “Meal of a Lifetime,” a truly unforgettable eight course meal at a 500 year old olive mill.
From the first Greek settlers to the region 3,000 years ago to the Roman empire, Italy has left its mark on the world through its art, government, architecture, literature, language. Italy’s history spans over three millennia: the Greeks, the Romans, the dark ages, the Crusades, the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution as well as the two world wars of the last century. Walking on the cobbled streets of Rome is like taking a trip back in time. In Southern Italy I discovered that I could visit sites that go back long before the era of written history, all the way back to caves occupied during the Ice Age and sites of the first Neolithic farmers in Europe. It was incredible to think about all of that history in one place. I arranged my schedule so that I could fit in as much history as I could in a two week time period.
Connecting with the Italian people on a personal level was very important to me. I wanted to get to know the people everywhere I went, asking them what their beliefs were, hopes for the future and how they lived their daily lives. Three months prior to going I started teaching myself Italian, using books and videos on Youtube. I wrote emails in Italian to the owners of cafes, restaurants, and bed and breakfasts I wanted to visit. I looked for places to stay that were privately owned by families, which would allow me to get to know them personally. I also wanted to share my own life experiences with them. I found that the Italians are incredibly warm hearted people who made me feel very welcome. I felt like the adopted daughter of Italy, with friendships that will last a lifetime.
I hope that you find this series of posts on Discovering Italy inspiring and informative. Whether you’re planning on taking a trip to Italy or or not, I want to bring you on this trip with me through the stories, photos and recipes. I can’t wait to share them with you over the next few weeks!