There are plenty of beautiful countries on the planet. True. Over the years, I have travelled the planet extensively. But still, each time I arrive in Italy, it feels like coming home.
My fascination with Italy started in early childhood thanks to uncountable family trips to the Veneto, Lombardy, Tuscany and Le Marche. At that time we travelled by car and we did not venture any further south than Firenze. The reason was simple: it were the 1970s and my parents, driving a legendary old Volkswagen without airco at that time, were not that into the summer heat, but they did love the great cities of art and the Italian atmosphere.
To me, the love for a country stems from a certain “sense of belonging“. I am in love with all the beauty Italy offers from North to South, from Milano to Palermo, from the Dolomites to Mount Etna. But as you may know, my weak spot is Rome, the city that has become my second “home”. No greater sense of belonging than calling a place home.
When I walk through the ancient streets of my neighbourhood in central Rome, I feel happily surrounded by art and history wherever I look. From my morning cappuccino in a local bar to a late evening stroll, I feel blessed by all the marvels my favoured country and city offer. If it wasn’t for family and friends, Belgium would easily become a distant memory.
7 reasons to love Italy, all equally important
1/ The history and the culture
Travelling through Italy is like taking a walk through history. It is taking a step back in time to enjoy the magic that has been created by our ancestors. Italy is the country with the highest collection of UNESCO protected monuments and heritage sites.
From the Colosseum and the Forum Romanum in Rome, to the mysteries of ancient Pompei, from Venice’s Carnival and its Biennales to romantic Verona, from the breathtaking bay of Naples to magical Matera, from fashionable Milan to the splendours of Firenze, … I can go on and on about why you should go to Italy.
2/ The arts
Italy is home to some of the greatest masterpieces of art. Whether you prefer Rome, Firenze or Venice or any other city, there are uncountable museums and art galleries throughout the country. And no, we do not only mean the Vatican or the Uffizi Gallery. Also head for lesser known places like for example Palazzo Altemps, a stunning 15th century palace, which actually houses one of Rome’s finest museums. Or the Guarnacci Etruscan museum of Volterra in Tuscany, to name but a few. There are events and expositions going on at all times, which will surely give you “l’embarras du choix”. I must admit, for me it has become impossible to skip the Arts and the Architecture Biennales of Venice, those wonderful highlights of the year.
3/ The weather
Sun, sun, sun and more sun. The Mediterranean climate you typically find in Central and South Italy is definitely a plus. Mild winters and hot dry summers are exactly what I am longing for. Having lunch outside in winter is a luxury we can only dream of in the North. In Italy it is just normal. Life in Italy happens in the streets. From the moment the sun is out, terraces come to live and the country looks like everyone is on a holiday.
4/ The scenery
Italy has it all: magnificent countryside, beautiful mountain ranges (such as the Alps, the Apennines, the Dolomites,…), a great number of clear blue lakes (think of Lake Como, Lake Garda, Lago Maggiore, or my favorite Lago Trasimeno,… ), sandy beaches with crystal clear waters, complemented with charming villages and little town, kilometres of rocky coastline with spectacular villages like in the Cinque Terre, the splendid Amalfi Coast, the still active volcanoes like Vesuvius and Etna with their stunning vistas, small colourful islands like Burano and Murano in the Veneto, Capri, Ischia and Procida in the gulf of Naples.
Let’s not forget Italy’s gems, Sicily, where every square kilometre breathes history and culture… and Sardinia, with the costa Smeralda and Stintino, a Caribbean paradise in Europe.
5/ The food, the wine and the coffee
Yes, I am a foodie, and Italian food is my favorite. I rather have olives, artichokes, Parma or San Daniele ham, Grana Padano, burrata and lots of tomatoes than the Belgian “beefsteak frites”. Not to mention the delicious fruit that doesn’t compare to what you find in the North. Italians are passionate about cooking, eating and sharing good food. So am I.
The Italian cuisine is so much more than pizza and pasta bolognese. It differs from region to region, with very distinct flavours but always with the same Italian character. There is great food everywhere, not only in expensive restaurants. Also the most simple trattoria can be heaven on earth.
In Italy, life is centred around food and Italians express their love through food, wine and coffee. So do I.
6/ The language
Italian is one of the most beautiful languages in the world, if not the most beautiful. It is Latin turned into poetry. And frankly speaking, it is never too late to start studying a language. It will take some effort and time, but it is feasible. With each language you learn, you open the door to a new culture. Try Italian. You will not regret.
7/ The people
Italians are very hospitable people, and can make you feel at home very easily. They have a strong sense of community and a welcoming, helping nature. In that sense, I will never forget the early morning of 25th of June 2019, when after a little but very painful accident in Trastevere, I got immediate help from two friendly men I did not know. And when I called the lady, whom I had an appointment with, in order to cancel our afternoon meeting, she offered to take me to hospital. It was my first encounter with the splendid Italian health system.
The Italian family is sacred, they adore children and respect the elderly. Friendship is meant to last. The southern way of living is relaxed and easy-going. Italians are often loud though, but that simply is their unique way to express their passionate nature.
With the old stereotype “never trust an Italian”, I must disagree. Most Italians are respectful and trustworthy people, both in business and private. If you nevertheless run into a “cretino”, consider him the sad exception to the rule, and go on with loving Italy and the Italian way of life.
Cheers to Italy !