Tag Archives: Italy

Monthly Musing: Small Talk

There’s just something about a great view.  City skylines, mountain valleys, the deep blue expanse of ocean thousands of feet below the airplane window.  Views are often earned–after a long climb up narrow staircases or rocky hills–and sometimes surprises.  No matter how we arrive at them nor the scenery that awaits, the feeling is always the same: that removed quiet.  Lost in our thoughts, in the beauty and the vastness of it all, it is always quiet.

And despite how many people are around us, or however many have witnessed the same sight before us, we always feel that it is ours alone.

“I have to show you my view,” we tell friends. “One day, I’ll take you,” we say, as if we are its sole keeper, and it is only ours to share.

A great view is the traveler’s gift and his curse.  We travel to seek out the world, to absorb it, to conquer it.  A great view shows us everything and nothing at the same time.  It deludes us.  “Now I’ve seen it all,” we think, when deep down we know that though we’ve seen scope, we will never be able to see every detail.

We often gasp at the sights our eyes behold.  But are we really stricken by the beauty?  Or is this intake of breath just our minds remembering that we are small?  Just one tiny object occupying space, silly enough to think that this entire view could ever be only ours.

We try to claim things as our own in hopes that we’ll leave our mark on the world.  Travelers are especially guilty of this.  We take pictures, buy mementos, write articles, just to ensure that others know where we’ve been.  But there’s a reason why the picture of a view never turns out quite as good, why it’s beautiful, but no longer awe-inspiring.  A great view refuses to be contained.

And this is how it should be.  We can never fully comprehend a great view and we should never try.  When we are stuck in the real world, tirelessly working to forge a name for ourselves, a great view brings us back down to Earth by presenting us with a glimpse of its wonders.  One look and we realize that sometimes, it’s better to let go and lose ourselves in the “big-ness” of it all…

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Burano, Italy: Le Case Colorate

While the budding flowers and leaves of spring are finally introducing some color back into the Boston scenery, the Venetian island of Burano remains vibrant all year long.  On Burano, small, square houses are splashed with every color on the paint palette, ensuring that even the cloudiest of days seems bright.  Tourists often ferry over from Venice to behold Burano’s residential rainbow.  Yet, those who wander a little further down the winding canals will find that inside houses of pink and orange and green live true Italians.  They hang laundry from shuttered windows to dry in the sun and wind their way down narrow passages to get to the market, venturing to the main island only when absolutely necessary.  Because it’s easy to live simply when your life is already in color.

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7 Ways to Avoid Looking Like a Tourist in Italy

This post is a re-blog of an original guest post for A Girl and a Suitcase. Make sure to check out Adria’s blog!

Can I Get A What? 

Incredible food. It’s likely one of your main motivations for traveling to Italy, so you should know how to pronounce what you’re about order. Meals are a great source of pride for Italians, and by butchering the name of your dish, you’re disrespecting the work that went into it. Skim through a phrasebook and familiarize yourself with some common food pronunciations. Also memorize a few courtesy phrases like, “Could I have…?” Your Italian doesn’t have to be perfect. Just putting in the effort will please the waitstaff and ensure that the cook is the only one doing the butchering…

Put Your Foot Down

Italians are notoriously pushy when they’re stuck waiting in line. Market stands and cafe counters often teem with people and can be overwhelming to tourists. Stand your ground and don’t be afraid to push your way to the front. Always know your order ahead of time. At the counter, speak clearly and have your money ready so you don’t slow down the fast-paced service.

Riding Dirty

Trains are a great way to get around Italy–if you know what to do. Tickets are easy to purchase at electronic booths, but make sure you’ve chosen the proper fare and destination. Riding the wrong train or taking it further than your fare allows can get you kicked off the train or fined. After you buy your ticket, STOP! Find the yellow validation machine and stamp it. An unvalidated ticket can also warrant fines.

Big Spender

In the US, it’s normal to pay for small purchases with large bills. In Italy, it’s like the 8th deadly sin. Cashiers hate making change and can be rude if you deny their request for exact coins. Use your larger bills for larger purchases and save your 1 & 2 euro coins for gelato money. It’s always smart to be on the cashier’s good side, especially if you plan to go back for more gelato (you will).

Under My Umbrella

If you want to see that piazza when it’s less crowded, wait until it rains. Italians scatter at the first sign of precipitation and those who can’t escape come prepared. Sleek raincoats and long umbrellas are rainy day essentials. Check the forecast and always carry a compact umbrella so you don’t end up the only person in Italy who’s drenched.

Energy Boost

There are no Starbucks in Italy because coffee is an art form. It’s perfectly acceptable to sip an early morning cappuccino or latte. This window closes after the clock strikes noon, when true Italians drink only espresso. Other coffee drinks are still served throughout the day, but show that you’re a newbie.

Food Rules!

The typical Italian dinner doesn’t start until 8pm and many restaurants don’t even open until then. If waiting to eat late is difficult for you, have a late lunch or buy a snack to tide you over.

Good gelato is always served in metal bins, which signify it’s homemade. Gelato should appear smooth and fluffy, and never grainy.

You’re probably used to eating pizza by hand and by the slice. Many Italians actually use a knife and fork and most order a whole pizza for themselves. Take out is frowned upon. Hope you’re hungry!

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A Light Touch

A street musician in the Dorsoduro district of Venice, Italy.

Dorsoduro is a great area for those wanting to get lost without straying too far from San Marco.  On an early weekend morning, it’s easy to avoid the tourist rush and instead mingle with the locals as they purchase fish from street stands and sip their morning caffè.  Visit the Guggenheim Museum or snap panoramas of Piazza San Marco and Giudecca from Punta della Dogana.

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