Samuel Johnson famously said “If you’re tired of London, you’re tired of life.” He’d never been outside the UK though, so after a decade in Britain’s capital, I decided his opinion was overrated.
I craved sunshine and a new challenge, so I moved to Italy. Here, the coffee is always superb, the cocktails are always strong and the sky is almost always blue. I’m in no rush to leave.
Top 3 Favorite Restaurants in Milan?
1) Trattoria Bolognese da Mauro – the perfect choice if you want to eat like a local. This is one of the least glamourous restaurants in Milan, and all the better for it. Go for simple, authentic dishes, done well. Do not go for the décor.
2) Ristorante Sant’ Eustorgio Milano – if you prefer somewhere a little more elegant, then Sant’Eustorgio could be just the place. It’s charming yet unpretentious, with excellent food and outstanding wine. What more could you want?
3) Gelateria della Musica – OK, OK, so this is technically a gelateria rather than a restaurant, but there’s a reason Italian ice cream is considered the best in the world. If you go to Gelateria della Musica, you’ll see what the fuss is about…
Top 3 favorite foods in Italy?
1) Pasta Genovese – potato and pasta shouldn’t work together, but chuck in a little pesto, a few green beans and a little olive oil, and you’ve got a simple, tasty recipe that is simultaneously light and filling. Why not have a glass of cool white wine to go with it? You deserve one.
2) Arancini – a Sicilian specialty, these deep fried rice balls are available in dozens of different flavours. All of them are mouthwateringly good.
3) Pizza – you didn’t really think I was going to leave it off this list, did you? The ones in Naples are out of this world.
Top 3 tips for new expats in Italy?
1) Survive the first few months – I won’t lie… The bureaucratic hoops you have to jump through during your early days in Italy will seem unbearable at times. Accept this. Grit your teeth. Drink through it if you have to. Keeping telling yourself that eventually it will get easier. It really will.
2) Accept that your logic is not Italian logic – Oh sure, you might think the electrical appliance you bought in an Italian store will work in any Italian socket without an adaptor, but that’s because you’re not yet schooled in the ways of Italy.
Like it or not, a number of things here make no sense at all. And since this country isn’t going to change to suit you, you’ll have to change to suit it. Speaking of which…
3) Gesticulate. A lot – Italians like to wave their hands around when they talk. There’s a simple reason for this: it’s fun. Try it yourself. Are you disappointed by something? Then make a praying gesture with your hands and wave them up and down dramatically. Has someone done something sly? Put your index finger under your eye, then slide it down your cheek with a knowing expression. Enjoyable, isn’t it?
Top 3 tips for travellers in Italy?
1) Validate your train tickets – unless you’ve bought your tickets online, you’ll need to punch them using the machine on the station platform before travelling. If you don’t, you’ll get fined.
2) Do not, under any circumstances, drink Negroni – it will not end well.
3) Learn at least a few words of Italian – it’s just common courtesy, amico.
Top 3 tips for what to pack for Italy?
1) Mosquito repellent – if you’re visiting any time between April and September, you’re likely to need it.
2) Sunscreen – I went to the beach yesterday. There was a man there with a big gut. That big gut was as red as a tomato from sunburn. Don’t be like that man. Your body will thank you.
3) Tea – in Italy, the tea is as bad as the coffee is good. Bring your own teabags or face the consequences.
Top 3 favorite places in Italy
1) Rome – a city of such devastating loveliness that it is depressing to leave. Anatole Broyard said of Rome that it was “a poem pressed into service as a city.” He wasn’t wrong. Stroll the streets of Trastevere, explore the grounds of the Roman Forum, walk alongside the Tiber and you’ll see the evidence. I’d live there in a heartbeat if I could.
2) Venice – some people describe Venice as overrated. But then some people like music by Pitbull. People can’t be trusted.
Yes, Venice is touristy but it’s also a lively, thriving city packed full of culture and art. And of course, it’s also staggeringly, jaw-droppingly beautiful. If you don’t like Venice, the problem is not Venice; it’s you. Honestly.
3) Sardinia – whisper it, but Italy’s beaches are actually pretty average, at least in comparison with nearby Greece. Sardinia is a glorious exception. Fly into Cagliari, then hire a car and head out of the city to any of the numerous stretches of golden sand and azure water nearby. Then drink some Mirto, the local liqueur, and feel the relaxation wash over you.
Top 3 neighborhoods in Milan
1) Navigli – centered around the local canal, this is a studenty, slightly bohemian neighbourhood that’s perfect for drinking and people-watching. I like it so much that I chose to live there.
2) Brera – fancy an afternoon window shopping in upscale boutiques? Then head to the charming cobbled streets of Brera and see how Milan’s rich people live. Spoiler: they live very well. Very well indeed.
3) Duomo/Castello – you can’t visit Milan without seeing Duomo and Castello. Bring your camera and start by climbing the steps to the roof of the Duomo (cathedral). Once you’ve had your fill of the stunning views, take a leisurely stroll to Castello and explore Parco Sempione. Finish your visit at the Arco della Pace, then grab a drink at one of the nearby bars and, if you fancy it, stop by my blog for more Milanese recommendations.