“Trova” translates to “find”; maybe that’s a prosciutto and melon picnic overlooking the Mediterranean, uncorking a 2007 super Tuscan by candlelight, an unexpected friendship forged on a Vespa, or simply dolce far niente- the sweetness of doing nothing.
By all means, get your Da Vinci Code on, toss some coins (over your right shoulder) into the Trevi Fountain and pick your jaw off the floor while staring at the magnificent architecture of Il Duomo di Firenze. The postcard landmarks are big draws for a reason. But some of the best experiences transpire while wandering down cobblestone side streets, where the trattorias can’t be discovered through a search box on Yelp.
The ancient saying “When in Rome do as the Romans do” still applies today. When we say, “live like a local,” that’s what we mean. The best compliment I receive abroad is an unintentional one. When tourists approach me asking for directions or advice, I know I’m doing it right. No to selfie-sticks, waist packs, camouflage patterned tank tops. Yes to supporting small shops, the courage to pepper in a few friendly words in la lingua italiana and good shoes. You can’t wander with blisters- doubly important on the shoes.
Here are a few tips to jumpstart the transition from tourist to traveler.
Leave the Starbucks Rewards card back home. 10 tongue-lashings for anyone who cannot wean from the demand for a specific venti, non-fat, extra whip cream, double shot latte with organic coconut flakes.
Seriously though, if you deign to order a coffee drink made with milk, it must be in the morning. If the server or barista permits the inane foolishness of a midday-or heaven forbid- after dinner cappuccino, you will be given side eye. You know the scene in GOT where Cersei is paraded through the streets naked while a stern nun-type rings a bell shouting “SHAME”? That’s a literal depiction of the inner monologue Italians have when the dairy rule is broken.
Kicks and Threads
Many Italians take fashion seriously. It’s a cultural thing. They claim the spectacularly contradictory word sprezzatura, or “studied carelessness.” Whoa.
News flash- Appropriate clothing changes by the season. Weather seems to be a global phenomenon. Don’t assume Italy is hot all year- it’s not. Never bring anything linen; it is a gateway drug to ironing addiction. Other suggestions:
Avoid sweatpants, flip flops, white clothes begging to be stained by spaghetti, high heels, deep cut blouses that will make the Vatican blush. Get comfortable but not sloppy nor provocative. If you’re planning on entering the many ecclesiastic monuments, cover shoulders, legs above the knee and the midriff.
Do bring lots of varying layers. Do splurge on well-made shoes and break them in prior to jetting off. Do bring jeans. Do make an effort.
Lost is Found
Generally the more time spent looking at a screen, the less time living in the moment. Put the inbox on auto-respond. Craig in marketing will hold it down like a champ.
Get a little lost by not opening up your favorite map app at the slightest inkling of a wrong turn. The lost art of spontaneity is waiting when we take the training wheels off and welcome a route from A to G to B. Not every minute must be planned for maximum efficiency.
You will Instagram and Snapchat. Just don’t let the cataloging and curating distract from appreciating what’s right in front of you. Be here now. Turn hammock into a verb.