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How To Dress Like The Locals In Italy

How To Dress Like The Locals In Italy

So you’ve got the difficult things like car rental sorted out and the flight tickets booked too, then what’s stopping you now? Surely you’re not confused as to what to wear in Italy? Let me make it easier for you, by suggesting how to dress, both in the summer and in winter. Italy is one of the world’s leading fashion capitals and the locals there, especially in big cities, are turned out very smartly most of the time. This can make a modest traveler worry if what she/he plans to wear is less than appropriate in Italy. It’s not like the common man there struts around in designer threads 24 hours a day, it’s more that they wear unusual combinations and styles in a confident way. Also remember there’s only a limited amount of stuff you can pack into a suitcase and lug around when you travel. Even if you have a car on hire in Italy, you don’t want to be carrying around bagfuls of clothes and accessories. Pack light and pack smart. Here’s a look at the fashion essentials you should pack for your Italian sojourn.

Summer clothes

If you plan on going to Italy in the summer months then for the ladies I recommend long skirts, dresses and tank tops or t-shirts. Try to avoid the shorts and miniskirt look, this is because most Italian women don’t wear very short hemlines and you will standout like a typical foreigner from miles away. They opt for capris, knee-length fitted skirts and flowing dresses like maxis that are cool and breezy for summer. Another thing is that very short clothes and sleeveless outfits won’t be allowed when you to enter the orthodox churches. Even if you happen to pack a pair of shorts, I can bet you won’t wear it after seeing what the locals wear. The shoes can be sandals or open toe heels which will be cool and comfortable for walking. Although you mostly have got a rental car to get around places still a holiday wearing stilettos is best avoided.

Men are advised to avoid boring, touristy attire like shorts, caps and sneakers. Lightweight linen pants, khakis and cotton pants with semi casual footwear is the best bet. Instead of closed formal shoes men can choose casual leather sandals. If you are still keen on shorts try to keep them to knee-length and keep a shirt handy to pull over a sleeveless t-shirt when you visit churches. For the posh dinner out and casinos its best keep a semi party button down shirt and a clean, nice pair of jeans. For summer smart collared t-shirts look apt.

Winter wear

Winter in Italy is a great time to visit and once again you could be at cross-purposes what exactly to pack for the trip. Most often I’ve seen the locals dress as per season and not really dress on a day-by-day basis. So sometimes even though it’s not so cold you can find men and women in fur coats and ankle length boots. For the evenings, both men and women will do well to pack a pair of formal trousers or slacks. Or even a dark colored expensive looking pair of jeans. Tailored, fitted dresses and skirts are recommended for women and men can choose a collared tee instead of tight t-shirts with logos on the front. For your feet try dark colored shoes in black, navy, maroon, grey or brown. Try not blind everyone with ultra-white tennis shoes. Carry a good winter coat, a woolen scarf, a pair of gloves, couple of pairs of socks and you’re all set. You don’t need to restrict your wardrobe to all blacks you can play around with colors and mix and match to create the perfect ensemble.

A final word

Lastly, remember that many religious places of worship and churches are very particular about their dress code. This means shorts, open midriffs and sleeveless clothes are not allowed inside their premises. To beat this, what I suggest you do is carry along a pair of pants, a shawl or a scarf and when you visit these places you can put them on. Try not to be too casually dressed and skip the ‘shorts and sneakers’ look altogether.

A backpack can be akin a neon flashing sign that says ‘I’m a foreigner’ so I suggest you leave it in the rental car or preferably at your hotel. Just carry a small purse or a man-bag and you will look local and feel so much lighter.  Keep the warm clothes, water, food, travel brochures and other paraphernalia in the hired car.

Don’t think that to visit Italy you need to pack all your fancy clothes, or buy a wardrobe full of designer names. The fact is you are going there on holiday and you should focus on being comfortable, well dressed and practical. The bright side is that once you are back from Italy you would have had a master class in the next season’s trends and be more knowledgeable then any of your friends back home.


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Gelato in Italy – A Real Scoop of Goodness

Gelato in Italy – A Real Scoop of Goodness

When you’re driving through Italy, the whole point is to enjoy what the country has to offer. And one of the most incredible things Italy has to offer – is FOOD.

Some people may think “it’s just ice cream,” but let’s face it – there is something different about an icy cold, melt-in-the-mouth scoop of gelato. A lot of people have asked the right way to buy gelato in Italy, since there are so many flavors, colors and methods used to make it. For the novice making a decision at the gelateria (the gelato parlor) it can be a mind-boggling choice.

Here are some tips which will make buying gelato a piece of cake…or rather, a scoop of ice cream.

Step 1: What is Gelato? Start with knowing how gelato is made and what methods are employed. This means knowing what goes into gelato – like milk, fruit puree, sugar, cream and nuts. In order to stabilize the gelato egg yolks are added and fat-free milk solids are used to add stability to the base. Using a hot process, the sugars are dissolved and then the base is pasteurized. To ensure that ice crystals don’t form, the pasteurized mix is allowed to age. Then they flavor the gelato with nut and fruit purees along with cocoa, choco flakes, biscuits, cookies or wafers.

Step 2: Know how to order a gelato – In Italy, cups are called coppa and cones cono, so make up your mind as to what you want your gelato served in. The hint is you can eat the cone not the cup! Head to the cash counter, ask for cup or cone, the number of scoops you want and pay. Collect the receipt and proceed to the guy who serves the gelato. To order scoops of different flavors ask for the gusti (flavor) that you find interesting from the menu or freezer display. You can get upto three flavors in a cup or cone. Pick a unique combination of gusti and voila! you are ready to tuck into an authentic Italian gelato.

Now for the secrets. How to know if the gelaterie and the gelato they serve therein are any good at all. Here are my tried and tested methods.

  • Secret 1: Look at the gelato, not at the appearance of the shop. A fancy gelateria doesn’t mean great gelato. If the various flavors of gelato look neon, fluorescent or rather incredibly bright in color I’m pretty sure they are made with artificial additives and not real fruits and nuts. Trust your common sense, if the apple gelato is red and not pale cream or grey and the pistachio flavor is neon green not the real grey-olive color, you would realize they are not the real deal. Try to eat gelato made from 100% natural ingredients as this does make a significant effect on taste, texture and appearance.
  • Secret 2: Freshly made gelato (from scratch) or made from pre-mix (as is rampant) can make or break the gelato. Produzione propria and artigianale are Italian for ‘made on-site’ and free from artificial ingredients’ and these words would be displayed in the gelaterie and will tell you that here is the old-fashioned gelato not made with commercial mixes. If you are still not sure, ask the shop staff. Try your best, to avoid the pre-mix gelato.
  • Secret 3: Most of the quality conscious and authentic gelaterie will not be very fussy about presentation and fancy decorations. They would rather scoop out traditional, wholesome, natural gelato and skip the window-dressing (like fancy cups or gravity-defying, towering formations of gelato scoops heaped into a pretty serving dish). When it comes to gelato, the modest gelateria, in my estimate are the good ones.
  • Secret 4: The best gelato is sold from huge metal tubs. Now because of the commercial influx of mass-produced gelato into Italy, some of the smart gelato marketers have started selling it in metal tubs, but not many bother and stick to reusable plastic containers. From experience 9 out of 10 gelaterie who have gelato in metal tubs are the authentic makers.
  • Secret 5: Avoid gelato which contains preservatives as this negates the basic principle of making ice-cream from fresh ingredients on a daily basis. If you are eating gelato with preservatives it just means that this is not freshly made, is stored in a freezer for God-only-knows-how-long and the flavors and colors are perhaps not natural too.
  • Secret 6:  There are about 5 types of gelato flavor groups – chocolates, fruits, nuts, creams and the miscellaneous. Almost all gelato flavors will fall in any one of these categories and the number of flavors available in Italy today is countless. The best way to get to taste as many as possible flavors is to go for two or three scoop on a cone and mix and match flavors. And yes, eat as much gelato every day of your stay in Italy. Trust me, they are less fattening than ice-cream, will take you to gastronomical dessert-heaven unfailingly and are surprisingly cheap on the pocket.

Lastly though many travelers to Italy swear by the gelato in Florence, this seems to be an urban myth and to be honest every village and city in Italy offers some traditional, freshly made and utterly delicious gelato. In fact the more places you eat gelato, the further local flavors and combinations you can taste.

Though you can’t actually take back gelato as a souvenir from Italy back to your home you can take back the satisfaction of having eaten as many different flavors as you could along with some very sweet memories of gelato. I do hope these secrets would make buying that perfect gelato scoop simpler experience and a more informed one. Ciao and Buon appetito!

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