by Stephen Schreck
A spell was cast over me the first time I went to Italy. It could have been the mouth-watering breads and pastas. It might have been the ancient sights of a country that had been the center of the world for thousands of years. And just maybe, it was the bright smiles from the kind-hearted locals that went out of their way to welcome me.
Whatever the reason was, there is no doubt that I was in love with this magical country, and still am today. It's a place that every traveler should see at some point.
Let me tell you why.
Rome, the eternal city, has something for everyone. For a history buff like myself, Rome is considered sacred ground. It is hard not to stand in amazement as you wander the markets where ancient heroes and villains like Marc Anthony and Cicero stood, or when you gaze up at the senate where Julius Caesar was assassinated, or stare at the mesmerizing Sistine chapel and picture Michelangelo's brush strokes bringing a masterpiece to life. The first time I arrived in Rome, I was extremely jet lagged but yet stubbornly determined not to spend my first hours in Italy in bed. My legs felt heavy and I seemed to stumbled every step of the way but eventually found myself standing before the towering coliseum. As I looked upon this magnificent ancient wonder of the world, battered and broken over the many centuries, cold chills swept over my body. Immediately I felt a surge of energy and a smile crossed my face as the impact of where I was and what I was doing settled over me.
Sunset in Venice
A lot of people shy away from the marvel that is Venice, complaining that it's too “touristy.” They are not completely wrong; it does sometimes have that feel. But guess what? We ARE tourists. I’ll never forget the last time I was in the city, wandering the endless maze of alleyways and stopping on a canal bridge to watch the sinking sun out race the sinking city. It was memorizing. Venice seems made for sunsets and the awe of their beauty sticks with you. In my opinion, Venice is a fantastic city, and you must remember, going to a touristy place doesn’t mean you have to act like a tourist. Settle in, see the sights, and make the most out of it. You would be missing out on a stunning city by skipping it.
The world renowned Italian coast does not disappoint with its vivid colored houses on its steep rocky cliffs. They look more like they belong in a beautiful painting than in real life. Places like Cinque Terra and Amalfi are perfect to sit back, relax, and recharge your travel batteries while taking in the gorgeous views.
I was so awe struck by the food in Italy that sometimes I almost forgot to chew. A simple meal of bread and cheese was delightful as well as satisfying. In fact, my meals of bread and cheese were so delicious that to this day I compare bakeries all over the world to them. However, that is just the beginning. Italy's restaurants are filled with pastas of every kind; ravioli, fettuccine, linguine, and others covered in savory sauces that are from ancient recipes handed down from one generation to the next. And then there is the pizza. It literally melts in your mouth. It is almost a sensuous indulgence and what better way to enjoy it than in Naples, the birthplace of pizza. One thing is for sure, your taste buds will never be bored in Italy.
Italy is a magical country with friendly locals that will entice you with their charm. Whether you are sitting in a café, enjoying an espresso, strolling through the cities, or jumping from train to train, you will be delighted by their kindness. I once was offered a meal with a local family because I asked for directions. Another time someone book me a hostel and give me directions because they knew I was new to the city. Italians love tourists and in my experience, they always extend a welcoming hand. There are so many reasons I love Italy. It is a country that has had a massive impact on my life and I will forever be grateful. It was the first country I ever backpacked solo and my unforgettable experience started a ripple in my life that has lead me to where I am today.
Think I missed something? Write in the comments what your favorite parts of Italy were.
My name is Stephen Schreck. I’m a world traveler, vagabond, and mistake prone backpacker. When I was 22 I went backpacking in Ireland for a couple weeks. The first time I traveled overseas was awe-inspiring and completely changed my life forever. From that moment on I have been a wanderer and traveling has become my obsession.