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Where We Are: Italy

After two jam-packed weeks in Israel/Palestine, it was time for something different. Something way different: we doubled our travel party! My parents decided to come meet us for three weeks in Italy!

My mom’s grandfather immigrated to the United States from Sicily when he was a child. Ever since then, just about every generation of LoCascio’s has made a pilgrimage back to Italy and Sicily at least once. My mom was ready for her turn.

The Family in Venice
The Family in Venice

My parents don’t really travel too much. They have only been out of the country twice — their honeymoon in 1975 to Mexico and my brother’s wedding in Hong Kong in 2018. As much as they always wanted to go to Italy, they had little interest in figuring it all out on their own. So when they heard we were going, they jumped at the chance to tag along. (I even wrote a post with tips for Americans going to Europe for the first time just for them.)

Kenny and I only booked Italy about a month ago. For us, as long-term travelers already in Europe, this was plenty of time to plan a trip. However, for my parents sitting on the other side of the pond, this was super short notice to make a huge travel decision. I was so impressed that they decided to come and booked their tickets only one month from their departure date.

Their first stop in Italy was Milan and the Duomo di Milano.

They never wanted to intrude our trip, and always said they would just tag along with whatever we planned and wanted to do. We of course knew that this was their only time in Italy and we wanted to be sure they got everything they wanted out of it. The resulting itinerary ended up being a solid three week journey through six cities across the country, starting in Milan and ending in Palermo.

Venice was right out of a storybook

We’re so proud of them for taking the leap and joining us on the journey, but also excited to be giving them the real backpacker experience. They have been taking trains, cooking meals in our Airbnbs and trying new cafes just like we do everyday.

Our goal was to plan the best possible trip to Italy for them, while also trying not to wear them out too much or spend all their money. We’re just a few days in and they’re not ready to fire their travel planners and we’re not ready to leave them behind… yet. So I think we’re off to a great start!

Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre was just beautiful. The hikes were tough, but with views like this as a payoff, it was so worth it.

First Impressions on Italy

  • The Italians don’t default to English. I genuinely appreciate the presence of the Italian language in Italy. I know that sounds obvious, but everywhere else in Europe, everyone seems to speak English and is quick to speak to you in English as soon as they realize you’re not a local. In Italy though, everyone seems to speak to you in Italian until you can’t figure it out. Only then will they flip to English, if they even speak it. There’s also lots of menus written solely in Italian, which has been fun to try to translate.
  • It’s just as beautiful as I expected. Lots of people love Italy, and it’s easy to understand why. As of this writing, we’ve been to Milan, Venice, and Cinque Terre, but it just keeps getting more beautiful. If we’re here during the hottest, busiest time of the year and still love it, I’m pretty sure it’s a pretty solid destination.
Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre comprises five towns on the western coast of Italy. They’re connected by rail and some of the most breathtaking hiking trails.
  • Cannoli aren’t everywhere. Growing up with an Italian family, my idea of Italian dessert was always cannoli. Specifically, my version of a cannoli is sweetened ricotta cheese (pronounced rah-goat-ah), with mini chocolate chips and a touch of cinnamon oil stuffed into shells and dipped in crushed pistachios. When we arrived in Italy, I expected to find them everywhere! It turns out that the cannoli of my dreams is specifically the Sicilian way. Though we have found Sicilian cannoli in Milan and Venice, they’re actually few and far between and usually not the version I’m used to. I hope that come Sicily proper, we’ll find cannoli on every corner.

What you need to know — Italy:

  • Population: Milan: 1.3 million / Venice: 265,000 / Riomaggiore (Cinque Terre): 1,700 / Florence: 380,000 / Rome: 2.9 million / Palermo: 680,000
  • Altitude: Milan: 120m / Venice: 0 /Riomaggiore (Cinque Terre): up to 800m / Florence: 50m / Rome: 13m / Palermo: 14m
  • Temperature: July average highs are in the 80s, lows in the 60s
  • Exchange Rate: 0.86 Euro to $1 USD
  • Primary Language: Italian
  • Walking Tour: We have no plans for walking tours, though there certainly are some.
  • Time Zone: Central European Summer Time, UTC +2 (7 hours ahead of US Central Time)
  • Taxi: Yes (except Venice)
  • Uber: Yes.
  • Public Transit: Trains and buses
  • Emergency Number: 112
  • Running: Yes! We are running tomorrow in Florence along the riverfront.
  • American Football: Not yet in season.
  • Starbucks: Not yet believe it or not! The first is set to open in Milan late 2018.
  • Local Starbucks Specialty: TBD
  • McDonald’s Veggie Burger: Their website says yes, but we did not yet see one in a store, so TBD.
  • Coffee Price: About 3.5 Euro (~$4) for a cappuccino
  • Beer Price: Usually 6 Euro (~$7) for a pint of draft beer
Castello Sforzesco
Castello Sforzesco in Milan was a great way to end our first day in Italy.

The Journey Continues