• Italian cuisine is excellent – pasta, pizza and risotto. Then more pasta, pizza and risotto, hmm. Then more of the same – if you are in a tourist area and on a budget or elsewhere and don’t read Italian (No, knowledge of French or Spanish is surprisingly not going to help with menus). Nor is international cuisine readily available. Chinese? Mama mia!
However, if you can unleash a fat wallet or have studied up on Italian food words then the cuisine can be superb.
• directional signs for pedestrians have the same lack of continuity (or just lack) that road signs have. GPS, map-reading skills, patience, imagination and/or a grasp of Italian language will be essential to successful navigation in Italy.
• roads between magnificent towns are often sadly drab, garbage-strewn and bordered with concrete excrescences.
• while some Italians are cheerful, welcoming and speak English not a lot of those types work in the service sector so don’t expect to see a smile or hear ‘Have a nice day’ from your waiter or ticket collector. Never mind, you don’t have to tip them!
• mainland Italian beaches are frequently small, stony and packed or large, sandy and pay-your-way.
Genoa’s Piazza di Ferrari, Genova, Liguria. Photo by Hpschaefer.
Genoa, the only European city to be mentioned in the old Arabian Nights storiesis a fabulous surprise for travelers who know all about the wonders of Rome, Venice, Pisa, and Florence but were not aware that Genoa’s centre is lively, easily walkable and loaded with 16thC and 17thC Palazzi, chic shops, elegant people, magnificent avenues, tiny winding medieval streets, bizarre little details and of course gorgeous churches, particularly in the well-preserved old town.