A Girl’s Guide to Italy

By Nomadic Matt | Published January 27th, 2011

Roman Ruins on top of an Italian hillThis is a guest post by Laura, our resident expert on female travel.

The reasons to travel to Italy are as varied as its gelato flavors. Some people go to get a taste of history while others take part in the outdoor activities. For me, Italy is all about indulgences…and over indulgences! From architecture to food to wine to life, Italians go all out. They know how to eat, they know how to dress, and they know how to party. Women should make a pilgrimage to Italy at one point or another to see and partake in Italy’s pleasures, some of which include:

Italian men
Let’s cut right to the chase: Italian men are beautiful. The phrase, “Tall, dark, and handsome” was probably coined in Italy. I think most straight women find Italian men to be easy on the eyes, so if people watching is your thing, then consider heading to Italy. The men here are very suave and make it easy to fall in love with them, which isn’t a bad thing.

Sculptures
If Italian men don’t do it for you, perhaps the perfectly sculpted ones do. They usually have a chiseled set of abs, they don’t use bad pick-up lines, and they wear very little, if any, clothing. Michelangelo’s David is one of Italy’s most popular sculptures. If you’re visiting Florence, check out his contrapposto pose and see how it does wonders for showing off his figure. If you don’t wish to pay to see David, there are two equally striking replicas in the city. You can also head over to the Uffizi Gallery to see a lot of Renaissance sculptures and art in one place.

Sunset behind a farmhouse in Florence, Italy
Carbohydrates
It’s a fact: women crave carbs more than men. So why not satisfy the craving with pizza, lasagna, pasta, and bread? I’m fairly certain Italy would give its middle finger to the Atkins diet if it could. Italians tend to eat bread with every meal, and though it’s heavy food, Italian pasta and pizza choices are delectable. If the weather is nice, have an outdoor dinner by candlelight. And if you need to grab a quick bite to eat, you can always pick up a slice of pizza for just a couple euros. Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love had a problem fitting into jeans after a few months in Italy for a reason!

Gelato
It’s a crime not to like Italian ice cream. Hopefully you’ve left room for dessert after a carb-heavy meal. Gelaterias in Italy are like 7-11s in Bangkok: they’re everywhere. It’s difficult to smell the freshly made cones and see the wide assortment of flavors and not be tempted to step inside. There are so many delicious flavors that it can be hard to choose just one. If you can spare the room, make your decision easy and get a couple scoops. Nutella, coconut, and chocolate are some of my favorites. And if the craving strikes, don’t be afraid to have gelato in place of a meal. I tell myself, “When in Italy…” to excuse my gelato-eating habits there. [Nomadic Matt says: I love the apple flavor, and if you're hung over, nothing cures a hungover like lemon gelato!]

Man shopping at an open-air food market in Italy

Vino
I love a good glass of wine with dinner. Italy’s wine regions are packed full of vineyards. There are 20 wine regions in Italy, so you’re bound to be traveling near one of them. You can take an organized vineyard tour, which always includes a tasting. Buying wine at the grocery store in Italy is also ridiculously cheap, so having a nightly glass (or bottle) of wine is easy to do on any budget.

Architecture
You don’t need a background in design to appreciate the striking architecture in Italy. The country is best known for its ancient Roman and Renaissance architecture. There are interesting structures everywhere you turn. Admire the Colosseum in Rome, the Duomo in Florence, the colorful houses on Burano, or any of Italy’s amazing piazzas (public squares). With thousands of years of history, Italy offers so many breathtaking things to see.

3 Bunches of purple wine grapes on a vine

Carnevale
I love costume parties, and I’m pretty sure Venice’s Carnevale would be the ultimate one to attend. The period costumes and masks create a mysterious element in this already fascinating city. Carnevale begins around two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Mardi Gras (the day before Ash Wednesday). As long as you can stand being in huge crowds, dressing up for Carnevale is a highlight on an Italy itinerary.

Shopping
While I’m on the subject of dress-up, the leather boots and purses in Florence, along with an emerging fashion scene, will satisfy any shopaholic’s urge. There are great little boutiques with unique items and also plenty of street vendors to peruse. Gucci, Prada, and a thousand other designers make their home in Italy. You’ll find everything you want. Make extra space in your bag for all the chic clothes you’ll impress your friends with back home.

Color photo of people clothing shopping in Milan, Italy

Italy is a little taste of heaven for female travelers. While I love the art and architecture in Italy, let’s not forget the sexy men, comfort food and drink, and elaborate events that round out the reasons why every woman should indulge in a trip to Italy.

Laura Walker runs the website A Wandering Sole. She’s been backpacking around the world for seven months by herself and isn’t afraid just because she’s a girl. You can get more travel tips from her website or check back here every other Thursday for more stories by her.

comments 28 Comments

Laura, I LOVE! Every girl must go to Italy at least once!

My favorite part of living in Florence was strolling through the markets. EVERY man would hit on me. EVERY one. Whenever I was having a bad day, I’d go for a walk through the market and leave in much better spirits!

Kate, I thought you’d enjoy this post! What a great way to turn around a tough day ;)

Men, carbs and shopping? I’d like to think that solo female travelers have escaped these stereotypes by now.

I’m not sure I’m over the men, carbs, and shopping, and I think it would be a crime to go to Italy and ignore all three ;) Plus, the wine, architecture, and Carnevale help balance out those age-old stereotypes.

Fun post giving a tiny taste of Italy’s best sides. Italy has soooooooo many bad sides.

It sounds like you know the bad sides a bit too well… I think gelato is the cure/remedy for everything.

Christofer, I am sorry to hear you did not have a good experience in Italy. Living in Italy sometimes can be hard and difficult, but there are so many positive aspects (gelato included!) that still make it a special place to be.

Not a fan of Italian men, but would definitely go for the pizza! Mmm…

I had one (or two or three) too many slices of pizza while I was there, but it’s hard to pass on by pizzerias and not pick up a slice.

Michelle, make sure you go to NAPLES for pizza. You can sometimes find decent pizza elsewhere in Italy, but Bella Napoli is where it was invented. Fantastic and mind-blowing!

Ryan

Great Post! I am hoping to make it to Italy again to write a post. I went to Milan last year during fashion week, but it wasnt really what I expected from Italy.

When my partner and I were in Italy a few years ago we ate gelato every single day… and on some occasions multiple times a day! Also, the best pizza I’ve ever tasted was in Naples. Oh, how I want to go back to Italy…

Yay! So glad you went to Naples! It is often overlooked when people visit Italia. Absolutely one of my favorite cities in the world!

This a nice post, and I agree with the food and the architecture part the most. I can spend days just walking around the streets on Italian towns and eating their food! Pizzas and gelato of course take the toast :)

Haha, I agree, while Italian men are not my thing, architecture, food, and the wine made up for it 10 fold! Nice post :)

*giggle* I admit it: I fell for an Italian man. Fortunately, he fell for me, too. I love having an affectionate, expressive, handsome hubby — and a ready excuse to go visit family in Rome and Naples. ;)

Yes, I agree–Italy is such a fun place for women! I loved wandering through markets and buying pashminas. I also was just blown away by the art and architecture everywhere I went. I had the most phenomenal mushroom risotto in Perugia and such delicious gelato in Rome and Florence….oh, Italy! I can’t wait to go back.

Speaking of “Eat, Pray, Love”, eat where Julia Roberts ate in Rome: Da Pancrazio at Campo di Fiori

Amelie

Great Post! Now I really hope I will make it there this year. I am already practicing my italian ;)

I agree, there isn’t anything you can’t love in Italy. In fact, speaking about hot men, in Cinque Terre randy took a dip and sitting on the rock next to us with a bathing Italian beauty, complete with hot pink bikini suit and chest hair. In the States, it would be gross but on a rock in Italy – stunning. I took a couple photos. I had to.

the key word is gelato. that in itself is reason enough to go to italy! fun article – thanks!

I’m a guy, but I’m drooooooling at this article! I’ve been to Rome for a few days, but half the time there was spent in the British Embassy (thanks to my ex and a bumbag…) so I didn’t get nearly as much gelato and pizza time as I’d have liked. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to go again ;)

p.s. yes to Italian men! (although Koreans and Aussies pip them to the post for me)

p.p.s. Great article!

Gelato is a must. I have it everyday when I was there. ahha

I’ve been living in Italy for a year now so know it quite well and have to agree the food and ice cream are the best ever!! But not all men are tall, dark and handsome, especially if you are 180 cm tall like me, still many of them are shorter! Shame!

Joey

I am 188 cm. I am now in a quick business trip in Italy. Can we meet?

Rome should definitely be on a guide to Italy for any traveler. Not just because of the architecture, but the food is pretty good here, too!

donnie

I think that many comments here contains the worst list of common-places I’ve ever heard about Italy. Italy has many problems and many things don’t work, but if you really know that country you know that it is a very common aspect in many places in the world.
It is often described as pizza, pasta and mandolino, but if you are true travelers (and since you read this blog you should be) you know that Italy is not just Rome, Venice, Florence and Milan.
There is a large variety of different landscapes, the largest cultural heritage of the world and many things to do. Here you can find olive groves and steep hills, sleepy villages with charming cobbled streets, abundant vineyards, medieval castles, old churches and all that art and history build in the past. So, please don’t write trivial comments about what you don’t know very well. :)
I suggest you some links that will help you to know Italy a little more and (maybe) to appreciate it:
http://www.italia.it/en/home.html (general and institutional)
en.activesporttours.com (about green cycling holidays in Northern Italy)
http://www.italycookingcourses.com/puglia-cooking-schools (to know something more about the South and local food)

I love this! Italy is truly breathtaking, sights, tastes, smells, adventures… I am in love with this country and I can’t wait to go back!

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