A great Italian holiday
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - November 29, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Being the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and the place where the first Christmas Mass took place, Rome is a great city to visit this holiday season. Here, Christmas lights start to shine in early December, during the Feast of Immaculate Concepcion, but be sure to experience the holiday charm of the whole Italy.

“When in Rome, do what the Romans do.” More than an idiomatic expression, there’s probably a reason why adapting to a foreign place refers to one of the beautiful cities of Italy. In 2012, Italy ranked as the fifth top tourist destination worldwide and third among European countries. Within this picturesque country lie top tourist spots that envelop experiences that differ region to region, from city to city.

Viaggiare to Italia

In the heart of Italy, lies its capital — Rome. Rome is one of the most unique cities in the world that within it is a state, the Vatican City. The Colosseum and St. Peter’s Basilica are the most visited tourist spots in Italy. The Colosseum was originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, built during the Roman Empire and was considered the greatest architecture then, used for gladiatorial activities. At present, its grandeur is still evident, as it still remains to be the world’s biggest amphitheater whose ruins are still highly intact.

A visit to St. Peter’s Basilica can be surprising if your timing is right, for the Pope can be seen in the area. It used to be a chariot racing stadium, used for entertainment and ironically, for executions. The colorful Roman history that involved Nero the Roman emperor and St. Peter the apostle influenced where St. Peter’s Basilica stands today. St. Peter’s Basilica is also the gateway to other tourist destinations like the nearby Sistine Chapel.

Italy is also blessed with the unique properties of land and water. The city of Venice sinks every year, hence the title “City of Waters.” In Italian, the exceptional tide is called acqua alta when translated means “high waters.” October to January is usually the time for acqua alta. Needless to say, the waters of Venice may well be its magical potion that can make you fall in love with the place.

Venice, located in Northeast Italy, is also famous for its Grand Canal and gondolas.

The Grand Canal can be best seen from Vaporettos, or Venice’s public water transportation system, or from simply getting lost in the alleys. If you travel with a lover, a gondola ride is a must. A serene ride as you fancy baroque architectures while being serenaded by a gondolier would probably be the most enchanting date you’ll ever have.

Pisa, located in Tuscany in Central Italy, is one of the cities that will surprise you. Even though the Leaning Tower is the most famous attraction, Pisa also offers history and architecture in the whole of Piazza dei Miracoli or in the Square of Miracles. And if you think that the tower is the only leaning structure in Pisa, then you must visit the Baptistry of St. John. It is the largest religious building in Italy that is also slightly leaning. Both structures stand on ground that is too soft to support the structure.   

Eat like an Italian

Rome, Venice and Pisa are just some of the places in Italy worth visiting. As you tour the country, you should not forget the one thing that makes them an even richer tourist destination. Complete your Italian experience by eating like Italians do.

Breakfast for Italians is simple but is a teaser for the succeeding meals of the day. A cup of cappuccino with bread of your choice is usually for breakfast.

Lunch happens to be the most important meal of the day. This is also the meal that where you start drinking wine. It begins with antipasto, which literally means “before the meal.” But it’s not your usual hors d’ouevres because it’s a mixture of all things good. In a platter is a mixture of cheeses, olives, bread, bruschetta, peppers or cured meats. This is followed by the main course which is usually separated into two. The first is pasta, risotto and soup. The second wave of main course differs from city to city but mostly involves meat or fish with side dishes.

Dinner or cena is lighter in Italy, usually composed of soup, salad and cold meats.

In between, not following the traditional meal structures, pizza is considered a snack and gelato is a dessert that you can have at any time of day. The number of times you eat gelato should well exceed the number of days you stay in Italy.

The best Italian pizza is a big debate topic for Italians and foreigners alike. In Naples, the best pizza can be found in Pizzaria La Notizia. For this restaurant, pizza is not just food. It is tradition being preserved and passed on in every meal they serve.

To fully experience Italian cooking entails a little creativity and adventure in you. There are many restaurants in Italy and they only wait for the brave and adventurous. In Florence for example, do not leave without trying Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori, considered one of the best restaurants in the whole of Italy. It’s a small, family-owned restaurant in Duomo. If you’re tired of the traditional, well-trained waiters at Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori can surprise you with personally-recommended dishes.

The motoring Mecca

To complete your great Italian adventure, do not forget to visit Maranello, the home of the famous Italian sports car, Ferrari. Take time to visit the Ferrari Museum which houses trophies and priceless memorabilia of Formula One races by Scuderia Ferrari. While there are guided tours available for the Ferrari museum, access to the actual factory, a true heaven for Ferrari fans, is very limited. Fortunately, starting November 15 until January 31, 2014, Pilipinas Shell gives its loyal customers a chance to fulfill their holiday dream adventure with a trip to Italy and an exclusive visit to the Ferrari factory to boot.

Every P2,000 single or accumulated purchase of Shell V-Power Nitro+ Gasoline, Shell V-Power Nitro+ Diesel or Shell V-Power Nitro+ Racing, entitles customers to one raffle coupon for a chance to win a trip for two to Maranello, Italy for an exclusive tour of the Ferrari Factory.  Five lucky winners will be drawn for the trip to Italy, while close to a hundred customers will also win exciting prizes like premium suitcases, headsets, shades, and tablet computers. The same minimum purchase also entitles customers to an instant prize of P50 Retail Store Gift Check.

For more information on the newest offering from Shell, log on to www.shell.com.ph/triptoitaly.

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