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 Manarola, Italy
Photograph: Alexander Ramsey / Unsplash Manarola, Itália

How to have a very Italian holiday from home

International travel might be off the cards for now – but let us take you from the streets of Rome to the glittering Sicilian coast with our top tips.

By Divya Venkataraman
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When you think of an Italian getaway, where does your mind go? Ripe, Amalfi lemons, cobblestoned streets, sun-struck azure beaches, and, of course, the pasta. Oh, the pasta. We might not be able to make it to Italy any time soon, but follow our itinerary and we’ll have you feeling like you’re strolling through Roman piazzas in no time. It’s true what they say, la vita e bella – oh, but don’t watch that movie unless you want to ugly-cry your whole holiday away.

Now, jauntily tie a scarf around your neck, slip on some breezy linen, and add a swipe of lipstick if that’s your thing – you’re good to dash off to la bella Italia (without ever leaving Sydney). 

How to have a very Italian holiday from home

Coffee
Coffee
Photograph: Unsplash/Louis Hansel

First, coffee

Bust out that Bialetti and set it on the stove: Italians don’t start the day without a fresh, knock-your-socks-off hit of caffeine, and nor should you. Get aromatic, roasted beans delivered from St Peters’ Sample or Mecca in Alexandria.  Spoon a dollop of frothed milk on top for a macchiato fit for a Milanese bistro countertop.

person holding ice cream cone in front of water
person holding ice cream cone in front of water
Photograph: Unsplash/Rodrigo Goncalves

Eat a scoop by the sea

If your idea of a perfect holiday entails endless days lying by the beach, striped beach parasol askew in the mid-afternoon sun – then you’re not alone. Italy sure has gorgeous beaches, from the port towns dotted along the Amalfi to the long stretches of Sardinia – but Sydney’s aren’t anything to sniff at either. For now, just dive in for a quick dip – Pacific or Mediterranean, who can tell when you’re under? – but when restrictions ease, take a towel, a floppy hat worthy of Monica Belluci, an Italo Calvino novel and sun yourself by the sea. Grab a scoop of gelato and your Italian combo is complete. Our picks for the best scoops by the sea? Head to Hall St’s Messina for guianduia bianca or poached figs in marsala or Pompei’s, also on Bondi’s beachfront, for pistachio. If you’re further north, try a classic vanilla from Avalon’s Chill Bar or a chunky cone of cookies and cream from Mrs Jones the Baker in Freshwater. Walk home in a sun daze, maybe with a second scoop. Bliss.

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Ceiling of Sistine Chapel
Ceiling of Sistine Chapel
Photograph: Unsplash/Calvin Craig

Feast your eyes on Florentine masterpieces

After all, if you’re taking a virtual jaunt in the country that brought us the Ninja Turtles – ahem, I mean, the Renaissance masters – no trip would be complete without a chance to gaze upon the works of Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello and Leonardo da Vinci. Check out the Sistine Chapel in all its glory, try out a 360 degree online tour of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery featuring a hall of 16th century Venetian painters, an exhibition unravelling the construction of the contemporary Botticelli myth, and of course, Michelangelo’s hulking statue of David. For Italian art with a touch more contemporary edge, try the Fondazione Prada in Milan – artist Francesco Vezzoli is launching an Instagram project in early May which co-opts the Instagram Stories poll function to examine the binaries inherent in social media communication. Spicy! 

Wine being poured at a vineyard
Wine being poured at a vineyard
Photograph: Unsplash/Elle Hughes

Sip on a cool beverage, al fresco

What’s a Mediterranean vacay without feeling the salt in your hair and the taste of wine on your lips? Evoke a hot, Italian summer’s day with one of Newtown Italian joint Bella Brutta’s cocktails: the Limoncello Spritz box has Prosecco, limoncello liqueur, Santa Vittoria soda water and a lemon for you to assemble at home, or you can try out a bitter-sweet citrus digestif, which comes ready to pour. If you’d rather a giant glass of vino to swill a la Sophia Loren, check out Leichhardt’s Golden Gully’s minimal intervention wines for a devilish red to go with that pasta coma – or pick from our list of the best Sydney bottle shops delivering to your door

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Wine being poured at a vineyard
Wine being poured at a vineyard
Photograph: Unsplash/Vlah Dumitru

Listen to a soaring Italian opera

You don’t have to don a scratchy dress and risk having your view sabotaged by an inconveniently situated pole to experience the delights of the opera. You can take part in this quintessentially Italian affair from your couch: Puccini’s La boheme, Madama Butterfly and Tosca are all available to stream on this platform, as is Verdi’s Il Trovatore and Mozart’s Don Giovanni. 

Chef Scott Williams making pasta at Ragazzi
Chef Scott Williams making pasta at Ragazzi
Photograph: Leigh Griffiths

Try your hand at pasta-making

...with flour. You’ve got a wealth of sources to choose from when it comes to Italian-stye cooking lessons. Chef Massimo Bottura, from the triple Michelin-starred restaurant Osteria Francescana – if a chorus of “eating in Italy is my favourite thing” just struck up in your head, it’s because the restaurant featured in an episode of Aziz Ansari’s Master of None – is offering cooking lessons on Instagram to anyone who wants to tune in. If you’d rather venture down south, check out Silvia Grossi’s Tuscan recipes online, all the way from her restaurant in Florence. The famed Nonna Nerina is offering livestreamed cooking classes for you, also online, or take your pick of the nonnas over at Pasta Grannies – an Instagram account dedicated to over-65s making scandalously good-looking pasta. Prego!

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Food at Bar Totti's CBD
Food at Bar Totti's CBD
Photograph: Supplied/Steven Woodburn

Or leave it to the pros, and order in

On the other hand, if your handmade pasta tends to turn out a little more dented than al dente, save yourself the drama and surrender to those who do this for a living. We’ve got some phenomenal Italian fodder on offer in Sydney – you’ve just got to know where to look. Order in from Bondi favourite Totti’s for the phenomenal walnut panagrattato, or try out Chippendale’s Olio, where all the dishes are grounded in chef Lino Sauro’s signature olive oil from his family’s farm in Sicily. If you’d prefer something a little more casual, check out Gigi’s for the best vegan pizza in town, or Salts Meats Cheese’s comprehensive menu. Dress your dining table with a checkered tablecloth and light some candles for a cosy, tucked-away trattoria ambience.

Two people standing
Two people standing
Photograph: IMDb/Under the Tuscan Sun

Fall into a Fellini – or a rom-com set in Tuscany

Once you’re well-fed, do it the Italian way and eat some more. Pop a bowl of buttery popcorn and settle into your couch groove – it’s movie time. You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to Italian cinema which highlights the beauty of the natural landscape, interspersed of course, with delicious close-up shots of pasta being slurped.  Let yourself be transported to cobblestoned city streets of yonder with Audrey Hepburn and a truly dashing Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, wander around a vineyard Under the Tuscan Sun with Diane Lane, or get lost in the lush, sprawling Northern Italian estate of Call Me By Your Name with Elio and Oliver. If you’re looking for an Italian-language pick, tick off the Fellini classic La Dolce Vita

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