La Dolce Vita: Favorites from Italy and Spain

When your younger sister goes to Seville to study abroad for a semester, there’s only one appropriate response: hit the pause button on life, meet her in Spain, and go travel Italy together.

Naturally, after spending 15 days in Spain and Italy, I came home with a whole new list of favorite things.

1. Moorish royal palaces, ancient city walls and cobblestone streets combine to create the Andalusia capital. Seville offers one of the most beautiful viewing platforms in the world, Metropol Parasol. And it couldn’t live up to its nickname ‘Las Setas’ (or ‘The Mushrooms’) any better, unless there was a word for a mushroom-waffle hybrid. Designed by Jürgen Mayer-Hermann, the structure sits right above Plaza de La Encarnación. It houses an archaeological museum (with in-tact ancient Roman ruins) at the foot of the Setas, and, of course, a bar and restaurant at the top balcony complete with a panoramic view of the city center.

Las Cetas 2

2. You haven’t had good pesto until you’ve gone straight to the source, the Liguria region of Northern Italy. They really aren’t kidding when they say that every bowl of pasta in Italy is cooked al dente and to perfection (even if al dente isn’t typically your cup of tea). So when in Rome, I mean, Liguria, pesto pasta it is! The best pesto dish I had was in Da Rino, a restaurant in Levanto, Cinque Terre.

pesto pasta in Ligurian region of Northern Italy

3. The views from my Mediterranean getaway were easily the most breathtaking views I’ve ever experienced. Cinque Terre is made of five rugged coastal towns located on the coast of the Italian Riviera. Much of Cinque Terre’s beauty comes from the lack of city bustle, thanks to the inability to get to them by cars or buses. The hike from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza was the most spectacular 90 minutes of my life.

best views in Italy

4. You can’t leave Tuscany without eating a Florentine T-Bone Steak. And, if you’re going to go for it, you might as well go all the way, right? That is certainly how the chef of Villa Armena felt. Check out the best Florentine steak in the world below.

Florentine Steak

5. No matter where you go in Italy, your pizza will be “tutu bene.” The best of all the (many) pizzas I encountered (and demolished) was from Ciro Pizza in Rome. It officially changed my outlook on the marinara-less variety.

Pizza Ciro

6. If you’re going to do Rome in two days, the best way to get around and visit all the must-sees in one outing is to have your father battle the Roman drivers and hit up all of the major sites in one afternoon. Warning: this is not for the faint of heart. There is no such thing as right-of-way in Roman driving etiquette. Favorite #Selfie Award goes to:

Selfie at the Trevi Fountain

7. It may be impossible to designate just one gelateria as my favorite, but best-of lists require choices to be made. So I’ve somehow narrowed my extensive, thoroughly-researched Best Gelato List to just one: the worthy, Gelateria San Crispino. San Crispino may be just a few blocks from the tourist-ridden Trevi Fountain, but this Roman gelateria is as authentic as they come. Unlike other gelaterias, you won’t find overflowing velvet mounds in every shade of the rainbow. Here, the gelato is kept fresh in metal tubs with shiny lids, and are only opened to fill cup after cup for each smiling customer. Cones and toppings are banned, because who would want to contaminate the rich flavors of the best gelato in Italy with anything else?

Cream and Chocolate Rum Gelato

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