Savvy Traveler Q&A: Italy with Blogger and ExPat, Jasmine
July 06 2015
Italy. Just the word creates an urgent desire to hop the next plane to bask in its Tuscan sun, enjoy its picturesque countryside, dine on its fabulous fare, sip its divine wines, get lost in its singsongy language, indulge in its fashion and, most importantly, be charmed by its beautiful men. *sigh*
Even if I wasn't part Italian or had family in Torino, I know I would still find every travel opportunity to visit this enchanting Mediterranean country. From the colorful seaside towns of the Cinque Terre, to the mysterious canals of Venice all the way down to the autonomous and culturally rich island of Sicily, Italy dazzles.
Jasmine, our amazing savvy traveler in today's Q&A and writer of her own travel blog called Questa Dolce Vita, was so dazzled by Italy that she now lives there! Enjoy the witty insights and tales of this inspiring woman as she brings this romantic country to life. You may be asking to be her roommate by the end. Ciao!
Occupation: Blogger at personal travel blog, Questa Dolce Vita/freelance writer/English teacher/wine-drinker (I used to be a pharmacist back in Canada if that’s of any interest…!)
Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
When did you first fall in love with travel?
I went on a volunteer abroad trip when I was eighteen to Kathmandu, Nepal. As I was interested in healthcare, I worked with a rural women’s clinic doing preventative health education with volunteer physicians. I was there for a summer where I travelled around the country, as well as backpacked to India, Switzerland, France, and Germany. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment that I fell in love with travel, but it was probably somewhere between sitting in front of the Taj Mahal and flying past the summit of Mt. Everest…!
What’s your favorite way to get through a long flight?
Sleep. I think I was meant to be a world traveller because the minute I get into my seat and snuggle into my travel pillow, it’s over. I’ve slept entire flights from Edmonton to London before. I’ve even thought about investing in one of those eye masks that say “Please Wake for Food” because I’ve literally missed meals while sleeping and arrived at my destination absolutely famished.
What is your favorite city in Italy?
Bergamo (my current base, I’m biased).
Jasmine overlooking a sunset in Bergamo, Italy.
When was the first time you visited Italy and what was your first impression?
I first visited Italy six and a half years ago (I guess that would take us back to 2009) and looking back on the experience, I wish I could re-live it. Everything was so fresh and foreign, I couldn’t understand a single word being said. Whenever that happens, your sense of sight is completely heightened and I just remember being so much more tuned in to my surroundings- the sly winks and lingering stares of the Italian boys, all the hand gesturing, each and every stone on the cobble-stoned streets . It seemed like another world, one that I will never be able to go back to unfortunately as rolling vineyards and the language slowly become my everyday norm.
What is the coolest thing you’ve done in Italy?
Getting almost arrested…everytime I hear the song “Cop Car” by Keith Urban, it completely resonates with me. During one summer visiting my now-fiancée, he decided we would go see a famous MotoGP race at Mugello in Tuscany, but being Italian, he sure didn’t want to pay for the entrance tickets. So we spent an evening with a bunch of friends, running through the forest and climbing over barb wired fences to reach the site. We almost made it undetected until the last minute when the police caught us and threw us into the back of their car. It actually is much more romantic in retrospect…
What’s the one fashion item you always pack when you travel?
A pashmina or super large scarf. They are so useful whether you need to use it as a pillow, blanket, head-cover for a mosque, shoulder-cover for a Catholic church, knee-cover (actually) for the Taj Mahal, or for an impromptu picnic blanket in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Where is the one place you always visit when you’re in town?
La Marianna, it’s a locale up in Città Alta in Bergamo that serves up rose flavored gelato, my absolute favourite and a rarity in the flavour world.
What would your perfect day in Italy include?
Waking up in Positano (sorry Bergamo), having an amazing cappuccino, heading down to the beach and getting my tan on, a killer Caprese salad (fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes warm from the wine) and a tall glass of Ortugo (one of my favourite fizzy, light white wines from Northern Italy), a cold shower, an afternoon perusing the quaint shops under wisteria flowers, dinner at Chez Black and spaghetti con ricci di mare (their signature dish with sea urchins), then dancing the night away at On the Rocks (a club carved into the cliffs with views on the sea). I’ve definitely lived my perfect day at least once or twice.
For newbies to Italy, what is the one food you think they should try on their trip?
Is wine a food? A Brunello from 1995. I believe that was quite a delicious year.
What’s your #1 travel tip when it comes to packing?
More is more. I always over-pack actually but I hate repeat outfits on trips, especially when you’re in Italy- I always wanted to feel like one of the locals who are so fashionable. A good tip might be to leave room and just shop while you’re here so you know you’ll be getting the most in-season trends. You can take a day to look around, see what all the Italian women are wearing this week, and then head to the shops!
Jasmine overlooking Lago d’Iseo in Lombardy, Italy.
What is your favorite way to relax and unwind?
A glass of icy prosecco and aperitivo on a warm day, al fresco, watching the locals and tourists milling by.
Where is your favorite place to shop in Italy?
Subdued. It’s an Italian chain (I think!) that is really probably geared towards tweens, meaning I’m a little on the old side, but the style is Californian country which is totally me in a nutshell. Frayed cut-offs and plaid crop tops? Yes, please.
For a culture fix in Italy, where should visitors check out?
Florence. Just Florence in general is a great first destination in Italy. There’s everything- amazing food, history, art, all in one place.
What book are you currently reading while on your travel adventure?
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, it’s a book that will make you appreciate everything that life can offer and remind you not to take any travel opportunities for granted.
Jasmine in front of Palazzo Ducale in Mantova, Italy.
Any *Extra * Travel tips for Italy?
Really just 2 things: learn some Italian before coming and venture far off the beaten path. My rule is that if you’re in a restaurant and you can understand the waiter, the menu, and your fellow patrons…run away!
More about Jasmine:
Jasmine is a (former) pharmacist turned freelance writer, foodie, and fashionista from Alberta, Canada living "the sweet life" in Bergamo, Italy. She is a self-proclaimed city girl with a country soul and enjoys stomping around “The Boot”, literally, in cowboy boots and high heels. She currently works as an English consultant for private business and tutors children. In her spare time, Jasmine is an passionate about books, art, and wine.