So your trip to Italy has been canceled and you’re consoling yourself with a slice of frozen pizza and a scroll through Instagram photos with the hashtag #romanholiday. You can do better than that – much better in fact. Put down that sad slice of pizza, dust the crumbs off your pajamas and get ready for a bellissimo Italian holiday at home. Sure it’s not quite the same as strolling the streets of Florence or sipping wine in Tuscany, but the Italian lifestyle can be imitated, and enjoyed, in your very own casa.
Set the mood with a playlist of Italian songs
Before you toss the frozen pizza, and step out of your pajamas and into something more La Dolce Vita-esque, do yourself a favour and set the right mood. There’s no better way to do that than with a playlist of songs for when you’re in Rome. It’s got everything from all-time favourites like Bella Ciao to novel numbers like In The Colosseum by Tom Waits.
Italian songs like these are just what you need to lift you out of your too-many-days-in-quarantine slump and into that Italian lifestyle. So, what are you waiting for? Go on, hit play.
Get dressed for the occasion
Maybe you don’t have a slinky, strapless, black ball gown hanging in your closet (but if you do, you know what to do). That’s okay, you don’t need Anita Ekberg-level glamour to embrace the Italian lifestyle. For those femme fatale feels, sling on a string of pearls, an LBD and a pair of wayfarers. For a more dapper Italian look, hold onto the wayfarers and slide into a well-fitted white shirt. Of course you can also go for that classic, no-fuss, homey Italian comfort and stay in your pyjamas, keeping your wayfarers on inside of course.
Next, get some real Italian snacks
Now that you’re dressed for your house party for one (or however many people you’re stuck in quarantine with), you clearly need to get your hands on some Italian snacks.
The Italians are masters of antipasti – the course before all courses. These are small, often finger-friendly dishes to enjoy with your evening aperitivo before your main courses (a traditional Italian meal involves no less than eight courses, three of which are drinks). For those of you who are feeling ambitious (or famished), you can go straight to the classic Italian dishes and skip the antipasti.
These crunchy, mini breadsticks are the Italian answer to how not to waste food. Taralli are made from dough scraps. Any extra bits of dough are rolled into mini rings, boiled and then baked. Fennel seeds or black pepper are added to savoury versions and a sugar glaze is added for a sweet sensation. You can order bags of the stuff online or make them yourself (they’re super easy!).
Another favourite in the world of Italian snacks: classic tomato bruschetta. This is also a quick, easy and moreish way to satisfy your Italian flavour cravings. Toast some bread, rub with a clove of garlic and some olive oil, and then top that off with a tomato and basil salad (chopped tomato and basil, olive oil, salt and pepper). Now stop drooling and get making.
Cured meats and cheeses
No antipasti platter would be complete without a selection of cured meats and cheeses. Some Italian classics include: Prosciutto, soppressata, taleggio, mozzarella.
Another easy addition to your table of Italian snacks, which is probably filling up rather quickly. While you’re in the supermarket in your black, strapless ball gown choosing between prosciutto and soppressata (go on, get both!), don’t forget to grab a jar of olives.
Artichokes are one of those Italian snacks that are often met with raised eyebrows or, less politely, cries of “yuck!”. But now that you’re stuck at home and trying to live your best Italian lifestyle, give these layered veggies a try. Get ‘em fresh and fry them up for some carciofi fritti or get the kind in a jar and add to your selection of easy Italian snacks.
Enjoy one of these Italian romance movies with your Italian snacks
Now that you’ve run out of space on your antipasti platter, it’s time to move on to the entertainment section of your Italian holiday at home. Italy is the romance capital of the world; from the passionate Italian lover stereotype to the tear-jerking, heart-warming, drama-packed Italian romance movie. Grab a bottle of prosecco and your platter of snacks, sink into the couch and live your Italian lifestyle vicariously through these Italian films.
La Dolce Vita
You just can’t get any better than Federico Fellini’s 1960s masterpiece. A cinematic feast for the eyes, La Dolce Vita combines romance, comedy and drama in an iconic way. Make sure you’ve got enough snacks and prosecco at hand – this Italian romance movie is three hours long.
Passion, drama and true love abound in this 1980s Italian film. Movie lovers will appreciate the lead character’s devotion to film and the romantics will appreciate the relationship between the two main characters.
Life Is Beautiful
Keep the tissues close by, Life is Beautiful will melt even the hardest of hearts. This stunning film tells the story of the effervescent and brilliant Guido Orefice – and more than that, we shall not say.
Audrey Hepburn fans will be pleased to see this Italian romance movie on the list. Watch it to enjoy Audrey Hepburn’s Oscar-winning performance and to virtually experience 1950s Rome.
Any opera lovers out there? This Italian romance movie is for you. A film version of La Traviata was made in the 1980s and it’s got all the best bits of opera: tragedy, gorgeous arias, impressive high notes (and low notes) and excellent costuming. What more could an opera lover want at a time like this?
And if romantic movies just aren’t your thing or you’re looking for more ways to feel like you’re actually in Italy, you can always virtually tour the Vatican, plus a load of other museums around the world.
Still hungry? Try your hand at these authentic Italian meals
Now that you’ve had a taste of Italian cuisine at home, you might be ready for something a little more challenging (and a little more time intensive – which is not a problem when you’ve nowhere to be but home). Put your home cook hat on and get ready to become a master Italian chef.
Homemade pasta sounds scary, but in the words of Nigella Lawson, “making homemade pasta is not hard… it’s simply time consuming”. And, as established, you’ve probably got time on your hands. So, let Nigella walk you through her homemade pasta and meatballs recipe (for dessert fans, there’s a sweet treat at the end).
A pasta-adjacent option for those who are extra disappointed about not getting to experience these pillowy potatoes in Italy itself. If you’re after a real Italian recipe (sorry, Nigella), Nonna Nerina and her granddaughter Chiara’s livestreamed cooking lessons will be right up your alley. Gnocchi fans can sign up for a gnocchi making class on Thursdays. These cooking lessons do come with a price tag, so if you’d prefer a freebie, this recipe is a home run.
This list would be incomplete without a pizza mention. You’ll wonder how you ever managed to eat the frozen kind when you’ve made your very own pizza dough and sauce from scratch. The recipe here includes toppings, but if you’re a die-hard pineapple fan, skip the suggestions. That’s right, you do you; cook like nobody’s watching and live your best self-isolated life!
Here’s an easy and authentic way to end off your Italian feast: Tiramisu. With simple ingredients like coffee, mascarpone, and finger biscuits (and a couple of other things), this is a great way to end your foodie trip through Italy.
Feel like you’ve fully embraced an Italian lifestyle yet? These Italian traditions will take you there
By now, you’ve memorised a bunch of Italian songs, eaten like Italian royalty and travelled all over the country through your screen. If you still feel like your Italian holiday at home is missing something, these Italian traditions should complete the illusion.
Use the finger purse to ask “What do you want?” Top tip: use both hands for extra emphasis, especially when you just don’t understand what your lover needs from you.
Use the finger kiss when you taste your freshly made gnocchi and you want to tell yourself just how superb your cooking is (because somehow talking to yourself in hand gestures is less worrisome than out loud).
And when you’re looking for more ways to silently talk to yourself, or prepare for your visit to Italy, use this handy guide.
Correct your coffee habits
Italians are serious about their coffee and what kind is appropriate at which hour. Cappuccinos are for mornings, cafe macchiatos are for afternoons and espressos are for after dinner. When you do finally go on that trip to Italy, don’t make the mistake of ordering a cappuccino after lunch, or ordering a latte – you’ll just get a glass of milk.
Most importantly, call your parents
Italians are known for being precious about their families, and at a time like this, it’s even more worth being precious about yours. Answer that call from your parents, plan a chat with your sibling and give in to the suggestion of a family WhatsApp group (or video call, if you dare). You’ve probably got time to talk anyway.
All you need now is a couple of Italian language classes
The only thing left to complete your Italian lifestyle… learn the language. Sign up for an online Italian language class, get busy on Duolingo or Rosetta Stone, or cajole your Italian friend into teaching you some of the essentials over Skype.
You’ll thank yourself when you finally get to Rome and you can confidently say: “Ciao amico, un cappuccino per favore. Grazie mille!”