Europe & Britain | Destination Guides

How to Live La Dolce Vita in Italy by Michelle Fabio

In 2003, American lawyer, Michelle Fabio swapped her high-flying city career for a sleepier pace of life in her family’s ancestral village in Calabria. Since then, she has established her award-winning blog, Bleeding Espresso, and has published a must-read book, 52 Things to See & Do in Calabria. It’s safe to say she knows a thing or two about living la dolce vita in Italy. Here, Michelle gives a delightful insider glimpse into her bucolic world.

The Italian way of life is so idyllic.

“In short, it’s the clean air and water, the ease of walking to the shops daily, and the proximity of both the mountains and the sea (which are only a five-minute drive up or down the hill) that makes life here so idyllic. Now that I have a young daughter, I also appreciate the warm, community aspect of life. She can run and play and explore under the watchful eyes of fellow villagers.

la dolce vita in Italy MichelleFabio
Michelle Fabio

Living in Calabria is poles apart from my former life in Philadelphia.

Immediately before moving to Calabria, I lived in centre city Philadelphia, and the bustling activity of urban life was a different world. My hometown is in rural Pennsylvania, though, which actually isn’t too dissimilar because it was a small, close-knit community. I’m a small-town girl at heart.

The easiest way to live La Dolce Vita is to simply get into the relaxed flow of the Italian day. You could go to the bar for breakfast or just appreciate the leisurely pace of things and observe how locals live. Make time to savour the food and wine, too.

You cannot beat Italian cuisine.

It’s trite but true: the simplicity of Italian cuisine makes it so special. Ingredients tend to be fresh, in-season, and local, and that makes a huge difference in flavour, even when there are only a handful of ingredients in a dish, like the inimitable caprese salad of mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and salt.

la dolce vita in Italy Antonio,-local-fruit-and-vegetable-vendor-§
Antonio, local fruit and vegetable vendor

Seek out these dishes when visiting.

Ask what the specials are in whatever eating establishment you find yourself in, and you can never go wrong with an antipasto calabrese, an assortment of appetizers that will include anything from local cheeses and cured meats (especially the DOP origin protected soppressata) to fried zucchini flowers, depending on the season.

la dolce vita in Italy Antipasto-calabrese-CREDIT-MichelleFabio
Antipasto calabrese

These are my favourite places to visit.

The cliffside town of Tropea is a must-see. Near Tropea, on the Tyrrhenian coast, is Pizzo’s Chiesetta di Piedigrotta, a beautiful church carved entirely from tufa rock in a cave. I’m partial to the Ionian side of Calabria as I live in a quaint medieval village called Badolato, and I love the town of Gerace over here as well. The Riace Bronzes in the museum in Reggio Calabria are breath-taking in person, and for a mountain excursion, my favourite is Serra San Bruno and its 11th century monastery and grounds.

Look up the local specialities before going to a specific town – swordfish in Scilla and Bagnara, baccalà in Mammola. Anything with red onions in Tropea! You must try ‘nduja, the spicy, spreadable sausage, and Cirò DOC is the regional wine of choice.

la dolce vita in Italy Corso-Umberto-I,-Badolato-CREDIT-Michelle-Fabio
Corso Umberto I, Badolato

Head to these places for local produce and handicrafts.

The open-air market in Soverato, held each Friday morning, is set up along the sea. One section is dedicated to locally grown produce and other foodstuffs and the other part has shoes, clothing, souvenirs, etc. The latter is mostly mass-produced, but mixed in are some quality local handicrafts, too. Even if you’re not buying anything, the Soverato market is an experience not to miss. Pottery lovers should head to Squillace, as the main street is lined with workshops.

la dolce vita in Italy PotteryofSquillace-CREDIT-MichelleFabioIf you’re considering relocating to Italy:

Learn the language, come and stay for a short period of time before committing to a move, and become a patient person if you aren’t already.”

Follow Michelle: Bleeding Espresso has its own Facebook page, or follow on Twitter and Instagram. 

If you fancy living la dolce vita in Italy, click here to discover an extraordinary Trafalgar trip.

Image credits: Main image © iStock/encrier. All other images © Michelle Fabio.

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