Before traveling to another country, I always like to learn about the history of whatever location(s) I’ll be visiting, get some insights into the culture and brush up on current events. Not like I’m getting a Ph.D. or anything but just enough to help me appreciate the culture more. And for me, the most enjoyable way to do this is through books and films (as well as browsing local websites and magazines). I’ve always done this out of sheer interest but I’ve come to see that this kind of preparation really enhances the travel experience. It also heightens the anticipation too.
This is true whether it’s a place I’m visiting for the first time or somewhere I’m returning. For example, I’m currently planning a trip to Italy in May. Having been there a number of times, it’s a country I know fairly well but I’m still preparing for it in the same way. It’s the perfect case to show you what I mean. And in the process, I get to share some of my favorite books and movies for you to enjoy even if you’re not going to Italy anytime soon.
We’ll be going to Rome first then to Venice for the Biennale. On a side note, I’ve wanted to go to the Biennale ever since I first heard about it (I think it was in high school?) so to say I’m excited is a huge understatement.
So first, here are some Italian movies that I’m watching for the first time…..
Best of Youth (2003)
Bread and Tulips (2000)
The Golden Door (2006)
Open City (1945)
And here are some of my all-time favorite Italian films (or films set in Italy) that I could watch over and over…..
Cinema Paradiso (1990)
Ciao, Professore! (1994)
Il Postino (1995)
Bicycle Thieves (1949)
Roman Holiday (1953)
La Dolce Vita (1961)
A Room with a View (1986)
Life Is Beautiful (1997)
Enchanted April (1991)
They cover many different genres and time periods. I like a mix.
The same goes for books. These are what I’ve picked up to read before and during the trip…..
And here are a few I read on prior trips and really enjoyed…..
(For book details, click on each image.)
I want to mention one last book. The other really important piece in my trip preparation has to do with food – what and where to eat. Good food is a huge passion of ours so it’s a big part of our travels. More often than not, our entire schedule will be built around restaurant reservations; in some cases, it’s even the whole impetus for a trip. If you’re not food-obsessed, that may sound insane but you foodies know what I’m talking about!
To plan our meals, I normally compile information from multiple sources (guidebooks, magazines, forums, friends, etc.) but for the Rome part of our trip, I’m relying solely on the just released Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City by Elizabeth Minchilli. The best advice always come from local foodies and I can’t think of anyone better to tell me where to eat than Elizabeth Minchilli who has written six books about and lived in Italy for nearly 30 years. Eating Rome is a fun read, very informative and it’s also going to save me hours (maybe days!) of research. I trust her implicitly and can’t wait to try her favorite restaurants, pizzerias, caffès and gelaterias that she shares in the book as well as some of her recipes.
Immersing myself in the culture of another country through books and films really enriches my travel experience so that’s my simple Travel Advice FROM THE RIGHT BANK for today. I also suggest compiling your own lists, focusing on your interests. There are thousands of books and movies about/set in Italy and I chose these based on subjects that interest me (art, history, food, slice of life…..) Questo è tutto. Ciao for now!