The food in Italy + some tips

Hi friends! Just in case you’re sick of my Italy recaps (Rome + Positano + some pics) here’s the very last one: the food! The food in Italy really needed its own post. It’s from another world and unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Like our tour guide said when we asked for a pizza recommendation: “Everything is good, and there’s also the best. But everything is good.”


I like to think we ate our way through Italy -it’s how we like to spend most of our vacations- trying out all of the local and authentic menu options. Gelato, pizza, pasta, seafood, bread, salad, appetizers…


Some of the things I noticed:

-The ingredients were so fresh. The tomatoes and olives were my favorites, and tomatoes aren’t something that usually stand out to me. The tomatoes we ate while we were there tasted like they came from someone’s garden, and I couldn’t leave a single one left on my plate.

-Like I mentioned before, many of the meals were extremely simple: not overly garnished or seasoned. A few large herbs were placed on the pizza, but the sauce looked like very plain, yet very fresh, tomato sauce. They truly let the quality of the ingredients shine, instead of covering them up with too many spices or extra components.

-The pasta is definitely al dente. I’m not a huge pasta fan in general -I avoid gluten for the most part because too much hurts my stomach and makes me bloated- but it was worth it for Italian pasta. The noodles weren’t mushy in the least -almost crisp- and the sauces were hearty. 

-Each meal was an event. There’s the appetizer, pasta course, entree, maybe a second entree, and dessert. Even when we ordered the full-course meal, we were often surprised by extras from the server and chef, like a huge plate of mussels in savory broth with bread, or with dessert: some biscotti and Limoncello. Something that also surprised me was that the courses were reasonable portions; not super-sized but the perfect amount to feel satisfied. 

-No grease. I ate a lot of technically “heavy” food, and didn’t get sick until the last night (which I think had more to do with the fact that it was nighttime in Naples and we got temporarily locked in an ATM building). Even the fried selections were lightly breaded and not greasy in the least.

-Our hotels had a complimentary continental breakfast, and the best one was at the Marcella Royal Hotel in Rome. Continental breakfast in the US usually consists of sad pastries, sad eggs, coffee and maybe a waffle-maker. At this hotel, it was a variety of pastries (many of which were stuffed with Nutella), eggs, bacon, deli meats, cheeses, fruit salad, breads + spreads, cereal and coffee.

Breakfast  1 of 1

(Fresh blood orange juice every morning! SO good)

-The coffee in Italy is insane. Everyone drinks espresso, and “coffee” is actually just a cafe Americano (watered down espresso).  It’s more common to see people drinking espresso in the morning (not so much as all day, like we do in the US) and while breakfast and lunch are lighter, dinner is a HUGE meal. 


Restaurants we enjoyed:



-Terraza Barberini: this is on the second story and overlooks the city street. The night we were there, they didn’t have an official menu, so we went off what the server suggested. It was a beautiful first full meal in Rome

-Restaurante Gusto Pinto: this was suggested by the concierge at our hotel and was my favorite Rome dinner. We got all courses for this meal, and the mussels were especially fantastic

-There was another restaurant we really loved, but couldn’t find the name online. It was across the street from our hotel (Marcella on Flavia) and was surrounded by twinkly lights. Here’s the pasta that I was moaning while eating:




Casa e bottega: this is a gorgeous space with the kitchen island set up in the middle. You can watch as they prepare the food, which includes a variety of healthy options. It was really nice to have a huge, fresh salad topped with anchovies, followed with a slice of flourless chocolate cake. 

-Next 2: the food is beautiful -modern Italian- and we were also surprised with an amuse-bouche and extra things to try. I had the mixed seafood plate, and it was wonderful.

-Hotel Palazzo Murad: this was our last “fancy dinner” in Italy, and didn’t disappoint.

-Montemare Positano: AMAZING pizza and fried shrimp appetizer

-Caffe Positano: also serves brunch/breakfast, and the Pilot loved the lasagna. I enjoyed the mussels, which were served in this cool ceramic container:



-We only spent one night in Naples (before flying out early the next morning), so I don’t think we had the full experience as many of the shops/restaurants were closed on Sunday. We did have the best pizza of our lives in Naples (at Lombardi’s) and some incredible gelato. The prices in Naples compared to Rome and Positano were very low, which was appreciated since it was the end of our vacation πŸ˜‰


Some tips/things I learned:

-Many people speak English, but appreciate and will try to help you if you attempt to speak Italian. I noticed that it was similar to being in Mexico in the sense that locals like to hear you at least try, but are able to help you if you need it. The Pilot speaks Italian (he minored in it) but we picked up a few phrasebooks to have on hand to make sure we knew the basics. (Hello, goodbye, thank you, please, how to order food/drinks, ask for a reservation or taxi, where the bathroom is located, how much does something cost, etc.)

This small phrasebook had literally everything you could ever want to know:

Phrase book

-Wear good walking shoes. I wore TOMs for the tours, and some comfy gladiator-style sandals the rest of the time. Many of the streets are cobblestone or uneven, so heels (for me) would be a broken leg waiting to happen.

-Tipping isn’t expected, but appreciated. We talked to one of our servers for quite a while -she was excited to practice English as much as we were to practice Italian- and during our conversation, we asked her if tipping was ok. (We had read the sometimes it can be taken as in insult, so we wanted to be sure.) She said that it’s not expected, but if you have the goodwill to do it, it’s appreciated. 10% is more than enough. Cab drivers were especially thankful when we tipped them, as I think it’s more rare.

-Order your coffee at the counter- it’s less expensive. Also order the house wine at restaurants– less expensive and delicious.

-I read this tip online before leaving, but look out for the artisanal homemade gelato, instead of the stuff from a mix. The homemade gelato is not mountains of overly garnished stuff; it’s usually flat with little, if any, extra garnish. The best way to tell is to check the banana flavor: if it has a grayish hue, it’s the real thing. (Real bananas turn brown and the gelato from a mix stays bright yellow.)


-Watch out for people who want to “help” you. Of course, ask hotel concierge for advice or anything you need, but out on the street, especially in crowded touristy areas (like tourist spots and the train station) don’t accept help with your luggage or anything else. A man took our picture with his Polaroid at the Trevi Fountain and then charged us 12 euros for it! In Naples, it was also common to see people trying to “help” (aka steal luggage, money or purses) from other people. 


-Get a travel adapter for your electronics, but also check the voltage. I failed on the second part and went to plug in my curling iron. There was a POP! and then it was dead forever. 

-Apparently the water in Rome is extremely clean. There are fountains located throughout the city, and our tour guide told us that it was very safe and clean to drink from any fountains (even the public ones). I stuck to bottled water since my stomach was feeling well and I didn’t want to rock the boat, but something worth noting!

-If you can, book through a travel agent. We book our larger trips with Heather from Classic Travel, and she’s always been so helpful. While it’s not always the lowest cost option, it’s always very convenient and it’s amazing to have a well-planned tour from someone experienced. I never would have picked Positano on my own, and it was seriously out of a dream.

-Just enjoy!

On the plane to Rome, I made friends with a woman from India sitting next to us. We talked the entire time, and she asked if it was my first time going to Italy. I said yes, and she said, “Right now, you are making your life. These are the memories and pieces of your life.” It’s something that resonated with me the entire trip. It truly was a trip of a lifetime, and something that the Pilot and I can reminisce about in the future.

I hope you enjoyed the recap posts and find them helpful if you’re headed to Italy anytime soon!

If you go, have a Duplo bar and an espresso for me πŸ˜‰

Coffee and choc  1 of 1



Sending love and prayers to those affected by the tragic events on 9/11/01. You are always in my heart <3

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  1. Stellina @My Yogurt Addiction on September 11, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Everything looks amazing!!! I am from Italy but haven’t been in 5 years…finally I am going in a week and a half!!! πŸ™‚

  2. Holly @ EatGreatBEGreat on September 11, 2013 at 10:45 am

    hehehe…love that first pic of you. Italian food is the best! Everything look so delicious, especially the pizza!

  3. Danielle on September 11, 2013 at 10:48 am

    There’s nothing like Italian food! Nor Italian mealtime in Italy. Definitely an experience worth having πŸ™‚ glad you were able to enjoy it with your family.

  4. Lisa on September 11, 2013 at 10:50 am

    My Mom said the same thing about the coffee in Italy. Definitely insane. I love myself an espresso, but I do like to try and make it last longer which is why I love americanos too.
    Everything looks so delicious there. I’m sure it was such a great foodie experience.

  5. jessica on September 11, 2013 at 10:51 am

    i lived in Naples and the food there is better than any other city in Italy. The tomatoes are amazing because of the volcanic ash in the soil!!

  6. Emily @ The Good Era on September 11, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Such a great post! I don’t think I would have ever considered Italy a must-visit place before, but after all these recaps it seems like a dream!! If for no other reason than pizza and wine πŸ˜‰

    So glad you had a great trip!

    • Tom T. on September 11, 2013 at 11:43 am

      Could not agree more. Italy was not really “on the map” for a vacation destination before. But now I don’t want to go anywhere else. Starting a savings account dedicated to an Italy trip right now (well as soon as I get done with this comment)!

  7. Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries on September 11, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Sounds like Italy is my kinda place! πŸ˜‰ Eating and trying new restaurants/food is one of my favorite things about traveling too.

  8. Carrie on September 11, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Europe is home to the continental breakfast! It really does put US to shame. πŸ™‚

    Someone offered to take our picture in front of the Trevi Fountain, which we reluctantly accepted, and I have the most pained smile on my face because, even though he spoke with an American accent, I was just sure he was going to run off with our camera. He didn’t. Phew!

    • Fitnessista on September 11, 2013 at 11:05 am

      hahah he took one with my phone too and said, “kiss!”
      i’m kissing the pilot and he has his eyes open watching the guy to make sure he didn’t take my phone. most awkward photos ever

  9. Heather J on September 11, 2013 at 10:59 am

    My husband fell for the Trevi Fountain/Polaroid trick too! I was suspicious but he was too nice to say no. haha.

  10. Morgan on September 11, 2013 at 11:02 am

    It looks like you had the trip of a lifetime! My husband and I are actually booking our trip to Italy for 2014, and your comments about the food are very helpful; I am also gluten free, as well as dairy free. Although I would never pass up the opportunity for authentic Italian because of an intolerance, I certainly don’t want to be miserable/sick/uncomfortable for our trip. Can you comment to the cheeses there? Were they mostly goat cheeses? or from cow’s milk? Thank you Gina!

  11. Paige @ Your Trainer Paige on September 11, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Wow, what an amazing – and delicious – trip! My husband and I have been thinking about traveling abroad before we have a kid, and this post just made that itch…itchier! lol πŸ™‚

  12. Shayna on September 11, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Loved your recaps as it made me reminisce about my trip to Italy in May with my hubby and so happy you we were able to experience it. We went without kids to celebrate our ten year anniversary and it was similarly the trip of a lifetime. Since then, many people have asked me for tips on what to do, what to see and while I give them specifics, I also say that it is hard to go wrong in Italy with the sights or the food. Of course can’t say the same thing about the people wanting to “help”.
    Three months later I still have weekly visions of the pizzas and pastas we ate there.

  13. Ashley on September 11, 2013 at 11:31 am

    My heart is aching with the desperate need to go back to Italy! You’re right about the ingredients…when I was in Sicily I loved how everything was fresh and amazing. I never liked tomatoes (or red wine) until I spent a month abroad. I’ll never forget how someone on our trip complained about how she missed Dunkin Donuts. I nearly had a heart attack! I’d give anything to be back in Sicily enjoying an espresso & brioche. Love your tips!

  14. Heather C on September 11, 2013 at 11:31 am

    HEAVEN…the food is so glorious! Glad you two thoroughly enjoyed that part πŸ™‚

    Thank you as always for your trust. It’s a pleasure to work with you.

  15. Jessica on September 11, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Wow! What an amazing adventure, looks like you are happy and had a fabulous time! And great summary of tips!

  16. Marisa on September 11, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Gina, amazing posts! I went to Italy last fall (Rome-Pompeii-Venice-Florence) and you truly capture the essence of the people, food and sights! You are so right about the house wines and the freshness of all the food. I would love if you also did a post on your shopping! I am always at a loss as to what to buy when I head over to Europe but then I see the trends in North America a full two seasons later.

    Thanks for reminding me of all my favorite Italy memories!

  17. Sara @ LovingOnTheRun on September 11, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Oh I would love to go to Italy and try all that amazing food! Looks WONDERFUL!!! Glad you all had such a wonderful trip together πŸ™‚

  18. Megan (The Lyons' Share) on September 11, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Everything looks delicious – so glad you enjoyed! We learned the same tipping lesson while in Europe.

  19. Amy @ The Little Honey Bee on September 11, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Reading your Italy recaps were amazing yet torturous haha I want to go back.
    I totally agree with your thoughts on the food. The tomatoes are out of this world (don’t try having them now) and nutella is absolutely everywhere. I had an incredible nutella pizza with fruit for one dessert. In my mind, the portions are what portions should be. The Europeans have this down to an art and we can certainly take a lesson or two.

  20. Holly on September 11, 2013 at 11:53 am

    How long were you in Italy? I would love to go, but can’t get more than 7 days at a time for a vacation and I want to make it worth it! Looks amazing! Good tip on finding an agent too, half of my concern is know where to go and how long to stay while we are over there. And wonderful advice from the lady on the plane! Glad you had such an amazing time!

    On another topic, how did you determine you were sensitive to gluten and it making you bloated? Was it diagnosed by a doctor or just from experimentation? I’m considering experimenting, but I don’t really believe in Paleo and it just sounds Paleo to me and I don’t want to give up gluten to join the fad, but at the same time I would love to solve the mystery bloating over no matter what I eat!

    Thanks Gina!

  21. Sarah on September 11, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Looks like you had the trip of a lifetime! Have you used this travel agent in the past? I’ve actually never used a travel agent since it seems like most of the arrangements can be done online by oneself these days, but then again it’s probably really nice to use a pro!

    • Heather C on September 11, 2013 at 4:42 pm

      Hi Sarah! Obviously Gina can speak for herself on this but I’ve worked with Gina and Tom for two of their vacations in the past few years.

      There is a lot that can be done online these days and for your basic domestic airline tickets and hotels it’s something that you can do yourself because compensation to a travel professional will be either through a fee you pay or the consultant is being paid such a minimum its not always something we like to spend our time on (although I would highly recommend avoiding online travel agencies like Expedia, Travelocity, etc because the customer service on fixing any errors is getting worse since they are buying each other out!)

      My suggestion to my own friends is to contact me for help on something unique, something intricate or involving multiple cities in a country outside of the US (with the exception of Hawaii, I adore planning Hawaii) – this is where we as an industry tend to shine! The Caribbean and Mexico are another area that we really excel at since we know the ins and outs of the resorts and usually have a list of contacts.

      Here to help, πŸ™‚

  22. FitBritt@MyOwnBalance on September 11, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Ahhh Gina! I’m trying to eat really clean this week and I’m currently reading this while noshing on a peach and almonds, which are just so not as good in comparison! πŸ™‚ The food looks so amazing! I love, love, love Italian food and I agree with you that the tomatoes there are out of this world. I only wish that America would get over its fast food craze and focus more on delicious, quality ingredients. It just makes everything better. We should all eat like we are in Italy everyday!

  23. Eleonora on September 11, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    The bizarre thing is that many Italians don’t even have breakfast at all, or if they do it’s really small and generally sweet πŸ™‚ no eggs or sausages!
    A cup of coffee – that’s clearly a small espresso – is ok whenever you feel like, although morning coffees are a sort of traditions. Cappuccino, however, is a morning-only beverage, and ordering one in the afternoon or – God forbid! – after lunch sounds definitely weird.
    Also, the traditional “full” meal consists of: appetizers, first course (carb-heavy: pasta, risotto, or soup), second course (protein-heavy) plus side dishes (salads or other vegetables) and dessert. But I’d say that’s only for very special occasions!
    An espresso maker is an investment, but you can get excellent results with a stovetop coffee maker (caffettiera), which is what most Italian households use.
    I love to read Ms Adventures in Italy blog, it’s a nice take on living in Italy as an expat!

  24. Heather on September 11, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Thanks for the recaps! I’ve been wanting to make the trip since my brother moved there two years ago, but life keeps getting in the way. One day!

  25. Emily on September 11, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    I am actually leaving for Rome next Saturday, and your posts were so helpful! Thank you! You mentioned how much you loved the shopping there too. Any places in Rome that you could recommend for me?

  26. Amber on September 11, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    So glad you wrote about your experiences! I’ll be visiting Italy early next year and this definitely helps!

  27. Beverly Aragon on September 11, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Sick of your Italy recaps? Heck no!! Italy has always pulled on my heartstrings–the amazing history, beautiful culture and FOOD, glorious, FOOD!!!! Your posts have lit a fire in me to prioritize this little dream trip of mine.

  28. maria vittoria on September 11, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Hi I’m italian and I really love reading an american point of view about us!! Really!!

  29. Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs on September 11, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Mmmmm the food — the best part of a trip! πŸ™‚

    Looks like you enjoyed some delicious meals while you we’re away!

  30. Alisha @ Alisha's Appetite on September 11, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Dear god this looks incredible! The espresso!! And I love making dinner a big event, so Italy sounds like my kind of place πŸ™‚ I’ve always wanted to go to italy primarily because of the food, which probably isn’t unusual for people to say.

  31. Emily on September 11, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Gina, my husband and I are getting ready to go to Florence and Rome in a few weeks and I’ve actually been researching hotels and things to do in Rome all morning. How funny I checked your blog today and it’s exactly what I needed! Ha!

  32. Anna @ Fitness Γ  la Anna on September 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    That picture with the cappuccino with the background in view…AMAZING! I will definitely come back to this post when I make my way to Italy πŸ™‚
    …because now I need to go ASAP!

  33. Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed on September 11, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Oh my goodness, I’m so jealous! Your trip sounds amazing. We were considering heading across the ocean for our honeymoon but scrapped it because of the long flight and our desire to relax and not run around sight seeing… but hopefully we can plan a Europe trip for one of our first few anniversaries!

  34. Vanessa V on September 11, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    Great recap! We went to Italy for our honeymoon and the Amalfi Coast quickly became one of my favorite places on earth. I love that picture of your cappuccino in front of the Coast!

    Just so you don’t feel alone, my husband and I got scammed in Rome except way worse than you. Two dudes offered to take a picture with my camera. I was so excited even though my husband said “i don’t think it’s a good idea…” Well, he took our picture and then asked for 20 euro. Meanwhile, he’s holding my camera which means if I don’t pay him, I don’t get my camera back. I give him 20… and then he says he needs 20 for his friend too. Nooooooo! We paid 40 EURO (!!!) for a few pictures that I never want to look at again b/c I still get mad when I think about it. hahaha.

  35. Noelle @ noelle mullins design on September 11, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    That coffee and that view are looking a lot better than the coffee I’m drinking in front of my computer right now. hehe. Everything looks so delicious! So glad you’re having a great time.

  36. Emily @ Emily Rocks the Road on September 11, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    All right, now I’m dying to go to Italy, for the coffee alone. My dad said the same thing about coffee in Panama. He doesn’t like coffee, but couldn’t get enough of it there. Americans just don’t know how to do coffee. For us, it’s a utilitarian or a dessert-type beverage πŸ™‚ Give me caffeine, or give me a triple-whipple-mocha-latteccino with non-fat soy and sprinkles (that is my favorite).

  37. Danielle on September 11, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    I love hearing about other cultures food traditions so this was so interesting to me. I didn’t realize they kept lunch and breakfast small and had dinner as the main meal. Everything sounds and looks amazing!

  38. Lauren @ Sassy Molassy on September 11, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Ah, I love these recap posts from your time in Italy! Thanks for sharing. I loved our meals in Italy – so good. There’s a fabulous pizza place I want to take the manfriend back to this summer (he didn’t travel with me last time as I went with a friend), but I can’t remember the name of it so I hope I can just stumble upon it in Rome. We’ll see…. πŸ™‚

  39. Jay on September 11, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    It’s on my to do list. Looks like amazing fun. When my parents went, they raved about the freshness of the food. Too bad we can’t get that rolling here! πŸ™

  40. Alexis on September 11, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    These are great tips for any first-time traveler, not just for Italy! But I think as you travel more, you’ll find that some of them apply less. You’ll get comfortable researching and booking your own trip (Positano is a top tourist spot, so you would’ve easily found it on your own), you’ll have your voltage converters ready to go, and shoes more comfy than Toms packed up:)

  41. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie on September 11, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    I can’t wait to go here one day! It looks like you had such a special time.

  42. Molly on September 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    I just went to Rome for the first time in May and had MANY of the same food observations you did! I’m so glad you guys had fun – I’m jelly that you also got to see Positano and Naples … we stayed in Rome the whole trip! I will just have to go back I spose …. thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  43. Nikki on September 11, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Fell in LOOOVE with Italy last year when I went to Milan, Florence, Tuscany, Rome, Sienna, Pisa, and Assisi! Rome was my favorite! I wish I could go back now!

  44. Eleonora on September 11, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    I think the unnamed restaurant could be “Henry Cow”. That, or “Pentolaccia”. Unfortunately that street has no google street view!

    • Fitnessista on September 11, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      i know! tom tried to find it on google but no street view πŸ™‚

  45. Kelly on September 11, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    I loved the choices we had for breakfest at our hotel in Florence, I was blown away. It made me think that Europeans really understand how important breakfast is. A great reason to get up early! πŸ™‚ Your trip sounds so fun! Glad you enjoyed it! I personally cannot wait to go back!

    We almost visted it Positano on our trip but at the last minute changed it to Venice. While I would have loved to do both, Venice was such a highlight. Though, it sounds like Positano is amazing as well! Next time…

    • Ush on September 11, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      Actually Italians (and French) eat very little for breakfast, like coffee and something else small. It’s just the hotels that have big breakfast spreads.

  46. SpaceySteph on September 11, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    My husband and I were in Rome for our honeymoon. He insisted that we could drink the water, and I was a little sketched out but gave in because like a true American I hate paying for water.

    It was delicious and we never got sick. And it was great to be able to fill up the bottle at basically every fountain we went to and never be thirsty!

  47. Colleen on September 11, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Did you get to use “You’re breaking my balls” at any point on the trip?

    • Fitnessista on September 11, 2013 at 7:24 pm

      Sadly no, haha

  48. Taylor @ Single-tracked Mind on September 11, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    I love the simplistic way Europeans eat. Us Americans could learn something!

  49. Ush on September 11, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    I went to Italy with a friend who had never been on an international trip before and a guy was trying to get her to feed the pigeons and she said no vaguely/nicely but he forced bird seed into her hands and pigeons mobbed her!

    I disagree with the travel agent tip. It’s confusing and intimidating at first, but I encourage all my friends/family to plan their own trips online. I personally feel more comfortable and more familiar with a country when I’ve done the legwork and planning. It’s also cheaper and you get exactly what you want. Western Europe is a great place to plan your first trip since traveling there is almost as easy as traveling within the US. The first trip I planned was to London with day trips but most recently I planned and went to Helsinki, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, & Budapest (I HIGHLY recommend Prague and Budapest and the central Europe continental breakfasts I experienced were even better than western Europe continental breakfasts!).

  50. april on September 11, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    i’m so glad you and the pilot were able to enjoy the trip of a lifetime!

    and now i’m going to reminisce about my travels through italy… siiiigh πŸ™‚

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