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Aside from China, and now the U.S., Italy is one of the countries that has been hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. The country is now in its fifth week of lockdown and tourism has come to a halt. While it’s not clear yet when the country will reopen and it will be safe to travel, you can still get your fix of Italian culture from the comfort of your own home and start dreaming about—and maybe even planning—your next trip to the boot. From virtual museum tours to livestreaming hotel views, here are the best ways to immerse yourself in Italian culture now.
Virtual Museum Visits
Though Italy’s museums are currently closed, many of them are available to tour via Google Arts & Culture. The site’s Italy tag contains 155 collections, including those of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, where you can gaze upon Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, the Doge’s Palace in Venice, and the Musei Capitolini in Rome, which was the first public museum on earth. The interactive features let you zoom in on the works and give background information about them.
This year, Rome was set to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Raphael, the Renaissance master responsible for the incredible frescoes commissioned by Pope Julius II for his private apartments in the Vatican. An exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale—the largest ever exhibition of his works—opened in early March for just a few days before the country went on lockdown. Now, the institution has put a virtual walk through of the exhibition on YouTube. The narration is in Italian, but at least you can catch a glimpse of some of the masterpieces that were transported from the Louvre, the Uffizi, and other museums around the world.
Listen to Italian Music
Of course, one of the best ways to immerse yourself in Italian culture is by listening to Italian music. Italians across the country have serenaded each other from their balconies in a show of solidarity, with the results being filmed and shared on social media. Annie Ojile, founder of the tour companies Scooteroma and Personalized Italy, has been posting videos of her opera singer neighbor on her Instagram account. The Thinking Traveller, a luxury villa rental company with properties in Sicily, Puglia, and Sardinia, has curated a playlist of Sicilian music that spans everything from folk songs to opera that’s available to stream via Spotify.
The Teatro di San Carlo, Naples’ historic opera house, has made some of its operas and ballets available to stream online. Teatro La Fenice opera house in Venice is broadcasting a series of 15-minute interviews with artists around the world followed by short performances on its Instagram account and Facebook page as part of a fund-raising initiative to support Italy’s Civil Protection, which supports nurses, doctors, and scientists.
Watch Films About Italy
You’re probably watching plenty of movies these days anyway—why not choose Italian films or films that take place in Italy? La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini—one of the greatest films ever made—is available on Amazon Prime. So is award-winning film The Great Beauty by Paolo Sorrentino, which is sort of a Dolce Vita for today’s era. Netflix is currently streaming Call Me By Your Name, Luca Guadagnino’s Academy Award-winning coming of age film set in picturesque Lombardy, as well as The Talented Mr. Ripley, whose drama unfolds in stunning locales such as Rome, the Amalfi Coast, and San Remo.
Cook Italian Food at Home
Craving some carbonara or cacio e pepe from your favorite trattoria in Rome? Make it at home! You can find recipes for these dishes and many others, from carciofi alla romanato tiramisùin I Heart Rome: Recipes & Stories from the Eternal City by Maria Pasquale, an Australian-Italian food and travel writer based in Rome who’s currently under lockdown in Melbourne. “It was an honor to profile the locals who I’ve met on my Roman adventures—I like to call them the unsung heroes of the food world—the ones that work tirelessly to keep traditions alive,” she says. “In lockdown it keeps me close to the home I miss terribly. I’ve been making recipes out of it weekly and it’s my little piece of Rome in Melbourne—as it is for the thousands around the world who have a copy in their kitchen.”
You can also tune into cooking tutorials by chefs in Italy who have begun giving lessons through Instagram. American Express Global Dining Collection member Massimo Bottura posts nightly Kitchen Quarantine videos on his Instagram account. Silvia Grossi, Executive Chef at Il Salviatino in Tuscany, teaches cooking lessons in English and Italian twice a week on the hotel’s Instagram account.
Now is the time to support your favorite Italian brands and independent boutiques. Chez Dédé, a cult favorite concept shop in Rome, is currently donating 10% of the proceeds from their namesake line to the Lazzaro Spallanzani hospital. You could order one of their stylish travel bags or a set of plates illustrated by co-owner Andrea Ferolla. Benheart, which sells artisanal leather jackets, bags, shoes, and belts handmade in Tuscany, ships internationally too.
You could also support the Italian fashion bands that are giving back through donations and a variety of other efforts. Armani and Prada are using their factories to produce medical scrubs for healthcare workers on the front lines of fighting the pandemic. Bulgari—which donated to Rome’s Spallanzani hospital—is now producing and donating several hundred thousand bottles of hand sanitizer to medical facilities. Luxury outerwear brand Moncler has pledged €10 million for the construction of a new hospital for COVID-19 patients in Milan.
Support Italian Hotels
Though most hotels in Italy are currently closed, they’re taking reservations for later this year and next year. Many are continuing to post inspiring photos on their social media accounts. Some, like the Grand Hotel Tremezzo on Lake Como—an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, are even livestreaming their views. Others are taking things a step further to combat the pandemic. Four iconic luxury hotels on the Amalfi Coast—Le Sirenuse, Palazzo Avino, Il San Pietro di Positano, and Hotel Santa Caterina—have teamed up with Michelin-starred restaurant Don Alfonso 1890 to offer vouchers for once-in-a-lifetime stays to the first 40 people who donate €5,000 to the Fondazione Melanoma Onlus for the development of a vaccine. To participate, contact the hotel of your choice to see if they still have any vouchers left. Or plan a return trip to your favorite hotel in Italy—they’ll certainly be glad to get some future reservations on the books.