Italy's Homegrown Soft Drinks

Of all the possible beverages travelers can sample in Italy, the least local and most prone to invasion from international powerhouses like Coca-Cola is certainly soft drinks. Fiercely territorial about their regional wines and loyal to their domestic coffee roasters, Italians have no qualms guzzling Coke and Fanta and the increasing popularity of sugary drinks among children is one of the many factors behind a rise in childhood obesity in this historically healthy and fit country.

Noto: aperitivo(Photo by Stijn Nieuwendijk via Flickr)

But just because these familiar brands are ubiquitous doesn't mean that they don't have their scrappy local competitors. In fact, Italy has a number of homegrown soft drinks that are less well-known but definitely worth seeking out. Generally, Italians still don't serve sodas at meals to anyone over about 14 - with the exception of pizza - but the next time you stop at a bar or caffè for a respite from a hot afternoon of touring, instead of a beer or Coke to cool you down, try one of these truly Italian soft drinks.

Three Unforgettable Sicily Food Experiences

We have always been in love with this unique island and its culture and cuisine. During a recent visit on the hunt for new experiences and accommodations for our travelers, we were reminded of a few of our favorites: granita, Donna Fugata wines, and a fish market lunch.

granita-pistacchio-limone(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Italy's Gran Sasso National Park

If you tell any Italian that you are headed to the region of Abruzzo, the very first thing they will ask is, “Are you visiting Gran Sasso?” Gran Sasso is shorthand for Abruzzo’s sprawling Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga (Gran Sasso and Laga Mountain National Park), one of Italy’s largest national parks—indeed, covering almost 350,000 acres, one of the largest protected areas in all of Europe.

Gran Sasso da Rocca Calascio(Photo by Paolo Fefè via Flickr)

The park territory covers a wide swath of Abruzzo and includes parts of neighboring Lazio and Le Marche, as well. Inside its borders, visitors will find some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in all of Italy, including peaks from the Apennine and Monti della Laga mountain chains, pristine Alpine lakes and rivers, woodlands teeming with wildlife, and hundreds of kilometers of trails to explore by foot, bike, or horseback.


Early Flight Out of Rome? Overnight in Fiumicino

One of the biggest logistical conundrums when planning a trip to Italy is how to best handle the arrival and departure days. Arrivals are often an easy case of being picked up by a driver and whisked to your first destination for a relaxing meal and refreshing night of sleep, but departure days can be a bit trickier. Travelers are caught between wanting to take advantage of every minute of their trip, while taking into account morning flights that often require check in hours before the departure time.

fiumicino-departure-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

For those departing from Rome's Fiumicino airport, the options have long been either staying in the center of Rome and having to endure a dawn wake up call, or spending the night at one of the anonymous airport hotels the night before your flight and finishing off a fabulous trip with a whimper not a bang.

Instead, consider staying right in the seaside town of Fiumicino on your last night, which is just minutes from the airport but has enough authentic vibe to make you feel as if you haven't wasted a second in Italy.


Sicilian Sweets at La Pasticceria Maria Grammatico

Italy is a country of unique regions, stitched together in a patchwork of individual histories and cultures. Nowhere is this more evident than Sicily, both a region and an island, and so different from mainland Italy from its dialect to its cuisine that it sometimes feels like a separate country altogether.

view-from-eric-sicily-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Italy via Flickr)

Take the island's famous pastries and desserts, dramatically different from those in the rest of Italy and influenced by Sicily's millenia of contact with seafaring cultures from across the globe. Almonds, oranges, and spices arrived from the Middle East and the Orient, cocoa beans from the New World, and Sicily's own shepherds provided the fresh ricotta that the island's nuns used to develop some of Europe's most luscious pastries.