What can Madonna teach you about Italy? Lots! After all, there’s no one better placed to point out the value of a healthy holiday than the Material Girl. What’s more, Madonna comes from a family with strong Italian-American heritage, on her father’s side. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why, when you look at her track record, so much of Madonna’s international orientation comes with an Italian twist. Here’s an interpretive Italian travel lesson – Madonna style:
When in Rome, Stay in Style: While publicly Madonna may be better known for her run-ins with Vatican social codes, in private she has favored spending her time in Rome in the lap of luxury. Sources say that at on least one occasion Madonna has stayed at the posh Hotel de Russie, by the Piazza del Popolo. This five-star property is an oasis of calm and botanical beauty in the heart of Rome.
Be True to your Roots: When a powerful earthquake in 2009 struck L’Aquila in the Abruzzo, the mountainous region east of Rome, causing major damage, Madonna gave a half million dollars to help with the relief effort. Her grandparents came from Abruzzo, so family ties came into play. Heritage travel – visiting the places where one’s forebears hailed from – is rewarding and fun in Italy. In particular, many Italian-Americans trace their lineage to the cities, towns and villages of southern Italy, from where thousands once made the journey to American by steamer and transited through Ellis Island.
Don’t Reduce Italy to its Cliches: Glorious though they may be. Case in point, Florence, the ultimate city of Renaissance art. You could easily plan a vacation with a historical, artistic or culinary them based in and around Florence. But you could also mix it up with culture – there’s always an interesting contemporary art exhibit to take in somewhere in Florence – or a concert: Madonna is set to perform in Florence June 16.
Like a Prayer: Remember that Italy has more UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites than any other country. There are abundant archaeological sites, of course, and also many evocative, historic churches. Often centuries old and from Ravenna to Rome and Torino to Noto, they are rock stars of medieval, Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture.
Remember Italy’s Islands: San Pedro, the island Madonna sings about in La Isla Bonita may be imaginary (it is), but it’s a subtle reminder that the island getaways we all dream about are actually within easy reach of Italy’s mainland. Little islands of legend like Capri and Ischia beckon with dramatic scenery and crystal blue waters, while larger islands like Sardinia and Sicily are worlds unto themselves with rich history and unique culinary traditions.
Pour the Wine: In at least two songs Madonna mentions wine. Now she didn’t mention Italian wine specifically, but of course enjoying great Italian wine on your vacation can be both educational and fun. Visit wineries in Tuscany, Piemonte and elsewhere and learn how to cook with Italian wines too.
Don’t Dance in a Gondola – Unless you’re Madonna. Yes, Madonna famously gyrated on a moving gondola without falling into a canal in the video for Like a Virgin, but that doesn’t mean you should, too. After all, she’s Madonna. But you can take that as a lesson to plan ahead so that your private gondola ride awaits you once you’re in Venice.
What was your favorite Queen of Pop tip? Let us know!