The neglected sights, tastes and quirks of your favorite European cities to visit. Here are just some of the treasures I have personally witnessed, those subtle details you can see if you observe these “picture-perfect” places for their rawness. Aspects that make Europe more than its tourist attractions. Just look a little further.
Oh, dreamy Lisboa, one of my favorite European cities.o The city itself is a hidden gem, since it’s not the first place people think of when visiting Europe. An underrated treasure, the coastal capital is full of undiscovered promise.
1) Contrasting Colors
This has to be one of my favorite photos I have taken in Europe. Why? Probably because I have subpar photography skills, but also because of the little effort I had to put in in capturing its authentic beauty. Lisbon is such a photogenic city, mainly because of its pastel colors. Yet, in this specific moment, I was drawn by those gray and white stripes sandwiched by the popsicle orange and pink walls. Overpowered. From my three-day stay there, that was how I defined Lisbon: beauty in the explosion of colors. Goodbye muted, lifeless hues of black and white. Life in color, always.
2) The freaking tiles!
All I can say is: look down, then up.
Although there is a Lisbon National Tile Museum (which I wish I visited), you can still catch these charming glimpses everywhere you walk.
The Portuguese language, with its almost melodic and poetic sound, additionally makes it one of my favorite European cities. No picture here. Just a definition.
The Portuguese word “Saudade” is generically defined as a “deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves”—for something or someone that perhaps never even existed. Oh, how we wish there was an English equivalent.
In fact, this Portuguese spirit is showcased all throughout their literature and music. My intrigue with the word, however, is not in its definition, but in its established connotation. Saudade does not come with eternal sadness, but comes with pleasurable suffering. A peaceful misery.
The word speaks multitudes about their culture, that maybe explains why there is no English equivalent: their celebration of invisible forces, abandonment of materialism and acceptance of simplicity. Nice.
Toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain, and you might just score your way back to the Eternal City. Breathing its history, tripping on its cobblestone streets, and catching a glimpse of the pope, Rome is where dreams are apparently made of. Here are a few subtle ways to create your own unique Roman holiday. (Sorry, I am just on a roll)
I am not kidding when I say I have frequent daydreams about this carbonara. This was hands down the best meal I have ever had in Italy. For the love of thick cuts of bacon, runny egg yolks, velvet-like pecorino cheese, pepper and artisan pasta, I came here twice, both times waiting an hour and a half to be seated. I never wait in line for anything, except when it comes to the eternal happiness of my stomach.
With this being said, they don’t take any reservations, so you have no choice but to be patient. Give an hour minimum wait time if you will be coming here for dinner. Good food, gained patience—a case of true virtue. Or maybe, carbonara for breakfast never hurt nobody.
5) Museo Centrale Del Risorgimento
If you have ever been to Rome, you have probably always wondered what the heck this establishment is. It is dope, patriotic and in-your-face massive. It may not be your generic hidden gem, but it is underrated in the sense that the history it holds is usually left unmentioned. While everyone is aware of the Etruscans, Romans, a seasoned Michelangelo and the Catholic Church crafting the complex history of Rome, our history textbooks usually brush over the Risorgimento—the Italian Unification movement.
If it weren’t for awesome men like Giuseppe Garibaldi and Giuseppe Mazzini, who knows, Rome would be a larger Vatican City. Northern Italy may have less pasta and more French influence. My Tonnarelli alla carbonara would technically be in a different country! Rough.
Ah, my good old buddy Firenze. The birthplace of the Renaissance. It is as if you are perpetually stuck in time. Beyond appreciating its historical charm, however, there are also numerous quirks about Florence that are young, hip and happening, making it one of my favorite European cities.
6) Libreria La Cité
How studious…but wait. We are talking about Italians here.
La Cité is a library by day, and a bar by night. Right in the heart of my favorite Florentine neighborhood, Santo Spirito, you can basically live in here. I mean, what more could you want? Intimate and cozy with its blue rustic walls, an array of interesting pictures, quiet morning study sessions, cheap drinks by night, and some dope music, you can have a good time here with anyone.
7) Road Sign Art
Technically illegal, the sly French artist Abraham Clet has literally made his mark all over Florence. These little cartoons are scattered on almost every road sign. If you take the time to notice, it will only leave you with a smile on your face. The modern touch adds another dimension to the mostly traditional art of the city, and the fact that it is done naughtily makes it all the more charming.
8) Gelateria La Carraia
If I had the best Italian meal in Rome, La Carraia is number one in my gelato-blooded heart. Right across the Arno, you can lick this magical cup in front of this picturesque view. Please, please, please, just get the pistacchio gelato. You will never be alone when you are eating this, I always be there in spirit—crying of pure joy. How creepy. Apologies.
9) Street Music
In my nine-month stay in Florence, I can now say I will never fully appreciate a city without hearing its street music first. This city is full of talent; just when you thought this place couldn’t be more magical! My personal favorites are the accordion man playing in front of Galleria Dell’Accademia and the guitarist on the corner of Piazza Della Signoria. But, alas, I don’t have their pictures above, since I was too busy mesmerized by their sounds and didn’t capture the moment. This is totally one of the best things you can find in my favorite European cities.
Here is my head and the breathtaking panoramic view of Florence, from Fiesole’s eyes. While everyone wants to visit the main city of Florence, its outskirts or communes bring their own individual charms to the table. Fiesole is atop the Tuscan hills, previously home to both the Romans and Etruscans. You can check out the pretty legit Roman amphitheatre and enjoy the non-tourist priced restaurants, work out your calves going further up steep hills, and gaze at the view in front of you—you will realize there is so much in this world we should be thankful for.