A guide to healthy living and eating well in Italy

How Italian culture & lifestyle positively affect healthy living

Rich with history, breathtakingly beautiful scenery and home to Florence, the birth-place of the renaissance, Italy is a truly attractive destination for those looking to immerse themselves in a vibrant and inclusive culture. In fact, Italy was recently awarded second spot out of 46 countries for culture by HSBCs Expat Explorer survey. Also known for its prominent culinary culture and exquisite gastronomy, Italy’s food scene is admired across the globe. With a plethora of deliciously healthy dishes to enjoy, there are plenty of ways you can maintain a healthy diet and keep fit in Italy.

 

Taste and test traditional Italian cuisine

While the Italian diet can be heavy in carbs, with pasta and pizza being well-loved food items, Italians also enjoy a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, fish, beans, tomatoes, poultry, whole grains, olive oil, red wine, and dairy – all of which are integral parts of a Mediterranean diet. As such, Italian cuisine reaps all the health benefits a Mediterranean diet has to offer. Research shows that a Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease and is thought to help reduce the risk of cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Some traditional yet healthy dishes you should taste and test whilst living in Italy include:

Ribollita

Translated, ribollita means “reboiled”, a fitting name for this dish because historically, servants would collect leftovers from their master’s meals, such as bread and vegetables, then boil these items in water to make a soup. Nowadays, this rich and hearty soup is popular in Tuscany, and is usually made with bread, cannellini beans, kale, cabbage, carrot, celery, potatoes and onion.

Panzanella

Another traditional dish which finds its roots in Tuscany history, is panzanella, a popular salad which is usually served in central Italy during the summer months. This healthy yet scrumptious salad consists of sun-ripened tomatoes, cucumber, fresh basil, chopped bread, olive oil, and vinegar. Historically, panzanella was a food of the famers, and was made with stale bread and onions.

Caponata

Another delicious and popular salad you must try, especially if you’re a fan of eggplant, is caponata.  A beloved dish to the island of Sicily, the salad contains a delectable mix of vegetables – usually onions, celery, capers, and of course, eggplant. These ingredients can vary from place to place depending on whether it is made at home or in a restaurant, but it’s the aubergine, as well as the flavoursome sweet and sour sauce that smothers the salad, that remains the most vital part of the dish.

Pasta con le Sarde

To not mention at least one pasta dish in this nutritious list of delectable delights would feel like a true crime. Pasta con le sarde is a Sicilian spaghetti dish made with sardines, anchovies, fennel, raisins, pine nuts and toasted breadcrumbs. The seafood aspect of this Sicilian speciality gives it a distinct Mediterranean vibe.

Cicchetti

Popularly served at Venetian wine bars, these tapas like snacks are usually served with a small glass of wine. From creamed cod and anchovies, to squid and salami filled bread, there are many types of Cicchetti for you to enjoy – great for those who fancy a light snack.

As well as traditional food options to explore, there are also plenty of international food options available from Korean and Mexican to Brazilian and much more. But to truly experience and integrate into the country’s rich culture, why not indulge in all the traditional delights Italy has to offer?

Learn about the healthcare system

Taking care of yourself when moving to a new country is an essential part of ensuring you maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle, which is why keeping well-informed about the country’s healthcare system is important. Italy’s national health service, known as Servizio Sanitario Nationale (SSN) offers low-cost or free healthcare to citizens and residents. SSN covers in-patient treatment at public hospitals including tests, medications and surgeries. It also allows access to family doctors and certain types of specialist care, as well as drugs, medicines and dental treatments.

The quality of care received depends on where you live within Italy. Because the standard of care is generally higher in the northern regions, compared to the regions in the south, many citizens and residents opt for private health insurance to ensure they can access high-quality facilities as and when they need to. Luckily, many employers include private healthcare as part of their benefit scheme, but if your employer does not cover this, it may be worth looking into international health insurance options because private medical costs can be high.

Go outdoors

villa-pamphilj-park-rome
Photo: Giorgio Rodano
www.flickr.com/photos/134205948@N02/

In many major cities, everything is within walking distance. Whether you’re walking to work, to get the groceries or exploring your nearest “parco”, Italy’s invitingly warm climate encourages people to go outdoors and keep fit through walking, cycling, jogging and so on. Hiking is another enjoyable exercise to partake in, especially when the scenery is as elegant and beautiful as Italy’s. Whether you’re seeking Italy’s surrounding majestic mountain ranges, or the luscious coastlines, there are plenty of spectacular hiking and walking trails to explore.

With delicious traditional dishes to test and try, and stunning landscapes to explore, there are plenty of ways to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle while enjoying “la bella vita”.

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