If you’re planning a trip to Italy, you’ve got so much to look forward to. Whether you’re going to Rome, Florence, Naples or taking glorious Tours of Tuscany or just taking a drive along the coasts to visit beaches, it’s an amazing country. The landscapes are varied and beautiful, the sun shines often, and the history and culture are vibrant no matter where you go. And the food–that’s something to write home about. Even busy lawyers like Aaron Kelly and entrepreneurs like Thomas Zaccagnino are going to take some time out of their day to appreciate fine Italian food.
But if you’re planning a trip to Italy, you might be a little worried about your health. With all the carb-packed meals like pizza and pasta that you can’t say no to in the country where they’re done best, you might be afraid of putting on a few pounds. Luckily, here are some strategies you can use so that you can enjoy yourself while still staying healthy.
1] Hydrate as much as you can
Even before you start thinking about the food you’re eating, and how many calories are in it, you need to think about how much water you’re drinking. Oftentimes, we think we’re hungry when we’re thirsty, and in a country where the average temperature in July is 78 degrees, you need to stay hydrated. The water is safe to drink in Italy, so all you need is a refillable water bottle. Especially in places like Rome, there are public fountains (called nasoni by locals) where you can fill up–which means not having to pay exorbitant amounts to bottle sellers in touristy areas.
Ask your hotelier to mark where you can find these fountains. Additionally, when you’re at restaurants, it’s worth paying a little extra for a large bottle of water for the table. And if you’re going for a long hike–whether that’s up a hill in Rome or up the Amalfi coast–keep drinking water, too. It’s easy to forget it, but we need eight eight-ounce servings of water a day.
2] Cook at home–and treat yourself out
Another easy way to stay healthy is by cooking at home. Even though Italy has a reputation for serving unhealthy food, much of the food is fresh and healthy, especially if it’s bought at a local market. Check out what markets are open near you, and on what days, and buy some fresh produce, meat, and cheeses. Don’t forget the mozzarella: a fresh Caprese salad is best served at home, not in a restaurant. But remember to buy bufala mozzarella; otherwise, it won’t taste right!
If you cook most of your meals at home and keep things low-carb and healthy, that means you can go out for dinner a few times and not feel guilty about all the cacio e pepe and tiramisu you’re eating. Additionally, don’t forget to check out aperitivo buffets. These tend to cost only about 10 euros with a drink, and they’re an all-you-can-eat buffet that usually includes lots of healthy veggie options and lean meats. In a country where 52.4 million people visited as tourists in 2016, there’s going to be something for everyone.
3] Exercise the Italian way
If you’re a big gym fan, you’re going to be disappointed when you first arrive in Italy. Italians don’t love the gym. Even though 21 percent of Americans polled by Statistica said they cared about having a gym at a hotel when traveling for leisure, Europeans don’t think about exercise the same way we do. So if you’re going to be in Italy, you’re going to have to do as the Italians do. Go for long walks. There are plenty of free walking tours in Rome and Florence so that you can get an education while burning calories. Take your phone or a Fitbit with you so you can count what you burn, and when you aren’t on tours, go up hills to burn some extra calories.
The fact is, European cities are made for walking. So map out some routes, explore, and get healthy without even realizing it because you’re having such a good time.
4] Drink a little less
We know, we know–it’s tempting to want to drink every single second of your trip. But considering alcohol’s ill effects on health, you should be drinking a little less. According to a recent study, drinking more than 100 grams of alcohol a week is associated with an increased risk of death in all cases, which goes to show that even if you want to drink a lot of Chianti, it’s best to drink a little less.
Just write down how much you’re drinking, the same way a business uses QuickBooks to handle payments and simplify how they keep track of them.
These are some of the best ways to stay healthy while traveling through one of the greatest countries in the world. What other ways do you stay healthy while traveling?