This is not an original article of invest-in-albania.org. This article was originally published in the website of La Repubblica, a well known Italian newspaper. To read the original article (in the Italian language), you may click here.
“Albania. Melting pot in miniature”
By Claudio Visani
Amongst venetian and Turkish memories, amongst cozy beaches and hospitable people who learned the Italian language thanks to … Pippo Baudo. A country to discover.
The most beautiful thing about Albania are Albanians. If you really want to visit the Place of Eagles, mingle with them. Avoid organized journeys, visit it as a backpacker. Discover afoot the delightful quarters of Tirana. Travel by bus and vans (furgoni), their original and creative system of transport – that doesn’t have stations, stopovers or timetables but they always drive you where you want to go – to get to the nearest city of the capital. Rent a car instead to arrive in the interior parts of the country. In south is more difficult to rent a car, as the beautiful and still least frequented beaches between Vlora and Saranda. Leave yourself be guided by their improvised touristic guide in the discovery of stunning archeological and cultural places: from Shkodra to Butrint, from Berat to Gjirokastra.
If you want to enjoy Albania, pamper yourself by the warm hospitality of people, enjoy the kindness that greets you on the street, in every hotel, restaurant or coffee; listen to the stories of the elderly on the tragedies caused by ethnic conflicts and the communist dictatorship in the last century; interact with the dreams and the contagious desire that young people have to change their country for the better.
And feel, for at least one time, citizens of the world to communicate in your mother language, Italian language that here is widely spoken. They have taught it by watching our national TV with retractable antennas which were lifted in secret during the regime of Enver Hoxha; adults used to see Canzonissima, Celentano e Pippo Baudo, and kids the animated cartoons and Ambra Angiolini.
First stop Tirana, the divided capital – as the rest of the country – between the desire for westernization and for the preservation of their identity. Cheap flights from several Italian airports. If you are not looking for a 5 stars hotel, we felt comfortable at Vila 3, 500 meters away from the center, a few modern and clean bedrooms, economic hotel (double room for 35 EUR per night), enjoyable interior bar, cooking by the owner, super friendly staff; and as for the restaurant, we ate well at Vila Era, in the trendy area of Bllok, where they bring you the menu in a mini tablet and serve delicious plates from the traditional Albanian cuisine (mythical Fergese with the entrails, eggs, cheese and peppers cooked and served in earthenware bowls) at a price of 500-700 ALL (4-5 EUR).
Walk afoot along the beautiful Empire style boulevard, built during the Italian occupation of the thirties-forties of the past century. Enjoy especially in the weekend when there is little traffic, the Scanderbeg Square and the colonial buildings which surround it, the large lawn where Hoxha had erected his statue in bronze, than demolished by the mob, and now instead of it stands the equestrian “Skanderbeg” national hero, aka Gjergj Kastrioti, the son of an Albanian prince who managed for 13 times, between 1443 and 1468, to repel the onslaught of the Ottoman armies in his Kruja.
Visit the beautiful mosque of Et’hem Bey, the only religious monument saved (because it is considered a national monument) from the fury of the anti-religious regime that proclaimed Albania the first atheist state in the world. At his side is the bell tower of the Catholic Church, to remember that tolerance and respect among different religions in the country (60% Muslims, 20% Orthodox Christians, 10% of Catholics among the faithful, but many among the laity are agnostics) are in the DNA of the Albanians. Finally, walk the streets of the Roma neighborhood in the east of the square, where the markets are held on the sidewalks of all, from fruits and vegetables to used furniture, and wherever it happens to see the palaces at the foot of the donkey tied at the entrance.