The Ciao Andiamo guide to Piedmont: Food, wine, castles and capitals – why you should visit this region that has it all.  

Piedmont is Italy’s second-largest region, and one of its most important historically and economically. Home to FIAT, Nutella and Lavazza coffee, it’s also the birthplace of the Slow Food Movement. Italian unification got its start in Piedmont with the help of the royal Savoy family. Torino was even named the nation’s first capital city, prior to Rome. 

Piedmont is known for its high-class wine, cuisine and culture. Lonely Planet picked Piedmont as the world’s top region to visit in 2019 calling it a “savvy, arty, foodie traveler’s secret.”  

Tucked beneath the Alps, travelers to Piedmont can ride and sip their way through the rolling hills of the Langhe, tour the gorgeous museums in Torino, ski the piste of Monte Rosa, and feast upon region’s delectable dishes. 

What to know before you visit Piedmont:  

Visit Piedmont in style with the help of our Piedmont guide.

mountains in Piedmont, Italy
Piemonte, literally “the foot of the mountains” is nestled under some of the most gorgeous peaks of the Alps. Image by alessandra barbieri from Pixabay

Where is Piedmont and how to get there 

Piedmont is in Italy’s northwest corner, bordering Switzerland and France, and with the regions of Lombardy and Liguria as neighbors on the Italian side. The name Piemonte literally means “foot of the mountain,” and rightfully so. Piedmont is surrounded on three sides by the Alps and home to the highest peaks and glaciers in Italy.  

Travelers can fly directly into the Torino airport or any of Milan’s international airports–Torino is just a 2-hour drive from Milano Malpensa airport.

Ciao Andiamo can provide private car service, and for guests who join our insider journey of Piedmont, your dedicated tour leader will pick you up right in Milan’s city center.

When to visit Piedmont  

Piedmont is beautiful and accessible year-round. Choose the season based on your goals in the region. Skiers will want to visit in winter, while hikers should choose summer or fall. Fall is prime time for foodies who want to savor food and wine at the height of the harvest, and for those who want to experience the famed White Truffle Festival of Alba.   

a bridge in Torino
With nature and cities to explore, Piedmont is an excellent destination no matter the season. Image by Francesco Riosa from Pixabay

Best Places to Visit in Piedmont:  

Piedmont’s geography span’s gorgeous lakes, rolling valleys, and Italy tallest peaks. Here’s a brief guide to Piedmont’s top destinations, from elegant cities and charming villages to storied castles and more: 

The capital  

skyline of beautiful Torino in Piedmont, Italy
Torino’s skyline is well-known thanks to the unique shape of the Mole Antonelliana. Image by nonmisvegliate from Pixabay

With elegant palazzi, attractive contemporary art and nearly a dozen museums to choose from, visitors to Piedmont could spend all their time just in Torino.  

Visit the Museo Egizio, the biggest Egyptian Museum outside of Egypt; the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile to discover the history of Italy’s own FIAT; or Palazzo Reale to see Greek and Roman archaeological treasures and the personal art collection of the Savoy dynasty, among other masterpieces. Stroll through Palazzo Reale’s magnificent gardens, from the same designer who created the renowned gardens of Versailles.   

Visitors can’t help but notice Torino’s Mole Antonelliana, the 167-meter-tall domed building that marks the city’s skyline. Originally built as a synagogue, today it is home to the Museo Nazionale del Cinema, showcasing equipment and film memorabilia from the very first motion pictures to modern day cinema.   

Finally, find a rival to Versailles in the Reggia di Venaria Reale. A hunting lodge for the Duke of Savoy Carlo Emanuele II, this enormous baroque mansion is impressive for its sheer scale and gilded decorations.  

If museum fatigue sets in, stroll the elegant boulevards and piazzas of Torino, tour the massive flagship Eataly store, or take a break in one of Torino’s historical coffeehouses like Caffè San Carlo or Caffè Torino.  

Torino has the grace of Paris and the splendor of Vienna, mixed with the rich culture and utter beauty of Italy.   

  

The mountains   

The Piedmont side of Monte Rosa is home to stunning peaks and characteristic mountain valley towns. Ski resorts abound. The most famous of which are likely those of the Via Lattea, or “Milky Way.” Made up of two different valleys, the northern Val di Susa and southern Val Chisone, many of the 2006 Winter Olympics events were held in the state-of-the-art facilities of the Via Lattea. Visitors can ski roughly 400km of runs through at least seven different resorts, including a jaunt into France to Montgenèvre’s slopes, all included with the Via Lattea ski pass.   

Piedmont is ruled by mountains and beautiful valleys, making it a great destination for winter sports lovers as well as Alpine aficionados looking to hike in the warmer months.   

Summertime visitors can go sightseeing in Susa to see the Arco d’Augusto and the Roman ruins, or hike the remote terrain on the border of France in the Maritime Alps National Park.   

  

The lakes  

San Giulio Island on Orta Lake in Piedmont, Italy
San Giulio Island on Orta Lake in Piedmont, Italy. Image by alessandra barbieri from Pixabay

Piedmont is also home to most of Lago Maggiore, Italy’s beautiful resort lake that sits across Piedmont and Lombardy. The lakeside town of Stresa has been a favorite destination for artists and writers since the 19th-century (parts of Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” was set here). Not only is it the perfect distance between Torino and Milan, it’s also the perfect jumping-off point to visit the ancient villas and luxurious gardens of the Borromean Islands.   

Though Piedmont shares Lago Maggiore with Lombardy and even Switzerland, Lago d’Orta is all Piedmont’s. Circled by forest, Lake Orta is perhaps the most peaceful of Italy’s northern lakes. Orta enjoys far fewer international tourists, making it the perfect place to escape the crowds. Swim or enjoy a boat ride on the lake, tour the narrow streets of medieval Orta San Giulio or ferry over to tiny Isola San Giulio for a unique day trip.  

  

The valleys   

The rolling valleys of the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato are a wine lover’s paradise. It’s the land of Piedmont’s famed white truffles, sweet hazelnuts, and outstanding chocolate production. Here Barolo, the king of wines, is produced, along with other world-class wines made from the prized Nebbiolo grape. The beautifully cultivated vineyards of the area stretching from Asti to Cuneo are interrupted only by hilltop towns and charming castles.   

Visit Bra, the hometown of the Slow Food Movement; Barolo, the namesake of the famed Barolo wine and site of the Museo del Vino; and Barbaresco, with its 11-century medieval tower and equally noteworthy wines. As you tour the vineyards, dedicate some time to sleepy hamlets like Serralunga, La Morra, and Grinzane Cavour.  

Don’t miss ultra-charming Alba, the capital of the Langhe and home of the annual Fiera Internazionale di Tartufo Bianco (“The International White Truffle Festival”). Just 30 kilometers to the north is Asti, home of the sparkling white Asti Spumante.   

  

What to Do in Piedmont: 

Besides the stunning geography and delicious food, there’s even more to explore with the UNESCO Sites and the annual festivals of Piedmont. 

Visit the Venaria Reale 

interior of the Venaria palace in Torino
The Galleria Grande in the beautiful Venaria Palace in Torino. Image by loveombra from Pixabay

With a roughly 862,000 square-foot floor plan, the Venaria Reale is one of the biggest palaces in the entire world. The 17th-century palace, together with the other buildings that make up the Residences of the Royal House of Savoy, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A Baroque masterpiece just outside of Torino, visitors can tour the palace, including the breathtaking Galleria Grande, the Theater of History and Magnificence dedicated to the Savoy family and legacy, and approximately 10,764 square feet of frescoes. Thanks to a hefty eight-year, multi-million dollar restoration, visitors can also stroll more than 120 acres of restored gardens, with 24 acres of vegetable garden and nearly 200,000 new plants. Originally designed as an estate for hunting and leisure for Duke Carlo Emanuele II of Savoy and Duchess Maria Giovanna Battista, the Venaria comprises the palace, gardens, a park for hunting grounds, and an entire village, not to mention sculptures, fountains, staircases, terraces, ponds, and frescoes. It is a display of wealthy and beauty that rivals Versailles.

Hike in the Sacred Mountains  

The nine summits of the Sacri Monti (two of which are in Lombardy) have been given UNESCO World Heritage status for the 16th and 17th-century chapels built upon its peaks. Designed to celebrate different aspects of Christianity, these tiny structures not only have a deep spiritual history, but are also beautifully integrated into the surrounding nature of Piedmont’s valleys, forests, and lakes.

Relax in the terme (thermal baths)

Visit the thermal spas of Acqui Terme in the Monferrato valley. A spa and resort town since the ancient Romans – the town’s name means “thermal waters” – Acqui Terme offers various spa options and the relaxation and serenity of a small town. The town’s connection to the area’s hot thermal waters is represented in marble and stone with La Bollente, a fountain in the town’s main piazza that spews boiling hot thermal water. Rising from the earth at 75 degrees C, townspeople come at all hours to fill up on the spring water and enjoy its curative properties.  

Tour Castello di Rivoli Museum of Art  

artistic shot of the Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art building
The Castello di Rivoli Art Museum is located in a former residence of the Savoy Family. Image from Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea

Though Torino seems to be ground zero of museums, there’s one museum just outside of the capital city that’s well worth a visit. The Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art is the envy of Italy’s contemporary art scene. The first museum devoted to contemporary art in Italy, the massive Rivoli Museum has a robust Arte Povera collection, hosts educational events and rotating exhibitions, and has approximately 44,000 books on art, architecture, photography, and design in its public library. 

Take part in the festivals   

Finally, check if your visit coincides with any of the region’s internationally-acclaimed festivals. Of course, the international white truffle festival is held in Alba each fall, but there’s also the famous Cioccolatò chocolate fair every year in Torino. The Palio race of Siena enjoys worldwide acclaim, but each September Asti holds a Palio of its own, considered the oldest horse race in Italy. There is the Cheese Festival held every two years in the town of Bra. Or, for the adventure seeker, visit Ivrea during the epic Battle of the Oranges, a massive food fight celebrated each year during Carnival.   

  

What to Eat in Piedmont  

No guide to Piedmont is complete without a note on its delicious local cuisine. When in Italy, it’s always best to eat local, and the Piedmont region is no exception.  

homemade Tajarin noodles with ragù
Tajarin noodles come with many different sauces, like these homemade Tajarin with ragù. Image by Lou Stejskal via flickr

Piedmont is a veritable Epicurean paradise. Home of the renowned white truffle, and its namesake annual festival, it’s also a land rich in dried fruits like walnuts, chestnuts and hazelnuts, homemade cheeses, soft delicate veal, and all the fresh veggies for which Italy is known.

When in Piedmont, stick to Piemontese classics, like the typical bagna cauda. Literally, “hot bath”, it is a hot sauce made with anchovies, olive oil, and garlic, and used as a dip for Piedmont’s delicious fresh vegetables. Another dip of the region is the classic fondue, thanks to the border shared with France.  

Down in the valley, bordering the seaside region of Liguria, sample Piedmont’s renowned beef in the form of a classic vitello tonnato–cold sliced veal in a tuna, anchovy, and caper sauce. Or, try the esoteric snails from Cherasco, served in or out of the shell, pan-fried, roasted, or stewed with onions, parsley, walnuts and anchovies.

Of course, those same valleys are home to the bold, red wines made from the Nebbiolo grapes. Read all about Piedmont’s prestigious wines.   

No summary of Piedmont’s cuisine is complete without a nod to the white truffles of Alba. Truffles can be found throughout central Italy, but only Piedmont is a hub of the tartufo bianco. Try this pricy treat shaved over local fresh pasta like the long, skinny tajarin noodles or the tiny agnolotti al plin stuffed with meat or vegetables.   

Finally, indulge your sweet tooth in the birthplace of modern chocolate. Choose chocolate in nearly any form, including liquid like with a glass of bicerin, made of hot chocolate, espresso and whipped cream. Or travel south to Cuneo, the birthplace of gianduja, chocolate with hazelnuts. The delicious treat was invented when a Cuneo resident decided to mix expensive and difficult-to-find chocolate with the local and plentiful hazelnuts of the valleys, creating the precursor to the famous Nutella chocolate and hazelnut spread.   

The vineyards of Piedmont

See the beauty of Torino, tour the vineyards of the Langhe, and delight in Piedmont’s gastronomic delights with Ciao Andiamo on our Castles, Truffles and Barolo insider journey.   

  

  

 

 

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From top to toe, Italy is filled with spectacular scenery and beautiful towns. So beautiful that it can be difficult to decide where to visit next! While Puglia is at times overlooked internationally, Italians have long followed the sea and sun to this southeastern region that is the heel of the peninsula’s posh boot.   

Travelers new to the region might wonder: is Puglia worth visiting? We’re here to answer with a resounding yes! 

Here’s why you should visit Puglia: 

The beaches   

With roughly 800 kilometers of coastline, it’s no surprise that Puglia has some of the best beaches in all of Italy. A peninsula within a peninsula, visitors can enjoy pristine beaches on the Ionian and Adriatic coasts. And they truly are pristine – Puglia’s beaches regularly win the Blue Flag, an international eco-label given to the cleanest, most environmentally sustainable beaches. From the “Maldives of Salento” to the views of the “Two Sisters” sea stack, visitors looking to mix cultural touring with the ease of the sea have dozens of gorgeous options to choose from in Puglia. 

Read more about the Best Beaches in Puglia

The trulli   

A village of the unique trulli houses in Puglia with white walls and conical roofs
Visit Puglia to tour the distinctive trulli in Alberobello. Image by Jacques Savoye from Pixabay

There is little more unique to Puglia than its famous trulli houses. These traditional Pugliese homes are ingenious conical structures built with entirely local materials. Unique to Puglia, the trulli are built without any mortar and are devised to be quick to build and quick to dismantle. They maintain a cool interior and the conical roofs lead to a central cistern, usually located under the house, to catch what little water Puglia gets.    

You can find them throughout the Itria Valley, but only in Alberobello can you find more than 1,500 trulli, many in use today and almost all in perfect condition. Today, Alberobello is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as an “exceptional Historic Urban Landscape.”   

The lifestyle   

Visit Puglia to tap into the slow, easy days of southern Italy. Puglia isn’t stuck in the past; it has simply maintained the healthiest aspects of a slower pace of life. Take a cue from the Pugliese and learn to linger over a meal, enjoy the warmth of the sun, gather friends or family around, and soak in a less frenetic atmosphere. It’s the perfect destination for travelers looking to travel slow. Relax and reconnect with nature with the freedom to explore and enjoy some of the most beautiful landscapes in Italy.   

The towns   

The beautiful beach in Polignano al Mare, Puglia

Puglia has a diverse geography and a unique history, both visible in its gorgeous towns and cities. Visit the quaint villages in the Itria Valley, including the trulli of Alberobello, nearby Locorotondo, Cisternino, and lively Martina Franca. There’s the atmospheric town of Polignano a Mare clinging to a rocky cliff over the Adriatic Sea and nearby Monopoli, the whitewashed city of Ostuni, Otranto on the Adriatic coast, and Gallipoli on the Ionian Sea.  

Visit Lecce, Salento’s historical and artistic center, and another UNESCO World Heritage site for its beautiful baroque architecture. And though Bari hasn’t traditionally been on the tourist trail, the recently renovated old town, burgeoning cultural spaces and lively nightlife have put the port city back on the map for many travelers.   

The food   

As in all of Italy, the food in Puglia is incredible.    

Known as the breadbasket of Italy thanks to its large production of durum wheat, Puglia’s pasta and bread are gastronomical staples. Most visitors have heard of the ubiquitous Pugliese orecchiette pasta, fresh pasta shaped like “little ears.” But there is so much more to Pugliese food than that!    

A little-known tradition is the “fornello pronto” in the Valle d’Itria, that is, butcher shops where you can order your meat and have them cook it for you on sight. Other street-food options throughout Puglia include the focaccia barese, fried panzerotto, or the rustico leccese, a puff pastry filled with mozzarella, bechamel sauce, tomato, and black pepper.   

Pugliese cuisine is historically very poor. In the past few could afford meat. Luckily, vegetables abound in this sun-kissed, fertile land. Here you can get fava and chicory prepared in a dozen different ways. Or simply ripe tomatoes with a fresh Pugliese burrata or simple grilled vegetables – all drizzled, of course, with Puglia’s famous olive oil.    

The olive oil   

Visit Puglia to see century-old olive trees

With approximately 60 million olive trees, there are more olive trees in Puglia than there are Italians in Italy. In the Valle d’Itria in particular, travelers can see hundreds of olive trees, including some more than 2,000 years old! Besides a liberal use of the delicious oil during meals, visitors can tour through the olive groves. Today, most of these ancient, millenarian olive trees can be found in the area between Monopoli, Ostuni, and Carovigno. Tour by car or, even better, hike or bike among the olive groves, moving from one town to another.  

The masserie   

Puglia’s cuisine and culture change as you move away from the coastline. In the countryside, the cuisine changes from the fresh fish of the coast and more to meat and vegetables. There, we can also find a treasure unique to the region: the masserie. Ancient structures dating from the 16th century, these farmhouses used to be the home of the massaro, or farmer. Today these masserie range from rustic, renovated farmhouses to luxury hotels. Traditionally agricultural, you can visit to stay the night or simply go for a traditional, kilometer-zero meal. Agriturismi can be found throughout Italy, but only in Puglia can you find them in the traditional style of a Pugliese masseria.    

The history  

Like much of southern Italy, Puglia was conquered by dozens of different civilizations. Its fertile land and strategic and commercial importance attracted the Greeks, Romans, Ostrogoths, and Byzantine Empire; the Normans, Frederick II, the Kingdom of Naples, the Aragonese, the Habsburgs, and … you get the idea.    

This unique and eclectic history left an imprint on Puglia that we can still see today. The Greeks founded Taranto. The Romans brought the long history of wheat, olive oil, and wine production to the region to feed the legions. Gallipoli is fortified thanks to the Byzantines. The Normans brought the relics of San Nicola to Bari and built the Basilica di San Nicola and the French created what is known today as Bari Vecchia. Each new kingdom deeply affected the peninsula’s architectural, agricultural and cultural landscape.    

The nature   

a view of cactus and the seaside in Salento, Puglia

Those looking to explore the natural beauty of Puglia have plenty to choose from even beyond the attractive beaches. Don’t miss the Grotte di Castellana. The longest cave network in Italy with approximately 3 kilometers of underground caves, it is widely considered the most spectacular in Italy as well.    

Visit the stunning islands of the Tremiti Archipelago. Protected by a marine reserve, the only archipelago of Puglia is the pinnacle of natural beauty. Go to explore the wild beaches, snorkel or dive in the pristine water, or enjoy a day on the sea by boat.    

Visitors to the plateau of the Alta Murgia National Park will find a unique mix of nature, archeology, and history. With beautiful flora and fauna year-round, the Alta Murgia is also filled with masserie, jazzi, and poste, or dry-stone buildings used by shepherds to protect their animals. Most notable, however, is the 13th-century Castel del Monte. Built by the Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick II, the UNESCO World Heritage Site fortification is a mysterious geometric structure built with perfect octagonal walls and eight octagonal towers.  

Finally, those with time to spare can head all the way to the southernmost tip of Puglia in Santa Maria di Leuca to see the place where the Adriatic and Ionian Seas meet, and explore the nearby caves, beaches, and nature reserves of the Salento Peninsula.   

Visit Puglia to tour the traditional trulli, travel along the picturesque Adriatic coast and cook with an Italian nonna on our Mediterranean Escape to Puglia and the Amalfi Coast. 

  

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Each Italian region is unique. For such a small peninsula, the diversity of history, art, culture, and cuisine from region to region is remarkable. At first glance, Umbria and Tuscany seem to have a lot in common. Both are celebrated for their hilltop towns, spectacular scenery, and delicious rustic meals; but don’t be fooled: each has its own charms, atmosphere, and traditions.

How to choose between Umbria and Tuscany

When designing an Italian adventure, it can be difficult to choose which of Italy’s breathtaking regions to visit. The travel experts at Ciao Andiamo love every pocket and corner of Italy for reasons unique from one area to the next, and this is why the authentic journeys we design are always individually tailored with our travelers in mind. We’ve written this guide to help you learn more about the acclaim of Tuscany and allure of Umbria so that you can decide for your next visit: Umbria or Tuscany (or both!)?

Visit Umbria and Tuscany for the impressive cathedrals

Orvieto Cathedral, Umbria
Each region boasts beautiful cathedrals, like this one in Orvieto, Umbria. Image by Peter H from Pixabay

Brunelleschi’s Duomo of Florence is an architectural masterpiece and must-see for visitors to the region, while the Duomo complex of nearby Siena, in Tuscany, merits a full tour inside, out…and up, as visitors can now explore the eaves of the magnificent cathedral.

In Umbria, finding striking basilicas in small town settings–like Orvieto’s magnificent cathedral–is all the more impressive. The sensational gothic cathedral stands out against Orvieto’s austere city center. Inside, frescoes that rival those in Rome grace the walls. Then there is the Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular destination for religious pilgrims, the cathedral boasts massive paintings and frescoes by Cimabue, Lorenzetti, and the school of Giotto.

Art and architecture are on full display in the many basilicas, cathedrals, and chapels of Tuscany and Umbria.

Umbria and Tuscany are great for nature lovers

Active travelers can find outdoor fun in both regions. Visitors to Umbria and Tuscany can hike and bike, mountaineer, and horseback ride. Each region has multiple national and regional parks to explore. Kayak and sail along the coast in Tuscany or spelunk, raft, and kayak in Umbria. For a new perspective in either region, take to the air to paraglide or hang glide over the breathtaking landscapes, or take it slow with a hot-air balloon ride.

Visit Tuscany for the unmatched art

exterior of Uffizi Gallery
Florence’s famous Uffizi Gallery holds priceless Medieval and Renaissance art

The explosion of art and architecture in the Middle Ages and Renaissance derived in part from the historic rivalries between towns. Though there were frequent wars, outdoing your neighbor in artistic wealth and architectural feats was just as important as a victory on the battlefield. The various cities in Tuscany and Umbria spent centuries trying to outdo one another, much to the benefit of visitors today.

Great art abounds in Umbria, with artists such as Perugino, Giotto, Cimabue and Pisano leaving their mark in cities from Città di Castello and Terni to Orvieto and Assisi. The Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria in Perugia’s beautiful Palazzo dei Priori holds work by one of Umbria’s most famous locals: Pietro Vannucci, known as Perugino, who was also the teacher of Raphael.

That said, the sheer quantity of Tuscany’s Medieval and Renaissance art is unparalleled. The Uffizi Gallery alone holds some of the world’s most priceless art. There, you can find masterpieces by Raphael, Lippi, Caravaggio, as well as the Birth of Venus and the Primavera of Botticelli, to name a few. No matter where you are in Tuscany, you’re sure to find some world-class art.

Visit Umbria for a unique food experience

a butcher shop in Umbria
You can get high-quality cured meat in Umbria and Tuscany, but only Umbria enjoys the fame of these norcinerie. Image by GBSurf from Pixabay

You may be familiar with the olive oil, fresh pasta, and steaks of Tuscany, but know less about the specialties of Umbria. In many respects, Umbrian and Tuscan cuisine is quite similar. Both are born of a cucina povera tradition, and feature myriad vegetables and legumes, rustic flavors from game meat like wild boar and rabbit, and homegrown olive oil.

But only Umbria has the highly-prized tartufo nero. May to August is black truffle season, but you can get this pungent delicacy shaved over your pasta or omelet or simmered in a gravy sauce any time of year.

Also worth noting are Umbria’s renowned norcinerie–high-quality pork butcher shops from Norcia–whose butchers take the art of processing pork to an art form. Try it for yourself with a roast porchetta panino or an appetizer of affettati (sliced meats) including the classic Norcia prosciutto.

Visit Tuscany for some of the most famous wines, and Umbria for smaller producers and wines of equal stature

vineyards in Umbria and Tuscany
Image by alohamalakhov from Pixabay

Tuscany is home to some of the world’s most well-known wines and wine regions. From Chianti to Montalcino, Montepulciano to Bolgheri, Tuscany’s winemaking prowess is proven. Here you can taste Brunello and Chianti, Rosso di Montalcino and a wealth of Super Tuscans. For a white wine, try the Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

Although Tuscan wines may enjoy more worldwide fame, Umbria’s vineyards have equally noteworthy, delectable options. Try the Orvieto DOC white wine made with the region’s star white grape or the Rosso di Montefalco, a dark red made with Sangiovese grapes.

The king of Umbrian wines, however, is the ancient Sagrantino di Montefalco. A DOCG red wine made with the eponymous grape, Sagrantino is 100% native, aged in oak barrels and, when cellared correctly, can be kept for up to 30 years.

Visit Umbria for cashmere and Tuscany for leather

There’s no better souvenir than a genuine “Made in Italy” product, and the gifted craftsmen of Tuscany and Umbria produce myriad artisanal goods. Artisans in both regions work with gold and precious stones, wood, marble, oil paints, and watercolors, and, of course, various fabrics and textiles. When shopping for clothes and accessories in central Italy, get your leather in Tuscany, and fine cashmere in Umbria.

Leathercraft has been practiced in Tuscany for centuries and the tradition continues today. Get the perfect fit with a pair of tailor-made shoes or go simple with a quality belt, purse, or wallet. Before purchasing anything, be sure to verify that it is truly made in Italy or, better yet, go straight to the artisan’s studios!

Umbria is where you can purchase a beautiful sweater, warm scarf, or elegant purse directly from local cashmere producers. In some cases, you can even visit the cashmere workshops, which are clustered in and around Montefalco, Bevagna, and Marsciano.

Visit Tuscany if you want a seaside vacation

a view of the sea in Tuscany
Visit the Tuscan archipelago for a seaside vacation like this one in Isola d’Elba. Image by DanieleFiaschi from Pixabay

Tuscany is the only option of the two for those looking for a Mediterranean seaside vacation. There, visitors can enjoy beaches along the coast or head off shore to explore the Tuscan Archipelago with its beautiful islands like Elba and Giglio.

Umbria might be Italy’s only landlocked region, but it still enjoys some bodies of water. There are mountain springs in the Foligno area, thermal springs north of Orvieto, and prominent lakes, including Lago di Piediluco near the border with Lazio, and Lago di Trasimeno, the largest lake in central and southern Italy.

For those visiting Umbria but still looking to include a visit to the sea, the new tunnels carved into the Apennines can bring travelers from Umbria’s Spello area to the Adriatic Sea in about 30 minutes for an easy seaside day trip.

Visit Umbria for small-town charm 

In general, Tuscany is the perfect place to explore iconic city centers, while Umbria is ideal for soaking in the Italian experience.

It’s true that Tuscany also has small towns that feel less “discovered,” but Umbria has more, and it’s generally easier to escape the crowds in the region known as Italy’s “green heart”.

With only two true cities – Perugia, the region’s capital, and Terni, its industrial powerhouse – Umbria is a region of villages and towns. Of course, Perugia, Assisi, and Orvieto are all must-visits, but we recommend you go beyond the most famous cities to tap into Umbria’s charming small-town ambience. Visit Gubbio, considered the oldest village in Umbria, Spello with its narrow walls and enchanting balconies, or the butcher shop-lined streets of Norcia. Explore the islands on Lago di Trasimeno, the small town of Narni, with its recently excavated underground, or the less-visited village of Bevagna. Tour the ancient streets of Spoleto and enjoy panoramic views from Montefalco.

In Umbria, you can find that authentic Italian spirit, untarnished by international influences. The pace of life is slower and the travel richer with local experiences. In Tuscany, you can live out a scene straight from an iconic film, but you’ll have to share the set. In Umbria, the set is yours!

Small town in Umbria from above
Castelluccio is just one of the many tiny towns that dot the Umbrian countryside. Image by Alberto Agostini from Pixabay

Still can’t decide? Visit both! Venture through the heart of the Italian countryside on our Food, Wine and the Rolling Hills insider journey exploring Umbria and Tuscany through the eyes of locals.

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With abundant natural beauty, famed ancient history, and noteedly diverse culture, the spectacular island of Sicily has enticed travelers to explore it’s many treasures since ancient times. Sicily’s rich history can be seen in; the Arab-Norman jewels in Palermo, the Doric temples in the Valley of the Temples, and the ancient Greek architecture of Syracuse. Baroque beauty abounds in the Noto Valley, and extensive religious art is abundant, as you discover Sicily.

Sicily countryside and hills

Sicily’s history can also be found in the unique food it offers. A result of many different conquerors, the cuisine is perhaps the most culturally-infused of all of Italy. Here you can find classics, such as pistachios and almonds, citrus and swordfish, along with more exotic spices and ingredients, like saffron and sugar, baccalà and couscous.

Then, of course, there are the landscapes; first and foremost the formidable Mount Etna on Sicily’s east coast. One of Europe’s highest active volcanoes, Etna still erupts from time to time and can dictate life in the area. Then there are the stunning coastline nature reserves including the Zingaro Nature Reserve west of Palermo, or the Vendicari Nature Reserve in Sicily’s southwestern corner. Citrus groves, olive orchards, vineyards, and salt pans, wherever you are, you’re sure to have a stunning backdrop.

What to Know Before You Discover Sicily:

Discovering Sicily in comfort means you need to know its location and how to dress with the season.

Where is Sicily

Map of Places To Go in Sicily

One of 20 regions of Italy, Sicily is an island just off the mainland. It’s the ball to Italy’s boot, located in the extreme southwest of Italy.

Italy’s largest island, Sicily’s most important cities are coastal ports, grown powerful by the bustling sea trade since the ancient Greeks. Though there is a small airport in Trapani and another in the Val di Noto, most flights to Sicily fly into Palermo or Catania, two of Sicily’s largest cities.

The Weather in Sicily

It’s southernmost point, Sicily is hotter than the rest of Italy. In January average highs in Catania can easily reach 60°F, while August sees an average max of 90°F. Though skiers will be hoping for snow on Etna, it’s not impossible to see sunbathers in December, with sea temperatures reaching 59°F. In August, most cities in Sicily empty as residents go north on vacation or head to the beach to stay cool. If you’re not going in the summer, be sure to bring a cover-up as morning and evening can cool down.

Best Places to Discover in Sicily

The island of Sicily truly has it all; bustling port cities, small hill towns, coastal resorts and complete wilderness. There’s a lot to see on just this one Mediterranean island, but here’s where to start:

Palermo and Monreale

Beautiful Piazza Pretoria — Palermo

Palermo is an Arab-Norman jewel of a city with strong character, and a world of history, and culture to discover.

Long gone are Palermo’s days as a violent city. Today, it is a favorite for Italian hipsters, ground zero for the start of many a Sicily vacation, and was named the Italian Capital of Culture in 2018.

After Phoenicians founded a colony there in the 8th century, Palermo has since been ruled by Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, the Holy Roman emperors, Aragonese, Bourbons, and Austrians…to name a few. This important port city has always been strategic in the Mediterranean, leading to an intriguing mix of cultures, tastes, and ideas. Go see the beautiful Piazza Pretoria and its “shameful” fountain, the Palermo Cathedral and the Teatro Massimo. Palazzo dei Normanni is a must-see, if only for the Palatine chapel inside, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See the Zisa Palace, the Capuchin catacombs, and the trifecta of gorgeous churches around Piazza Bellini.

Finally, head up the hill to tour the Cathedral of Monreale, a masterpiece of Arab, Norman, and Byzantine art.

Trapani

Salt flats and salt harvesting — Trapani

An important trading city since the 13th-century, Trapani’s port still bustles with ferry traffic to and from the nearby Egadi Islands. Tour the kilometers of salt flats along the coast in a pungent nod to the city’s salt harvesting history. The biggest draw is, without a doubt, the ancient salt pans of Trapani and Paceco. Visitors can tour these kilometers of salt flats along the coast, not only to see a glimpse of the area’s long history (many of the same techniques from 1000 AD are still used today) but also to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Today the salt pans are part of a nature reserve, still allowing a small amount of production, as well as the return of native flora, and fauna.

Piazza Armerina

Located in the hinterland of Sicily, Piazza Armerina is an off-the-beaten-path gem. The town itself has an 18th-century Duomo, and nearby you’ll find the Aidone Archeology Museum. But the real draw is the Villa Romana del Casale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and archeological treasure worth an entire day.

Agrigento

Valley of the Temples — Agrigento, Sicily

Agrigento is home to the Valley of the Temples, one of the most famed archeological sites in all Italy. Founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century BC, it quickly became one of the leading cities in the Mediterranean. This is still seen today in the massive collection of Doric temples that lie intact in the area’s fields, along with excavations of Hellenistic ruins, and early Christian sites. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, for its great row of Doric temples, considered to be “among the most extraordinary representations of Doric architecture in the world.” A “testament of Greek civilization” and an example of an “important interchange of human values,” the area once considered the “most beautiful city inhabited by man,” according to the Greek poet Pindar, is now one of the most beautiful archeological sites to be visited by man.

Taormina

Taormina Teatro Greco — Sicily

Taormina has been a resort town since the time of the ancient Greeks. With a spectacular location on the side of a mountain along Sicily’s east coast, it’s easy to see why Taormina has a long history of delighting the rich and famous. The town is breathtaking! Perhaps most famous for its Teatro Antico, an ancient Greco-Roman theater still in use today, most visitors are attracted by Isola Bella. Attached to the mountain coast by a small strip of sand, Isola Bella is a tiny nature reserve set in a natural cove. Once the home of Englishwoman Florence Trevelyan, it can now be enjoyed by all. Then, visit the nearby Giardini Naxos, the first Greek colony in Sicily, before taking time to relax somewhere and soak in the wonderful view – this won’t be hard to find.

Syracuse and Ortygia

One of the oldest settlements in Sicily, Syracuse was founded in 734 BC by the Corinthians, who landed on the island of Ortygia (Ortigia). Once the largest city in the ancient world, a visit to Syracuse means stepping back in time through the ruins of the original city in the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis, one of Sicily’s greatest archaeological sites. Here you’ll find Greek ruins, like the Teatro, along with beautiful Baroque buildings framing sun-kissed piazzas. The most beautiful corner is surely it’s minuscule island of Ortygia. Just 1 square kilometer, it’s difficult not to fall in love with the island’s breathtaking views, characteristic streets, and Mediterranean atmosphere.

Noto

Cathedral Noto - South-Eastern Sicily

Located in southeastern Sicily in the eponymous Val di Noto, Noto is the epicenter of Baroque architecture in Sicily. The entire town is filled with grand central roads, elegant Baroque palazzi, and beautiful historic town squares. Gorgeous, no matter when you visit, the golden hour is favorite for the delicious hue that reflects off it’s red-gold buildings.

After the original town of Noto was destroyed in a 1693 earthquake the entire town was rebuilt a bit higher on the hill in the 18th-century. Traces of the same style can be found in Modica, and Ragusa, both located in Val di Noto and both worth a visit, thanks to a local architect who worked on all three.

Catania

Catania has long had a reputation as a gritty, chaotic city. Though this might still be true, the city still has atmosphere and attitude. It’s one of the few cities in Sicily that feels like a city, with nightlife and energy to match. Catania is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with Noto, thanks to its Baroque architecture. Visit the Piazza del Duomo, the Roman Amphitheater, and the famous Pescheria fish market, for a taste of authentic Italy. As you tour the city, you’re sure to see Mount Etna sitting in the distance, patiently watching over it all.

The best way to discover Sicily is by car – let us handle the stress of transit for you, with completely private transfer service as well as expert guides on our Discover Sicily Trip.

Sources:
Lonely Planet
UNESCO
Visit Sicily
NY Times

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Traveling is good for your health. It can take you away from the stressors of everyday life, give your brain a chance to reset and even improve brain health thanks to stimulating new experiences. Travel can boost your mood and give you much needed social time. Unfortunately, it can also mean long travel days, jet lag that snags sleep and a slip in our usual healthy diet.   

Want to gain the benefits of travel without sacrificing your health? You can still do it!

Here’s how to stay healthy while traveling:   

Wash your hands  

Click on the picture to see the rest of the steps recommended by the World Health Organization

The simplest and most effective way to stay healthy while at home or abroad is to wash your hands often and thoroughly. Our biggest problem seems to be the latter; Most people don’t adequately wash their hands, according to the World Health Organization. Be sure to use clean, running water, plenty of soap, and wash for at least 20 seconds on the palm, back, and between the fingers of each hand. After, air dry or dry with a clean towel. While traveling, be sure to always wash your hands before eating, and if that’s not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Be sure to rub sanitizer on the palm, back, and between the fingers of each hand.  

Try to keep your normal sleep schedule  

Traveling can be physically demanding. You upset your routine by carrying luggage, walking all day, and maybe even crossing time zones – it can be harsh on your body! One of the most important things you can do while traveling is to make sure you get plenty of sleep. If you don’t normally go to sleep in the wee hours of the night, don’t do it while traveling either. With early morning wake-up times, odd hours, and jet lag, it can be hard, but there are some workarounds. Fight jet lag with a brisk walk in the sun – daylight is one of the best ways to reset your body clock – and if that fails, simply listen to your body. Perhaps the time change means you just need that post-lunch siesta. That’s part of vacation too!  

Move your body

a bike in front of a flower shop. Touring by bike is a great way to stay healthy while traveling

Working out while traveling is an excellent way to stay in shape, stick to your routine, and combat jet lag. It’s also far more difficult to plan and motivate. Though many hotels throughout the world have gyms and there are plenty of exercises and online workout videos you can follow in your room, it’s hard to justify time out of a busy travel day to work out. If you’re able to do it – good for you! If not, consider that in most destinations in the world, like Italy, you’ll be exploring all day. This means walking the streets, strolling in parks, and standing for hours while touring museums and churches and theaters. One good thing about exploring a new city is that you’re sure to keep moving! You can also schedule exercise into your trip with a hike, walking tour, or bike tour to get moving while sightseeing.    

Indulge – but only once a day  

Most people want to indulge and experience the local food while traveling – it is vacation after all! You can absolutely, have fun and enjoy some of the local fare, but you can avoid indigestion, constipation, diarrhea and other stomach issues by sticking as closely as possible to your regular diet.     

Try getting healthy snacks at a local market or grocery store to keep hunger and temptation at bay, and then consider indulging in that big plate of pasta or that three-scoop gelato just once a day, rather than at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. “One treat a day feels special and pleasurable,” says registered dietician Keri Glassman, “overdoing it, on the other hand, isn’t as enjoyable and leads to low energy and poor sleep.”    

As always, if you have any food allergies or dietary restrictions, be sure to prepare beforehand. Study up on your destination’s local foods and consider getting a translated card explaining any allergies if you’re worried about language issues.   

Hydrate, enjoy wine, and skip the hard stuff 

A changed routine and constant motion can make it difficult to drink enough water, but keeping hydrated will help combat dehydration, hunger, stomach issues, and even jet lag.   

grapes picked and crated in the vineyard 

For this reason, make sure to drink lots of water, and consider limiting your alcohol consumption to reduce dehydration and travel fatigue. While in Italy you are sure to want to try some of the many wonderful local wines the country has to offer, so consider sticking to wine and beer and skipping hard liquor. A glass of wine is an essential part of the local culture and a popular and fun activity for visitors, so enjoy that vineyard tour and wine tasting, but make sure to stay hydrated as well! 

Check stress at the door  

Vacation or travel is a great time to slow down. Stop to appreciate your surroundings, try spending some time away from technology, and look to connect back with your analog nature. Read the local newspaper or a book, and focus on your travel partners and the new experiences you’re enjoying. Leave the stress of work at home.   

That said, we know that a lot of the stress of travel comes from the travel itself. Prepare yourself ahead of time for a seamless trip, try to let go of the travel hiccups you can’t control, and find what you need in order to travel without stress. Or, go for a completely stress-free trip by hiring a travel company and letting them take care of everything for you! At Ciao Andiamo, we love crafting Italy adventures through local eyes, and we can arrange hotels, excursions, and transfers, personalized for you. Contact us to see how we can make your dream trip to Italy come to life! 

Bring a smart first-aid kit  

Much of the basic medicine available throughout the world is the same, but why not cut the stress and bring your own basic first aid kit for any minor aches or illnesses? A first-aid kit can have all the usual – bandages, sunscreen, an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin, a thermometer and cold relief medication – as well as medicines for harsher eventualities, including diarrhea, constipation or motion sickness. Like we said, all of these are things that you can find in nearly any pharmacy in the world, but it’s so much more convenient to have them on hand right when you need it. Check out the CDC’s Pack Smart Checklist to help you prepare the best medicine travel kit for your trip.    

Consider travel insurance  

Finally, cover yourself against any possibilities or eventualities with good travel insurance. Most travel insurance should include emergency medical assistance, medicines and hospital costs, surgery and dental treatments, and urgent medical treatment for accidents, but make sure to choose one that also has emergency evacuation, legal coverage, and repatriation in case of serious illness or accident. The odds that you’ll have an accident or fall severely ill on a trip are low, but why not buy some peace of mind for your next trip with good medical coverage abroad? Details matter, so pay close attention to the specific policies if you choose to book!

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Most visitors to Italy only think of the Mediterranean summers, but December is a great time to visit the peninsula. Tour Italy’s greatest cities under the twinkling lights of Christmas. It’s the most festive time of the year and the atmosphere and spirit of celebration are addictive! 

The holiday season in Italy starts with the Immaculate Conception on December 8th, when cities’ Christmas lights are turned on and Italians officially bring out the Christmas decorations and set up their tree or Nativity scene. Though it’s slightly later than most American’s day-after-Thanksgiving approach, in Italy the holiday season doesn’t end until the Epiphany on January 6th.

A predominately Catholic country, most of the season’s big-hitting holiday dates are from Christmas Eve on December 24th to the Epiphany on January 6th – the original 12 days of Christmas!

Though winter is the low season for travel to Italy, Christmastime does see a spike in visitors, as other Europeans have time off and tourists from all over plan their trip to take in the beautiful sights and smells of the holiday season in Italy. Coming to Italy in December? We’ve got everything you need to know about the holiday season in Italy:

Italian Holiday Traditions

Italians are champions of tradition and there’s no better time to see that than the holidays, when each symbol, event and meal are reminders of the magic of the season. No matter where you’re coming from, there are a few things you can expect to see during the holiday season in Italy:

Christmas markets

A good Christmas market is a feast for the senses, with delicious smells, warm desserts and drinks, handcrafted wares and atmospheric lights. Photo from Pixabay

Though this tradition is mostly attributed to Germany and Austria, Italians love their Christmas markets as much as their northern neighbors. In December, you can find Christmas markets in most cities throughout Italy. Visit Italy’s largest Christmas market in Bolzano, a city in the border region of South Tyrol. In Florence the historical Santa Croce Piazza fills with a market hailing directly from Germany for the entire month of December or head to Piazza Navona in Rome. Some, like those listed above, last all month, others like those in Genoa, Bologna or Syracuse, Sicily last for a week or two or at a specific time period, like Milan’s O Bej O Bej. The market, that gets it’s name from the local dialect for “how beautiful, how beautiful,”  usually runs for one weekend around the time of Milan’s patron saint festival on December 7th.

Christmas lights and Christmas trees

Few people in Italy decorate their house or garden with Christmas lights, but each and every town center will be positively lit up with lights and sparkling decorations. Some favorites are Ferrara, Turin, Milan and Rome. Beyond that, you can expect big cities to have a massive pine tree decorated for the season, usually located in front of the Duomo. There’s one in Florence, Milan, Naples and Venice, but perhaps the most impressive is Rome, which has not one, but several Christmas trees throughout the city. You can usually find a tree near the Colosseum, in Piazza Venezia, on Capitoline Hill and, of course, in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City.

Traditional meals

Fish is the traditional meal served on Christmas Eve, as Italians avoid meat and large meals in fasting and preparation for Christmas Day. After dinner many families attend their local midnight Mass. On Christmas Day, families feast the entire day, with a large lunch that usually has multiple courses and dozens of servings. Though every family is different, some regions have specific food traditions for Christmas Day, such as homemade cappelletti in broth in central Italian regions or panettone for dessert in the north.

Regional celebrations

As always in Italy, you can expect different traditions from different regions. Italy is a nation of city-states and though it’s one country, each area is fiercely proud of its own traditions and culture. Some dates, like December 8th, are national holidays, but there are other important holiday dates for individual regions. For example, Abruzzo celebrates St. Nicholas on December 6th, the generous saint’s feast day, with the nonni dressing up as St. Nicholas and giving gifts to children. The Milanese celebrate their patron saint, St. Ambrose, in style on December 7th, and those from Bergamo (as well as other towns) exchange gifts on December 13th, St. Lucy’s Day, rather than Christmas day.

St. Lucy, or Santa Lucia, is also celebrated in Syracuse, Sicily, where where she’s celebrated with a huge parade that ends in a firework display over the harbor in one of the biggest celebrations of the year. Research in advance your Italian destinations to see the extra events and celebrations they may have in December.

Caroling or … bagpipes!

Though caroling isn’t such a common practice anymore, in Lazio, Abruzzo, Sicily and other areas of southern Italy you may still see bagpipe players, called zampognari, playing carols the week of Christmas. Originally a practice of shepherds who would play their Christmas hymns as they returned home from their outposts in the mountains, today it’s continued by locals who want to keep the culture alive.

Nativity scenes

Living nativity scenes with local participants are popular throughout Italy. Photo by Michelle Scott from Pixabay

Nativity Scenes, or presepe, are super popular in Italy. They can be found throughout town and in nearly every Italian home. Some families don’t even put up a tree in lieu of a nativity! These can be super small or enormous, elaborate affairs with collections growing by the generation. You can find the oldest Nativity in the museum of Santa Maria Maggiore Church in Rome, but the place to find hand-crafted Nativities is in Naples. Here the artisan craft is still going strong and you can shop, window shop or simply admire the skilled craftsmen at work on via San Gregorio Armeno. Sometimes called Christmas Alley, this long street in the historic city center has nativity scenes on sale year-round!

Besides these small works of art, another popular tradition in Italy is the “living nativity” with actors and sometimes entire villages as the set. Known as presepi viventi, often the locations are just as suggestive as the scene itself. Custonaci in the Trapani region of Sicily holds its living nativity in a cave, Mantova in Lombardy has around 150 people featured, and the rocks, stones and caves of Matera make for the perfect setting for a reenacted Bethlehem.

Good luck and good fortune for the New Year

New Year’s Eve has fewer specific rituals than Christmas. Italians can celebrate at home, at a restaurant (with reservations well in advanced) or in the piazza where some Italian cities organize concerts and events. Throughout the country, New Year’s Eve is often celebrated in Italy with fireworks, especially in Naples where public and private fireworks can be set off long into the night. Italians eat lentils for dinner for good luck in the coming year, usually paired with a large sausage that requires hours of slow cooking called a cotechino. The tradition doesn’t stop there – be sure to pack a pair of red underwear if you’re coming for New Year’s, it’s considered good luck as well!

La Befana, the country’s happy witch

A representation of the Befana, Italy’s Epiphany tradition. Photo by sara150578 from Pixabay

January 6th is another important holiday for the Italian Christmas season. Known as the Epiphany, this is celebrated as the day the three wise men finally reached baby Jesus. In Italy it’s celebrated by an ugly but friendly “witch” known as La Befana who comes during the night to fill children’s shoes or stockings with candy, toys and sweets, similar to a Christmas stocking in America. Remember: l’Epifania tutte le feste porta via, or with the Epiphany, the holiday season is officially over. 

Menorah lightings for Hanukkah

It’s no secret that Italy is predominately Catholic, but Italy has a large Jewish population as well. This year Hanukkah starts on December 22 and ends on December 30. The highlight of the Hanukkah celebrations is in Piazza Barberini in Rome’s Jewish quarter where an enormous 20-foot-tall menorah is kept and lit each night. The Jews came to Rome long before Jesus’ time and lived freely until about the Dark Ages, when they were forced into the ghetto for more than 300 years. Today, the Jewish ghetto, or Jewish quarter, is the location of lively events, parties and feasts to celebrate Hanukkah. 

Other impressive menorahs can be found in Milan’s Piazza San Carlo, in Florence’s Tempio Maggiore Synagogue, one of the most atmospheric in all of Italy, as well as in Venice where there are not one but five still-active synagogues. Venice’s Ghetto Square includes a Jewish Cemetery and Jewish Museum. Head to the square to see the menorah lighting and the music, dancing and food that follows. 

What to Know 

The holiday season in Italy is filled with wonderful celebrations and festivities that are well worth seeing. It also, however, is filled with closures for national holidays or reduced opening hours for winter.

Be sure you plan your visits to museums and sites in advance to avoid going when they are closed. If you happen to be there on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or St. Stephen’s Day on December 26th, expect most everything to be closed. You’ll definitely want to book restaurants in advance for these days, as well as on New Year’s Eve.

Winter in Italy in general means attractions and transportation schedules change, usually with fewer hours or fewer trains running. Winter is Italy’s low season, but Christmastime usually sees a spike in visitors and crowds and prices may reflect that.

Remember also that just how cold it is depends a lot on where in Italy you are visiting. Up north in the Alps you might be skiing, while down in Sicily you’ll be strolling along the sea with a warming sun.

In general you should still bring a heavy coat, hat, gloves and warm, comfortable boots that can take you from day to night. Italian winters are humid, giving the air a chill even when the temperatures aren’t all that low and in northern Italy you might find rain or snow. Find out more on what to pack for winter here.

Though cold in winter, many of the attractions that you’ll want to see are indoors, making winter just as nice a time as others. Not only that, but the decorations, warm food and festivals make touring around a pleasure, even if it’s cold.

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In a country beloved for its food, Emilia Romagna still stands out as a gastronomic wheelhouse. In fact, its cuisine is one of the best in Italy and has been exported throughout the entire world. The best cured meats, like prosciutto, all hail from Emilia Romagna and favorites like lasagna and a classic bolognese sauce are staples on tables and in restaurants throughout the world.  

Photo by Bogdan Dada on Unsplash

Emilia Romagna is a region in central Italy that has produced opera stars such as Pavarotti, educational experts like Montessori, filmmakers like Fellini and fashion designers like Armani. Its citizens are known as being hardworking and extremely productive, but the region also enjoys some of the highest standards of living in all of Italy. The great quality of life can be seen in Emilia Romagna’s charming and compact cities, which are clean, safe and generally quite wealthy. 

Today, Emilia Romagna is one region composed of two identities: Emilia and Romagna.  

From Bologna to the north and west is Emilia, and from Bologna to the southeast is Romagna territory. The northern European influence can be seen in Emilian cuisine, with a heavy emphasis on pork, lard and butter, whereas Romagnola cuisine is much more Mediterranean, with more beef, lamb and olive oil. Since nearly every town was once its own city-state, each town in the region has its own local specialty.   

There’s no better way to explore Emilia Romagna than through its rich and delicious food. Want to eat your way through the region? Here’s where to start:

Bologna 

The capital city of Emilia Romagna, this university city is ground zero for food lovers. With a perfect mix of influence from both Emilia and Romagna, it has such a strong gastronomic history that it’s long been nicknamed “The Fat One” for its excess of signature dishes and hearty food products. 

Mortadella 

Other countries simply call mortadella “bologna”, but the real deal is a far cry from that industrialized, nearly inedible baloney. Mortadella is a combination of pork, spices, a bit of fat and sometimes a pistachio slice for flavor. It’s delicate but tasty and a soft alternative to Emilia Romagna’s strongly-flavored cold cuts.

Ragù 

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

This is a meat sauce completely different from what most are used to in the United States. A combination of a good soffritto, with sausage and just a tiny bit of tomato sauce, it’s simmered for hours until the flavor is perfect. Today, ragù “alla bolognese” is synonymous with a richly flavored and hearty condiment. You can find it in the classic lasagna or over freshly made tagliatelle.  

Cotoletta alla Bolognese 

A cotoletta is always a breaded slice of meat, usually veal. Here, it’s a breaded veal cutlet with prosciutto, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, sometimes mozzarella and a thin slice of pungent truffle. Remember, Emilia Romagna isn’t known for its light dishes. 

Parma 

Parma is nearly on par with Bologna in cultural significance and especially with gastronomic importance. Home to Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, prosciutto and Italy’s largest pasta producing company, Barilla, it’s nearly impossible to have a bad meal in Parma.  

Prosciutto di Parma 

Parma ham is another delicious food from Emilia Romagna

Prosciutto di Parma is incredibly famous throughout Italy. It’s considered one of the highest-quality cured meats, largely because of its strict production process. The best Parma ham comes from pigs raised in the town of Langhirano, just north of Parma in the Apennine Mountains where the air and humidity are ideal for curing ham. 

Culatello 

Though Parma’s prosciutto is best known worldwide, the local favorite is actually the culatello. A cured meat made from the leanest part of the pig’s hind leg and aged 15 to 18 months, the process is nearly just as stringent as prosciutto: Culatello is made strictly with the right leg, which has less muscle because the pig lays on it, and usually from pigs raised in the flat, humid area between Parma and the Po River. This cold cut is perhaps the clearest example of the the parmigiani’s food purism.  

Parmigiano Reggiano 

In English this is often called Parmesan, but the real deal is far from the imitation cans often sold internationally. Parmigiano Reggiano borders on the religious for many Italians, and in fact it does have a religious origin story.  

The origins of Parmigiano Reggiano and its sister cheese, Grana Padana, was born from the Padani monasteries in the first half of the 12th century. After extensive land reclaiming of the swampy area around the Po River, the monks were able to expand production but quickly found themselves with an excess of of milk. From that surplus comes our beloved Parmigiano Reggiano, “The King of Cheeses,” which only gets better with time. The taste is strong and slightly nutty and it’s principally used for grating over, well, just about everything. You’ll find a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano on just about any pasta dish, but it can be used to add flavor to sauces or grilled vegetables, in breading for meats or served in chunks with cold cuts. 

Modena 

Aceto Balsamico di Modena 

The king of Balsamic vinegar's comes from Emilia Romagna
Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

Though aceto does mean vinegar, thinking of balsamico as a vinegar denies the product’s true worth. A dark, jeweled liquid, balsamic vinegar from Modena elevates whatever food it is paired with: whether vegetables, meat, cheese or even strawberries. Made strictly from Trebbiano grapes, it ages 12 years, fining its flavor in different barrels made of various wood. As a result, real aceto balsamico tradizionale is extremely costly but packed with flavor – a little bit goes a long way.

Cotechino di Modena

In Italian they say, “From the pig you don’t throw anything away” and that philosophy is definitely true for the cotechino. Made of a mix of pork parts, salted and spiced and steeped in wine, this sausage-like dish is traditionally served with lentils and considered good luck to eat on New Year’s Day (or a similar sausage called zampone). Though it surely wasn’t invented in Emilia Romagna, it was there that this preparation grew on an industrial scale, bringing the hearty cotechino to the masses from the industries of Modena. 

Ferrara 

Salama da sugo 

The number one specialty in Ferrara, the salama da sugo is a crumbly sausage with an intense flavor usually served with mashed potatoes. It’s made with cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices as well as wine, usually Marsala, and a splash of brandy, all of which gives it an intense flavor and strong smell. Most either love it or hate it. Nevertheless, the dish is extremely traditional: the first mention of the salama da sugo is in the 15th-century in a letter from Lorenzo de Medici of Florence to Ferrara’s ruling Duke, Ercole d’Este.

Foto di Marco967 da Pixabay

Panpepato 

Called “peppered bread”, this sweet is actually made with almonds, walnuts, candied fruits, sometimes wine or chocolate and a rich array of spices. A Renaissance invention, it was usually made during Christmas or other holidays and clearly showed to the rest of the world the wealth and refinement of Ferrara.  

Throughout the region: 

Gnocco Fritto 

A decidedly emiliano dish, the gnocco fritto is cooked in shortening (strutto in Italian) and usually paired with salumi and served as an appetizer. Each city in the area has its own shape and size of gnocco fritto, for example in Modena it’s usually rectangular, but all are delicious fried puffs of dough that perfectly exalt the region’s world-class salumi.  

Piadina 

The piadina can be found in any part of Italy, but it’s from the Romagnola area that this flat, round bread was born. Originally baked on a terracotta plate, the piadina today is largely industrialized but still filled with high-quality ingredients and perfect for a quick lunch. Go classic with a piadina filled with squacquerone (a super soft cheese) and herbs, though a slice or two of Prosciutto never hurts! 

Tortellini in brodo 

Fresh pasta is abundant in Emilia Romagna

Much of central Italy prefers egg pasta over dry pastas, but nowhere does stuffed pastas like Emilia Romagna. Always made fresh, there are dozens of different shapes and stuffings to choose from. In Piacenza and Parma you’ll find anolini, in Reggio Emilio cappelletti and multiple cities compete among themselves to be crowned the hometown of tortellini. Traditionally these meat-filled pastas are served in a beef or, even better, capon broth and served on Christmas day, but you can find them with tomato sauce or a bolognese meat sauce as well.  

Lambrusco 

The number one wine of Emilia Romagna is without a doubt the classic and ubiquitous Lambrusco. Predominately made in the hills surrounding Modena and Reggio Emilia, Lambrusco varieties range from sweet (more popular in the US) to amabile to dry. A fruity bouquet and a red-violet color, you can’t go wrong with Lambrusco – it pairs well with all of Emilia Romagna’s most traditional dishes!

Photo by Spi Cgil Emilia-Romagna on flickr

This is just a glimpse into the region’s rich cuisine. While traveling, touring markets or perusing menus, keep in mind the excellent Vignola cherries from near Modena and pears from Ferrara or the peaches, nectarines or scallions from Romagna. Along the coast the heavy meat dishes are interspersed with many types of fish and seafood and even eels from the lagoons lining the coast. 

There are plenty of desserts to indulge in beyond Ferrara’s panpepato. Try rich, homemade mascarpone cheese (though its more like a cream), a torta di riso rice cake from Bologna or torta di tagliatelle, because there’s nothing more representative of this pasta-loving region! Buon appetito!

Taste your way through Parma and the Emilia-Romagna region, a food lover’s paradise, before heading off to digest along the coast in our Revel on the Riviera trip. Already drooling? Book now!

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The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is home to some of the greatest art and architecture in the entire world. Florence’s rich art history can be found at every turn, from incredible piazze and palazzi to ancient sculptures and hidden frescoes. The city itself feels like a massive open-air museum. But don’t just see the city from outside – Florence houses more world-class museums than nearly any other Italian city. 

From art to sculpture to archeology and even fashion, there’s a museum for everyone in Florence. The entire city seems to have been designed and built by the leading painters, sculptors and architects of the time. Visitors can see priceless works by Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Caravaggio… the list goes on!

It’s impossible to see them all in one trip, but with a well-planned itinerary you can hit all your must-see sights. Learn the opening days and times, prices and the can’t-miss artworks of Florence’s top museums to best see the incredible art that Florence has to offer.

What to Know Before You Go

Double check closing days

When planning a trip to Italy it’s important to note that museums, restaurants and other sites have at least one closing day per week, and it might not be what you expect. Many museums in Florence, including the Accademia, the Uffizi and even Palazzo Pitti are closed on Mondays. 

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to keep track. Some museums do happen to be open on Mondays. For example the Duomo and Duomo Museum, Palazzo Vecchio and the Bargello, but only sometimes. It closes the first, third and fifth Mondays of the month. 

With that in mind, check ahead for each of the sites you plan on visiting to avoid wasting time or being disappointed on your trip.  

Book ahead 

Though reservations aren’t required, book ahead for Florence’s most popular museums, namely the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria Accademia, if you don’t want to waste an entire day in line – especially in the summer! April through October and nearly any weekend of the year sees long lines all day long, so your best bet is to make a reservation. 

Other Florence sights, like the Bargello and the Pitti Palace, offer reservations but they’re not as necessary as the Duomo, Accademia or Uffizi.

You can book online directly at each museum’s website, via phone (English options available) or check if your hotel can make reservations for you. 

Or if that all seems a bit too complicated, you could always visit Florence’s top museums with a private tour. 

Consider a private tour 

You can choose a tour that focuses on one museum, or a tour that hits the highlights of Florence, such as the impressive Palazzo Vecchio

There is a lot to see in Florence’s museums. So much so that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the art and history there to take in. The Uffizi is one of the largest museums in the entire world and that’s just one of many impressive museums.

Private tours, even if just for a day, allow you to see the sights with a knowledgeable and expert guide. Not only that, but they help you to skip the line and maximize time. Everything’s taken care of for you!  

Both our Uffizi Gallery Tour and our Florence Highlights Tour with David are led by experts in the subject and both grant skip-the-line access to the two most famous museums in Florence. After your visit to see the David statue, see the highlights of the city’s historical center, including the Duomo and Baptistery and then venture off-the-beaten-path to explore our favorite churches, piazzas, artisanal shops, coffee bars and markets throughout Florence. Ensuring that you have enough time to see it all on your trip to Florence!

A Closer Look at Florence’s Three Most Popular Museums:  

Uffizi Gallery 

The Uffizi Gallery holds the world’s most important collection of Renaissance art. The massive museum covers two floors and holds work by Raphael, Giotto, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Caravaggio, to name a few. One of the most famous art museums in the world, it’s also one of the oldest. It was designed by Giorgio Vasari, architect and author, and has housed masterpieces since its construction began in 1560.

What to See

You could easily spend an entire day in the Uffizi Gallery, but for those without that kind of stamina or time, there are museum maps with set itineraries passing the most famous works. It’s nearly impossible to list all of the museums incredible pieces, but some favorites include The Birth of Venus and La Primavera by Sandro Botticelli; the Laocoön and his Sons by Baccio Bandinelli; The Annunciation by Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci, one of his first works; The Medusa by Caravaggio; and Judith Beheading Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the Renaissance’s few known female artists. 

Hours and Prices

Open: Tuesday – Sunday, 8:15 – 6:50 pm (ticket office closes at 6:05 pm) 
Closed: Mondays, January 1, December 25 

Full price March 1 – October 31: €20 
Full price November 1 – February 28: €12 
Reservation cost: €4, online or by phone at +39 055 294883 

Free entry on the first Sunday of each month, no reservations permitted. 

Note: You can visit the National Archaeological Museum for free with the Uffizi ticket!

Galleria Dell’Accademia 

The David in the Galleria dell’Accademia is one of the most captivating statues in the world. Sculpted in white marble by Michelangelo in the 16th century, it’s considered a masterpiece in proportion, beauty and art. And though you can find a copy outside of the Palazzo Vecchio, the original location for the David statue, it’s absolutely worth seeing in a building constructed solely to house this special masterpiece. 

What to See

Beyond the David, the Accademia has other incredible works by Michelangelo, including the four Prisoners, four unfinished sculptures designed for the tomb of Pope Julius that today flank the hallway leading up to the magnificent statue of David. Visitors can also see paintings of Florentine artists from the 13th to 16th centuries, musical instruments from the private collections of the dukes and ruling families of Tuscany as well as sculptor Giambologna’s original full-size plaster model for the infamous Rape of the Sabine Women sculpture.

Hours and Prices

Open: Tuesday – Sunday, 8:15 – 6:50 pm (ticket office closes at 6:20) 
And, from June 4th – September 26th 2019, the Museum will stay open in the evening from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays
Closed: Mondays, January 1, December 25 

Full price: €8 (Ticket prices may change on occasion of temporary exhibitions.) 
Reservation cost: €4 

Note: The Accademia doesn’t have a coatroom so entrance isn’t allowed to visitors with large bags or backpacks and water bottles over 0.5 l are not allowed.  

Il Grande Museo del Duomo 

Today, most of the works of art that once were housed inside the Duomo are now on display in the Duomo Museum, where they were placed after the Florence Flood of 1966 that filled churches nearly 6 feet deep.  

Though most of the works of art were specifically designed to decorate the interior or exterior of the Duomo’s religious monuments, there are still enough to fill twenty-five rooms on three floors.  

Along with the museum, The Great Duomo Museum ticket includes the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo), Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistry of San Giovanni and the Crypt of Santa Reparata and is valid within 72 hours of the first visit.  

The museum visit itself ends on a panoramic terrace with an incredible view of Brunelleschi’s infamous dome.  

What to see 

The Gates of Paradise, Ghiberti’s bronze panels made for the baptistery door; Michelangelo’s unfinished Pietà; a striking wooden sculpture of Mary Magdalene by Donatello, titled the Penitent Magdalene; and the silver altar of the baptistery.

Hours and Prices

Open: every day of the week, 8:30 am – 7:00 pm 
Closed: first Tuesday of each month 

Full price: €18 
 
Note: Reservations are mandatory for the climb on the Dome. The service is free. 

Florence is filled with priceless art. Get more out of your visit with a passionate and knowledgeable guide. Learn about the Italian Renaissance and see the highlights on our Uffizi Gallery Tour or Florence Highlights Tour with David. Book your tour today!




 

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Italy is a country that has something for everyone. It has sea and mountains, countryside and city escapes. There’s art and food and architecture.

With hundreds of worthy towns and cities to explore, it can feel impossible to narrow down your options. How can you choose which destinations with so many jaw-dropping options? It’s enough to overwhelm a first-time visitor to the Bel Paese.

Our answer? Start with the absolute must-see cities. After all, the classics are classics for a reason! Deep dive into Italy’s history, architecture and art with a trip to Italy’s cultural capitals: Rome, Florence and Venice.

Between the three you’ll find the vast majority of Italy’s world famous sites. Here you can visit the country’s top museums and cathedrals and experience the best of Italian food and wine.

Most first-time visitors to Italy try to see too much in too little time but if you have at least a week, you’ve got to dedicate it to Italy’s holy trinity: Rome, Florence and Venice. An itinerary of the three gives a perfect overview of Italy’s prominent regions and historically significant sights.

Rome

The Eternal City, Caput Mundi, the City of Seven Hills – Rome is the stuff of dreams and a worthy start to any Italy trip. 

There’s the Colosseum, Appia Antica, Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. There’s the Vatican City with its incredible Vatican Museums as well as St. Peter’s Basilica. There are parks and villas, museums and churches galore. There’s 2,000 years of history to see here, but you can see the headline acts with three days to explore if you plan it well.

Our Italy for First Timers itinerary offers a half-day tour with a private local guide. You can choose from a selection of half-day touring options such as Ancient Rome, Vatican City, or a culinary walking tour.

In your free time, take a walk in the city center’s nucleus to see Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps, each within easy walking distance from the other. Or stroll through the old Jewish Ghetto then sip cocktails in the hip Trastevere neighborhood. The political and cultural capital of Italy, you can’t visit Italy without seeing Rome!

What to know:

Book tickets in advance to get into the Colosseum or St. Peter’s Basilica to avoid the lines and allocate at least half a day to view the museums well.

Despite the importance of the tourism industry in Rome, not everyone speaks English. That said, everyone is quite used to dealing with people who speak different languages and almost anything can be understood with a bit of patience and miming. Also keep in mind that even more than in Florence or Venice, most shops in Rome close for lunch – usually between 12:30 or 1 until 3 or 3:30 – so be sure to do your shopping in the morning or late afternoon.

Florence

 

Here you can choose the incomparable art in the Uffizi Gallery, the majesty of the David at the Accademia or a half-day spent exploring the massive complex of the Florence Cathedral – including a trip to the top of the dome! Whichever you choose, be sure to book your tickets ahead – tickets to the Uffizi sell out before midday and the lines seem to last for hours. You can book tickets ahead of time online for individual museums and other sites that you plan on visiting at Uffizi.org.

If you have the time and energy, consider a hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo for gorgeous views over Florence and a bonus visit to the suggestive San Miniato Church.

Florence is filled to the brim with important and impressive churches to choose from: Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella, Santo Spirito and more but if you’re strapped for time, we’d dedicate it to the Duomo for your first trip to the city. Then of course, it’s time to consider the food! Though you could spend days in each of these cities, now is your chance to jaunt out into the Tuscan countryside to enjoy the wine and culinary secrets of Tuscany’s most beautiful hilltop towns. Take a day or a half day to visit a winery or beautiful Tuscan towns like Siena or Chianti.

This itinerary  offers multiple walking tours of the city, as well as a half-day private guided walking tour to see Renaissance treasures such as David. On day 6 of your journey you’ll have the choice of either exploring hilltop towns and family-run wineries with a knowledgeable local driver, or learning the secrets of Tuscan cooking with a private chef in her 17th-century Chianti estate.

What to know:

Expect to walk everywhere in Florence. The entire city center is a pedestrian zone and even taxis are limited to where they can take you so wear comfortable shoes and be ready to hit the pavement.

One of the most popular cities in Italy, but also quite small, the crowds can dampen any trip, but there are a few things you can do to ease the discomfort of the crowds like coming in the off-season, booking your museums ahead of time or finding some open space in the beautiful Boboli Gardens. 

Most museums are closed on Mondays in Florence. The Accademia, the Uffizi, even Palazzo Pitti are all closed on Mondays but you can still see the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio as well as most of the city’s churches. 

Florence and Tuscany in general is renowned for their fine leatherwork. Now’s the time to splurge on that handmade leather jacket, purse, belt or shoes! For a real glimpse into the craft, head to the Oltrarno (the neighborhood beyond the Arno River) to peek into the studios and see the artisans at work.

Venice

Many travelers visit Venice in a short day trip, but they miss out on the water city’s evocative evening atmosphere. Allow at least one overnight to really discover the city. Only in the early morning when the cruise ships haven’t arrived yet or in the evening when the tourists have drained out of the city will you be able to enjoy Venice at its most serene.

A tangle of alleyways and bridges, here you want to explore each unique neighborhood, the San Marco Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale. Cross the Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs or go for something unique at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.

After touring the main sites, take a water bus or water taxi to neighboring Murano to see its famed blown glass craftwork and to Burano to admire the brightly colored houses. And when it’s time to eat, seek out a café or bar for Venice’s traditional cicchetti appetizers. Great for a light lunch or a pre-dinner aperitivo, cicchetti are small plates of food served with a glass of wine. You can choose from a variety of small bruschettas topped with a different patès, meats, seafood or cheeses. Less expensive and more authentic than most restaurants in Venice, cicchetti are a great way to dive into the local culture. 

Our knowledgeable local guides will lead you through the major sites such as San Marco, artisanal shops and neighborhoods, followed by a one-hour private water taxi ride through Venice’s famed canals on our Italy for First Timers trip.

What to know:

Though summer is hit by throngs of tourists, visitors during the autumn and winter months risk being there during the aqua alta, when the seawater floods the city and pedestrians can only get around on raised planks throughout the city. 

Check ahead for festivals and holidays in Venice. Beyond the world-famous carnival season, every other year there is the Biennale d’Arte event, as well as an architecture one in the off years and the Venice Film Festival as well. Though the Biennale event is up all year, the Giardini della Biennale has 30 permanent Biennale pavilions and is one of the largest garden spaces on the island. 

What to Know Before You Go

You’ve chosen your destinations and booked your flight but before you leave, there’s a few things you’ll need to prepare to help you have the best trip possible. Read our post on what to do before your trip to Italy.

The best way to get the most out of your time on a first trip is to have a rough itinerary for each day. You could spend weeks exploring Rome, so decide ahead of time what you absolutely have to see, then fill in any free time beyond that with secondary desires.

If your list is particularly long and you’re not already on our Italy for First Timers tour, consider booking a day tour or two to travel efficiently. A tour led by a local expert means that you don’t have to worry about navigating your way around a new place and that you actually get some background on what it is your seeing!

We have a whole article on how to pack for your Italian vacation, but one piece of advice is worth repeating: remember to bring clothes that cover shoulders and thighs to visit religious sites. Scarves work in a clinch for one of the two exposed areas. Also be sure to bring walking shoes. In Rome, Florence or Venice you’ll want comfortable sneakers for the cobbled streets. Plus you’ll be in good company; Italians tend to wear flats or tennis shoes year round, keeping the sandals for the beach.

Italy in summer is hot. Don’t be beat down by the sun – bring a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen to ensure you’re able to take advantage of all the time you have.

On your first trip to Italy you have to start somewhere so why not start with Italy’s three biggest destinations? After all, there’s a reason they’re on everyone’s list! There’s no better introduction to Italy than Rome, Florence and Venice, Italy’s “Holy Trinity” of cultural cities. Don’t worry about the destinations you didn’t get to – you’ll be back.

Want to experience the best of Italian food and wine, art and antiquities without the stress of planning? Let Ciao Andiamo help! Ask us about our Italy for First Timers Private Trip.

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Shaped like a long, willowy “Y” in the north of Lombardy, Lake Como is ringed by colorful fishing towns and magnificent villas.

Surrounded by the foothills of the Alps, the lake has been a playground for the wealthy since the time of dukes and kings and it’s easy to see why. The lake has all the beauty and benefits of the outdoors with all the comforts of high-class Italy. There’s no lack of cafés, bars and fancy restaurants to frequent along the lake not to mention sublime views and plenty of shopping!

Even today the area is still ritzy enough to sparkle like the lake’s water, only now it’s open to all.


Spring is by far the best time to visit the lake. The area begins to awaken from its slow-season hibernation just as the flowers start to bloom. In fact, those flowers are a huge part of Lake Como’s beauty!

The lake’s unique microclimate helps to grow magnificent gardens and the aristocrats and celebrities who live there help cultivate them. That combined with its charming villages and unique geography making it one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.

Of course Lake Como is known for its namesake town, but there’s so much more to explore beyond Como. Though many visitors take a quick day trip from Milan up to the lake, we suggest giving yourself at least a night or two to drink, shop, eat, and explore all the lake has to offer!

Where to Go

Here it’s all about enjoying beauty for beauty’s sake. Whether you’re strolling the promenade, eyeing the expansive mountains from the water or surrounded by the lush gardens of the elegant villas, beauty is the theme. These are some of our favorite beautiful towns along the lake and the most beautiful gardens, villas and sights to see in each one.

Bellagio

Known as the pearl of Lake Como, Bellagio sits like a tiny pearl on the tip of a peninsula separating the two branches of the lakes. A resort town since the ancient Romans, Bellagio is still one of the most popular towns on the lake today and can easily be packed during summertime. Come around 5 pm when visitors are starting to trickle away. Walk the steep stony streets and narrow alleyways and browse the artisan shops and jewelers. After, choose the best table you can find along the water and get a spritz for a nice lakefront aperitivo or drink with snacks. You’re on vacation so allow yourself to lounge like the ancient Romans once did!

Como

A close-up of intricate silk scarves from Lake Como
Photo by Iain Cameron

The lake’s namesake town, Como is one of the few towns with something to see beyond a villa or beautiful view (though it has those also). The ritzy town lends itself to fine dining and fancy boat rides, but stroll the streets to get to know it a bit. Como was the birthplace of ancient Roman poets Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger as well as Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the battery, who has a museum dedicated to him there. Make a visit to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta with its magnificent Gothic façade and even if you don’t have the time to visit the silk museum you might just find the time to shop for a silk scarf or tie! All the area is famous for its silk weaving industries.

After, you can take the funicular from the center of Como to Brunate, a small village on the mountain above Como, for spectacular views.

Lenno

Just north of Como, Lenno is a sleepy town filled with beauty. Though it’s a perfect escape from the crowds, it’s also home to the sumptuous Villa del Balbianello, a yellow villa on the south of town that juts out into Como’s waters. The Villa is famous (as always) for its gardens but especially for being the setting of the Star War’s Episode II Attack of the Clones. Beyond that, Lenno also has a charming town square and one of our favorite lakefront promenades, tucked in a tiny inlet on the lake.

Menaggio

A veritable resort town, Menaggio is a popular base on the western side of the lake for international and Italian tourists. Just 8 miles from Lugano, Switzerland – a favorite for its shopping – it’s also well connected to the rest of the lake. Menaggio offers more in amenities and entertainment than other Lake Como towns including restaurants, hotels, a youth hostel, live entertainment and even a mini-golf course.

Tremezzo

a fountain in Villa Carlotta encircled by decorative hedges overlooking Lake Como
Photo by David Spender

Visit Tremezzo to see Villa Carlotta, a 17th-century mansion-turned-museum, and its impressive Italian garden. It’s one of the most beautiful gardens in all of Italy! The garden covers nearly 20 acres of land in color with azaleas, camellias, hydrangeas, ferns and citrus trees. Different paths lead you to different parts of the garden depending on how much time you have. The town itself is essentially squashed against the lake in a long line of houses, but there is an area off a public park with steps into the water where you can swim. There it is clean but quite deep. Children will want to access the water near the shallow pebble beach nearby.

Lecco

On the eastern side of the lake’s two branches (or legs, as some see it) sits Lecco. Famous as the setting of The Betrothed, a historical Italian novel by Italy’s esteemed author Alessandro Manzoni, today it’s an industrial town and one of the biggest on this side of the lake. Its city center is nevertheless clean, well-organized and filled with life. It’s a perfect place to stretch your legs, get a focaccia or ice cream then grab a seat along the lake and enjoy the via vai of people and boats and swans that pass the harbor.

Varenna

Founded in 769 by fishermen, today Varenna is a vibrant town popular for its pathway lungolago.

The waterfront path is as long as the entire village and makes for a lovely stroll day or night. Restaurants, artisan shops and ice cream shops dot the pathway. Continue your stroll through the town and on to the Villa Monastero, most impressive for its gardens stretching out along two kilometers of prime lakefront real estate. The garden is decorated with sculptures, reliefs, fountains and a small Doric temple but all pale in comparison to the palm trees, agave plants, cacti and succulents and entire walls of roses that fill the historical garden.

Bellano 

Far less visited than Varenna, Bellano is just as charming and likely to be more budget friendly. Here you could actually imagine getting a room with a lakefront view. A quiet escape, there’s also a natural, plunging ravine called Orrido di Torrente Pioverna. Roughly 15-million years old, it’s well worth a walk along its steel pathways.

How to get there

Como is easy to get to from Bergamo or Milan airports. The Lake is large, so driving times will vary by town, but Milan to Como by car takes roughly an hour as does Milan to Lecco. If you are self-driving, you’ll exit the highway and follow the Strada Statale 340 for the western shore or the SS 36 for the eastern shore, but your best bet is to get a car with a navigator.

Trains go from Milan to Como on the western shore and Lecco, Abbadia Lariana, Varenna, Colico and a few others on the eastern shore. Check the TrenItalia website for timetables, prices and destinations available.


How to get around

You can see Lake Como by car, boat or public ferry.

If you take private car service or rent a car to explore the area, you’ll join a long parade of Ferrari’s, Lambourghini’s and Porche’s zipping around the winding lake roads. You can stop wherever you want and have no time restrictions, but parking can be problematic and most towns are pedestrian-only zones.

If you’d like to stick to public transportation you can catch a bus to most towns along the lake.

Otherwise, you can tour around by water.

A passenger ferry crossing lake como
Passenger ferries are a popular way to get around the lake. Inexpensive, fast and easy to use, it’s by far the most scenic transportation as well! Photo by Jaan Toots

The public ferries are run by Navigazione Lago di Como. The ferry and car service only runs between the most popular of Lake Como’s towns: Menaggio, Bellagio, Varenna and Cadenabbia (Tremezzo) but you can take private boat service to nearly all of the towns along the lake.

The only option if you want to crisscross the lake, it’s also by far the most scenic way to travel Lake Como. All those fancy villas? They were built to be seen from the water!

Ready to visit Lake Como? Indulge yourself with a private boat tour exploring some of our favorite Lake Como sights. After the luxury of Lake Como you’ll enjoy the lush countryside among Piedmont’s vineyards and relax in the idyllic Italian Riviera on our Northern Italy Indulgence trip!

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What better way to ride the thrill of your wedding than by strolling through the streets of Italy lost in love? Newlyweds want to celebrate the start of their new life together with a trip to remember, and the jaw-dropping scenery, incredible food and innate passion in Italy aren’t easy to forget! Italy is the perfect honeymoon destination. Here’s why:

1. There’s something for everyone


Whether you’re searching for a dreamy coastal vacation, a relaxing countryside escape or a classic city-break, Italy has it. Between ancient cities, rolling green hills and gorgeous coastlines, the biggest problem is narrowing down your options! Couples with different ideas of vacation can find it all in Italy.

In our full-service City, Sea and Countryside itinerary you can relax on the Amalfi Coast, indulge in amazing food and wine in Tuscany, and get your history fix in Rome, all while experiencing the best of Italy’s landscapes.

Of course museums, art and architecture abound, but those hoping to get outdoors won’t be disappointed. Adventure-seekers can hike the imposing Dolomites up north or head off-coast for snorkeling or sailing. Or, couples can take it slower with a bike tour and wine tasting in Tuscany. Culture lovers, foodies and adventure seekers can all find something to love on the peninsula. Whatever you’re looking for, there’s a landscape and activity for everyone in Italy!

2. There’s no place more romantic


No place does romance like Italy. The country practically breathes amore. Home of Romeo and Juliet, of poets like Virgil, artists, writers, and lovers from time immemorial, the Bel Paese is perhaps most romantic for its sheer beauty. When you’re in front of such magnificence, it’s only natural to want to share it with someone you love.

From coast to countryside, you’ll find romance in the beautiful details of a private balcony, the secret glimpses into Italian gardens and atmospheres that feel like a film set; in the constant displays of love, the romantic two-person tabletops, long conversations and world-class landscapes. Tap into the passion of the Italians on your honeymoon: into their seductive language, mouth-watering food and sun-kissed cities.


3. The islands are as gorgeous as the mainland


Just because you’re coming to Italy doesn’t mean you have to eschew the beach honeymoon entirely. The Italian coast is dotted with hundreds of gorgeous islands, and though they’re not tropical, Italy has beaches that rival the white sands of the Caribbean. Enjoy the crystal-clear waters along the Emerald Coast in Sardinia or mix culture and beach life with a tour around the coastline of Sicily. Smaller island options include Ponza, Ischia or Elba. You can even split your honeymoon between cultural sightseeing and living the high life on the Mediterranean Sea.

Want to see the coast and the islands? Try an Amalfi Coast escape, with luxurious days on the breathtaking coast to private boat tours of nearby Capri and Ischia. 


4. It’s a great destination year-round


No matter when your honeymoon falls, Italy is worth visiting. The summer runs hot, perfect for those looking to visit the seaside or mountains, but is also the height of crowds and prices. For that reason the shoulder seasons, spring and autumn are great alternatives to those looking for more moderate prices and moderate temperatures. Keep in mind that Italy often stays warmer for much longer than other temperate climates, especially if you’re in the south. And spring is a lovely time to visit, when the entire country is warming up and in full bloom. Wintertime can be equally romantic, with cozy meals, warm ski lodges and the city dressed in lights during Christmastime. You don’t have to time your trip with hurricane season or the strength of the sun: every season is worth experiencing in Italy.

5. It’s home to the dolce vita



Everyone could use a vacation after the stress of wedding planning, and there’s no better place than the home of la dolce vita. Meaning the “sweet life” in Italian, it’s about indulgence and pleasure – just what you need on a vacation! The dolce vita comes from a life spent seeing beautiful things, talking with beautiful people and eating beautiful food. Tap in to that mentality on your Italian honeymoon to relax and unwind and enjoy the beauty life has to offer.

Those looking for total relaxation can try a smaller, less frequented location for a slower pace of life. But you can unwind anywhere in Italy. Imagine full days on the beach interrupted only by long lunches or soaking in one of the many thermal baths found in spas throughout the country. Take part in the leisurely pre-dinner passeggiata, when the entire town comes out to walk through the center and enjoy the evening air. 

It’s time to indulge, relax and enjoy the romance of Il Bel Paese!

 

Planning a wedding can sometimes feel like work, but planning a honeymoon never should. Ciao Andiamo’s carefully curated, ready-to-book itineraries put all the romance of Italy right at your fingertips. Contact us today to plan your perfect Italian honeymoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What if you could explore Italy without the stress of reservations, tickets or travel planning? What if you had an automatic “in” to the culture, people and language?

A small group tour is one of the best ways to really get to know Italy.

small group tour

On our small group tours you explore Italy with a local Italian guide and a group of eight people or fewer, visiting the kitchens, homes and family businesses of real Italians. Each experience is authentic, off-the-beaten-path and carefully curated by a dedicated tour leader. We like to say our small group tours give travelers the greatest insider access at the greatest value.

But it’s not just us who think so – we asked our clients to share what they loved about their small group tour experience. Each traveler’s story was different, but the same five themes kept coming up again and again.

Here’s why you should choose a small group tour:

1. Small Groups are Fun and Friendly

Our small group tours are capped at eight travelers total. “When they say ‘small group,’ they mean small,” said fellow traveler Sarah. And there’s nothing like traveling together to spark friendship. Linda said her group touring the Amalfi Coast and Puglia was “the envy of other travelers, even Italians! We bonded with our fellow travelers immediately and laughed almost all the time that we weren’t eating.” Other travelers, including Svetlana, ended up liking their group so much, they traveled together again the following year!

2. Travel Like a Local, With a Local

Traveler Lindsay put it perfectly when she said Ciao Andiamo co-owner Max Brunelli “knows everyone in Italy.” As the leader for many of our small group tours, Max builds lasting relationships not only with the travelers, but with the local olive oil producers, cheese makers and guides. Sarah said the welcome her group received at each of their tour stops was “indescribable,” and the whole group was “made to feel like old friends” by the winery owners and chefs they visited on her tour of Umbria and Tuscany. Your tour leader isn’t just showing you Italy, they’re welcoming you into their way of life and giving you an inside-look into the lives of fellow Italians.

3. Deep Dive into the Culture

enjoying a cooking class on a small group tour

If you’re looking for an authentic, one-of-a-kind experience in Italy, small group tours are a great way to go. Your tour leader will take you off the beaten path to destinations you wouldn’t find on your own. “We felt like we were living like true Italians,” Meghan said, and Sarah enjoyed that there were few tourists or buses at their tour stops.

Some of our travelers favorite experiences include hands-on cooking classes led by local Italian chefs. In the town of Alberobello in Puglia, an Italian nonna will teach you to recreate recipes passed down by her family for generations inside a historic trullo home.

A cooking class in Umbria takes you inside one of the region’s first agriturismi (farmhouse restaurants), tucked in the hills between Spello and Assisi, where you’ll join the owner in preparing regional delicacies. In each room of the agriturismo, you’ll learn to make a different course, with the help of friendly chefs and local wine. Make pasta by hand, bake bread in a wood-burning stone oven and use fresh produce from the farm to complement your courses. You’ll experience the romance of country life as you feast on your artisanal creations in a rustic dining room with your newly-formed friends. 

4. Stress-Free Travel

All Ciao Andiamo trips are designed to give you a seamless experience, but small group tours take it a step further with a dedicated tour leader who is on-hand from the moment your tour begins. Your tour leader is there to take care of every detail – transportation, hotels, food and experiences – and give the group flexibility to enjoy each day to the fullest. Beyond being flexible, your tour leader will also spend time getting to know the group and can adjust the day’s activities based on your interests and preferred level of activity. Their goal is to give you the best day possible, every day of your trip.

As Svetlana says, “all we had to do is show up. From the time we  arrived, each day was seamlessly organized, full of surprises, incredible journeys, AMAZING FOOD!, well orchestrated schedules, and provided good balance of personal time and guided excursions through the unique hidden treasures of Italy.”

Our small group tours include accommodations, ground transportation throughout, daily culinary and/or cultural excursions, two meals per day (breakfast plus lunch or dinner) and pick-up/drop-off in a major city.

5. Travel Without Sacrificing Free Time

In addition to daily excursions, your group will have plenty of down time to relax or explore on your own – it’s your vacation! Elaine fondly remembers how Max “arranged free time for us to wander in quaint seaside towns” on her tour of the Amalfi Coast and Puglia, and gave the group “plenty of time to enjoy feasts overlooking breath-taking scenery with the backdrop of a beautiful sunset.”

small group tours

Ciao Andiamo’s Small Group Tours:

Now that you’re in love with the idea of a small group tour, check out the incredible experiences we have to offer!

Explore the beautiful regions of Tuscany and Umbria on a tour of Food, Wine & the Rolling Hills. You’ll taste wine in Montefalco and Montalcino, learn to cook with a hands-on class and tour charming hilltop towns, including Cortona (of “Under the Tuscan Sun” fame) and the medieval settings of Pienza and Spoleto.

For a visit to the Amalfi Coast and Puglia, join our tour of Southern Italy: Coast to Coast, where you’ll visit the unique city of Matera (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), take a cooking class inside a trullo home, visit the island of Capri, tour the ruins of Pompeii and more.

On our tour of Essential Tuscany, you’ll stay in the iconic Tuscan cities of Florence, Siena and Lucca, visit the marble quarries of Carrara, view the leaning tower of Pisa and explore the walled city of San Gimignano. Learn to cook in a winery in the Tuscan countryside, enjoy a cheese-making demonstration in Pienza and, of course, taste wine along the way. Winter travelers can also enjoy the region’s festive atmosphere on a special Tuscany for the Holidays tour.

Foodies will love Cooking in Italy’s Green Heart, with daily hands-on culinary experiences in the lush Umbrian countryside. Make pizza in a medieval village, craft pasta and gnocchi by hand, tour a cheese farm and create your own delicious gelato.  – all paired with delicious local wines.

Taste your way through Emilia-Romagna and relax on the Italian Riviera on a tour of Italy’s Finest: Cuisine to Coast. Balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano Reggiano and prosciutto di Parma are all on the menu, and you’ll visit the iconic coastal villages of the Cinque Terre.

And, since your tour will start and end in a major city, it’s easy to add more traveling on your own before or after your tour. Some travelers, like Sarah, include a small group tour as just one leg of a longer trip. Ask the Ciao team for a recommendation for making the most of your time in Italy, we’re happy to help!

Don’t see a date that matches your vacation schedule? It never hurts to ask! New dates may open up, or we can recommend another trip based on your interests. If you already have a group of travelers, you can also ask us how to the trip private.

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You’ve booked your flight, your itinerary is set, and you’re ready to savor each and every day of beautiful Italia. But before you leave, there’s a few things you’ll need to prepare to help you have the best trip possible. From the language to your cell phone to power outlets, here’s what to do before you go to Italy:

Learn Some Language Basics

If you want to communicate directly with the locals, don’t worry – you might be surprised how many people will know English as you travel through Italy. But don’t let this stop you from learning a bit of the beautiful Italian language, as it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture, even with some common greetings and basic phrases. Everyone knows Ciao and Grazie, so why not use them? Or, go a step further and add the more formal buongiorno and buonasera to your repertoire for morning and evening salutes. Scusi goes a long way when asking permission, trying to get attention or simply apologizing and of course, cono or coppa is a must-half for your daily gelato-run!

Before your trip, sign up for a free language-learning service to practice some of the key Italian phrases – Duolingo is one popular option. For a deeper dive into the language, the Ciao team loves the Pimsleur method. If you’re not fluent by the time you arrive in Italia, don’t despair! There are translation apps that you can use on-the-go to look up an unfamiliar word on the restaurant menu or respond to a friendly shopkeeper. These range from basic English-Italian dictionaries to apps with audio translations.  Check out iTranslate for Apple products or Italian Translator on the Google Play Store.

Prep Your Wallet and Carry Cash

The best way to pay for un cappuccino at the local bar is with a handful of euro, the currency used in Italy. Carry cash to use for souvenir shopping and other small payments such as the daily city tax charged by most hotels. You can use the ATMs in Italy to get cash, as they typically have a good conversion rate. Check with your bank first about flat fees versus percentage-based fees on international ATMs.

If you prefer to arrive in Italy with a full wallet, you can also get euro from your bank or another financial institution in the U.S., Canada or U.K. However, you’ll typically experience a higher exchange rate than you’ll find in Italy, so we recommend only withdrawing a few hundred euro, maximum.

Most restaurants, stores, and establishments in Italy will take credit cards, especially those with a chip. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted cards; American Express can be used at some locations, but not all. Before you leave, tell your credit card company that you’re traveling to Italy so you won’t be surprised with a denied card; if the credit card company thinks your card has been stolen, they’ll freeze it.

Make Sure Your Passport is Valid

One lesser-known tip travelers to Italy should keep in mind involves your passport. Italy requires that a passport must be valid for 6 months after the end of the trip, so it can’t expire five weeks after your adventure ends. Make sure to double check the date before your departure!

Prep Your Phone for International Travel

Bringing your cell phone abroad doesn’t just mean remembering to take it with you! Before you leave for Italy, call your current phone carrier and let them know that you’ll be travelling internationally. Most carriers can easily switch your plan to include an international data plan, and potentially a calling or texting plan, for the duration of your trip.

Even with an international plan, using cellular data can get expensive quickly. Be on the lookout for WiFi if you need to use your phone while in Italy, and turn data roaming off when you aren’t using it. If you’re not sure how much data you’ll be using when abroad, don’t worry; you can easily monitor it during your trip and upgrade if necessary.

Get an Adapter

While vacationing in Italy is the perfect chance to ignore your inbox, you’ll want to keep your phone fully charged for taking photos and looking up the Italian words for “more gelato please.” Power outlets in Italy are circular, with two or three cylindrical prongs in a row. An electronic adaptor will allow you to plug in your devices anywhere in Italy.

Some appliances that deal with motion or temperature, like a hair dryer or electric razor, will also need a voltage converter. Check the label or check online to be sure if your appliance is compatible with wall outlets in Italy. You can buy the correct adaptors and converters online or in stores such as Best Buy, Target, and B&H.

Pack Smart

When deciding what to pack for your Italian adventure, consider the time of year you’ll be travelling. To really go in-depth, check out the best tips for what clothing to pack for your Italian vacation compiled by Cristiana, our very own Italy expert.

In general, pack light, neutral colors that you can layer and comfortable shoes, but also keep in mind if you’re planning activities that require more elegant attire. If you’re planning any nice dinners, be sure to pack long pants or a dress in addition to your shorts. Some fine dining establishments may require jackets for men – if you’re unsure, it never hurts to ask! You’ll also need outfits that cover your shoulders and your legs down to your knees in order to enter into Italy’s beautiful churches and basilicas.

Finally, make sure to pack comfortable shoes, but to best blend in with the locals stick with your favorite pair of flats, boots or walking shoes. In most cities, you’ll find people selling umbrellas on every corner – especially when it rains – so feel free to leave yours at home and get a small one only if needed. Instead, bring sunglasses in the hopes that you will be wearing them every day with beautiful sunny weather!

Read, Watch and Get Inspired

In the months counting down to your Italian adventure, consider reading books, watching movies or binging shows that will best prepare you for your trip – be it the delicious food, beautiful sights, rich culture or friendly locals.

For a romantic and hilarious trip to the Italian coast, dive into the book Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, about an almost-love affair between an Italian innkeeper and a Hollywood actress. Elizabeth von Arnim wrote her novel The Enchanted April in Portofino, following four English women – all strangers – on their tumultuous vacation in Portofino’s Castello Brown and their journey to find beauty and tranquility together on the coast.

Pop some popcorn for the classic film Roman Holiday (1953), featuring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck as the unlikely lovers in the midst of Rome. The Trip to Italy (2014) follows two friends on their hilarious culinary road trip from Piedmont to Capri. For a shorter adventure into the cuisine of Italy, watch the first episode of Netflix’s Chef’s Tablefeaturing Massimo Bottura and his innovative food, which he serves at Osteria Francescana in Modena. Aziz Ansari also dines here during season 2 of Netflix’s Master of None, which features Dev’s trip through Modena to learn how to make pasta.

Now that you’re ready to go, you can count down the days until your adventure in Italy. Buon viaggio!

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As a Ligurian native, I’ve seen the Cinque Terre evolve over the years into the well-known Italian jewel it is today. Cinque Terre translates to English as “the Five Lands,” and during my childhood, I knew them as the remote fishermen villages, with friendly locals bouncing around small shops, booths of fresh vegetables, and the church, which was always open, all overlooking the breathtaking Ligurian Sea. The Cinque Terre are idyllic Italian coastal villages, and as a teenager, my friends and I would take Sunday trips down to the small towns on the Ligurian coast. We would ride our moto over 50 miles down the Via Aurelia – a coastal road built by the Romans in 241 BC – past dozens of little villages, on an epic journey to Monterosso and Vernazza, the most lively towns of the five. We would hike the paths between the villages and the vineyards, sometimes passing the local farmers coming to and from their fields, and hunt around the villages for a good lunch.

 

In the past two decades, the Cinque Terre have evolved from the quiet, remote fishermen villages to bustling, lively travel destinations, filled to the brim with boutiques, hotels, and tourists. Seeing these small towns explode with international popularity has been bittersweet; while it is fantastic to see so many travelers come to enjoy the Cinque Terre, the villages are packed with tour groups, bustling through the hotels and tourist shops. Yet the authentic Ligurian coastal towns are not all lost, and I take great pleasure in bringing my guests to the hidden corners of Cinque Terre, climbing through the right streets to re-live the coastal charm and quaint atmosphere from my youth.

The “Five Lands”

The Cinque Terre consists of five towns, once small fishermen villages, that span the coast of the Ligurian Sea. From east to west, the towns are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare.

Riomaggiore and Manarola

As the smallest of the towns, Riomaggiore and Manarola resemble the old fishermen villages the most, with only one narrow main street and many small paths that climb up the mountains to reach the buildings above. The views are idyllic; I love to visit Manarola to enjoy the regional troffie al pesto* in my friend Cesare’s little restaurant, overlooking the majestic cliffs and blue Mediterranean Sea.

The path between the top of the two towns to the bottom of the coast and bay is both lengthy and downhill, taking 10 to 15 minutes on a typical day, and is perfect for the adventurous traveler. The bay hosts fishermen boats that rest in small platforms next to the water for safety, and in Manarola, you might even catch sight of the cranes lifting the boats to and from the water.

There are no beaches, so one should not expect to be relaxing by the waves in these quaint towns; the coastline consists of ragged rock, best experienced with sneakers instead of flip-flops. In the summer, the coastal rocks are extremely hot, so travelers must consider the heat if they plan on taking the trek downhill, making sure to pack water accordingly.

Corniglia

The least crowded of the towns and yet still picturesque, Corniglia sits at the top of a hill, far above the water. The scenic cliff is 100 meters above sea level at its peak, and the top of the village provides a spectacular view, full of colors especially towards sunset.

Corniglia is the most difficult of the towns to reach, as the train station is closer to the water with a 30 minute walk to the village. Luckily, the town is also typically the least crowded, so the trip is well worth the walk.

Vernazza

My personal favorite of the Cinque Terre, Vernazza boasts the traditional charm of the Ligurian fishermen villages coupled with modern features for the 21st century traveler. The town hosts a small beach, many little shops, lots of trattorias, and delectable bakeries, where you can find the local specialties such as the focaccia alla genovese o al formaggio* and the best spaghetti con vongole or pansoti con salsa di noci*. The main street is lively and often bustling, and the square at the end of the street has the perfect balcony to relax with a glass of wine before dinner.



Monterosso al Mare

The western-most village is also the most visited; Monterosso al Mare has the most conveniently-located train station, and it also boasts the best parking of the Cinque Terre. The town has a wide, relaxing beach, set just below the colorful town. The area is renowned for both its lemon trees and its white wines, so make sure to try a glass of vino bianco at lunch or dinner.

Monterosso hosts many historical sites, including a castle, convent, churches, and the Monterosso Giant, Il Gigante, a massive sculpture of Neptune bearing a villa terrace on his shoulders. The town is a perfect match for travelers who wish to explore the wonders of historical Italy and relish in the natural beauty of the coast.

The Paths of the Cinque Terre

The five villages of the Cinque Terre are interconnected through a web of both roads and trails. The walking paths throughout the Cinque Terre have been used for centuries, and today, they are well-known and well-maintained, often featuring breathtaking views. My favorite path, 2D from Vernazza to Monterosso is unbeatable, with the view of both the villages and the sea, best experienced close to sunset. Many paths also have impressive terraces where the locals still cultivate gardens, full of grapes or veggies. In my childhood, we used to pass farmers on these routes, on their way from producing the local wines, il Pigato* or the precious sciacchetra*.

The most famous of the paths, the Via Dell’Amore or Love Path from Riomaggiore to Manarola, is partially closed due to a mudslide that destroyed parts of the pavement. It is set to be reopened in late spring 2019.

The walking paths are not the easiest of treks, as they are no walk in the park. The Ligurian coast is entirely mountainous, so all of the paths are steep and narrow. While they are not dangerous, travelers best be prepared for an adventure with sneakers, water, and even walking sticks to really enjoy the landscape.

Visiting the Cinque Terre

When to Go

The most important factor that a traveler should consider when seeking out Cinque Terre is timing. For three or four months out of the year, between June and September, it is nearly impossible to navigate the villages because of the seas of tourists bustling through the streets. During this time in the main areas within Cinque Terre, prices skyrocket compared to neighboring towns.

How to Get There

When traveling to the Cinque Terre, avoid trying to travel by car. Due to the small nature of the villages, parking lots are few and far between, and they are filled to the brim between April and October. The road connecting the Cinque Terre is extremely steep, narrow, curvy, and dangerous, and only the most experienced Italian drivers try to drive it. Instead, take the train from Milan (3 hours) or Rome (4.5 hours).

Taking the train between the villages will also save you time, money, and frustration. Travelers will often stay in or drive to nearby towns, such as the coastal Sestri Levante, to travel via rail to and from the Cinque Terre. Of the five towns, Monterosso has the largest capacity of parking spots, so many tourists park there to take the train to the other villages. The train ride between Monterosso and Riomaggiore, the outermost towns, is a mere 15 minutes. A special pass, the “Cinque Terre card,” allows travelers to use the regional train to and from the town with no limitations and free shuttles from the stations to the heart of the towns, as many of the train stations are located at a distance. The pass is little more than 10 Euro a day and allows natives and travelers alike to move between the Cinque Terre with ease.

Ready to explore the Cinque Terre? Visit like a local on our tour of Italy’s Finest: Cuisine to Coast.

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My husband and I play a game whenever we travel – “spot the Italian.” Even in the middle of a crowded airport, we can always recognize another Italian by their distinct style. Italians pride ourselves on being fashionable and on their own bella figura, or making a good impression so it’s no wonder that travelers often ask us what they should pack in order to “fit in.”

Beyond fashion, Italy is also a narrow peninsula with distinct weather patterns that will impact your wardrobe. With that in mind, here are a few packing tips to help you dress your best on your Italy vacation.

Stay Breezy in Summer

A close up of shoes, scarfs and a panama hat – all perfect to pack for your Italian vacation

Summer in the north of Italy is very hot and humid, and the south is warmer all year round. Bring lightweight clothes in cotton or natural fibers such a linen to feel fresh throughout the day. Men can wear shorts, but many Italians prefer lightweight trousers. Sundresses are a popular, and breezy, option for women. You won’t see many Italians past high school age in denim shorts and flip flops, and make sure to bring dressier options for dinner. Don’t forget a bikini, sunglasses and sunblock if you’re headed to the beach!

Layer Up for Spring & Autumn

An above shot of the essentials to pack for your Italian vacation: leather purse and belt, sturdy shoes, sunglass, watch and camera. Change purse, t-shirt and versatile scarf.

Travel in the shoulder season can be ideal, since prices are usually lower and popular destinations less crowded. The weather during these seasons can change day by day, so be sure to pack layers and versatile items. In spring, the temperature can range from the high 50s to low 80s depending on the city and time of day. Pants, a lightweight shirt and a jacket or sweater should carry you through the day. Rain showers are common in the early afternoon, so don’t forget to pack an umbrella.

Cover Up in Winter

A pile of thick knits, pack at least one on an Italian vacation

Though we might imagine this Mediterranean country as the home of eternal sunshine, the winter can be cold in Italy. Northern Italy is cold in winter and even the more mild south can still get quite chilly. The weather can be windy but snow is usually reserved for the mountains. If you want to dress like an Italian, tour around with a puffy jacket, scarf and boots, but even gloves and a hat. Italians don’t shy away from the outdoors in the winter, but they do tend to dress for the occasion. Winter travelers can expect some sunshine in the afternoons to warm up an Italian winter day. 

Accessorize Like an Italian

A close up of nice leather boots

Comfort is key when traveling, especially in major cities where you’ll do a lot of walking. In summer, canvas shoes or sandals will work best. Italians only wear flip flops on the beach or at the pool, so you may stand out by wearing them in a city. Some restaurants will not allow flip flops, so bring a change of shoes for dinner. Boots or canvas shoes are good options for fall, winter and spring, and make sure they’re waterproof. If you want to take a page out of an Italian’s stylebook, you can also buy leather shoes during your trip, especially if you’re visiting Florence.

Italians have a love affair with pashmina scarves. In the colder months we wear cashmere or wool scarves, but we even have silk and cotton options for summer! Pashminas make a great souvenir as well, so look for them in local shops and markets.

Pro Tip

Italian churches require visitors to cover their shoulders when entering. Avoid any entrance issues by carrying a scarf or sweater in your bag to cover up – even in summer – and be sure your hemline is low enough to be respectful.

Now that you know exactly how to dress on your vacanza italiana, travel in style on a VIP private day tour

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Reading a menu at an Italian coffee bar can feel like more than just a foreign language – it’s a glimpse into Italy’s culture and identity. Unlike American coffee, Caffè Italiano revolves solely around espresso and the different ways it can be served. Here’s an in-depth guide to your options for all things caffeinated. 

The Basics

Caffè: A simple espresso. Though caffè means “coffee” in Italian, it isn’t your standard American coffee. If you’re unfamiliar with espressos, you’ll be getting a small cup of strong coffee served on a saucer with a spoon.

Cappuccino: An espresso with steamed whole milk and foam, an Italian favorite typically served in a slightly larger cup than the espresso.

Caffè Latte: An espresso with hot milk, served in a glass. Make sure to order caffè latte and not just latte, as you’d be getting a glass of milk from the barista instead!

Caffè Macchiato: An espresso with a bit of foamed milk on top. Macchiato means “marked” or “stained,” so it is an espresso “marked” with a little foamed milk.

Latte Macchiato: A glass of steamed milk with a bit of espresso, or “marked” with a small amount of espresso. If you want a bit more espresso, like a double latte, order a dark version, or latte macchiato scuro.

More Than Milk

Caffè con Panna: An espresso topped with sweet, often fresh, whipped cream. This drink is especially for those who want a sweeter version of the caffè macchiato.

Caffè Corretto: An espresso with a drop of liquor. Popular choices are grappa, Sambuca, or cognac.

Caffè con Zucchero: An espresso with sugar added for you. Most bars have patrons add their own sugar from a packet or container at the bar.

Less Caffeinated 

Decaffeinato or Caffè Hag: A decaffeinated espresso. Hag is the largest producer of decaf coffee in Italy, so some bars will write their name on the menu instead of decaffeinato.

Caffè Lungo: A “long” espresso, when the barista allows the machine to run longer, adding water and making the coffee a bit weaker.

Caffè Americano: An espresso diluted with hot water, the closest drink to American filtered coffee you’ll find in an Italian bar.

Caffè Americano Decaffeinato: A decaf espresso diluted with hot water, the closest drink to American filtered decaf coffee.

Cold Coffee

Caffè Shakerato: An espresso shaken with sugar and ice, typically served in a martini or cocktail glass. Some bars add chocolate syrup for an extra layer of sweetness.

Caffè Freddo: An espresso served iced or cold, typically served in a glass. If you order a caffè freddo alla vaniglia, you can add vanilla syrup or vanilla liquor to the mix.

Granita di Caffè: An espresso-flavored icy slush, typically with added sugar, almost like a coffee snow cone. Not all places will have this available but some ice cream shops will!

Regional Specialties 

Espresso in Naples typically comes with the sugar added. If you don’t like your coffee sweet, order un caffè sense zucchero. Or try caffè alla nocciola, an espresso with froth and hazelnut cream, for a special local treat.

In Milan, coffee bars serve an upside-down cappuccino called a marocchino. Served in a served in a small glass sprinkled with cocoa powder a marocchino starts with a bottom layer of frothed milk and is finished off with a shot of espresso.

The Piemontese enjoy a traditional drink created from layers of dense hot cocoa, espresso and cream, called bicerìn.

Now that you’ve perfected your order, read our guide to mastering the Italian coffee bar and enjoy your Italian caffè! 

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My first visit to Sardinia felt like a dream. I was only 10 years old and visiting my cousins in the capital city of Cagliari. Their house was right on the beach, and my young cousins caught fish along the shore. The colors of the island are still vivid in my mind, the turquoise water against the white sand dunes. Ever since that first visit, my family returned every year to find the same unspoiled views.

Explore an Island of Myths & Culture

Sardinia is located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea. Like Sicily, the other major Italian island, the culture and history of Sardinia are very different from mainland Italy. Sardinia’s past is rich with legends and mythology, starting with the Nuragic civilization, which inhabited the island during the Bronze Age. Nuragic relics remain preserved on the island to this day, including distinct circular towers called Nuraghi and huge granite tombe dei giganti (giants’ tombs).

Due in part to its remote location, Sardinia feels like its own continent with unique traditions. Even the language is distinct – a dialect unfamiliar to mainland Italians. Sardinians celebrate their heritage with folk festivals and celebrations. Hundreds of Sardinians gather every May for two major cultural events, Cagliari Sant’Efisio Festival (May 1 in Cagliari) and Sardinian Cavalcade of Sassari (late May in Sassari). At these festivals, which each last several days, people from across Sardinia celebrate their culture with parades, horseback riding, traditional clothing and, of course, food.

Enjoy the Best of Mountains & Sea

Sardinia’s landscape is also unique. Sheep roam across the heart of the island, which is made up of rugged plateaus, plains and mountains. Centuries of strong winds and rains created a rugged coastline featuring amazing natural rock formations. Most famous of these formations is the Capo d’Orso, which resembles a bear sitting atop a hillside in Palau. From the Northern coast, you can also visit the Maddalena Archipelago, a national geo-marine park with an uncontaminated, paradisal feel.

The combination of coastline and mountains also lend themselves to an extraordinary food culture in Sardinia dominated by equally delicious seafood and meat. The sea yields fresh tuna, swordfish, mussels, prawns and sea bass, while the mountain cuisine features suckling pig, goat, beef, pork, rabbit and more. Both fish and meat are served with vegetables, local herbs and homemade pasta. Sardinia’s olive trees deliver a distinctly flavored olive oil that is fruity and slightly spicy. Wine drinkers will delight in the red Cannonau di Sardegna, the most famous producer being Sella & Mosca, and the white Vermentino, which pairs perfectly with fish.

Bask in Sunshine on the Emerald Coast

While parts of the island feels unspoiled and unexplored, the past fifty years have seen the Emerald Coast, Costa Smeralda,  become a hotspot for celebrities and European tourists. The popularity is well-deserved, as the Emerald Coast boasts white sand beaches and transparent water. Wild herbs such as thyme, rosemary and oregano fill in the air with their perfume, and the local dishes feature the region’s bright and delicious saffron. The Emerald Coast is also home to the Porto Cervo Wine Festival (May) and Food Festival (September).

Adventure Through Sardinia’s Great Outdoors

Adventurous travelers will delight in the possibilities afforded by both Sardinia’s mountains and the sea. Hike along picturesque coastal trails, bike down the inland mountains or climb the island’s sheer cliffs. Dive below the brilliant blue waves of the Mediterranean, kayak through pristine bays or kite surf across the waves.

What to Know Before You Go

Summer is undeniably a great time to visit, when you can enjoy a refreshing swim in the Mediterranean on a sunny day, though the Spring and early Autumn are also beautiful. In May, early June or September, visitors can enjoy all that Sardinia has to offer, minus the crowds.

Sardinia offers a range of beautiful accommodations, including both romantic and family-friendly options. Most high-end coastal hotels will have beach access with sun beds and umbrellas, and there are several quality spas.

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Planning a getaway to Italy? Whether it’s your first time to the bel paese or you’re a travel veteran, here are some pro tips to help you feel right at home in Italia.

1. Buongiorno Will Only Get You So Far (in the Day)

Your guidebook may have told you that boungiorno means “hello,” but Italians use it to mean “good morning.” Switch to buonasera (good evening) in the mid-afternoon, or, if you’re feeling ambitious, use buon pomeriggio to wish someone a good afternoonOnly say buona notte (good night) at the end of the night, when it’s time for bed!

2. Lunch and Siesta Like an Italian

Lunch is traditionally the biggest meal of the day, and an important social occasion when families get together. Meal times can vary by region; the further south you go, the later lunch typically begins. As a rule of thumb, restaurants won’t open for lunch before 12:30 pm, or 7:30 pm for dinner. Shops typically close between 1-4pm for siesta, especially in smaller, less touristic towns, so make like a local and relax after a big meal.

3. Say Arrivederci to Spaghetti and Meatballs

You won’t find spaghetti and meatballs or fettucine alfredo on any true Italian menu! Embrace la cucina Italiana and try some of the local cuisine, which can vary across the country. Each region features dishes that highlight its own local ingredients and unique cooking styles. In Rome, you’ll find cacio e pepe, pasta with pecorino cheese and peppercorns, and carciofi alla roman, Roman-style artichokes. Milan is famous for its risotto, and Tuscan cuisine features bistecca fiorentina, Florentine steak, and simple dishes like panzanella, bread salad.

4. When in Rome, Do as Romans Do

If you are seeking an experience that is authentic and off-the-beaten-path, look no further than the local Italian favorites. Some of the most authentic Italian jaunts may appear simple and nothing special from the outside, but they make for some of the richest and most delicious dining experiences you can find. These places are often unassuming and removed from the most heavily toured sites. For instance, if you want an authentic dining experience in Venice, you shouldn’t eat right in Piazza di San Marco. Be adventurous, and embrace the real local culture!

5. Visit the ‘Bar’ Morning, Noon and Night

In Italy, ‘bar’ has a different meaning – it’s a place where you can go to get a caffé (espresso) or cappuccino, or perhaps a little pastry or sandwich. Italians stand at the counter just long enough to drink an espresso and chat with the barista before heading on their way (for more, read our tips for navigating an Italian coffee bar). Italians often visit their favorite bar multiple times a day for a little caffeine boost, so be sure to taste your way through the menu of espresso options

6. Take a Break From Brunch

Italian breakfast is typically a lighter meal, with maybe some cereal and yogurt or toast with nutella or jam. If you are eating in a hotel, you can enjoy a buffet with these options and some cheeses and sliced meats. If you venture out to a coffee bar, order a cappuccino or espresso and pastry with chocolate, jam, or cream. Italians only really drink cappuccino in the morning, and never after lunch or dinner.

7. Take It Slow at the Table

In Italy, there is a standard order of Italian courses (antipasti, primi, secondi and contorni, dessert and espresso). You don’t have to eat a full 4-course meal every time, but this is the order in which they serve the different dishes. Primi are ‘first courses’: a pasta, soup or rice dish. Secondi are ‘second courses,’ being meat, fish or poultry. When dining, waiters typically won’t check on a table very frequently, as it is custom to let diners linger and enjoy pauses between courses without being disturbed. Instead, if you need your waiter, flag them down. Dining in Italy is a social experience, so take your time soaking in the amazing food and wine with family and friends!

8. Tip (or Don’t Tip) Like an Italian

If you come from a tipping culture, it can be tough to get used to the idea of not leaving tips for waiters, taxi drivers, and hotel service. But Italians do not tip. In a restaurant, locals will often leave nothing at all, or at most 2-5 Euro, regardless of the bill. If you can’t help yourself, a good rule of thumb is to leave the change from your bill or at most 5-10%.

9. Master Public Transportation

When riding the bus or train, don’t forget to get your ticket stamped before getting on board. Look for the little yellow machines at the train terminals or on the bus, where you can stick your ticket in to get it validated. In some places, like Venice, when riding on the public water taxi, tickets are electronic, and you can hold your ticket up to the machine for it to scan.

10. Get Behind the Wheel

Driving from town to town in the countryside or on the highway is often manageable, with easy-to-follow signs pointing the way towards different destinations. However, the arrival and departure from big cities can be harder to manage and very stressful, especially in cities like Rome where there are no rules, and lots of vespas weaving in and out of traffic aggressively. Don’t be intimidated by Italians’ reputation as aggressive drivers. Driving beyond the major cities and towns is sometimes the best way to discover the real Italy – all the local favorites and hidden gems Italia has to offer!

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From espresso to caffè latte, Italian coffee is famous throughout the world. The delicious roast and small shots of caffeine are ubiquitous to Italy – and necessary for a jet lagged traveler! When in Italy, make your way to the local coffee shop (called a bar here) and order your favorite. Ordering coffee in Italy is taking part in an ingrained ritual of Italian culture. Here are five tips for getting your caffeine fix – the Italian way.

1. Milk is for Mornings Only

A cappuccino and pastry, the perfect Italian coffee to order for breakfast

The only people drinking coffee with milk after breakfast time are surely not Italian. The rule? You shouldn’t drink any coffee beverage that includes milk, be it a cappuccino or caffè latte, after 11 am or after a meal. Italians believe that the combination of hot milk and food in your stomach has an unsettling effect, so make sure to order your cappuccino before you start your day. Many Italians will have a breakfast of un cappuccino and a pastry, like a brioche al cioccolato. After lunch Italians order un caffè which means a normal espresso or at most un caffè macchiato, which is an espresso topped with a dollop of foamed milk. 

2. Stay on Your Feet

If you’re ordering un caffè in an Italian coffeehouse, you’ll probably notice that most Italians are standing and drinking their coffee. In Italy, cafés are known as bars, and for good reason – Italians order their coffee at the bar, drink their coffee at the bar, and pay for their coffee at the bar, all while standing. This is for a variety of reasons. For one, the coffee is short and taken almost like a shot. There’s no need to sit down and nurse an espresso cup. Not only that, but Italians usually have their morning coffee with just a small pastry or nothing at all, so there’s no need to sit down. Finally, some bars will even charge a bit more if you have your coffee at a table!

3. Pay Like a Local

Different bars have different methods for their patrons to pay for their coffee. Some cafés have you order and pay at the register before bringing your receipt to the barista to make your drink. Others allow patrons to order and drink their coffee at the bar first, and then tell the cashier what they had to pay before leaving. To be certain, take a look at what the other customers are doing and follow suit.

4. Know Your Order

When ordering your coffee, there’s no need to say espresso – a single espresso is un caffè. For those unfamiliar with espresso, you’ll be getting a small cup of strong coffee served on a saucer. If you ask for a latte, you’ll be getting a tall glass of milk. Order a caffè latte instead. There’s also typically no extensive list of flavored coffee, so try to keep your order simple. For a more detailed list, check out our guide to Italian coffee.

5. Become a Regular

Italians typically don’t drink un caffè doppio, a double espresso, but it’s not because they don’t consume as much coffee. Rather, Italians visit their local bar multiple times a day to drink several small cups of coffee, often chatting with the barista before going to their next appointment or errand. There’s no better break during the day then a visit to the local coffeehouse. In just a few minutes customers share information, make business deals, gossip and reset for whatever comes next in the day, all with a delicious sip of Italian coffee.

If you don’t have the Italian coffee rituals memorized, don’t worry – the servers will be there to assist you, as most of them are friendly and happy to help.

Enjoy your caffè!

In love with Italy’s food and wine culture? Taste your way through Parma and the Emilia-Romagna region, a food lover’s paradise, before heading to Liguria to visit seaside towns and feast on pesto and seafood caught fresh that day on our mouthwatering Reveal on the Riviera trip.

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5 Reasons to Visit Italy in December

Summer may seem like the obvious choice for vacation, and more travelers are embracing the shoulder season, but we’d like to make a case for the off-season: Italy in December. With its festive atmosphere and mild weather, the holiday season can be the best time to experience Italy.

Here are five reasons to add a December vacation to your wish list:

1. Festive Lights & Open Air Markets

December marks the season when cities and small villages throughout Italy shine brightly with Christmas lights. Locals flock to open air markets to buy holiday gifts and enjoy December nights with friends and family. Not only is it simply beautiful, it’s also a unique way to take part in the Italian experience.

Christmas lights and massive trees add to the festive atmosphere of December in Italy
Christmas lights and massive trees add to the festive atmosphere of December in Italy

2. Plenty to Do Outdoors

Italians spend the winter hiding inside. Besides the wonderful Christmas markets to explore, you’ll find outdoor ice rinks set up in most major cities during the holiday season – and they’re not just for the tourists! The rinks are filled with families, teenagers, and children enjoying the holiday cheer and a festive way to ward off the winter chill. If you’re not feeling up to lacing up your own skates, you can grab a cappuccino at a nearby cafe and people watch to your hearts desire. Cafés in Italy will often have outdoor tables available throughout the winter, with heat lamps, fires or even blankets to keep guests warm. Do like the locals do and find one during the day to soak in every ray of sun available. Beyond that you can ski in the mountains, go snow-shoe hiking, window shop and generally enjoy your time outside, no need to hide!

3. Sweet Treats Galore

In December, stores and markets throughout Italy are stocked with traditional Italian dessert breads – panettone and pandoro. Both are sweet yeast breads found only during this time of year. Pandoro, traditionally from Verona, means bread of gold and was a staple on the tables of the rich Venetians during Christmastime. Today it’s a Christmas classic for all Italians. 

Panettone is the Lombard answer. A tall loaf, panettone is filled with dried fruit and candied citrus and is a Milanese tradition. Of course at any Christmas market you can find a wealth of sweet treats, but it isn’t Christmas in Italy without one of these traditional sweet breads!

A shop window shoes row after row of traditional Italian panettone
You can only find this delicious Italian sweet bread in December.

4. The Weather is Just Right

Sure, you might need to pack a winter coat and scarf, but Italy in December is actually quite moderate and for many preferable than the scorching summer for touring. Temperatures in the north range from 25 – 45 degrees Fahrenheit (though the mountains have their own microclimate) while the south easily enjoys an average of 50 degrees and in Sicily it may get as high as 60 degrees Fahrenheit in December. January and February run colder and November rainier, but December is a sweet small in-between. 

5. It’s Italy Without The Crowds

Plain and simple: December may be the best time to visit some of Italy’s most popular and heavily touristed destinations such as Venice or the Italian Riviera. Imagine all the picture-perfect beauty of Italy, but without the crowds and selfie sticks. It’s a whole different experience to stroll through the enchanted city’s winding side streets, walk through Piazza San Marco and overlook bridges and canals or hike one of the famed Cinque Terre trails when it feels like you have all of the city to yourself. 

The port in Camogli Italy
December in Italy means having small towns like Camogli all to yourself

Ready to experience the magic of Italia for yourself? Contact us to begin planning!

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