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Uncovering the Treasures of Umbria

Uncovering the Treasures of Umbria

The Green Heart of Italy is best characterized by endless landscapes featuring rolling hills, verdant mountains, and expansive plains all dotted with charming medieval hamlets. While smaller, cities and towns here are rich in history, beginning with the earliest Etruscan and Umbrian settlements. This makes Umbria a great option for returning and first-time travelers who wish to enjoy Italy’s historic and architectural aspects while maintaining distance from areas with large crowds. Often referred to as Tuscany’s cousin, the picturesque countryside of Umbria offers the same charm as its neighbor, but with less bustle. No matter what part of Umbria you visit, this region is sure to amaze with its history, culture, and nature.

Getting to Know the Green Heart of Italy

Before diving into the hidden gems of Umbria, it’s important to gain an understanding of the region through its most visited cities: Perugia, Orvieto, and Assisi.

Perugia serves as the regional capital and its province covers the majority of Umbria. Though it’s the largest city in Umbria, Perugia’s medieval character remains very much intact with the historic city walls still standing. Below Perugia, travelers can discover the city’s Etruscan origins as well as Ancient Roman and medieval remains via a series of underground tunnels. In addition to its history and architecture, Perugia delights travelers with its chocolate; the well-known Perugina Chocolate Factory lies just outside the city center and Perugia’s annual Eurochocolate event is among the largest chocolate festivals in Europe.

Perched atop volcanic stone and surrounded by green plains and hills, Orvieto perfectly embodies the spirit of the Umbria region. Divided into two parts, a funicular connects the lower modern city with the hilltop walled center. The winding cobblestone streets feature striking medieval architecture and scenic photo opportunities at every turn. The elaborate and colorful façade of the Orvieto Cathedral is considered to be the most breathtaking in all of Italy, while a tour of Orvieto’s vast underground area with ancient tunnels and caves allows for full immersion into the city’s Etruscan past.

Even travelers unfamiliar with Umbria will have heard of Assisi. For centuries, this charming hilltop town has been synonymous with its most famous native son, St. Francis. A pilgrimage destination since the thirteenth century, Assisi is renowned for its Franciscan sites, in particular the Romanesque and Gothic Basilica of Saint Francis with its stunning medieval frescoes, such as those depicting the life of Saint Francis by famed artist Giotto. Filled with pilgrims and travelers during the day, the true spirit of Assisi is best experienced while wandering the historic streets in the evening.

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Umbria's Off-the-beaten-path gems

While Perugia, Orvieto, and Assisi are all majestic cities worthy of a visit, they tend to overshadow Umbria’s less popular, yet equally stunning smaller towns. Featuring breathtaking views, fascinating cultural traditions, and historic architecture, Umbria’s lesser-known pearls can certainly stand on their own.

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Gubbio

Located on Mount Ingino, Gubbio is one of the best places to experience Umbria’s unique intersection of medieval architecture and nature. Before the Romans, Gubbio was a vital settlement of the Umbri civilization. In fact, Gubbio’s most revered artifacts are the Eugubian Tablets, a set of bronze tablets that contain text in the extinct Umbrian language. The city reached its peak during the Middle Ages and at the end of the fourteenth century it became part of the Duchy of Urbino. During the Renaissance, Gubbio served as an important center for the production of maiolica pottery.

Gubbio is best-known for the Festa dei Ceri, an annual tradition that dates back to 1160. Held on May 15, the Festa dei Ceri honors St. Ubaldo, Gubbio’s Patron Saint. The event centers around three large wooden artifacts (called ceri). Weighing more than 600 lbs., the ceri are carried through the streets of Gubbio by teams who race uphill to the Basilica of Sant’Ubaldo as the locals cheer them on.

Today, visitors gather in Piazza Grande, Gubbio’s elevated main square, to admire the stunning panoramas. From Gothic towers to elegant palaces and churches, the medieval architecture is vast and covers the majority of the city. The best views can be enjoyed from the open-air cable car that rises slowly above the medieval rooftops to reach the Basilica of Sant’Ubaldo at the top of Mount Ingino.

Spoleto

Located in a sea of greenery, Spoleto is a town as charming as it is ancient. Thanks to its proximity to the Apennine Mountains, Spoleto served as a key strategic settlement for the Ancient Romans. During the Middle Ages, the city flourished under the Lombards, who designated Spoleto as the capital of the powerful Duchy of Spoleto, which ruled over much of Central Italy. Afterward, Spoleto fell under the dominion of the Papal States before becoming part of the Kingdom of Italy.

Since 1958, Spoleto has hosted the Festival dei Due Mondi, a summer music festival and one of Italy’s most important cultural events. Held from June to July each year, the festival features a variety of concerts and other performances in the fields of dance, drama, and visual arts.

Key historic monuments in Spoleto include the Romanesque Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta, the Roman theater, and the medieval Rocca Albornoziana fortress that watches over the town. For full immersion into Spoleto’s tranquil scenery, visit Ponte delle Torri, an arched bridge constructed during the Middle Ages that spans a picturesque gorge.

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Bevagna

Located in the vast Umbra Valley, this small, tranquil town is uncharted territory for most international travelers. Originally founded by the Etruscans, Bevagna passed to the Romans then the Duchy of Spoleto before joining the Papal States and eventually the Kingdom of Italy.

The village’s most important cultural event, called Mercato delle Gaite, occurs in June. This summer festival is held in the four gaite (quarters) of the historic center. It’s a celebration of Bevagna’s medieval past with banquets and shops showcasing historic crafts, such as blacksmithing.

Bevagna is one of the few Umbrian towns on level ground; as a result, the steep streets that are characteristic of Gubbio or Orvieto are absent in Bevagna. Evidence from the Roman period is plentiful, such as the Roman amphitheater and thermal baths decorated with ancient mosaics and frescoes. The medieval walls still surround the city, while the main square, Piazza San Filippo, features two Romanesque churches — San Michele Arcangelo and San Silvestro — that face each other.

Montefalco

Just over 4 miles south of Bevagna, the equally charming town of Montefalco rests upon a hill overlooking a vast plain. The earliest settlers were the Umbri, followed by the Romans and then the Lombards. The current town was rebuilt after its destruction by Frederick II in the thirteenth century. Subsequently, Montefalco fell to the Lords of Foligno then the Papal States before joining unified Italy.

The village’s cultural wealth can be measured by its historic churches. Of particular renown is the Church of San Francesco, which is now a civic art museum that hosts works by artists such as Perugino. Other key churches, mostly constructed in the Romanesque style, include Sant’Agostino, Santa Lucia, and Santa Chiara da Montefalco, where the remains of the village’s native saint are held.

Today, the defensive walls still stand featuring several towers and gates. Among the locals, Montefalco is known as the “Balcony of Umbria” due to the panoramic views it offers of the valley between Perugia and Spoleto. The town, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, serves as the hub for the Montefalco wine area, which produces Montefalco Sagrantino and Montefalco Rosso wines.

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Spello

Like Assisi, the town of Spello is located on Monte Subasio. The walled medieval city overlooks the Umbra Valley and was originally founded by the Umbri. During the Roman period, Spello was considered to be one of the most important cities in Umbria. Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Spello was destroyed by barbarian invasions then became part of the Duchy of Spoleto before joining the Papal States followed by the Kingdom of Italy.

In the seventeenth century, Spello began celebrating its most renowned cultural event, the Infiorate, which coincides with the Feast of Corpus Christi. During the festival, intricate and colorful carpets of flowers are composed throughout the city center. With subjects ranging from geometric shapes to biblical events, the entire town participates in this artistic exhibition that attracts travelers from all over the world.

Historic sites in Spello include the city walls, defensive towers, and gates, such as Porta Venere. Among the must-see churches is Santa Maria Maggiore, a Romanesque structure home to a series of frescoes by Pinturicchio. The nearby Church of Sant’Andrea features an altarpiece by Pinturicchio, while the Church of San Claudio is renowned for its rose window and frescoes by local Umbrian painters.

To truly get to know the town, walk along the main street, Via Cavour, and admire the beautiful buildings composed of Subasio marble. When the sun sets, travelers and locals alike are left in awe as the stone acquires a splendid pink hue.

Countryside and outdoor adventures

In addition to the cities and towns of Umbria, there’s much to explore in the verdant countryside. The hilly landscapes are not only gorgeous, but they provide the perfect conditions for wine and olive oil production in areas around Orvieto, Montefalco, Assisi, and Lake Trasimeno. Historically, Umbria was known for its white wines, such as Orvieto; however, red wine production has increased in recent years with varieties such as Torgiano Rosso Riserva and Montefalco Sagrantino becoming more popular. Travelers can enjoy tastings of the region’s wine as well as extra virgin olive oil, which is essential to the local cuisine.

While exploring the Umbrian countryside, art lovers may wish to stop in Deruta. Since the fifteenth century, Deruta has been one of Italy’s artistic hubs for maiolica pottery. To learn more about this historic craft and admire the town’s colorful creations up-close, visit the Ceramics Museum or one of the artisan workshops scattered throughout Deruta.

Thanks to the pristine scenery, Umbria is home to an abundance of natural parks. The vast Monti Sibillini National Park, shared between Umbria and Marche, is a wonderful place to experience the serenity of the Apennine Mountains. In total, Umbria has 6 regional parks with mountain areas, forests, lakes, rivers, and wetlands. The varied landscapes feature diverse flora and fauna with historic structures, such as castles and abbeys, providing a juncture between nature and cultural heritage. Active travelers may partake in a variety of activities including hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and rafting.

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Authentic accommodations

Whether you’d like to stay in the historic towns, the picturesque countryside, or both, Umbria offers several types of accommodations to enhance your experience while engaging with the local culture.

An agriturismo, or farm stay, is the best way to immerse in Umbria’s rural heritage. Throughout Umbria’s countryside, local farmers invite travelers to learn more about the production processes behind the region’s best products, from olive oil and wine to cheese and vegetables. Each agriturismo is unique and can range in size as well as offerings, yet all encourage travelers to slow down and truly appreciate the remarkable landscapes that surround them.

The cities of Umbria are filled with historic buildings, an aspect that naturally extends to hotels. Imagine admiring the ample monuments, art, and architecture of Umbria by day then spending your nights in centuries-old accommodations. With options ranging from rustic to upscale, travelers can choose to stay in medieval castles and towers, renovated monasteries, and even former noble palaces, all of which perfectly encapsulate Umbria’s charm and character.

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Don't forget the local foods

It wouldn’t be a vacation to Italy without delicious food. Umbria’s regional cuisine centers on simple yet flavorful recipes that incorporate fresh, local ingredients. Staples here include fragrant extra virgin olive oil, foraged mushrooms and truffles, wild game, fresh vegetables, lentils, and handmade pasta. Lake Trasimeno — Central Italy’s largest lake — supplies freshwater fish such as trout, carp, and perch, while the ancient town of Norcia is renowned for its cured meats and pork products. Whether you’re a self-proclaimed foodie or simply want to enjoy an unforgettable meal, Umbria won’t disappoint.

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Umbria may be the perfect destination for your next trip to Italy. To learn more about this enchanting region and its many offerings, click here.

Piedmont’s Langhe and Roero: A Gastronomic Paradise

Piedmont's Langhe and Roero: A Gastronomic Paradise

Lovers of food and wine hoping to escape large crowds should visit Italy’s Piedmont region where culinary and wine itineraries abound. Though Piedmont is among Northern Italy’s less-traveled regions, it’s highly renowned among those who enjoy the finer things in life when it comes to gastronomy — think white truffles and Barolo, which is known as “the wine of kings, the king of wines.” It’s here that the spirit of the Slow Food movement was born, permeating all aspects of daily life; a relaxing area ideal for wining and dining among beautiful landscapes and historic towns. Though the entire region is considered a culinary gem, two areas in particular are truly magnificent food and wine destinations: Langhe and Roero.

Where are the Langhe and Roero areas?

Close your eyes and picture the Italian countryside. What do you see? Rolling hills, historic villages, rows and rows of vineyards — these are all part of the iconic imagery of Italy’s countryside. Another key component is a peaceful atmosphere, and travelers to the Langhe and Roero areas will be rewarded with the best of Italy’s characteristic countryside plus delicious food and wine without a large concentration of tourists.

Located along the Tanaro River, the Langhe extend over portions of the provinces of Cuneo and Asti in the southern part of Piedmont. This area of undulating green hills is divided into three zones: Bassa Langa (positioned less than 1,970 feet above sea level), Alta Langa (up to 2,940 feet), and Langa Astigiana (the southern part of the province of Asti). Due to differing elevations and geography, each zone has its own characteristics. For instance, the hills of Bassa Langa feature dense vineyards with abundant wine production and truffle harvesting, while Alta Langa is known for its forests and for the cultivation of the local Tonda Gentile delle Langhe hazelnut.

Roero, which is north of the Langhe area and the city of Alba, is situated to the north and west of the Tanaro River, the waterway that serves as a border between Roero and Langhe. Roero is part of the province of Cuneo and its name derives from the Roero family, the land’s past rulers. In general, this area is best known for wine production, fruit cultivation, and breathtaking scenery.

Langhe and Roero, together with the larger Monferrato area, are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a whole, these lands are considered to be among Italy’s most noteworthy wine production areas. The hilly landscapes are highly regarded for their beauty, and the interaction between man and nature present here has led to a distinct and highly praised wine culture.

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Highlights of Langhe and Roero

The landscapes of Langhe and Roero are dotted with historic villages and castles. In fact, these areas are home to some of the most charming locations in Piedmont.

Among all the cities and towns that are part of Langhe, perhaps the most important is Alba, which is the unofficial capital of the area. A city of Roman origins, Alba is home to several historic sites including the Duomo of San Lorenzo and numerous fourteenth and fifteenth century towers. However, the city is best known for its prized white truffles as well as the annual International White Truffle Fair.

The town of Barolo may have less than 1,000 inhabitants, but its name is known worldwide thanks to the eminent wine. In the heart of the medieval town rests Castello Falletti, a tenth century castle home to the interactive Barolo Wine Museum, which features exhibits on the history of wine across cultures and the production of Barolo. The castle is also home to a historic wine cellar that offers Barolo tastings and a panoramic terrace with the best views in town.

Only 15 miles separate Barolo from another of Piedmont’s most distinct wine producing villages: Barbaresco. And yet, that small distance results in two distinct and highly revered wines that are characteristic of the Langhe area. The town of Barbaresco is positioned within a sea of green vineyards with over 40 wineries in the immediate area. The small and charming historic center is distinguished by a medieval tower that watches over Barbaresco and offers stunning views of the Langhe hills.

Larger than Barolo and Barbaresco, La Morra is a delightful hilltop village with Roman origins. Though the town doesn’t lend its name to a wine, it’s an essential part of local wine production, particularly Barolo, with approximately 70 wineries based in the area. In addition to wine tasting, travelers can admire historic monuments, such as the Church of San Martino, the Church of San Rocco, and the stunning bell tower that soars over the center of town.

Like La Morra, Monforte d’Alba is part of the Barolo wine production area and it’s a beautiful hilltop town rich with history. While exploring the winding streets, travelers can admire remarkable views of the surrounding vineyards and countryside. Must-sees include the Neo-Gothic Church of Madonna della Neve with its striped interior as well as the natural outdoor auditorium designed by Polish pianist Mieczysław Horszowski, which hosts the town’s annual jazz festival and is renowned for its perfect acoustics.

Though the Roero area is smaller compared to Langhe, it too is filled with remarkable places. Principal among these is the hilltop town of Bra, which is surrounded by Roero vineyards. A perfect base from which to enjoy the excellent wines of this historic land, Bra is a charming town rich in cultural traditions. In fact, Bra is the headquarters of the Slow Food movement, which aims to promote local foods and traditional cuisine. As a result, you won’t find large supermarket chains in Bra’s city center, but rather family-owned shops stocked with local delicacies including wine, fresh fruits, and handmade sausage.

The Slow Food foundation is one of the organizers of Bra’s biennial international cheese festival. Aptly named “Cheese,” this September festival promotes natural cheeses made by regional producers. Nearby Pollenzo, a hamlet of Bra, is home to the University of Gastronomic Sciences, the first university of its kind dedicated to exploring the relationship between food and culture.

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Excellence in Wines

In Langhe and Roero, winemaking is a tradition that dates back centuries. The gradual development of production techniques in response to specific soil characteristics and particular micro-climates has led to exceptional wines that are renowned throughout the world. The eminent local wines coupled with the incomparable natural scenery of the Langhe and Roero hills result in a very special destination for all wine lovers.

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The Langhe area is home to 4 DOCG wines and 6 DOC wines, many of which consistently rank among Italy’s best.

First and foremost is Barolo DOCG, the so-called king of Piedmontese wines. Made from the Nebbiolo grape — the Piedmont region’s signature varietal — Barolo can be produced in 11 towns including Barolo, La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, and Grinzane Cavour. The wine is known for its intense, ruby red color and aromas layered with fruits and spices. Due to its pronounced flavor, Barolo is commonly paired with red meats, wild game, and aged cheeses. The wine is also a key ingredient in local dishes such as brasato and risotto al Barolo.

The queen to Barolo’s king, Barbaresco DOCG is another bold red made from the Nebbiolo grape. This wine is produced over a smaller area centered on a total of 4 towns including Barbaresco and part of Alba. Because the production area experiences more rain and the wine is typically aged for a shorter period of time, Barbaresco is considered to have a gentler flavor compared to Barolo. With a bright red color and a dry, full-bodied taste, Barbaresco is best enjoyed with roasted meats, stews, and aged cheeses.

Among the area’s DOC wines, Barbera d’Alba is one of the most celebrated. Compared to Barolo and Barbaresco, the production territory is significantly more extensive and Barbera d’Alba is made in the majority of the Langhe area’s northern portion. This leads to more variation in the final product, but, like its cousins, Barbera d’Alba is prized for its rich red color and fruit-forward aromas. As one of Langhe’s most accessible wines, Barbera d’Alba is frequently present on dinner tables throughout the area and is best paired with red meats.

Other wines produced in Langhe include Langhe DOC, Dogliani DOCG, Diano d’Alba DOCG, Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC, Dolcetto d’Alba DOC, Verduno DOC, and Alba DOC. All of these wines are red, except for Langhe DOC, which has the least amount of production restrictions and can be made throughout the Langhe area. As a result, it’s possible to find red, white, rosé, and even sparkling varieties of Langhe DOC.

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Roero

Though the Roero area is smaller compared to Langhe and has less DOC and DOCG wines, the wines produced here can be just as remarkable.

The principal wine is Roero DOCG, a full-bodied red produced in 19 towns along the Tanaro River in the province of Cuneo. Like many Langhe wines, Roero DOCG is made primarily with Nebbiolo grapes. Additionally, the wine must be aged for 20 months. This ruby red wine has fruit-forward aromas and a dry taste that is slightly more delicate compared to Langhe wines. The best pairings for Roero DOCG are braised and roasted meats as well as truffle dishes.

When Roero DOCG is aged for at least 32 months, it’s known as Roero Superiore DOCG or Roero Riserva DOCG. Due to the longer aging process, the color becomes darker with amplified aromas and flavors.

Roero Arneis DOCG, the white counterpart to Roero DOCG, is primarily composed of Arneis grapes. This dry wine has a pale-yellow color, fresh aroma, and herbaceous flavor. If your meal does not feature red meat, ask for a glass of Roero Arneis DOCG. This versatile white pairs well with aged cheeses, fish, poultry, and lamb. It may also be enjoyed during an aperitivo or as an accompaniment to appetizers.

Roero Arneis DOCG is made in a sparkling variety as well, which is called Roero Arneis Spumante DOC. Produced in the province of Cuneo, the wine is characterized by its pale-yellow color with amber reflections plus a fresh aroma and dry taste. Roero Arneis Spumante is best enjoyed as an aperitivo or at the beginning of a meal.

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Slow Food Central

Not to be overshadowed by the local wine, the cuisine of Langhe and Roero is truly something special. The foundation rests upon historic recipes originally created by local farmers combined with elegant dishes and rich ingredients once favored by the House of Savoy.

Local staples include cheeses such as Robiola di Roccaverano, foraged white truffles from Alba, and the Tonda Gentile delle Langhe hazelnut. Roero in particular is known for its fruits including pears, peaches, and strawberries.

With Slow Food headquarters located in the heart of Roero, the cuisine of Langhe and Roero consists of fresh flavors and traditional recipes tied to the local culture. In addition, the best of Piedmont’s regional cuisine can be enjoyed here from handmade pasta — like tajarin and agnolotti — and delicious risotto dishes to braised meats, seasonal vegetables, and hazelnut desserts.

Perhaps the best-known recipe that is typical of both Langhe and Roero is bagna càuda, a UNESCO-recognized dipping sauce paired with raw or cooked vegetables that is among the most iconic dishes of Piedmont’s cuisine. The purest version of bagna càuda is made using only anchovies, extra virgin olive oil, and large quantities of garlic. The result is a unique sauce served in a special terracotta container that keeps the sauce hot. For locals, bagna càuda goes far beyond food as it is meant to be shared among friends and family and represents a unifying aspect of the local culture.

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Things to Do in Langhe and Roero

Food and wine are a natural starting point when it comes to activities in Langhe and Roero. Travelers will quickly learn that tastings here go beyond simply sampling the local flavors. Food and wine tours offer a deep dive into local production processes, history, and culture. In addition to learning the difference between Barolo and Barbaresco, travelers will experience rich traditions first-hand and hear the fascinating stories behind some of Italy’s most celebrated food and wine. For those open to a more hands-on experience, cooking classes are the best way to live Piedmont’s gastronomy and take a part of the region home.

To truly engage with nature, there are a number of opportunities for nature walks, hiking, biking, and trekking in the countryside. During truffle season, you could even join a local truffle hunter and his trusty dog to discover the secrets behind Alba’s prized white truffles.

Like the rest of Piedmont, culture abounds in the Langhe and Roero areas. In addition to the historic sites of hilltop towns such as Barolo or Bra, there are numerous hidden gems spread throughout Langhe and Roero. Lovers of medieval history will enjoy exploring Piedmont’s many castles, such as the iconic Castle of Grinzane Cavour, which features a museum and regional Enoteca showcasing Langhe’s wines.

Other highlights include an archeological tour of underground Alba, the Baroque and Neoclassical architecture of Cherasco, and La Morra’s colorful Barolo Chapel designed by Sol LeWitt and David Tremlett.

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Enhance your trip with characteristic accommodations

As for accommodations, there are a variety of options available when planning a trip to Langhe and Roero. The medieval cities and towns offer unique accommodations in former historic residences and other evocative locations. If you prefer modern boutique hotels or luxury accommodations, there are quite a few options to choose from that feature modern architecture and commodities without sacrificing the natural surroundings and beautiful views this area is known for.

To fully immerse in the lifestyle of the countryside, consider staying in an agriturismo or country estate where you are likely to receive the close attention and personal care of welcoming owners. During your stay, you can learn about local traditions while surrounded by picturesque scenery. There’s nothing better than waking up to stunning views of the hills or enjoying breakfast in open-air gardens engulfed by endless rows of vineyards; this is truly the best way to experience the spirit of Langhe and Roero.

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Piedmont’s Langhe and Roero areas offer a piece of heaven on earth for food and wine lovers. Travelers spend their days visiting local wineries, exploring hilltop towns, and taking in the timeless atmosphere of the countryside. Click here to learn more about Italy’s remarkable Piedmont region.

Unwinding in Sicily’s Aeolian Islands

Unwinding in Sicily's Aeolian Islands

North of Sicily, the Seven Pearls of the Mediterranean glisten atop the blue-green waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. A picturesque archipelago formed by volcanic activity, Italy’s Aeolian Islands are a coastal paradise. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, the islands of Lipari, Salina, Panarea, Stromboli, Vulcano, Filicudi, and Alicudi collectively offer a haven for travelers to disconnect from the world and immerse in the low-key island lifestyle surrounded by beautiful and untouched natural settings. With charming villages, incredible scenery, and a laidback atmosphere, the Aeolian Islands are the perfect place to relax and commune with nature.

Where are the Aeolian Islands?

Located just north of Sicily and west of Calabria, the seven Aeolian Islands form a “y” in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Named after Aeolus — the “keeper of the winds” in Greek mythology — these rugged islands are the product of more than 200,000 years of volcanic activity.

Today, Stromboli and Vulcano are home to active volcanoes, while secondary volcanic phenomena can be observed on each of the seven islands. The volcanic properties of these islands contribute to their magical atmosphere by offering travelers unique activities, such as snorkeling among Panarea’s underwater fumaroles or watching Mount Stromboli light up the night sky. Fertile volcanic soil is also the key to the pristine nature and agricultural abundance of the islands.

Accessible by boat, the Aeolian Islands are prized for their remote location. While they may be well-known to locals and European tourists, reaching the Aeolian Islands can be trickier for the average international traveler. Thus, advance arrangements are highly recommended in order to offset any potential travel headaches. Trips 2 Italy’s knowledgeable travel specialists can coordinate all details and logistics to ensure that the only thing travelers have to do once they arrive in the Aeolian Islands is relax and enjoy.

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Exploring the Aeolian Islands

Though bound by a common history and culture, each island has its own enchanting characteristics that set it apart. Let’s take a moment to get to know these seven gems a little better.

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Lipari

As the largest and most populous island in the archipelago, Lipari is considered to be the “main island” of the chain. With plenty of history, monuments, shops, and restaurants, Lipari is an excellent base for families and first-time travelers. Consisting of five ancient villages connected by a scenic road, Lipari is the cultural hub of the islands. Highlights include the breathtaking panoramic views admired from Mount Chirica, the impressive collections of the esteemed Archeological Museum, and the acropolis containing the Gothic Co-Cathedral of San Bartolomeo.

Salina

The second largest island, Salina, provides a nice balance between the bustle of Lipari and the quaint nature of the smaller islands. Without a doubt, travelers come to Salina for the incredible views. In fact, Salina’s Mount Fossa delle Felci, an extinct volcano that stands at more than 3,000 feet, is the highest point in the whole archipelago and offers unbeatable panoramas. The seemingly endless verdant valleys have designated Salina as the greenest of the islands, while the bountiful vineyards, olive groves, and artisanal farms make it a must-stop for lovers of food and wine.

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Panarea

Panarea may be the smallest of the seven islands, but what it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in charm and elegance. Thanks to its fashion boutiques and nightlife, Panarea has quickly become a favorite summer destination among the rich and famous. And yet, beneath the modern glitz and glamour lies the old-world charm that is characteristic of the Aeolian Islands. Visitors to Panarea can relax at the hot springs, admire dazzling underwater eruptions, sail to nearby islets, and explore the narrow streets lined with whitewashed houses and artisan workshops.

Stromboli

Best known for the dramatic eruptions of its active volcano, Stromboli is truly a sight to be seen. Conditions permitting, daring travelers can hike to the summit of the volcano or admire the light show and lava flow from a boat off the coast. Continuous volcanic activity has led to striking black sand beaches that are among the best in the archipelago. Other must-sees, besides the volcano, include the captivating Strombolicchio sea stack, the fishing village of Ginostra, and the medieval hamlet of San Vincenzo.

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Vulcano

Like Stromboli, Vulcano is renowned for its black sand beaches, also a result of continuous volcanic activity. Fumaroles and underwater steam currents have shaped the island’s truly stunning landscape. For an unforgettable experience, hike up to Gran Cratere to look into the crater of an extinct volcano and admire views of the green surroundings dotted with volcanic ash. Don’t miss the chance to unwind at the open-air sulfur mud baths, which are renowned for their therapeutic properties.

Filicudi and Alicudi

The two remaining islands are the most remote of the archipelago. Largely devoid of the tourism infrastructure found on the other islands, Filicudi and Alicudi are what rustic dreams are made of.

Filicudi, the larger of the two, is home to lovely hiking trails and a handful of little villages that dot the rugged coast. Small pebble beaches resting along crystalline water are the perfect place to relax, while boat rides offer views of striking rock formations and sea caves. Off the coast, divers can explore underwater Ancient Greek and Roman shipwrecks.

Tiny Alicudi’s allure rests in its unspoiled nature, which is the result of few inhabitants and the absence of cars. Without any paved roads, the primary method of transportation here is mule, leaving the island suspended in time. The landscape is notable for its cliffs, terraces, and beaches, though truth be told the defining characteristic of the island is its unwavering tranquility.

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Island Activities

The Aeolian Islands offer plenty of things to do both for adventurous travelers as well as those who would simply like to bask in the pristine surroundings.

The untouched cliffs, valleys, and volcanoes of the Aeolian Islands offer the perfect setting for trekking and hiking excursions. From climbing to the top of Stromboli’s active volcano and peering down Vulcano’s expansive crater to admiring craggy rock formations that jut out of the blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the hiking experiences here are unparalleled. Active travelers may also enjoy mountain biking, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, sailing, and more.

Those who prefer to travel at a slower pace will certainly relish the tranquil lifestyle that’s an integral part of the islands. Between the picture-perfect beaches, relaxing hot springs, and therapeutic sulfur mud baths, the opportunities for relaxation are nearly endless.

Cruising along the coasts is a leisurely way to take in the stunning views these islands are known for from the comfort of a boat. For a dose of history and culture, plan to visit one of the centuries-old churches or Lipari’s Archeological Museum. Small boutiques and artisan workshops that sell handmade leather goods, ceramics, and clothes are scattered throughout the islands, offering the perfect excuse for a shopping break. In the evenings, treat yourself to a sunset dinner with remarkable views of the sea and toast to your dream vacation with a glass of local wine.

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Tentalizing food and wine

Like the rest of Italy, the cuisine of the Aeolian Islands is characterized by fresh, seasonal ingredients and simple, yet flavorful, recipes. Due to their remote location, the islands rely on locally farmed products for their cuisine, ensuring that even the most modest dishes are bursting with delectable flavors.

Many fresh ingredients form the foundations of the local cuisine including capers, tomatoes, eggplants, nuts, basil, rosemary, oregano, and goat cheese. Throughout the islands, foodies can indulge in freshly caught seafood paired with organically grown produce straight from the hillside terraces. For an afternoon pick-me-up, indulge in a traditional Sicilian granita, a semi-frozen dessert flavored with local fruits and herbs such as mulberries or mint. Other delicious traditional treats you won’t be able to resist include cannoli and piparelli cookies.

Wine lovers will rejoice with tastings of the sweet Malvasia DOC white wine, the Aeolian Islands’ biggest export. The rich volcanic soil imparts unique notes making the local wine unlike any other in the world. Malvasia delle Lipari DOC is produced exclusively on the seven Aeolian Islands. There is also a passito version, called Passito della Malvasia delle Lipari, made from sun-dried grapes. Local wineries offer tours of their vineyards with wine tastings amid some of the most spectacular panoramas of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Your home away from home

Accommodations in the Aeolian Islands can be just as varied and distinctive as the islands themselves.

To fully embrace the local lifestyle, consider staying at an agriturismo or countryside estate where you can learn about the delicious products grown and made on the islands directly from the farmers themselves. Those looking for more traditional accommodations will find plenty of options on the larger islands, such as Lipari and Salina. Many hotels have adopted characteristic elements of the local architecture, which consists of whimsical whitewashed, cube-shaped buildings with blue accents and breezy terraces. If boutique hotels or luxury accommodations are your preference, look no further than the chic island of Panarea where you can spend your vacation being pampered in style.

No matter where you choose to stay, your time in the Aeolian Islands will feel like a dream come true.

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Outside of typical travel routes, the Aeolian Islands beckon to those seeking a respite from the bustle of daily life. From the rugged landscape characterized by volcanic features, verdant valleys, and rocky cliffs to the unforgettable activities and truly divine food and wine, everything about the Aeolian Islands is enchanting. The only problem is that after spending time in this gorgeous archipelago, you’ll feel the pull to return again and again!

Is Sicily calling your name? Click here to learn more about this fascinating region.

How to Live a Bit of Italy from Afar

It's all about food and wine

Though we may not be able to travel right now, there are plenty of small things you can do to bring Italy to your home.
From lengthy meals to high-quality ingredients, it’s no secret that food and Italian culture go hand in hand. Throughout Italy, cooking and eating are truly a way of life. By emulating Italian tradition, there are several simple habits you can follow to make your meals at home feel a little more Italian. Continue reading to discover quintessential ways to feel Italian no matter where you happen to be.

Dine like Italians Do

In Italy, meals are multi-hour affairs best enjoyed in the good company of family and friends. More than just eating delicious food, meals are a time to gather together and engage in long, passionate conversations. This also means leaving the table is discouraged until each course is finished. One exception would be smoking breaks, which are acceptable towards the end of the meal around the dessert/coffee course.

In order to dine like the Italians, there are a few other “ground rules” to keep in mind. Namely, proceeding through the courses is a leisurely process, and subsequent courses are not presented until everyone is ready, however long that may take. Furthermore, when dining at home, the table is always set with a tablecloth and place settings that can range from plain to elaborate, depending on the meal. This quaint and thoughtful task denotes a kind of reverence, which symbolizes the importance of sharing a meal in Italy.

In addition to the main courses, meals are usually bookended with small accompaniments, such as cheese and salumi at the beginning, as well as fruit, dessert, coffee (espresso), and a digestif at the end of the meal. Finally, a proper Italian meal should always feature wine, which is meant to complement the flavors of the dishes. Start your meal with a glass of bubbly Prosecco or Franciacorta Brut over appetizers, choose a dry, fruit-forward white such as Pinot Grigio or Soave to accompany fish, seafood pasta, or white meat dishes. For a meal consisting of red meats, a Brunello di Montalcino, Amarone, or Barbera will make for a great pairing. To end on a perfectly sweet note over dessert, a Vin Santo from Tuscany, Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna, or Moscato d’Asti from Piedmont will be the perfect fit.

Before parting ways, it’s customary for Italians to say goodbye several times prior to cutting conversation with friends or family. As a result, the conclusion of the meal and the final “Ciaos” have a tendency to extend the meal by 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how many are present. Be sure to allow plenty of time for your Italian dining experience and Buon Appetito!

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Let your inner Italian chef out

When stocking your Italian kitchen for optimal deliciousness, there are certain staples that should not be overlooked. Aside from fresh seasonal ingredients, which are key in Italian cuisine, the usual suspects include olive oil for cooking, extra virgin olive oil for finishing dishes, coarse sea salt to season pasta water, and rich cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano, which add sublime flavor when generously grated atop pasta or rice dishes.

Pasta should be abundant and stocked in a variety of shapes and sizes, ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice. Pasta’s versatility allows for a quick and simple meal (think pasta al pomodoro) though it can also be dressed up with your favorite decadent ingredients, such as porcini mushrooms.

Rice (specifically arborio or carnaroli) is great to have in your pantry to create a slow-cooked and creamy risotto bursting with flavor. For a basic risotto, you’ll need butter, onion, broth, wine, and plenty of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. After mastering the technique, sprinkle in saffron to enjoy risotto alla milanese or feel free to experiment with local ingredients.

Tomatoes or tomato sauce should always be on hand, ready to envelop freshly cooked pasta or to be layered into other dishes. For the best sauce, look for an Italian brand at your local grocery store or create your own with peeled tomatoes, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil.

Some commonly used herbs to keep in your kitchen include fresh basil, flat leaf parsley, sage and rosemary as well as dried bay leaves and oregano. Fresh garlic and onions should also be readily available as they are used to enhance pasta, risotto, and meat dishes.

Natural accompaniments to any Italian meal include cured meats (prosciutto, soppressata, speck — there are no wrong answers here), fresh as well as aged cheeses, and plenty of authentic Italian wine, which can be red, white, or sparkling depending on the course or dishes that are served.

To get your culinary experience started, here are a few pasta recipes to try making at home: aglio, olio e peperoncino (garlic, oil, and hot pepper), pasta fredda, homemade pesto, and carbonara.

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There's always time for Pizza

Generally speaking, most Italian meals tend to be cooked at home and shared with family. However, many Italians will periodically enjoy a night out at a nearby pizzeria with a group of friends or family. Pizza can be made at home too, but nothing quite compares to the perfect crust and remarkable flavors imparted by a traditional wood burning oven. In the United States, more and more restaurants are starting to offer thin-crust pizzas baked to perfection in wood burning ovens — one delicious way to experience a small taste of Italy from your home.

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What happens at the "Bar"?

From morning coffee to aperitivo hour, daily life in Italy revolves around the bar, a word that can best be translated as café or coffee shop. These bars, ubiquitous in Italian city centers, are the perfect place to stop for a refreshment any time of the day.

Pop by in the morning to taste a traditional Italian breakfast featuring a fresh pastry, typically a brioche or cornetto with various fillings, and a coffee, such as cappuccino, which in Italy is exclusively enjoyed in the morning.  For a quick lunch on the go, stop by a bar and grab a panino or tramezzino, two popular types of Italian sandwiches. If you’re looking for a midday pick-me-up, local bars will offer a wide selection of refreshing beverages ranging from cold tea and fruit juices to an energizing espresso. As the sun sets, head to a bar to enjoy the Italian tradition known as aperitivo, featuring cocktails and delicious small plates. Finally, be sure to wrap up your night with a relaxing tisana (herbal tea) while enjoying a conversation with good company.

No matter what time it is, stopping by the neighborhood bar for a refreshment is the perfect excuse to socialize and converse with friends. Consider recreating a few Italian bar staples at home or putting your own twist on a beloved classic, such as the panino. Coffee lovers may wish to invest in a capsule espresso machine, an accessible way to savor the art of Italian coffee at home.

Additionally, whether drinking coffee standing “al banco” or seated at a patio table, one thing you’ll never see at an Italian bar is a to-go cup; therefore, it you are trying to experience a bit of that Italian bar vibe in your city, visit a locally owned coffee shop where you are more likely to be served with ceramic ware.

From family dinners to aperitivi with friends, there are plenty of ways to embrace the Italian way of life from the comfort of your home, whether you have been to Italy or not. Socializing in Italy is all about savoring small moments and engaging in a slower-paced lifestyle. In order to bring Italy home, all you need to do is pop open a bottle of wine and get ready to spend an evening enjoying the flavors of Italy with good company.

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Winter Skiing and Beyond in the Italian Alps

Winter Skiing and Beyond in the Italian Alps
Live Italy! Don't Just See It
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Winter Skiing and Beyond in the Italian Alps

Italy’s peak travel season may be during the summer months, but thanks to a rich variety of natural landscapes that come alive at different points of the year, there’s still plenty of fun to be had even as the temperatures get colder. Whether it’s skiing at one of Italy’s first-rate Alpine resorts, touring the art cities with fewer crowds, or celebrating the New Year in a historic city square, a winter vacation to Italy offers plenty of unique experiences. The Alps, and the Dolomites in particular, are the perfect destination to admire winter landscapes and enjoy time in the snow.

Exploring snowcapped mountain ranges

It’s impossible to speak about snow and winter landscapes in Italy without mentioning skiing. In fact, Italy offers a plethora of ski resorts along the Alpine range, with special mention of the Dolomites, as well as areas in the south of the country. From Piedmont in the west to Friuli Venezia Giulia in the east, without forgetting Gran Sasso in Abruzzo and even the slopes of Sicily’s Mount Etna, there are places for every skier, regardless of skillset or preferred activity, to enjoy. When the skiing is done for the day, explore Italy’s characteristic resort towns filled with history or engage in après ski entertainment—the choice is yours!

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Spending time in top Ski Resorts

With approximately 3,600 miles of slopes throughout the country plus stunning scenery as far as the eye can see, Italy is a skier’s paradise. Travelers looking to enjoy skiing while in Italy, should keep several key areas in mind. We have outlined a few suggestions here below, yet truly each of Italy’s mountain havens offers something special.

Aosta Valley - Monte Bianco and More

Though it may be Italy’s smallest region, the Aosta Valley is not lacking in charm. This mountain hideaway is highly regarded for its jagged peaks, historic castles, and quaint villages. When it comes to skiing, the Aosta Valley is a great option for all skill levels thanks to a wide range of slopes.

In particular, we can mention Courmayeur, which is one of the region’s most beloved resorts. Located at the foot of Monte Bianco (Mount Blanc), the highest point in the Alps, Courmayeur is a top choice among Italian and international skiers alike. In addition to its slopes filled with remarkable panoramas, the historic center of Courmayeur is well-cared for and characteristic of an Alpine town. Off the slopes, travelers can spend time at the many artisan workshops as well as après ski destinations including restaurants and night clubs.

Another noteworthy resort in the Aosta Valley is Cervinia, which is located at the foot of Mount Cervino, also called the Matterhorn. Well-known for its high altitudes and lengthy slopes, Cervinia is a paradise for intermediate and expert skiers. The area’s cold temperatures and consistent snowfall result in a reliable resort year-round, parts of which are even accessible to skiers in the summer. Outside of skiing, other activities in Cervinia include ice climbing, exploring caves filled with remarkable ice sculptures, and visiting the historic castles located in the surroundings.

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Lombardy - First Class Slopes

Internationally renowned for its historic cities filled with art, Lombardy is also home to a varied natural landscape composed of lakes, plains, hills, and mountains. The region’s alpine towns, with their distinct culture and culinary traditions, offer a change of pace compared to the elegant streets of Milan or the historic architecture of Bergamo.

In terms of skiing, Livigno is among the top resorts in the area. A small town with a rustic atmosphere, Livigno is characterized by its charming center and historic structures, namely the baite, which are stone and wood huts located in the area’s scenic valleys. Due to Livigno’s position on an expansive plateau situated nearly 6,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by spectacular mountain peaks that often surpass 10,000 feet, the area’s scenery is reminiscent of far away destinations, earning it the nickname “Little Tibet” and making it the perfect destination for ski afficionados.

In addition to skiing and cross-country skiing, athletes of all types will enjoy Livigno’s varied offerings including snowboarding in one of the largest snow parks in Italy, paragliding, dogsledding, and fat-tire biking. The town’s status as a duty-free zone has attracted countless boutiques with plenty of opportunities for shopping after you’ve hit the slopes. Boasting a remarkable variety of restaurants as well as options for live music in the evenings, Livigno’s après ski scene is among Italy’s best.

Located in the Valtellina Valley, the charming town of Bormio is consistently ranked as one of Italy’s premier ski resorts. As an annual host of the Alpine Ski World Cup, Bormio is at the forefront of the international skiing scene and the “Pista Stelvio” is considered to be among the most technically challenging slopes in the world. Bormio is also the gateway to the Stelvio Pass, renowned for its winding road filled with hairpin turns and summer ski offerings.

Besides skiing, Bormio is perhaps just as famous for its thermal baths, which were favored by Ancient Rome’s aristocracy. As a small historic town with numerous buildings dating back to the Middle Ages, Bormio’s nightlife is not as developed as some of Italy’s other resorts, yet its intimate and casual restaurants and shops are perfect for those seeking a more relaxed experience.

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The Dolomites - Crown Jewel of the Alps

Shifting over to the eastern part of the country, Italy’s world-famous Dolomite Mountains are in a league of their own. Known as Dolomiti Super Ski, this ski area is composed of 12 distinct ski resorts that together amount to nearly 750 miles of slopes. Showcasing the best of the area’s scenery, these resorts offer plenty to explore.

First and foremost is Cortina d’Ampezzo, located in the northern portion of the Veneto region. A charming town with a rich history, Cortina d’Ampezzo has long been a destination for the jet set thanks to its superb ski slopes, variety of shops, and extensive après ski scene. In fact, some consider Cortina d’Ampezzo to be a winter version of Portofino. Both on the slopes and off, Cortina d’Ampezzo offers a wide array of activities and entertainment that simply can’t be beat.

Certainly worth a mention as well is Val Gardena, which is nestled in the South Tyrol portion of Trentino-Alto Adige. This area’s location has imparted Germanic influences and made it a melting pot of cultures. Featuring a remarkable history and gorgeous vistas, the skiing in Val Gardena is second to none as is the unique South Tyrol hospitality. Val Gardena is also known for excellent rock-climbing opportunities and woodcarving, a tradition that dates back to the 17th century.

The Dolomites are home to two unique ski circuits that give travelers a better understanding of the area’s geography and history. The first is the Giro della Sellaronda, which takes adventurous skiers around the Sella Massif. Highlights include characteristic valleys such as the Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Val di Fassa, and Arabba. Spanning a distance of almost 25 miles, this circuit is an excellent way to spend a day skiing in the Dolomites.

The second circuit is known as Giro della Grande Guerra. This unique tour through gorgeous mountain landscapes focuses on areas that served as settings for battles of World War I, when troops struggled to survive in the harsh conditions. In order to best appreciate both the beauty and history of this area, it is possible to arrange for a knowledgeable Alpine guide or ski instructor to lead you through the circuit.

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Coming Soon: 2026 Winter Olympics

When speaking about skiing in Italy, it is necessary to mention that the 2026 Winter Olympics will be hosted by the cities of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo. Numerous ski areas will be involved in organizing the various competitions including Bormio, Livigno, and, of course, Cortina d'Ampezzo. With an opening ceremony in Milan and the closing ceremony held in the historic Verona Arena, the 2026 Winter Olympics are certain to showcase the best of the Italian Alps.

Beyond Skiing

For those not interested in winter sports, there are plenty of other options to keep you busy in the Alps. For one, the culinary scene that has developed around the Alpine resorts is top notch. Visit tranquil mountain lodges or historic city center restaurants to truly get to know the specialties in these areas. There are also countless options for shopping from typical artisan workshops to classic Italian fashion boutiques. Lastly, many of the hotels located in the ski towns are well-known for their spas, where you can enjoy a bit of pampering in complete tranquility. Truly, it doesn’t get much better than relaxing in the thermal waters of an outdoor pool surrounded by the snowy peaks of the Alps.n your way!

Whether you have been to Italy before or you are planning a first-time trip, a winter vacation to Italy offers many opportunities for skiers, outdoor enthusiasts, lovers of food and wine, and those looking to simply relax amid the beauty of nature. With the Alps serving as a veritable winter wonderland, you certainly won’t be bored. If you would like to know more about Italy’s ski offerings, please click here.

5 Reasons to Visit Italy’s Art Cities in the Winter

5 Reasons to Visit Italy's in the Winter
Live Italy! Don't Just See It
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Discover the Best 5 Reasons to Travel to Italy in the Winter Season

If you are open to traveling when the weather gets colder, visiting Italy in the winter can be just as rewarding as a summer trip. Active travelers may flock to Italy’s ski resorts and mountain destinations during the winter months, but do not make the mistake of overlooking Italy’s art cities, which offer plenty of experiences unique to the winter season. Whether you are looking to supplement your ski vacation with some sightseeing, or this is your first time traveling to Italy and you want to make the most of your trip, there are several positive aspects to visiting Italy in the winter.

Setting your expectations for winter in Italy

Before planning a winter trip to Italy, you should have a reasonable idea of what the weather will be like. While Italy may be a Mediterranean country, it does have four distinct seasons and cold temperatures are the norm during the winter months. Do not expect to lay on a beach at the Amalfi Coast or go swimming near the island of Capri in December or February; in fact, most coastal destinations either slow down or close for the season during this period.

So, just how cold will it be? Well, that depends. Naturally, northern destinations will have the coldest temperatures with good chances of snow, while southern parts of Italy tend to have more mild winters. Generally speaking, expect temperatures to be in the 40s for the majority of your trip, potentially bumping up into the 50s on sunny days or dipping into the 30s on cloudy days or at night.

Of course, some winter days in Italy can be beautiful, with crisp and fresh air, a bright blue sky, and plenty of sunshine. However, with the possibility of cold temperatures and less-than-ideal winter weather, it’s a good idea to stick with Italy’s art cities, such as Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Bologna, Naples, or Palermo in order to get the most out of your winter trip.
Now that you know what to expect, let’s discover a few reasons why Italy’s art cities can be excellent winter destinations.

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Better seasonal pricing

With a few notable exceptions like Christmas, New Year’s, and Carnevale, the majority of the winter period is considered to be low season in Italy. Compared to peak season in the summer, budget travelers can find the overall pricing on a winter package to Italy more appealing. If you can manage to avoid traveling during the winter holidays, you will likely find some of the best prices of the year for your travel package.

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Plenty of room to breathe

As the temperatures get colder, the summer crowds dissipate and the historic city centers of popular Italian destinations like Venice and Rome are reclaimed by the locals. There will be some travelers, but you won’t find large hordes waiting for hours to enter major sites, as is the norm during the summer months.

Winter days may have less hours of sunlight compared to the summer, yet with fewer crowds you won’t feel the need to rush from one monument to the next. You’ll be free to explore at a slower pace and become acquainted with the daily life of the locals—enjoy the nearly empty museums and monuments, savor the scents of roasted chestnuts and other street vendor winter treats, and appreciate the sounds the city in its natural state.

There is no better example of the difference between summer and winter in Italy than Venice. Located in the northeastern part of the country, Venice is certainly one of the colder places in Italy during the winter, and the definitely one of the most visited in the summer. During the winter, the crowds disappear and the city seems to breathe a sigh of relaxation making exploring Venice a delight.

With this being said, there is one caveat to visiting Venice in the winter. Late autumn and the winter months tend to be when Venice experiences the highest levels of rainfall. While it is a rare event, the resulting high tides can lead to a phenomenon known as Aqua Alta (High Water). The locals have adapted by placing platforms in low-lying areas when the tide increases in order to traverse the city and hopefully the new Mose project will protect the city from the very high tides. Of course, for intrepid travelers and photography lovers, there’s nothing quite like seeing St. Mark’s Square and the rest of the city center underwater at least once in a lifetime!

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Sales, Sales and more sales

Saldi (Sales) is a holy word in Italy. These nationwide end-of-season sales are characterized by steep discounts for clothing and accessories from budget to luxury brands. Typically, saldi occur twice a year: after the Christmas season in January for winter clothes and in early July for summer clothes. Locals and visitors alike will stand in long lines for the opportunity to purchase heavily discounted items from popular brands. When in Italy, shopping is a must and the saldi period is arguably the best time to visit Italy if shopping is on your to-do list.

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Comforting winter food

Many delicious staples of Italian cuisine, such as bruschetta topped locally grown tomatoes or a refreshing artisanal gelato, are associated with the summer. However, winter specialties in Italy can be just as remarkable. From street vendor offerings such as fragrant chestnuts and rich hot chocolate to polenta, risotti, and soups, there are countless new flavors to discover. During a winter trip, expect to find plenty of seasonal ingredients on your plate such as mushrooms, truffles, potatoes, legumes, cabbage, and artichokes. Popular hearty dishes to get you through the winter in true Italian style include northern specialties like pizzoccheri alla valtellinese and canederli as well as ribollita from central Italy and pasta e patate in the south.

Milder weather in Southern Italy

Speaking of Southern Italy, if the positive aspects of traveling to Italy in the winter have you nearly convinced, but the cold weather is holding you back, consider focusing your trip on the southern part of the country. Lovers of history and culture will have the time of their lives in Naples, a city whose illustrious past has resulted in a wealth of art and architecture rivaling that of other top Italian destinations. For reliably mild temperatures and sunny days, head to the island of Sicily where you can spend your time discovering the many treasures of Palermo and other historic cities like Ragusa while falling in love with Sicilian culture.

Taking into account the colder temperatures, a winter vacation to Italy’s art cities does have quite a few positive aspects. Winter sports enthusiasts should absolutely consider extending their trip to include sightseeing time in cities like Milan or Venice. Likewise, travelers who wish to engage with the local history and culture of Italy’s art cities will find plenty of authentic experiences even during the winter. From the elegant streets of Milan all the way down to the majesty of Palermo’s historic architecture, winter and Italy’s art cities are an excellent match.

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Meet Our Locals: Christmas Edition

Meet Our Locals: Christmas Traditions Around Italy

We hope you enjoy reading about Christmas traditions from our local guides featuring delicious food, rituals, and celebrations that are all characteristic of the holiday season in Italy.

Marco, Guide from Florence, Tuscany

Marco’s family upholds the Italian tradition of a meatless dinner on Christmas Eve. In the Roman Catholic Church, Christmas Eve is considered a “giorno di magro” or a “lean day”, during which one should abstain from eating meat. This custom is diffused throughout the country and a Christmas Eve dinner in Italy frequently consists of fish and vegetables. In some parts of Italy, seafood is featured in every course of the dinner, while in others a variety of meatless ingredients are incorporated into the meal.

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Tita, Guide from Catania, Sicily

In the city of Catania and its province, where Tita is from, “scacciata”, a flatbread local to Sicily, is always present on Christmas Eve dinner tables. In the province of Catania, the traditional filling features broccoli, onion, pecorino cheese, and sausage. It’s baked in the oven on large trays with two layers of dough, almost like a closed pizza. Usually, family members plan in advance who will bring the scacciata as well as other typical dishes such as fried artichokes, baccalà (dried and salted cod), and baked pasta. On Christmas Day, everyone meets again to enjoy the leftovers from the previous day.

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Virginia, Guide from Lucca, Tuscany

For Virginia, a native of Tuscany, it’s not truly Christmas without the legendary Torta di Cecco! This chocolate covered cake filled with dried fruit is pure bliss. Virginia and her family usually scarf it down after lunch on Christmas Day. Tuscany is also known for ricciarelli from Siena, which are almond cookies with a characteristic crinkled surface. A typical Christmas staple, these cookies are so delicious that Virginia has a friend who wakes up early every Christmas Eve to drive from Pisa to Siena so that he can bring them to loved ones as Christmas gifts.

Virginia was born in the small town of San Martino a Ulmiano between Pisa and Lucca. In this area, nativity scenes are quite popular and on the afternoon of Christmas Day locals go see the mechanical nativity scene. Built in 1951 by an ingenious artisan, the nativity scene is composed of 80 moving characters positioned on a surface of 860 square feet. The scenes recall several biblical passages including the Annunciation to Mary and the adoration of the Magi. This is all thanks to the imagination and skill of the animator who created a rich landscape with light effects that generate images of the guiding star and snowfall against the background of the sea.

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Luca, Guide from Venice, Veneto

Each Christmas, Luca and his family enjoy a water taxi ride at sunset, just like many visitors to his hometown have done. After boarding with all of their wrapped presents, Luca and his family ride along the Grand Canal to Murano Island where they meet with relatives at the family glass-making furnace. The family feasts together warmed by the heat of the ovens, which are also used to cook the fish for the dinner.

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Eva, Guide from Syracuse, Sicily

Eva loves sharing the local culture of her city with travelers who visit Syracuse. One particular tradition that stands out for the people of Syracuse is the Feast of Santa Lucia (St. Lucy). Each year on December 13, locals celebrate the martyrdom of Saint Lucy when, in the year 304, she was tortured and killed for her refusal to deny her faith in Christ. St. Lucy is the beloved Patron Saint of Syracuse and what is even more remarkable is that she was only 15 years old at the time of her martyrdom.

In Syracuse, St. Lucy is celebrated with a long procession featuring 48 men that carry a beautiful, massive silver statue on their shoulders from the Cathedral of Syracuse through the streets of the city. The procession lasts for about 6 hours until the statue is placed on the main altar of the Church of Santa Lucia al Sepolcro. Under normal circumstances, spectacular fireworks mark the end of this day of celebration and though things are a little different this year, Eva is certain that the light will return!

Sabrina, Guide from Manarola, Cinque Terre, Liguria

Sabrina takes great pride in being from the Cinque Terre village of Manarola, which is home to the largest nativity scene in the world. Composed of over 300 life-size figures and 15,000 lights, the Manarola nativity scene is a wonderful sight that extends across the hill above the town, lighting up the area. The original idea was born 50 years ago with Mario Andreoli who gave life to the nativity scene figures by reutilizing scrap materials. Thanks to solar panels, Manarola’s annual tradition has been eco-friendly for over 10 years.

In spite of these unprecedented times, Manarola has maintained its tradition and on December 8 the 2020 nativity scene was inaugurated with new figures. This year’s nativity scene is dedicated to all healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, in hopes that this difficult period will soon pass.

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Giulia, Guide from Cinque Terre and La Spezia, Liguria

Even outside of the Cinque Terre, the Liguria region is home to many fascinating traditions, as Giulia tells us. One example is the village of Tellaro, which is renowned for its underwater nativity scene. Each year on the night of December 24, divers emerge from the sea with a statue of Baby Jesus. The entire scene is illuminated with small candles (called lumini) placed throughout the streets of the town and the surrounding cliffs. Once on dry land, the statue of Baby Jesus is held up by the parish priest. At this point, the cheers of the locals are punctuated by fireworks and a choir. Then, the statue is taken across town to the parish church where Christmas Mass is held.

This year, the nativity scene will proceed, but in a scaled-back version. It will begin earlier in the evening and will consist of the divers emerging from the water and passing the statue of Baby Jesus to the parish priest who will hold mass. There will not be any fireworks, crowds, nor choirs, but the thousands of candles placed around the town and the cliffs will shine brightly in the night.

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Maddalena, Guide from Florence, Tuscany

Maddalena and her family like to breathe in the crisp air of Christmas while admiring the lights and decorations along the Arno River. She spends Christmas Eve with her extended family and shares Christmas dinner with her best friends and their children who over the years have become best friends with her children.

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Ardena, Guide and Tour Escort from Turin, Piedmont

Ardena loves to walk under the Luci d’Artista, which are Christmas light arrangements by contemporary artists, a tradition unique to her city, Turin. She also enjoys decorating the Christmas tree with her mom and sister using the same ornaments from when she was a child.

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Isabella, Guide from Lake Maggiore

The Christmas tradition that is dearest to Isabella is tied to her childhood in a small Piedmont hamlet called Pedemonte di Gravellona Toce. On Christmas Eve, everyone in the town follows a caravan of locals portraying the various characters of the nativity scene including the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the shepherds, and even Baby Jesus. After traversing the streets of the town, everyone walks to the top of a hill where the characters position themselves for the rest of the evening. The living nativity scene is followed by Christmas Mass.

This year, due to the global health emergency, the living nativity scene unfortunately will not take place in Isabella’s hometown. She is hopeful that next year the nativity scene will return. According to Isabella, you will never find mention of the small nativity scene of Pedemonte di Gravellona Toce in any guide book, however this hometown tradition holds a special place in her heart.

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Giulia, Trips 2 Italy Operations Manager from Colico, Lombardy

Giulia loves the atmosphere of the weeks leading up to Christmas even more than the big day itself. One of her favorite traditions is to visit Milan on December 7, which is the feast day of Saint Ambrose, the patron saint of the city.

As part of the celebrations, Milan hosts the Oh Bej! Oh Bej! Fair, a Christmas market near the Castello Sforzesco that starts on December 7 and lasts until the following Sunday. Giulia likes to visit the market to purchase a few small gifts. She then walks over to Piazza Duomo where she admires the Christmas tree in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II as well as the festive window displays and lights of the designer stores—in particular the ones of the iconic Italian department store, La Rinascente.

December 7 is also the opening night of Teatro alla Scala’s season. The ladies in their elegant long dresses and the men in their dapper tuxedos that walk through the crowds to reach the opera house together with the lights, Christmas decorations, and aroma of roasted chestnuts all make this beautiful city even more magical.

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Viktoria, Naples Specialist, Campania

For Viktoria, Christmas adds a bit of extra sparkle to the lively city of Naples, where the Christmas spirit makes its entrance early. As Christmas approaches, the houses and streets are filled with the heady aromas of local sweets made fresh by moms and grandmas. As any Neapolitan will tell you, nothing quite compares to freshly baked Christmas specialties like the pastiera tart or delectable struffoli, fried balls of dough that are fun to make at home.

Walking through the streets of the city center, the ever-present bustle remains as locals rush to purchase last-minute gifts before the big family dinner. Via San Gregorio Armeno, home of the city’s nativity scene workshops, is the hub of Christmas shopping. In Naples it’s just not Christmas without a nativity scene!

On Christmas Eve, the whole family participates and prepares a large dinner with fish dishes that extends past midnight. Then, on Christmas Day various appetizers and baked pasta dishes are always present as is the traditional maritata soup and insalata di rinforzo, a cauliflower salad. Lunch concludes well past its usual time as families savor ciociole (dried fruits) and compete against each other during rowdy tombola matches.

Still, perhaps the best part about Christmas is the joy on the children’s faces as they unwrap their gifts from Babbo Natale. The city is filled with great happiness and family is the keyword, because, at its core, Christmas is when everyone gathers together.

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From the peaks of the Alps to the southern coast of Sicily, each Italian family celebrates Christmas a little differently. Yet several common themes hold true throughout the country, specifically the importance of family and sharing a delicious meal with loved ones. Near or far, Italians always find a way to celebrate together, proving that even the simplest traditions have the power to unite.

Merry and Bright: Italy’s Christmas Markets

The Holiday Season may look a little different this year, but that won’t stop us from dreaming of postcard-perfect snowcapped mountain landscapes and cups full of decadent hot chocolate. During this time of year, there are typically many fascinating cultural traditions occurring in Italy, with perhaps the most beloved by locals and visitors alike being the annual Mercatini di Natale (Christmas Markets).

A Little History

As the days grow shorter and snow begins to fall, Italians gather in the large squares of their cities and towns to celebrate the season and take in the sights and sounds of the annual Christmas Markets. Considering Italy’s illustrious history, the Mercatini are a relatively new tradition, yet one that is highly anticipated each year.

In Europe, the traditional Christmas Markets were initiated by Germanic cultures during the Middle Ages to celebrate the Feast Day of St. Nicholas. Today, the largest and most historic markets are located in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. The jovial spectacles filled with music, lights, local handicrafts, and food, eventually made their way south to Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige region, tucked away in the picturesque Dolomite Alps.

One of Italy’s earliest Mercatini di Natale modeled after the German markets was held in Bolzano’s sprawling Piazza Walther in 1990. From here, the Germanic-style markets spread through South Tyrol, Alto Adige, and the rest of Italy.

Traditional Wares

Specific characteristics of the Mercatini can vary from town to town, but there is one guarantee—all things Christmas related. The markets themselves consist of small stands set up in the city’s main streets and squares. Here local artisans sell Christmas decorations, culinary products, artisanal crafts, toys, souvenirs, and Christmas gifts. Timing can vary, though usually the Christmas Markets open at the beginning of Advent and end on or around the Epiphany.

To add to the festivities, the streets and squares that host the markets are decked out with all of the appropriate seasonal trappings ranging from large Christmas trees to tinsel, ornaments, and the characteristic lights that shine brightly in the dark winter nights. These marvelous sights are accompanied by traditional carols and festive choirs.

Many Mercatini may also feature performances tied to the season such as living nativity scenes or reenactments of the birth of Christ. Depending on the size of the market, you may also find interactive events such as cooking classes and games. Truly, these whimsical markets offer plenty of fun for the whole family to enjoy!

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Festive Food & Drink

Naturally, since these markets take place in Italy, there are many local culinary specialties to taste. As you enter a Christmas Market, the bright colors and sounds will likely catch your attention first, but then while walking from stand to stand many delicious aromas will greet you.

Though it will vary depending on what part of Italy you find yourself in, seasonal staples at the Mercatini include local cured meats and sausages, freshly baked bread, hot chocolate (the real deal made with milk and melted chocolate), and vin brulé (the Italian Alps version of mulled wine). Also on the menu are some of the very best local sweets ranging from apple strudel to panforte (a chewy dessert made with fruits and nuts).

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For Your Bucket List

Since nearly every major city and town in Italy hosts its own version of Mercatini di Natale, there are plenty of options to choose from! Below you will find a brief summary of the most evocative markets, though this is by no means an exhaustive list. Certainly, if you find yourself in Italy in December, you will have a phenomenal time no matter which Christmas Market you visit.

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In addition to Bolzano, many cities, both large and small, in Trentino-Alto Adige celebrate the Holiday Season with Mercatini di Natale. Some of the largest and most important can be found in Trento, Merano, Brunico, Bressanone, and Vipiteno.

Many of these markets are renowned for their unique traditions. For example, one building in Bolzano’s city center (the former home of astronomer Max Valier) is transformed each year into a giant Advent Calendar implementing 24 of the building’s windows. As each day of Advent passes, one window is opened to reveal lights and a unique Christmas image.

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Aosta

The quaint Alpine city of Aosta transforms into a certifiable Winter Wonderland from the end of November to the beginning of January. Held in the city’s iconic Ancient Roman Theater, this celebration, called Marché Vert Nöel, features charming wooden chalets beautifully decorated to fit the occasion. There are plenty of handmade products on display from soaps and ceramics to wool and lace. Be sure to taste Aosta’s signature sweets and wines as well—you won’t be disappointed!

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Florence

For one full month each year, Florence’s iconic Piazza Santa Croce transports visitors to a delightful German village via the Weihnachtsmarkt German Market. Outside of Trentino-Alto Adige, this is perhaps one of the best intersections of German and Italian culture during the Christmas Season. All of the traditional culinary goodies and remarkable artisanal crafts can be found here in addition to beautiful light displays with the added bonus of a Renaissance backdrop.

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Milan

Milan’s Christmas Market is worth mentioning not only because it is one of the largest in Italy, but because its history is distinct from the Germanic tradition. Characterized as more of a Christmas Fair than a market, the event is called Oh Bej! Oh Bej! (How Beautiful! How Beautiful!) and it is held from December 7 until the following Sunday to coincidence with the Feast of St. Ambrose, the city’s patron Saint. The perfect place to celebrate the beginning of Christmastime and to purchase gifts, sweets, and treats (including roasted chestnuts), today the fair takes place outside of Milan’s iconic Sforza Castle.

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We hope that learning more about Italy’s Mercatini di Natale has brought you a bit of Holiday Cheer. Perhaps you may have even discovered a few new places to visit in the future. No matter how you will be celebrating this year, on behalf of the whole Trips 2 Italy team we wish you a peaceful Holiday Season.

Emilia-Romagna, Land of Culinary & Automotive Innovation

Land of Culinary & Automotive Innovation
Live Italy! Don't Just See It
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Emilia-Romagna, Land of Culinary & Automotive Innovation

While we love to look back and reminisce on all the great memories of past trips, we are also excited and look forward to the incredible experiences we will arrange once the rest of the world can join us again in Italy.
A prime example is the historic region of Emilia-Romagna. With charming cities such as Parma and Piacenza, or Ferrara, Modena, and Ravenna whose artistic treasures are enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Emilia-Romagna offers excellent opportunities for those interested in history and the arts. In addition, Bologna, home to the western world’s oldest university, is a vibrant city with plenty to see resulting in days spent exploring grand piazzas, Medieval and Renaissance architecture, and historic markets. That said, there are two other
important reasons for why this less explored region is one of Italy’s most underrated jewels:
Slow Food and Fast Cars.

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Italy’s Culinary Capital: Emilia Romagna

Famous for being the gastronomic heart of Italy, Emilia-Romagna is the ideal place for anyone who enjoys unique culinary experiences and high quality traditional products. As Italy’s first region to adopt a strict criterion pertaining to the production of quality controlled food products, today Emilia-Romagna has the most certified PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) products in the entire country.

Local Products of the Highest Quality

Any food lover will immediately recognize some of the names on Emilia-Romagna’s long list of PDO and PGI products, while other tasty creations are just waiting to be discovered. Among these delicious products, you will find Parmigiano-Reggiano (nicknamed “The King of Cheeses”—and for good reason) as well as the fragrant Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and the sublime Prosciutto di Parma.

Another product certainly worth mentioning, which may not be immediately recognizable outside of Italy, but can hold its own among the region’s culinary heavyweights, is the Culatello di Zibello, a slow-cured boneless ham that is considered to be a prized rarity among Italians.

For the perfect pairing, consider tasting a nice glass of Lambrusco, one of Emilia Romagna’s superb DOC wines. This sparkling red wine is often featured on tables throughout the region in the company of local cheeses, cold cuts, and meat dishes.

After sampling the Emilia-Romagna’s best cured meats and cheeses, be sure to save room for the handmade pasta, which is nothing short of heavenly. As the home of so many internationally renowned pasta dishes, your most difficult decision will be deciding where to start.

In Emilia-Romagna, fresh egg pasta reigns supreme and a few of the most celebrated shapes include tortellini, cappelletti, and, of course tagliatelle, Emilia-Romagna’s iconic pasta shape traditionally served with ragù alla bolognese, a slow-cooked meat sauce that is also the star of the famous lasagne alla bolognese.

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Zoom Through the Motor Valley

Though there is so much delicious food to enjoy, travelers should be sure to dedicate time to Emilia-Romagna’s other great export: sports cars. Referred to as the Motor Valley, Emilia-Romagna is unique due to the high number of luxury car manufacturers, motorcycle manufacturers, race tracks, and car museums that are all located within a relatively small area. This region is also renowned for its constant innovation in the field of motorsports thanks to ground-breaking developments that are supported by continuous research.

The titans of the automotive industry that call Emilia-Romagna home include such famous names as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati, and Pagani. Each brand is inexplicably tied to this enchanting land from which so much inspiration has been drawn over the decades. Any car lover is sure to enjoy learning more about these automotive powerhouses, visiting the local racetracks (including the ones in Imola and Misano), and exploring museums dedicated to those who continue to push the envelope in technological advancement.

Reimagining the Museum

Italy may be known for its art museums, but the museums located in Emilia-Romagna that are dedicated to automotive brands and motorsports offer a whole new experience. Case in point, visits to the Lamborghini Museum, Maserati Museum, and Ducati Museum offer an up-close look at the history of these influential manufacturers as well as interactive exhibits plus the exceptional opportunity to go behind-the-scenes and witness the production lines.

Also worth visiting is the Pagani Factory and Museum, which may be the youngest of Emilia-Romagna’s automotive brands, but it certainly holds its own thanks to meticulously designed products. Furthermore, Ferrari lovers have two museums to choose from: a museum dedicated to the brand’s founder, Enzo Ferrari, in Modena, and the Museo Ferrari, located in Maranello, the brand’s headquarters.

For travelers with a need for speed, channel your inner Michael Schumacher and test-drive an actual Ferrari (or another super car, such as Lamborghini, if preferred) on the nearby Autodromo of Modena or even the public roads for a true local experience. Alternatively, during a visit to the Museo Ferrari it is possible to take a spin on the exhilarating F1 Driving Simulator.

As we celebrate past experiences and look to the future, this is just a small taste of what Emilia-Romagna can offer. Once things are back to normal, we cannot wait to share these experiences with you. In the meantime, let’s continue to dream. If you are considering adding Emilia-Romagna to your bucket list, click here to discover more about this region’s unforgettable treasures.

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Trentino Alto Adige: A Region for All Seasons

Trentino: A place of Extraordinary Beauty
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Trentino Alto Adige, A Destination for All-Seasons

Traveling may not be easy right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to fall in love with Italy from afar, and Trentino Alto Adige is a marvelous Italian region for just that. It’s a destination for all seasons with stunning year-round hiking, famous architecture, and legendary lakes intertwined with a unique culture and local flavors. Here’s why Trentino Alto Adige is a year-round Italian destination to add to your bucket list.

Where is Trentino Alto Adige?

Trentino Alto Adige (or Trentino/Alto Adige for short) is a hidden gem tucked into the northernmost edge of Italy, bordering both Switzerland and Austria. Due to its location, part of the region has Germanic roots, resulting in a unique culture and spoken languages that differ from the rest of the country. Therefore, you won’t just find Italian here, but also German and Ladin, a language native to the valleys of the Dolomite Mountains and spoken mainly in the provinces of South Tyrol, Trentino, and Belluno.

Enjoy Nature’s Finest at the Dolomites

From the remarkable mountain scenery of the Dolomites to the Buonconsiglio Castle of Trento, there’s so much to do and see on a trip to Trentino, no matter the time of year.

Experience in Trentino-Alto Adige

The Dolomite Mountains are easily one of the best places to visit in all of Italy serving as a haven for both nature lovers and landscape admirers. With jagged peaks and vertiginous walls, the Dolomites are unlike anywhere else.
Hikers and adventure enthusiasts alike will enjoy trekking rough peaks, climbing steep walls, mountain biking, and even exciting alpine skiing during the winter months.

Travelers instead seeking to unwind or be pampered should consider spending time in Trentino Alto Adige’s world-renowned thermal spas and wellness resorts. Towns such as Merano, Levico Terme, and Comano Terme are tucked away in the mountains allowing for complete relaxation in thermal waters surrounded by picturesque natural scenery. Resort guests can recharge the body immersed in hay baths enhanced with local mountain herbs and wildflowers, all in the swankiest modern accommodations designed to harmoniously blend with nature.
This phenomenal region transforms each season with snow-capped mountains in winter and gorgeous fall foliage in autumn, while its mountains are still dotted with snow. Spring and summer have no shortage of beauty either, offering perfect weather to explore the region’s many nature parks. Truly, there’s no bad time to visit the Dolomite Mountains.

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Explore Historic Castles

Exploring the many castles of Trentino is another excellent way to spend your time on a trip to Italy. From the region’s capital of Trento to hidden lakeside wonders, there are hundreds of castles scattered throughout Trentino-Alto Adige. With so many castles worthy of a visit, it may be difficult to narrow down the best ones for your trip.
For instance, there’s a mystical castle by the name of Toblino. It’s located on the lakeside with its reflection doubling its beauty onto the water. Numerous legends and gorgeous scenery make this 16th century fortress a must-visit destination in Trentino.
Another notable castle is the Buonconsiglio Castle, which was once the residence of the prince-bishops of Trento and is now a striking symbol of the city. Immerse yourself in Trento’s history while enjoying lovely ancient architecture, intricate ceilings and courtyards as well as royal views overlooking the city.
These are only two examples of countless fascinating castles just waiting to be discovered throughout Trentino-Alto Adige.

Wander Magical Christmas Markets

You’ll be hard-pressed to find better Christmas markets in Italy than the ones in Trentino Alto Adige. This region is the place to be when Christmastime rolls around. The holiday spirit fills the air as oversized Christmas trees, tinsel, and winter decor sprawl the squares across the region.
Set against the remarkable backdrop of the Dolomite Mountains, the yearly Christmas markets held in cities like TrentoBolzano, and Bressanone are truly a sight to behold.

During winter vacations to Trentino Alto Adige, you’ll adventure in ski resorts by day then spend the evenings munching on fresh market goodies and wandering the stalls for festive items, trinkets, and winter wear.

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Indulge In Local Food and Wine

While you’ll still find Mediterranean inspiration in the cuisine, Austrian and German influences contribute largely to the region, making it vastly different from other Italian regions.
For example, favorites across Trentino Alto Adige include Speck, a cured and lightly smoked ham, as well as Schüttelbrot, a type of crunchy flatbread. Trentino Alto Adige also has world-renowned apple orchards, which greatly contribute to the area’s most famous dessert, apple strudel. The unique sweetness of these apples is what makes Trentino’s apple strudel so delicious, along with the shortcrust pastry, pine nuts, raisins, and cinnamon, of course.
As for wine, you’ll still find quite a bit of that here too as wine making has taken place in Trentino for over 3,000 years. Approximately 60% of the wine made in Trentino Alto Adige is white wine with varieties such as Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay grown throughout the region. It is interesting to note that currently the most widely grown grape in Trentino is actually a red one, Schiava (or Vernatsch as it’s called in German). This grape is often used as a base for light-bodied red wines like the tasty St. Magdalener (Santa Maddalena). With so many options, you’ll easily be able to indulge in wine-tasting while visiting Trentino-Alto Adige year-round.

Soak up the Sun Lakeside

Let us not forget the legendary lakes of Trentino Alto Adige. With 297 gorgeous mountain lakes, this region is spectacular for its scenery and adventures. It’s a region adored by hikers, climbers, and skiers alike. Lake Ledro is astounding for its crystal-clear waters, while Lake Molveno, immersed in the Dolomites, is frequently nominated for the ‘Best Lake in Italy’. Famously shared on Instagram because of its indescribable beauty, Lake Braies is sure to take your breath away. Certainly, worth a mention as well is Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, favored by sailors, windsurfers, kayakers, and kitesurfers alike, which is partially located in Trentino Alto Adige. Take your pick; there’s plenty of water to explore here.

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Until we are able to travel again, we can continue to fall in love with Italy from a distance. Trentino Alto Adige is a spectacular hidden gem to discover, no matter the season. Has Trentino Alto Adige caught your interest? Click on Trentino Alto Adige to learn more about this marvelous Italian Region .

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