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Regions in Italy Perfect for Exploring by Car

Travel Italy By Car

Perfect Regions of Italy for Exploring by Car

There’s never been a better time to get behind the wheel and explore the Italian peninsula by car. Whether you’ve been to Italy before or are planning your first trip, including a rental car in your travel package is an excellent way to get in touch with the authentic side of Italy. While not all parts of the country are easy for visitors to navigate on their own, there are certain areas that are best explored by car. From verdant vineyards to countryside scenes and coastal escapes, let’s take a virtual road trip through Italy.

1. Palladian Villas and Wine Testing in Veneto Region

Though the most well-known city in Veneto is Venice, this northeastern Italian region is filled with many other treasures worthy of a spot on your bucket list. From history and culture to food and wine, Veneto is a destination our travelers fall in love with year after year. In addition to major cities, such as mesmerizing Verona, there are two distinct parts of the region that offer truly unique experiences for those traveling by car.

First and foremost, Veneto preserves the legacy of native son Andrea Palladio, a revered sixteenth century architect. Drawing inspiration from Ancient Greek and Roman architecture, Palladio’s distinct style influenced countless other architects in Europe and North America over the centuries. Today, the city of Vicenza and 24 Palladian villas in the Veneto region are collectively a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In Vicenza, our expert local guides can’t wait to share the majesty of the famed Teatro Olimpico and other Palladian palaces and villas, such as Palazzo Chiericati, with you. After exploring the streets of Vicenza, continue your voyage along the banks of the Brenta River, which are dotted with Palladian villas and other villas commissioned by the Venetian aristocracy over the centuries. Your guide will point out the unique characteristics of each structure and explain the unifying elements of the Palladian villas, such as white columns, monumental staircases, and pediments.

One unforgettable way to take in the beauty of Palladio’s architecture and the surrounding scenery is to enjoy a cruise along the Brenta River. For true aficionados, it’s even possible to spend the night in a Palladian villa surrounded by the wondrous designs of one of Italy’s most influential architects.

Another local claim to fame is Veneto’s extensive wine-making tradition. From Soave to Valpolicella, there are several wine areas tucked away in the region’s hills that are just waiting to be explored. One of the most famous is located in the province of Treviso between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Referred to as the Prosecco Hills, this area is the birthplace of Italy’s most beloved sparkling wine.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019, the dramatic scenery of the Prosecco Hills — punctuated by steep slopes and tapered ridges — is truly a sight to be seen. Amongst these landscapes, travelers can cruise along the Strada del Prosecco (Prosecco Road), which extends over 55 miles and connects the area’s centuries-old wineries where unforgettable wine tastings await. Get to know the winemakers themselves as they let you in on a few of their secrets. Along the way, there’s no shortage of picturesque countryside villages to explore from historic Collabrigo to Refrontolo, which is renowned for its ancient water mill that is still in use.

Much like its wine, Veneto is a region meant to be savored and experienced at a slower pace.

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2. Wild Coastal Scenery and Etruscan Villages in Maremma

Italy’s Tuscany region typically conjures up images of rolling hills covered with vineyards and cypress trees. While those parts of the Tuscan countryside are certainly alluring, the region is home to varied landscapes, with some of the most internationally underrated found in the Maremma area. Located in the southern part of Tuscany, Maremma extends along the coast of the province of Livorno into the northern part of the Lazio region and ends in the province of Viterbo.

Mainly visited by Italian and European travelers, Maremma’s rugged natural beauty remains largely untamed. The landscape, once virtually uninhabited marshland, is now known for its protected natural areas and beaches favored by the locals. Visitors may enjoy hiking through the parks with a knowledgeable nature guide and learning about the local butteri, horseback herders native to Maremma, of which only a small number remain.

Quite a few of the towns in the Maremma area can trace their origins back to the Etruscans. This millenary history is best explained by someone who grew up in the area, has studied its past extensively, and knows these enchanting villages carved into tuff rock like the back of their hand. With the assistance of a local guide, you’ll have the opportunity to admire fascinating towns tucked away in the countryside that might have otherwise been missed.

A few examples include Saturnia, which is characterized by its historic hot springs, and Pitigliano, which is home to Etruscan ruins, medieval and Renaissance architecture, and a historic Jewish community. Other must-sees include the charming cliffside town of Sorano, the Etruscan tombs of Tarquinia, and Viterbo, which hosted the papacy for part of the thirteenth century.

Among the most unique examples of architecture in the area is Villa Farnese. Located in the province of Viterbo, this Renaissance palace dominates the surrounding countryside and features a remarkable pentagonal structure. Surrounded by lush gardens, the interior is home to detailed frescoes and grand staircases.

While visiting Maremma by car, travelers have the opportunity to stay in authentic countryside accommodations. From farmhouses to country estates, these historic structures surrounded by gardens or even vineyards are the best way to connect with the friendly locals and truly appreciate the natural surroundings.

For an unmatched mix of culture, ancient history, and natural beauty, look no further than the Maremma area; and, with a few extra days on hand, Tuscany’s iconic landmarks, such as Florence, Siena, and the Chianti area, can be worked into the same itinerary.

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3. Rolling Hills and Historic Castles in Marche

A region of cliffs, beaches, hills, and mountains, Marche’s natural scenery is incredibly varied. We’ve touched on the incomparable beauty of the hilltop city of Urbino before. Known for its Renaissance architecture, the birthplace of Raphael perfectly embodies the rich history and undeniable appeal of the Marche region. And yet, Urbino is just one of the region’s many pearls.

With the Apennines to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east, the Marche region is defined in part by the nature found within its borders. The interior territory is primarily composed of mountains and hills with stunning natural parks and reserves, such as Monti Sibillini National Park and part of the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park. Tucked away in the hills are small medieval towns full of charm, such as Corinaldo, which is renowned for its defensive walls and undulating streets that make it one of the most picturesque villages in all of Italy.

Along the coast, Parco del Conero amazes visitors with its rugged cliffs and tranquil bays. Hiking trails lead to the summit of Monte Conero where jaw-dropping views of the coast can be admired. Among the principal coastal cities are Pesaro, the hometown of opera composer Gioachino Rossini, and Ancona, the lively capital of the Marche region.

The Grotte di Frasassi, or the Frasassi Caves, are one of the most noteworthy natural wonders in the region and among the most extensive cave systems in Europe. During a guided tour of the Frasassi Caves, travelers can admire wondrous stalagmites, stalactites, a crystallized lake, and the captivating Ancona Abyss, a large cavern that reaches a height of 656 feet. It is estimated that the natural phenomena in the caves took over 1 million years to form.

The Marche region as we know it today has been greatly shaped by its past. The territory once served as the frontier of the Holy Roman Empire, and, as a result, the countryside is dotted with historic castles and defensive structures. Among the most renowned is the thirteenth-century Castello di Gradara (Gradara Castle), which served as the setting for the tragic story of Paolo and Francesca featured in Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Growing up, our guides from the Marche region played in the shadow of the Gradara Castle and today share their local insight with those who visit. Characterized by imposing walls and panoramic ramparts, the castle watches over a medieval village and offers stunning views of San Marino and Rimini. Other striking castles worthy of a stop during a road trip through Marche include the well-preserved Rocca di Mondavio and Rocca Ubaldinesca, which is perched above the Foglia River.

Though not as well-known among international travelers, the Marche region offers unparalleled and authentic experiences amid nature and history that will not disappoint.

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4. Charming masserie and whitewashed towns in Apulia

With a gorgeous coastline, crystal blue waters, vibrant cuisine, and a rich history that dates back to the Ancient Greeks, Apulia is quickly becoming one of Southern Italy’s most desirable travel destinations. Located in the heel of Italy’s boot, this land rich in culture and traditions seems suspended in time.

From the lush countryside to the sparkling waters of the coast, Apulia offers incomparable experiences that awaken all the senses. As you drive through the winding roads of the region, be sure to stop in one of the traditional farmhouses native to Apulia. Known as masserie, these stone structures have stood the test of time. Originally constructed as rustic abodes for local farmers, today some masserie have been given upscale renovations, while others appear as they did centuries ago. Most are surrounded by typical Apulian countryside scenery with endless rows of ancient olive trees and a unique reddish soil dominating the landscape.

The masserie lie at the heart of Apulian culture offering once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. For a delightful and highly authentic experience, our travelers to the region might choose to spend a few nights in a masseria. If you prefer to stay in one of the region’s charming towns or along the coast, you could still visit a masseria to participate in unique local experiences, such as a hands-on cooking class led by a local nonna eager to share the culinary traditions that have been part of her family for generations.

Apulia’s charm also lies in the numerous captivating whitewashed towns that would be right at home in a fairy tale. From Foggia in the north through Locorotondo and Ostuni down to Otranto and Gallipoli, it’s possible to cross the majority of the region while admiring the crisp, white structures of each town. Though Ostuni is officially known as “The White City,” each of these destinations is defined by stunning white buildings that stand out against the background of the blue sea or verdant countryside.

As for food, we’ll guide you through the region’s best vineyards and olive groves where high quality wines and olive oil have been produced for centuries. Learn about the traditional processes passed down from generation to generation directly from the locals themselves. Listen as master winemakers and olive oil producers share the secrets of their craft with great pride.

Don’t miss the chance to literally break bread with the locals as you taste pane di Altamura, or Altamura bread. Hailing from the Altamura area in the northern part of Apulia, this historic bread is made following set protocols that define the specific type of wheat and production process. The result is a fragrant loaf of bread with a thick crust and a soft interior.

Whether you choose to stay in a countryside masseria, one of the stunning white towns, or a coastal resort, the Apulia region — one of Southern Italy’s brightest gems — is sure to leave a lasting impression.

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5. Seaside paradises and pristine countryside in Sardinia

The enchanting island of Sardinia beckons to those who prefer to take the path less traveled. While the tourism infrastructure found in other parts of Italy isn’t present in the majority of the island, it’s precisely Sardinia’s untouched nature that makes this region attractive to travelers with an adventurous spirit.

If beach time and relaxation are your priorities, drive along the Costa Smeralda, or Emerald Coast, which is positioned in the northeastern part of the island. This glamorous area is home to upscale resort towns, such as Porto Cervo. The clear blue water and white sands combined with elegant restaurants, bars, and clubs have attracted the jet set and celebrities from all over the world for decades.

To truly get in touch with the local culture, be sure to venture into the rustic countryside. Though Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean, its sparse population results in a wild landscape largely free from the influence of man. Nature lovers will enjoy hiking their way through the hills and mountains of the island’s interior. You can also delve into Sardinia’s past by visiting one of the numerous nuraghi scattered throughout the countryside. These prehistoric stone structures date back to the Bronze Age and have become a symbol of the island.

During your time in Sardinia, don’t miss the chance to stay in an authentic agriturismo, which is a modest accommodation set on the grounds of a working farm. Here, the locals will be happy to show you how products such as cheese are still made following centuries-old traditions. There’s no better souvenir to take home with you than a small bottle of olive oil or vinegar made with care by your new friends.

Whether you come for the history, the beaches, the scenery, or all of the above, Sardinia is a place that remains part of you long after you’ve left.

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Taking the time to explore Italy by car allows travelers to set their own pace and fully immerse in the culture, history, and scenery of a particular destination. Imagine enjoying a special countryside picnic or having unlimited stops to capture those special moments and stunning sceneries on camera. If you’re an adventurer who enjoys a bit of spontaneity, traveling through Italy by car can offer unique opportunities that other methods of transportation do not. After learning about some of Italy’s best regions to discover by car, we hope you’ve found some new inspiration for your next road trip through Italy.

Italy’s Best Underrated Archeological Sites

Italy's Archaeology Sites

Best Italy's underrated archeological sites

With a rich history that spans millennia, Italy is naturally home to hundreds of interesting archeological sites. Once you’ve admired the majesty of the Colosseum and walked through the preserved streets of the city of Pompeii, there are still plenty of noteworthy archeological areas throughout Italy to explore. The following list contains our favorite outdoor archeological sites that history and architecture lovers shouldn’t miss.

1. Aosta's Roman Ruins

Known as the “Rome of the Alps,” the city of Aosta is home to an impressive number of Roman ruins. Tucked away in the small region of the Aosta Valley along the border with France, a stroll through Aosta’s city center offers views of one remarkably well-preserved Roman monument after another, effectively making the city a large outdoor archeological site. Our knowledgeable and local guides who have extensively studied the city’s past and played among the Roman ruins as kids would love to show you around this ancient city.

Among the most evident vestiges of Aosta’s Roman founders are the imposing city walls, which continue to welcome visitors as they enter into the city. Amazingly, the thick concrete and stone walls are nearly fully preserved. Reaching a height of 21 feet, it’s possible to walk along the walls and admire the original Roman gates, two of which remain intact, as well as towers built during the medieval period.

As you begin exploring Aosta, take note of the streets. The orderly arrangement follows a Roman plan and your guide will explain how the city’s layout served the Romans from a strategic standpoint. Within the city walls are the ruins of the Roman Theater, which nowadays hosts concerts in the summer and the city’s annual Christmas market in the winter. Near the theater, remains of a later Roman amphitheater and marketplace have been uncovered.

With Augusta Praetoria Salassorum as the city’s original Roman name, it’s no surprise that a magnificent triumphal arch dedicated to Emperor Augustus stands just outside of the city walls. As one of Aosta’s most important monuments, the arch commemorates the Roman defeat of the Salassi tribe and the founding of Aosta. There are also two Roman bridges of note, one near the arch, called Ponte di Pietra, which once crossed the Buthier River, and the Pont d’Aël, which served as an aqueduct and transported water to the Roman colony. Today it’s possible to walk along the top of the latter bridge and admire views of the surrounding area.

With the exception of Rome, there’s truly no better place than Aosta to fully appreciate the vast history of the Roman Empire while experiencing countless ancient remains up-close.

2. Aquileia

Taking into account its current modest appearance as a small town in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, it can be hard to believe that Aquileia was once among the largest and most important cities in the ancient world. After its founding in 181 BC, Aquileia served as a trading center and military outpost for the Romans until it was destroyed by Attila in the fifth century. Subsequently, Aquileia became an important hub for the spread of Christianity throughout Europe.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, Aquileia differs from other archeological sites in Italy as it remains largely unexcavated. Visible ruins are scarce and primarily include a bath complex, residential structures, funerary monuments, part of the amphitheater, and several columns of the Roman Forum — which have become a symbol of Aquileia.

In addition to these remnants, a treasure trove of Roman artifacts lies just beneath the vast green fields. As a result, Aquileia is one of the most important archeological reserves in the world. The ruins of the ancient city even extend to the port area. Aquileia’s strategic position on the Natiso River helped it become one of the wealthiest cities in the Roman Empire and various port structures can still be observed today.

Covering nearly 400 acres, the expansive archeological site is best explored with an expert guide. Our skilled guides provide historic context and ensure you don’t miss anything, which is especially important in Aquileia since most of the structures are still underground. To supplement your visit, stop by the National Archeological Museum where more than 2,000 ancient artifacts are on display.

Last, but certainly not least, travelers shouldn’t miss Aquileia’s Patriarchal Basilica, a medieval church built on top of an ancient complex. The current church houses a stunning fourth century mosaic floor, which is the single largest mosaic work in Italy.

Sitting at the crossroads of Ancient Roman and Early Christian history, modern Aquileia is a small town with an immense past.

3. Rock Drawing in Val Camonica

Italy’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site is tucked away amongst the Alpine valleys of eastern Lombardy in the province of Brescia. Known as Val Camonica, this area is home to over 140,000 figures and symbols carved into the local rock. Created over a period of more than 8,000 years, the drawings in Val Camonica are considered to be one of the largest collections of prehistoric petroglyphs in the world.

Because the carvings are spread across a large valley and encompass 8 local parks, touring the area with a local guide is a must. Trips 2 Italy guides, who have studied the drawings and local history for years, are eager to share their insight with you.

The petroglyphs themselves are diverse and depict a variety of important cultural aspects, such as hunting, in addition to symbols and geometric figures. Interestingly, the drawings also mark cultural shifts in the local population, such as the transition from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to farming. The interpretations of the drawings provided by your guide will be essential to understanding prehistoric customs and mindsets.

Discovered at the beginning of the twentieth century and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the rock drawings provide a valuable look at the history of mankind from the Neolithic Period to the Middle Ages. Visitors will be amazed by the level of detail achieved by our ancestors with primitive tools.

For a truly unique outdoor museum surrounded by pristine natural beauty that will satisfy both historians and hikers, look no further than Val Camonica.

4. Paestum

Often overshadowed by its neighbor to the north, Pompeii, the ancient city of Paestum is more than worth a visit in its own right. Founded by the Greeks as Poseidonia in the seventh century BC then conquered by the Romans, Paestum was eventually abandoned in the Middle Ages before being rediscovered during the eighteenth century. As a result, much of the original Greek city is intact, including three ancient temples.

While the ancient city once covered nearly 300 acres, nowadays approximately 62 acres have been excavated and can be visited. Spend a day exploring this incomparable archeological site with a local guide who will help you travel back in time to Magna Graecia.

Follow your guide through the ancient roads paved by the Greeks to experience Paestum through the eyes of a local. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to admire the nearly complete city walls, which span 3 miles, the amphitheater, and, of course, the temples that were constructed over a period from approximately 550 BC to 450 BC.

In addition to the Greek temples, it’s also possible to take in remains of the city’s Roman period including the forum, amphitheater, and a temple. Also of note are the painted tombs that date back to the Greek and Lucanian periods. The most renowned is the Tomb of the Diver, which is on display at the Paestum National Archeological Museum among other ancient works of art including painted pottery and terracotta statues.

With its immaculately preserved temples, Paestum is perhaps the best place in Italy to trace the history and culture of the Ancient Greeks who settled in the southern part of the peninsula.

5. Sicily

As far as archeological sites go, the island of Sicily has it all — the remains of ancient temples, theaters, villas, mosaics, and much more. While the majority of Sicily’s archeological sites are of Greek origin, one exceptional Roman monument can be found near the town of Piazza Armerina.

The Villa Romana del Casale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, boasts one of the most extensive and highly regarded collections of Roman mosaics on the planet. Dating back to the fourth century, the intricately detailed and elaborate mosaics span more than 37,000 square feet. The mosaics are in an impeccable state of conservation and offer invaluable insight into Ancient Roman culture. Due to its scale and variety of mosaics, Villa Romana del Casale is one place that would be simply overwhelming to visit without the guidance of a local art and history expert.

As for Greek ruins, one must-see is the Valley of the Temples. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples is a vast archeological area home to some of the most well-preserved Greek temples in the world. With 11 magnificent temples and other ancient structures to explore, our local guides can’t wait to share their passion for this remarkable place with you.

Other noteworthy sites include the well-preserved Greek temple located just outside of Segesta, as well as the Greek amphitheater of Taormina, which today is one of Italy’s most evocative concert venues. Also not to be missed is Syracuse’s Neapolis Archeological Park, which features a Greek theater, a Roman amphitheater, and the Ear of Dionysus, a natural cavern with exceptional acoustics.

We’ve only scratched the surface of Sicily’s impressive array of archeological sites. In fact, the island is filled with gems that are best explored by car. If you choose to rent a car, your Trips 2 Italy travel package will include our personal off-the-beaten-path suggestions, while if you travel with a private driver, your driver will be more than happy to show you places only locals know about.

With so many archeological wonders to admire, a trip to Sicily offers unforgettable encounters with the island’s past.

From Roman ruins to Greek temples and prehistoric artwork, Italy’s outdoor archeological sites transport travelers back in time. Whether you’re a devoted history buff or simply take travel as an opportunity to learn about the world’s greatest ancient civilizations, there’s nothing quite like setting your eyes on a historic monument or work of art that has endured for thousands of years.

Of course, getting lost in some of Italy’s serious history doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy other legendary sites or leisurely activities all during the same trip. From guided city tours and skip-the-line museum entrances to winery visits and tastings or even hands-on cooking classes, Trips 2 Italy can design the ideal itinerary so you can fully immerse in the country’s rich culture and traditions. If you are interested in any of these historic sites but can’t decide which area of Italy to visit first, contact your Trips 2 Italy travel specialist to customize your perfect travel package.

Recharge and Reconnect in Italy

Unifying Power of Trevel to Italy

Bringing Loved Ones Together Through Travel

As we look ahead to travel after the COVID-19 pandemic, intimacy is a key theme that will guide us from the early planning stages through the end of the trip. Working one-on-one with a travel specialist has always been the best way to handcraft an extraordinary vacation, and this will continue to ring true once we can travel internationally again. After having our worlds turned upside down and not being able to fully enjoy the company of close friends and family for over a year, tailoring a private travel experience to Italy can be a perfect way to compensate for lost time, re-embrace one another, and create new memories together without sacrificing safety.

Advantages of customized private travel

Have you ever dreamed of cruising through the Tuscan countryside with your loved ones on an iconic vespa? Or perhaps admiring the intricate details of the Sistine Chapel during an exclusive tour? Or even simply losing yourself in the history and charm of a medieval hilltop town?

All of these dreams and more can come true during a vacation to Italy tailored especially for you and those whose company you truly cherish. When you create a trip with a knowledgeable travel specialist, every detail — no matter how small — is carefully considered. From transportation logistics to skip-the-line entrance reservations and travel tips only the locals know, an individualized itinerary will always prove invaluable, especially after the pandemic. For an expertly planned vacation personalized to the needs of intimate groups that allows everyone to make the most of a once-in-a-lifetime trip, made-to-measure travel is the only way to go.

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Traveling in a private small group

You may be familiar with traditional big bus tours or independent trips, but what exactly does it mean to travel in a private small group? Simply put, you get the best of both worlds. Private small group travel combines the freedom of solo travel, such as time at leisure, with the benefits of group travel, such as shared transportation — except instead of traveling with a group of strangers, you’ll create memories with your family or closest friends.

Escorted group tours typically feature rigid itineraries with countless activities scheduled back-to-back. When you craft a private small group trip, you set the pace. Want to have a designated day at leisure in each destination? No problem. Looking for a variety of activities, from cultural tours to food and wine tastings, that’ll keep everyone engaged? Just describe your interests to your travel specialist, they’ll take care of the rest.

One of the best parts of a custom-made vacation is flexibility. While some members of your party may choose to participate in certain activities, others can take a different tour or enjoy time at leisure. This ensures that there’s always ample time to create memories together while still leaving room for independent activities.

As a private small group, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy transportation exclusive to your party. This can maximize your time and allow you to see places you might have otherwise missed. For example, Rome and Florence are typically must-visits during a first-time trip to Italy, but there are plenty of lesser-known gems in between these two top destinations. During a personalized trip, you can make the most of your private transportation and stop in the picturesque hilltop town of Orvieto, or explore the Etruscan towns of southern Tuscany as you travel from Rome to Florence, or vice versa.

You’ll also enjoy private tours with local guides to truly immerse in the local history and culture. These guides have studied for years and are experts in their destinations. On top of a deep understanding of the history and culture of the places you’ll visit, the guides can also share hidden gems and spots favored by the locals. Plus, if you have special excursions in mind, such as visiting the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci or tasting high-quality specialty food products in the culinary capital of Bologna these can be easily factored into the itinerary of a bespoke trip.

During your tailor-made vacation to Italy, accommodations will be hand-selected for your small group based on your personal preferences. In cities like Rome, Florence, or Venice, you can enjoy the advantages of city center hotels located within easy walking distance of major monuments, museums, shops, authentic restaurants, and other attractions. History lovers will enjoy spending their nights in centuries-old palaces, yet there are also plenty of choices for those who prefer boutique hotels or luxury experiences. In the countryside, consider staying at an agriturismo or country estate where the friendly owners will welcome you as part of their family and show you how local products are made. Regardless of the type of accommodations your travel party prefers, there are a wide range of options available to meet your needs.

The beauty of private small group travel is that any of your specific preferences or special requests for tours, excursions, hotels, or transportation can be factored into the itinerary during the planning stage, ensuring that your dream vacation becomes a reality just as you pictured it. While returning to travel post-pandemic might require some small adjustments, safety will always be a priority when tailoring your unique travel itinerary.

Creating lifelong memories with those who matter

Take a moment to envision yourself and loved ones enjoying a special meal with spectacular views of the Amalfi Coast under a lemon-scented terrace as the blue waves of the Tyrrhenian Sea crash against the cliffs below. This is just one of the incredible experiences you can share with your loved ones during a personalized vacation to Italy.

Take Italy’s millenary history, combine it with one-of-a-kind artistic treasures, natural scenery that varies from the snowy peaks of the Alps to verdant rolling hills and sunny beaches, and the most incredible food and wine you’ve ever tasted, and the possibilities are truly endless.

Families with children can bond during a hands-on pizza-making class, while a group of close friends might enjoy an intimate wine tasting at a family-owned winery in the Umbrian countryside. During truffle season, you can join a truffle hunter and forage through the woods for Italy’s most prized tubers. Active groups may wish to hike together along the coastal trails of the legendary Cinque Terre National Park or snorkel through the crystal-clear waters off the coast of Sardinia.

Of course, this is all without mentioning the history. Italy has the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the planet. From Prehistory to Classical Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Late Modern Period, and everything in between, Italy has it covered. Imagine exploring the preserved remains of the lost city of Pompeii, standing in awe at the sheer majesty of Michelangelo’s sculpture of David, and floating down the canals that generations of Venetians have navigated for centuries — all in the same trip.

Private small group trips also allow you to slow down and truly engage with the local culture. Feel free to take the backroads and discover the places only locals know. From family-owned restaurants with incredible food to hidden churches with jaw-dropping artistic gems and panoramas that must be seen to be believed, you never know what you may stumble across.

No matter your interests, Italy offers an extensive array of unforgettable and one-of-a-kind activities that promote group and family bonding as well as a highly rewarding travel experience.

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Travel adventures have the inherent ability to bring people together. Whether you’re looking to travel with an exclusive party of friends, your family, or both, a meticulously-crafted vacation allows for intimate experiences and opportunities to spend quality time together that all of you will treasure for years to come. If you envision Italy as a destination for your post-pandemic travel bucket list, contact Trips 2 Italy to begin working one-on-one with your travel specialist and create your unforgettable Italian vacation of a lifetime.

Top 5 Activities to Experience in Italy with your Family

Make Happy Memories with Family
Make Happy Memories with Family

Top 5 Activities to Experience in Italy with Your Family

Traveling to another country offers unique opportunities not only to unwind, but to bond with travel companions during culturally enriching experiences that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Italy’s varied landscape coupled with a vast selection of cultural, artistic, historic, and culinary offerings makes this scenic peninsula the perfect place for a post-pandemic family vacation. Continue reading to discover a variety of uniquely Italian activities that will encourage families with children of all ages to reconnect and relish in fond moments that will be cherished for a lifetime.

1. Meet Ötzi the Iceman at the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano

In 1991, on an Alpine glacier at an elevation of more than 10,000 feet, a pair of hikers stumbled upon Europe’s oldest natural mummy. Preserved in ice for thousands of years, Ötzi the Iceman was discovered with his clothing and tools intact. Today, curious travelers of all ages can visit Ötzi in the Northern Italian city of Bolzano.

A trip to the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology allows families to step back in time and learn about what it took to survive in the frigid temperatures of this part of the world more than 5,000 years ago. The museum offers a specialized audio guide to help children immerse in the exhibit and get to know Ötzi and his story. The permanent exhibition outlines Ötzi’s discovery, provides an in-depth look at the objects found with the mummy, and offers a reconstruction of Ötzi’s possible appearance during his lifetime. Over the years, many museum visitors have been left in awe by the determination and skill of our Stone Age ancestors.

After visiting the museum, be sure to explore Bolzano’s remarkable historic city center with characteristic medieval architecture and an Alpine atmosphere that places the city at the crossroads of the Mediterranean and Germanic cultures. Take a break from sightseeing and enjoy a merenda in one of the pastry shops where you can indulge in the local strudel or an authentic Sachertorte. Surrounded by the vertiginous peaks of the Dolomites, Bolzano is also renowned for its outstanding natural beauty. There’s plenty to do in the surrounding area including exploring the stunning mountains, enchanting lakes, historic castles…the list goes on!

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2. Attend the Donkey Palio in Alba

Each year on the first Sunday of October, the city of Alba in the Piedmont region hosts what many consider to be Italy’s silliest historic event: the Palio degli Asini. The origins of this event can be traced to a medieval feud between Alba and neighboring Asti. As opposed to other medieval races still held in Italy, the Paglio degli Asini is lighthearted due to the temperament and antics of its protagonists, the donkeys.

The event opens with a historic procession complete with music, choreographed flag wavers, and elegant medieval costumes. The procession is organized by the locals and all nine of Alba’s borghi (historic neighborhoods) participate by representing a scene or an aspect of medieval life, such as the harvest.

The Palio itself consists of two rounds plus a final race to determine the overall winner. Amongst the fervent cheers of the locals, spectators of all ages will share plenty of laughs while watching the jockeys attempt to coax their stubborn, and often uncooperative partners, around the track and across the finish line. The sights and sounds of this immersive event promise a memorable experience that visitors to Alba will live alongside the passionate locals.

The Palio degli Asini also marks the start of Alba’s International White Truffle Fair, which is the city’s most important annual event. The fair attracts truffle lovers from across the globe for tastings, cooking shows, a truffle market, and more. The week following the Palio, the locals continue to celebrate food with a medieval food fair featuring an array of beloved traditional dishes, such as porchetta.

Thanks to its rich history, picturesque location in the Langhe hills, and exceptional local cuisine characterized by Barolo wine and white truffles, Alba is a superb family destination no matter the time of year.

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3. Play Knights at the Castello di Gropparello in Emilia-Romagna

The Gropparello Castle, located approximately 50 miles south of Milan in the province of Piacenza, is literally one of the most enchanting locations in Italy. This genuine medieval castle perched over a ravine is part of a one-of-a-kind park where kids and their families are transported into a fairy tale. The woods surrounding the castle provide the perfect setting for knights, ogres, elves, fairies, witches, and wizards. In this real-life fairy tale, kids are the protagonists as they make their way through the magical woods with swords in hand to defeat the forces of evil and rescue a kidnapped fairy.

The Fairy Tale Park’s mission is to go beyond standard guided tours aimed at adults, and create an unforgettable cultural experience for children allowing them to truly engage with history. Led through the park by guides dressed as knights, all kids will be amazed as the fairies and other enchanted creatures of their imagination become reality. While the kids have fun, parents will appreciate the intent behind the park, which aims to foster teamwork, communication, creativity, and self-esteem.

Adults are also invited to join in during certain activities, resulting in fun for the entire family. After making their way through the enchanted forest, families can share a meal at the Castle’s tavern, which offers a fine menu of traditional recipes made with fresh, local ingredients — the perfect ending to a fairy-tale family adventure!

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4. Treasure hunt in Ancient Rome

A vacation to Italy just wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the remarkable history of one of the world’s most ancient and powerful civilizations. For a special kid-friendly activity, families can embark on a unique treasure hunt through the most famous landmarks of Ancient Rome — the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. With a treasure map in hand, kids will channel their inner archeologist and solve clues with their family leading to a special prize. This unforgettable experience is sure to foster a new appreciation for history and ancient architecture in kids and adults alike.

As the largest and arguably most famous city in Italy, Rome needs no introduction. The charm of the Eternal City lies in the many layers of the city’s past. In addition to a treasure hunt through Ancient Rome, families may also enjoy exploring the authentic Trastevere neighborhood, admiring panoramas of Rome from the rooftop of the Vittoriano Monument, or taking an excursion to the Ancient Roman and Renaissance villas of Tivoli. There’s truly no better place to watch history come alive than Rome.

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5. Make Pizza in Campania

After learning how to make authentic Neapolitan pizza in the region where this classic Italian staple was born, your family pizza nights will be forever transformed. A hands-on pizza cooking class is an excellent way to learn how to make Neapolitan pizza while fostering precious moments with your family. From picking fresh ingredients to the right oven temperature, all the secrets will be revealed during this fun and engaging class. Follow along with the local chef to learn the basics and work as a team to craft the perfect pizza. Once your pizza is ready, you’ll taste the fruits of your labor and share a traditional Italian meal with your family in an authentic setting, completing your engrossing cultural experience. It doesn’t get much better than this!

The sun-kissed region of Campania is an excellent starting point for families to get to know Southern Italy. From the millenary history and culture of Naples to the iconic beauty of the cliffside towns of the Amalfi Coast and the allure of the lost city of Pompeii, the Campania region is nothing short of magnificent.

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Did the activities and places listed above inspire you? If so, this is only the beginning! From the northern edge of the country all the way down to the heel of the boot, Italy is filled with one-of-a-kind activities that bring families together. No matter where you travel to in Italy, profound experiences full of priceless moments — and an endless supply of pasta and gelato — are guaranteed.

Top 5 Activities to Enjoy with Friends during a Trip to Italy

Our Top 5 Activities to Experience in Italy with Friends

Whether you’re working together to navigate the streets of an unfamiliar city or sharing a meal at a small, authentic restaurant favored by the locals, the intimate nature of travel allows for unparalleled bonding experiences among friends. Thanks to its millenary history, vast cultural wealth, legendary food and wine, and breathtaking art, Italy is an excellent destination for spending quality time with special friends. Not sure which places to visit? Take a look at our list below to learn more about the one-of-a-kind activities Italy can offer, each one ideal for a party of close friends looking to deepen their connections while venturing together.

1. Attend an opera at Verona Arena

Set in the evocative Arena — an Ancient Roman amphitheater that dates back to 30 AD — the annual Verona Opera Festival is one of the most revered music events in the country. From June to September each year, this already impressive amphitheater is transformed into a magnificent open-air opera venue unlike any else in the world. The origins of the festival date back to the early twentieth century when the heavenly acoustics of the arena were first discovered.

The festival was officially inaugurated in 1913 with Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, an opera that continues to have a special connection with the festival. Thanks to the Arena’s breadth and majesty, the venue lends itself to one-of-a-kind performances of monumental operas, meaning Aida often appears on the festival’s lineup together with other grand operas, such as Turandot, Tosca, and Nabucco. Over the years, the festival has hosted performances by the biggest names in opera including Maria Callas, Luciano Pavarotti, and Plácido Domingo. For fans of opera, music, and live performances in general, an evening at the Arena with a group of friends is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

In addition to the opera festival, visitors to Verona have plenty more to explore. The city itself is renowned for its iconic cultural sights including Piazza Bra, Piazza delle Erbe, and Castelvecchio. As the hometown of Romeo and Juliet, couples will delight in the romantic atmosphere of Verona while visiting Juliet’s balcony or sharing an aperitivo at a local outdoor café during twilight.

What’s more, Verona is well-positioned with easy access to other highlights of the Veneto region including the vibrant city of Venice, the tranquil shores of Lake Garda (Italy’s largest lake), and the picturesque Valpolicella wine region. During a trip to Verona, the hardest part will be deciding what to see next with your friends.

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2. Enjoy wine tasting with dinner under the stars at a countryside wineyard in Tuscany

Picture a scenic drive through Tuscany’s iconic landscapes as the late afternoon sun shines over rolling hills and cypress trees. Admire the rich scenery and historic vineyards before arriving at an estate in one of Tuscany’s renowned wine areas, such as Chianti or Val d’Orcia.

Breathe in the tranquility of the countryside as you explore the grounds. Then, when the warm air gives way to cooler temperatures, share a wine tasting aperitivo with your party of friends just before sunset. Surrounded by the spectacular beauty of the Tuscan countryside, you’ll learn about the winemaking traditions passed down from generation to generation that have shaped the area’s most renowned wines.

As the sun descends over the horizon, enjoy a dinner among the best of friends surrounded by the vineyards of the wine estate. Savor the flavors of Tuscany’s legendary cuisine and the freshness of locally-grown seasonal ingredients. This intimate dinner under the stars is the perfect opportunity to spend quality time with good company. By the end of your evening, you could even add wine connoisseur to your list of accomplishments.

Whether you prefer to stay deep in the heart of the Tuscan countryside, or in the cities of Florence or Siena, surrounded by a wealth of art, history, and incomparable architecture, you and your friends can live the Tuscan countryside experience of your dreams.

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3. Visit Sicily during the colorful Caltagirone Infiorata and evocative Feast of San Giacomo

The charming town of Caltagirone located on the island of Sicily may be small, but it hosts two of the region’s most fascinating cultural events. Caltagirone is best known for its ceramic art and the famous Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte, a staircase composed of 142 steps, each decorated with hand-painted maiolica tiles. The staircase, which spans just over 425 feet, dates back to the seventeenth century and was built to connect the newer and older parts of the town. Though this unique town is well worth a visit any time of year, it truly comes alive during two immersive folkloric events.

If you and your friends travel to Caltagirone in May, you’ll be graced with the beauty of the Infiorata. The event, which typically extends from April 25 to June 2, is held in honor of the Madonna of Conadomini. Just before the Infiorata begins, locals carefully place vases of colorful flowers along the steps of the Scalinata to create intricate images and motifs that differ each year.

During the Infiorata, visitors can attend other events as well, such as music performances and pottery workshops. The locals also host a procession through the historic center of town complete with period costumes, colorful carts, and gifts for the Virgin Mary that are brought up to the Church of Santa Maria del Monte at the top of the steps.

As if the beauty of the Infiorata weren’t enough, Caltagirone’s other main religious feast is also a sight to be seen. On July 24 and July 25, the town’s staircase takes centerstage once more during the Feast of San Giacomo, Caltagirone’s patron saint. This time, thousands of colorful candles are placed on the steps to create an elaborate, illuminated image. In addition to the light display, called Illuminata, the locals celebrate with music, fireworks, and a procession through town.

Even if travelers aren’t religious or devout Christians, the events can provide a unique opportunity to live completely authentic and local experiences that are part of Sicilian culture. Outside of these events, Caltagirone amazes with its historic city center as well as the Norman Baroque Cathedral of San Giuliano, ceramic traditions, streets lined with artisan workshops, and archeological sites…then there’s still the rest of Sicily to explore!

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4. Participate in a cooking class at a typical Masseria in Apulia

Travel to the picturesque heel of Italy where time stands still and historic traditions are very much alive. As far as coastal destinations go, the region of Puglia seems to have it all: a long, rich history that began with the Mycenaean Greeks, dramatic cliffside towns suspended over brilliant blue water, tranquil countryside landscapes, iconic architecture, and, of course, one of the most distinct regional cuisines in all of Italy.

Venture into this legendary countryside with your friends to visit a rustic stone masseria (a traditional farmhouse native to Puglia) surrounded by centuries-old olive trees and coastal panoramas on the horizon. After taking in the atmosphere, you and your friends will begin a cooking class in the authentic setting of the masseria.

Follow along as a local culinary expert, such as a professional chef or a native grandma sharing her ancestors’ recipes, shows you how to prepare traditional dishes just as they were made in the past. With a culinary tradition as rich as Puglia’s, there are countless local dishes including handmade pasta, such as the typical orecchiette (a symbol of Puglia), as well as crunchy taralli crackers, divine fried panzerotti filled with tomato and mozzarella, or local focaccia flatbread topped with tomatoes.

No matter what delicious local specialty you learn to cook, after creating your culinary masterpieces you’ll share an unforgettable meal with your friends under the olive trees or another special corner of the masseria featuring the remarkable flavors of Puglia’s cuisine paired with locally produced wine. You’ll also have the chance to taste Puglia’s extra virgin olive oil, which is considered to be among the highest quality olive oils produced in Italy.

In addition to learning the secrets of Puglia’s cuisine, this remarkable region has plenty more to explore from the famous Trulli dwellings in Alberobello and the rest of the Itria Valley to the beautiful Baroque architecture of Lecce and the whitewashed skyline of Ostuni. Then, of course, there are also the region’s natural wonders, such as the Castellana Caves, and the inimitable charm of small coastal towns, such as Polignano a Mare. No matter how you choose to spend your time, you won’t regret a visit to sunny Puglia with your dearest friends.

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5. Share a private dinner at Villa del Balbianello in Lake Como

For an extravagant and unparalleled experience to share with your closest friends, look no further than the shores of Lake Como in Northern Italy. This picturesque lake is dotted with stately villas and expansive gardens. Among these, the gorgeous Villa del Balbianello is particularly renowned for its elegance. Villa del Balbianello’s location at the tip of a small peninsula makes it even more remarkable as the property, its gardens, and terraces are surrounded by water with stunning panoramas from every angle. Today, the villa is a museum that can be toured, and it can also be reserved for private events.

Imagine spending a few hours with your friends exploring Lake Como on a private luxury boat. Feel like the real jet set as you admire important historic villas and take in the most impressive views around the lake directly from the water. Afterwards, make your grand entrance by arriving at Villa del Balbianello’s dock in your private boat to begin the evening in style.

Within the luxurious setting of Villa del Balbianello, you’ll sit down for your private dinner party surrounded by rich collections of paintings, sculptures, and lavishly decorated rooms with period furniture. Feast on Lake Como’s refined local specialties consisting of fresh and flavorful ingredients. Admire incomparable views of the lake from the terraces of the villa and take an after-dinner stroll through the lush gardens. A private dinner with the best of company and particularly in this setting overlooking the lake will feel almost like a modern-day fairy tale.

Moreover, as the third largest lake in Italy, Lake Como still offers so much more to see. A trip to this area of the lake makes it ideal to explore other pearls, such as Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo as well as the historic city of Como, glamorous Bellagio, and tranquil Varenna.

The area’s natural beauty has also made it an idyllic shooting location for several films over the years. Villa del Balbianello’s exquisite scenery in particular has been featured in films such as A Month by the Lake (1995), Star War Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), and Casino Royale (2006). More recently, in March 2021, Hollywood stars including Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, and Jared Leto were steps away from Villa del Balbianello to shoot scenes for the upcoming film House of Gucci directed by Ridley Scott. And, of course, George Clooney’s summer residence is nearby, meaning that A-list celebrity sightings are possible as the American actor often invites famous friends to his villa.

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If you’re looking for an exclusive, inimitable experience tailored specifically for you and your most intimate friends, Lake Como is calling your name.

We hope the activities on this list have inspired you to dream about the unique experiences that Italy offers. No matter your interests or travel preferences, there’s plenty for you and your amici to enjoy in Italy. The only hard part is choosing where to go!

Uncovering the Treasures of Umbria

Uncovering the Treasure of Umbria
Uncovering the Treasure 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

Langhe & Roero: Piedmont Gastronomic Paradise
Langhe & Roero: Piedmont 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.

Langhe

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
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

How to live 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

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

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.

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