I’ve written about France……. Now for Italy. My heart is probably more in Italy. It’s where I feel more at home and speaking a little Italian makes it much easier.
So HOW do I narrow it down to just 10? I might group a few together according to my visits to squeeze a few more in.
My first visit to Italy in 1976 was the year after Steve and I married. It was fairly quick but I remember being struck by the history, the food, the people and the general La Vita Bella.We visited the big places and just a few smaller villages. These days I love the small villages as it gives me a chance to practice my Italian and join in a few activities in the village.
The next few trips followed quickly – I’ve always believed in throwing coins into Trevi fountain. Right hand over left shoulder, make a wish and BOOM! next year back again!.
I’ve been about 10 times now and love it all. Of course it’s good to see the cities first if it’s your first visit to Italy – and I’ll do a another post on the BIG cities in Italy. For the cities, in order, I love Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, Bologna and Verona.
So narrowing it down to smaller places – in no particular order I suggest these places to you. PLEASE tell me about your favourite village.
I spent 2 weeks here in 2012 staying in a little apartment with this gorgeous view. Its a small walled city, flat to walk around, lots of history, a beautiful amphitheatre, many beautiful churches, music concerts by local hero Puccini, great food and a refinement the locals promote! It’s on a train line (an hour to Florence) and great bus service to all surrounding areas. So what’s not to adore.
Spello in Umbria is off the main tourist circuit. And is beautiful. You wind up the hill to get to the little village and from wherever you look out the view is gorgeous. There are about 12 churches, several very good restaurants, winding streets and, if there during Corpus Christi feast, there are 60 flower carpets lining the narrow streets.
It’s also a good place to have a car as you can visit nearby villages such a Montefalco, Bevagna, Spoleto and the bigger Assisi. Accommodation can be small hotels but I prefer an apartment to be able to live like a local.
This beautiful village is a small walled hill town in Tuscany not far from Siena. It has around 12 medieval towers and beautifully preserved buildings. It’s quite touristy so it can be good to stay outside the town in the beautiful countryside in a farmhouse.
From this area you can travel to nearby Volterra, Siena, Florence, Lucca and lots of little villages with fabulous restaurants.
The Lakes Areas:
Bellagio: on Lake Como
This romantic village is loved by all (therefore a little crowded) but has such charm with its century old buildings, cobbled laneways and being half way up the lake is the perfect spot to explore the whole lake by ferry. I’ve also stayed in nearby Varenna and it is smaller quieter and quite charming.
Bardalino : on Lake Garda
This is a flatter village and was home to many fishermen. It is surrounded by vineyards and is quite a resort town. Not quite as romantic as Bellagio but beautiful with lovely walks along the lake, great restaurants, places to swim and colourful little ferries running around the lake. Very relaxing with great shopping.
Bardolino is about an hours bus ride to Verona and a short drive to the many vineyards in the area.
Positano: Glamour by the sea
No visit to the Amalfi Coast is complete without a visit to its jewel, Positano. To get there (without a car which isn’t necessary) you can take the train to Naples, then the Circumvesuviana, a small local train to Sorrento, then a bus which gives an amazing view of the spectacular coastline. Then its a walk down hill towards the water. I’ve stayed in a little apartment overlooking the beach. Each day was spent exploring the coast, tripping around on a boat to Capri to Amalfi, a bus to Pompeii, walking in the lemon groves, a bus up to Ravello and countless lemoncello and gelati!
Lerici is where the Italians holiday – especially those from Milan, so perfect for practicing Italian speaking. It’s in Liguria on the gorgeous Golf dei Poeti and has flown under the radar of international tourists who flock to the Cinque Terre. I’ve stayed in both places and must say I love Lerici – but had the advantage of a week’s stay. If only allowing a few days then probably stay on the Cinque Terre (see next post).
Lerici has a medieval castle overlooking its beautiful bay and 3 kilometer promenade leading to San Terenza another lovely town with a white sandy beach. On the ferry its a lovely day to visit the 5 towns of the Cinque terre, the lovely town of Portovenere and the little island of Palmaria a great place for a swim and lunch away from the crowds.
Cinque Terre: Which of the 5 villages?
The Cinque Terre has had lots of attention – with good reason. The 5 colourful little villages are clinging to the cliff face and look gorgeous from the water. You can explore them by boat or by walking and climbing the clifftop path which connects the villages. I’ve stayed in the largest of the villages – Monterrosso – which has an old town and a new town and is easy to get to by train. My favourite village is probably Vernazza with its cute little coloured houses. If staying in Vernazza try and get by the water. Its crowded and you need to be looking at the water.
An ancient town high on a hill looking towards the sea on one side and Mt Etna on the other, Taormina is romantic , sophisticated and a great people watching place. I’ve been twice and loved it both times. With its Saracen castle and amazing Greek amphitheatre, which hosted a children ballet show the day we were there, Taormina is a great stop for few days. The passegiata along the main Corso is a must, the Sicilian tile shops, the park with sculptures overlooking the sea, the gelati, the steep climb up to the next town (Castelmola), the funicular ride down to the beach, the stunning grilled fish. A great place to stay in Sicily (though I loved Ortiga, Noto and Ragusa as well!)
Urbino to Mercatello: Finding Le Marche
My first language school was in Urbino. I arrived on my own and stayed a few steps from the little piazza. I had a week alone in a lovely little Italian house while I attended language school and made some lovely friends in the little village with its mini La Scala teatro. The following week was in the even smaller Mercatello where friends own a house . Very old, no bakery shop, no English spoken but a rustic charm.
Good base for trips to San Marino, Arrezo, and Urbania with its amazing church and art.
Oh dear. I’m up to 10!
I must mention:
San Remo – the city of flowers in Ligura
Cortona (who hasn’t read Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun….)
La Maddelena in Sardinia – our first swim trek week spent here in its crystal waters.
Pisa: Got to climb that leaning tower.
I could go on but that would detract from my top 10!
Enjoy and Please tell me in the comments where you love to visit in Italy.💕