Italy is truly an amazing country. It is the land of olive oil, pasta, wine, mafia and sunshine after all. Some might say it’s the best place on earth. I could agree with that.
Italy is the country, which has succeeded in cultivating the greatness of even its least noted cities, villages and hamlets. There is scarcely a place in Italy that has remained untouched by the waves of history, art and culinary tradition, where a visit does not afford a chance for reflection or even simple pleasure. During my first visit to Milan, I felt a sense of belonging and if it weren’t for this pandemic, I would have probably stayed. Forever.
The Food. What more can one say?
The best Italian cooking holidays are generally situated in rural, unspoiled areas of Italy. One of the beauties of Italy is that although you might be deep into the countryside, you’re also never too far away from a bustling & vibrant city such as; Milan, Turin, Rome, Bergamo, Florence or Bologna. So you can easily explore all that Italy has to offer.
Italian cooking classes are generally run by families or chefs who want to pass on the authentic way of cooking real Italian food. It’s serious business, the art of cooking the ultimate comfort food to perfection. It’s a wonder that I am not a bit more portly because of my intense love of pasta (Italians understand moderation at every level, unlike most North Americans). Don’t even get me started on the wine… check out this awesome vineyard experience in Florence.
Oh Tuscany, it brings a tear to mah eye. Possibly the greatest repository of art in the world, from extraordinary paintings and ornate sculpture to breath talking frescoes and architectural masterpieces. Epicureans and Sommeliers of discernible taste descend on the Tuscan region to enjoy some of the most notable gastronomic experiences in the world. The 3-star Michelin restaurant, Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, will knock your socks off.
Must-See Cities & Towns include; Florence, Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo, Livorno, Siena, Prato, Val d’Orcia, Montecatini Terme, the Island of Elba and of course the Chianti wine region. For the most authentic Tuscan experience, stay here. You won’t regret it, in fact, you may just stay forever.
If you are keen on taking a walking or hiking tour through Italy, consider going north towards the Alps. The Italian Alps have the highest mountain peak Mont Blanc Massif, shared with the border of France, as well as the amazing Dolomite range. This side of the Alps also has the best weather.
If you have time, the smallest independent country in the world warrants its own place as a historical site in Italy. With a population of just 801, the holy city still manages to never feel empty thanks to the seemingly constant influx of tourists and Catholics eager to see the Pope. In terms of historic value, the place oozes it, from the medieval walls of the city to the Sistine Chapel and its famous ceiling painting to the seemingly endless stream of museums, the Vatican City should be on every historical tourist’s Italy hit-list.
Often overlooked is the Puglia area, a patchwork of vineyards and olive groves, dotted with whitewashed hill towns and sun-bronzed beaches – Italy’s southern heel has no shortage of photogenic landscapes. Known for off the beaten path beach destinations in the South, interesting architecture; Trulli homes (popular among the English & German tourists), which are stone dwellings with a conical roof specific to the Itria Valley.
The nicest cities to see in this region are, Lecce (food tour, just do it), Ostuni, Otranto, Polignano a Mare (the caves, wow), Bari and Martina Franca (one of my favourite towns), just to name a few. The prices are significantly lower than the rest of Italy, and people are starting to catch on to Puglia for retirement.
Italy is truly magical, and I intend on writing many, many more posts about this Bel Paese!