To close out Italian month here on the Wander Your Way blog, I thought I’d write about a few of my personal favorite destinations in Italy.
As I began making this list, I realized that I was going to have to break this down into 2 posts. I have too many favorite places in Italy! So Italian month is going to stretch into the first week of August. I’m sure most of you won’t mind.
Now, I haven’t been to all of Italy so something tells me this list will change over time. But I wanted to share these places, some of which you’ll find in my new e-book — Location Inspiration Guide: A Journey Through Italy — with you.
I really have loved everywhere I’ve been in Italy. So this was difficult to narrow down. But I thought about those places that I felt truly touched me in some way — touched my heart, my soul. And I came up with these places.
Castelrotto (Kastelruth) and Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm)
Top of my list without a doubt.
Located in the Alto Adige part of the Trentino-Alto Adige region, this mountain town and its nearby valley took my breath away back in 2011. It is a stunning landscape with those pink-hued Dolomite peaks, green valleys, and onion-domed churches. More Germanic in nature, it’s pristine and orderly. The town is small with a more Italian layout (so not so orderly) and friendly locals. There are loads of hotels and guesthouses scattered about the town and the hillsides just a few minutes walk from town.
Of course, the real attraction is mother nature. The Sciliar (Schlern) massif, Parco Naturale Sciliar-Catinaccio (Naturpark Schlern-Rosengarten) and the star, the Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm). The Sciliar lords over the neighboring town of Siusi, but can be seen from much of Castelrotto. It’s in Siusi that you can catch the gondola up to Compaccio (Compatsch), a small settlement that is the starting point for some beautiful hikes to the Alpe di Siusi.
Alpe di Siusi is the largest high altitude alpine meadow in Europe. It’s a gorgeous spot, surrounded by mountains, green hills dotted with houses and cows with their bells clanging in the mountain breeze. I could sit and stare at this landscape for hours.
This is a place I dream of being every day and I’m pretty sure I’ve left pieces of my heart there. Guess I’ll have to go back to find out!
Yes, the ever popular Florence, Firenze, makes my list. It is a busy city. It’s über popular. It can be crowded. But … it has so much gorgeous art and architecture. It has great restaurants and shops. It has churches and museums and is dripping in history. I love the Uffizi with its Botticelli’s. I love the Academia. David is truly stunning. I love the Duomo. I love the Piazza Repubblica. I love the crazy, crowded Ponte Vecchio.
But you know what else I love about Florence? Going into the Galileo Museum and being one of about 10 people there. It’s a nerdy, science museum and I’m no scientist. But I love it. I love walking down small streets away from all the commotion and seeing real life. You just need to step off the main streets and you’ll run across scenes like this.
The art and architecture and literature and the great minds and powerful families that lived here — it’s reason enough for me to visit. It’s the cradle of the Renaissance and, to me, everyone should spend a bit of time here at least once.
Bellagio and Lago di Como
Lake Como, Lago di Como, is a gorgeous destination in the Lombardy region and not far from Milan. It’s shaped like an upside down Y. Bellagio sits at the “crotch” of that y.
Mountains surround much of the lake. The western fork leads to the main town of Como. The eastern fork leads to Lecco, another major town. Towns cling to the sides of mountains, looking ready to slide right into the lake. Villas dot the shoreline. It’s really a dazzling place.
Bellagio makes a great base, not only because it’s a wonderful town, but it lends itself to exploring other parts of the lake. Villa Carlotta is one of the famous villas to visit and it’s just across the lake. Towns such as Mennagio and Varenna are also worth checking out and they’re just a ferry ride a way.
While I love Lago di Garda as well, in some ways, I like Como better because the towns seem a bit less accessible. And the scenery is perhaps a bit more dramatic. There’s something more stately about it. And it seems more enigmatic — like you can’t quite figure out what you love so much about it, but you just do.
It could also be that I enjoyed Bellagio as well. I remember taking a walk to the other side of Bellagio. All the tourist facilities, the ferry dock and the shops seemed to be on the western side of the town. I wandered over to the eastern side and found a fishing village of sorts. It was quiet. I saw Italians living life, going about their daily routine. I always love stumbling upon surprises like this.
Valpolicella Wine Region
A girl, a wine and a love affair … that’s what I wrote the second time I visited this area. I knew it was love when I made that second visit to fabulous this wine region near the city of Verona in the Veneto region.
It all began with that first sip of the big, bold Amarone back in 2008 while in Tuscany with my Irish friend and her husband. In 2011 as I was free as the wind and traveling to wherever I wanted, the wine popped into my mind. So I made that first fateful visit, staying in the town of Fumane. And the love affair began — with the wine and the region.
I returned a little over 3 years later, staying near the town of San Pietro in Cariano and cemented my love of this area and its wines.
What makes it so wonderful? Well, the wine first and foremost. The light, fruity Valpolicella. The Valpolicella Ripasso with it’s more bold flavor profile. Then the big prize — that Amarone in all its richness. My mouth waters thinking of that wine.
Then there’s the fact that there are fewer crowds than the wine regions of Tuscany. The towns are no less charming. The landscape is just as stunning, albeit a bit different. The food is delish. And the locals are warm and friendly. *Sigh* Yup, it’s love…
Stay tuned for the second half of the list of my favorite places in Italy next week. I promise more incredible destinations!