Today I’ll officially close out Italian month here on the blog. I want to share just a few more of my favorite places in Italy — a country that I know is high on many people’s lists to visit and it really deserves this love. There’s so much to see and do in the boot. So much to experience.
So here are four more destinations in Italy that I truly love.
Part of Tuscany, the Val d’Orcia is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This is the area around Montepulciano, Pienza, San Quirico d’Orcia and Montalcino.
Gently rolling hills with grapevines, olive trees, cypress trees, beech trees and chestnut trees lead the way to higher peaks such as Monte Radicofani and Monte Amiata. Ruins of villas, abbeys and castles dot the landscape. The natural world and the cultural world collide here. There is not only an incredible landscape, but a history and culture filled with rich treasures.
You’ll find churches filled with beautiful art. Small hill towns with gorgeous piazze (town squares) to sit and watch Italian life. Fabulous places to eat some of the best food in Tuscany. And, to me, this is home to some of the best wine in all of Italy with Brunello from the Montalcino area and the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from Montepulciano.
A couple of my personal favorite spots here in the Val d’Orcia include the town Castiglione d’Orcia with its rocca (fortress tower), the vineyards around Montalcino and Abbazia Sant’Antimo also near Montalcino. This is truly the most stunning piece of Toscana.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this city is more than the story of Romeo and Juliette.
I visited here on my most recent trip to Italy. And promptly fell in love with this city along the Adige River.
Yes, it has its touristy spots. But I was so surprised at how easy it is to get away from the hustle and bustle. It wasn’t hard to simply make a right or left down a narrow lane to find the locals living their daily lives.
And the sites here? There really are some spectacular places to see. I was only here 2 nights and I could have stayed longer.
The Arena is one of the places you can’t miss. And, if you can, see a show here. I saw a famous Italian female pop star and it was one of my favorite travel moments. I was with all these Italians singing along in this huge outdoor venue that was built in 30AD. A-ma-zing!
Wandering about Piazza Bra and the shop-lined pedestrian ways is loads of fun, albeit, busy. Some of the city gates are still standing such as Porta Borsari and Porta Leoni. Be sure to check those out.
Another of my favorite spots is Piazza dei Signori, a quieter square with a great statue of Dante. And right nearby is the Torre dei Lamberti. You can walk (or take the elevator) to the top for fabulous 360 views of Verona and the surrounding landscape. It’s well-worth it.
There are several churches, of course, but I love Sant’Anastasia, Verona’s largest church. I think it’s simply stunning.
The restaurants, cafés and trattorias around the city are excellent. And you’ll get some delicious wine since the Valpolicella wine region is just outside the city.
And, the best thing is that Verona is only about an hour from either Milan or Venice by train. So … no excuses for not visiting!
It’s difficult not to put the “5 Lands” on my list of favorites. This area, another UNESCO World Heritage Site and a national park, is pretty special.
Located in the Liguria region in the northwestern part of the boot, these 5 towns perilously cling to the cliff side, looking as though they will, at any moment, slide into the sea. They’re colorful towns, each with its own personality, but all with a traditional way of life that they are holding onto.
The UNESCO designation is not just for the landscape, but the traditions that the locals still practice. Farming the terraced land filled with vineyards, lemon trees and olive groves takes skill and it’s still being done today as it was years ago. The fishermen continue to fish the same waters as their grandfathers. It’s a place rich with cultural customs.
Monterosso al Mare is the largest. Vernazza is one of my favorites. Corniglia is the only town not right by the water, but has a cliff top view of the sea. Manarola is another of my favorites. And Riogmaggiore serves as the head quarters for the park. They are each lovely in their own way.
You can walk from town to town via a dirt hiking path. Some stretches are not for casual walkers. But what a treat to walk among the vineyards, olive and lemon trees, and flowers growing along the hillsides. The views are spectacular.
There is also a train connecting the towns for those who are less adventurous. With the proper card, you can simply jump off the train in the town, wander about, then get on the train going to the next town. Easy peasy!
The Italian government has begun limiting the number of visitors to the Cinque Terre due to its popularity and concern over the environmental impact. My advice is to check the website or a travel professional before planning your visit.
San Vigilio di Marebbe
We can’t end my favorites in Italy without one more trip to the mountains.
Back we go to the Trentino-Alto Adige region in the northern part of Italy. This village, San Vigilio di Marebbe, lies right next to the Fanes Senes Braies Dolomiti Nature Park.
I have to admit, it was a crap shoot when I chose this town over a few others in the area. But it’s a choice I’ll forever be grateful for because I fell in love with the village, the people, the scenery. I remember leaving after 4 nights (I was only supposed to stay 3) and having this ache in my heart.
The town itself really is a village with some outdoor shops, restaurants, a food market and some cafés. There are hotels and guesthouses scattered about town and the hillsides. The church sits at the center of it all with its lovely bell tower.
The real reason you’re here is to either hike or ski (or some other snow sport such as snowboarding or cross-country skiing). As part of the Kronplatz holiday region, there are lifts to take you up to ski runs or hikes.
And San Vigilio is home to the visitor center for Fanes Senes Braies Nature Park so it makes a great base for exploring this park which, I have to admit, is stunning! I took 2 hikes and one was more beautiful than the next. Truly spectacular scenery!
The other interesting fact about San Vigilio? It’s a Ladin area. These are people who have their own language, history and traditions and who live in certain areas in the Alto Adige area, also known as Südtirol. San Vigilio is one of the towns that still has a strong Ladin culture. It’s pretty special and very interesting. (By the way, Castelrotto from last week’s post. is also a Ladin area.)
So are you set to pack your bags for one of these 8 phenomenal destinations in Italy? I promise that none will disappoint!
If you love Italy, be sure to check out my new Location Inspiration Guide: A Journey Through Italy. There are over 100 places to inspire you to pack your bag for this incredible country.