You’re at that glorious stage of choosing where you go, where you’ll eat, how you’ll experience la dolce vita!!! It is both exciting and sometimes overwhelming! Everyone you speak to has their favourite little restaurant or boutique hotel or village that “you simply must see” so it becomes hard to fit everything into one or two weeks.
When planning a vacation in Italy, even when you’ve been to this beautiful country before, the temptation is to cram in as much as possible – especially when the distances between cities and islands are so close. I often advise travellers against just booking two nights in a city because the longer you stay in one spot, the greater chance you have of finding that special local feel – such as the ability to go back to the same cafè two or three mornings in a row and be treated like family and start a conversation with the staff or other locals enjoying an espresso beside you. Don’t underestimate how doing less can really open you up to discovering secret alleyways with a little hidden trattoria that isn’t pre-booked or in your original itinerary but will invariably become the highlight of your trip. And Italy is packed full of these discoveries. Remember that life is best lived spontaneously in Italy. As much as it is nice to be prepared and make the most of your short precious vacation time, you will probably strike up a conversation with a local or a fellow traveller and find some recommendation that you can only get on the street that week, in the moment, so it’s great to allow space on your trip to take advantage of these last minutes recommendations or invitations. It’s impossible to say one has “done Rome” or “seen the Amalfi Coast”
I’ve lived in Italy and travelled through every region of this country for a decade and I still don’t feel I have seen and experienced everything the major cities or islands have to offer. The longer you stay in one place, the more you realise how rich and layered the possibilities can be.
So you can learn about my favourite spots in my videos, but here are a few general tips for planning your time in a country that is spoiled for beauty! Try to avoid spending much time in cities like Florence, Rome, Milan etc during August. Almost all Italians leave the city during the summer and head for the beach so the vibe is really different and you will find mostly tourists and disgruntled waiters and many places closed. Of course there are still plenty of restaurants and stores open during the height of summer but it just doesn’t have that Italian atmosphere you’ve probably been dreaming of.
Don’t spend just one night on the Amalfi Coast. You will need at least three nights by the time you make it there but it is SO worth it. I used to live in Positano and I can tell you, you won’t run out of things to do so rather than squeeze in a whole other region, try to give yourself extra time to explore little villages, hike, catch the bus or ferry to nearby islands or paesini (little towns).
April, May, September are beautiful months to travel in Italy. June and July are very hot already but still lovely.
Same goes for Sicily. Palermo is totally different from the Isole Eolie, for example. If you’re making the trip down there by plane or ferry, give yourself time to really explore and feel like a local rather than just crossing off five different Italian cities from your list.
Get a bicycle to explore any town or city in Italy. It’s so much more comfortable than walking around on foot, fighting with your partner because you’re hot and lost and tired. It makes you feel like a local and it’s really not expensive at all. You will be able to get to secret little places for picnics that most tourists can’t be bothered to reach on foot. And you can buy things from the market or shop a little and just pop it in your basket and not have to worry about lugging it around all day.
Renting a car is great in Tuscany, Le Marche, Puglia or up in the north… but on the Amalfi Coast and in Sicily, I find that it’s much easier to get around by train or ferry.
An agriturismo is a family-run bed and breakfast that is often a working farm and offers delicious rustic home cooked dinners using their locally grown produce. This is a great reasonably priced option whether for a solo traveller, romantic couple getaway or a family holiday. The accommodation can range from really basic and cheap to quite luxurious and boasting spectacular views. Often they are less booked out than Airbnb apartments and you really get to witness a traditional way of living and cooking from the land. I love this site. www.agriturismo.it