Italy is more than just Rome, Venice, or Florence. Those cities are undeniably alluring, but so is the chance to have a pleasing Old World piazza almost all to yourself, should you visit a lesser-known locale.
From Bologna to Sardinia and Modena to Torino, I’ve had the fortune of exploring some quieter dots on the Italian map. From learning how to make a Parmigiano-Reggiano soufflé, to tiptoeing through Leonardo da Vinci’s vineyards, I hope you enjoy the tales that follow.
Below, you’ll also find my clickable Italy index, as well as destination-specific tips, accommodation, and transportation resources.
Click the index button below to see all my posts from Italy.
Table of Contents
- Ascend the 12th-century Asinelli Tower for extraordinary views of Bologna. Incredibly, Bologna’s skyline was once punctuated with more than 100 medieval skyscrapers like it!
- Visit regional producers to discover how scrumptious traditional balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are made.
- Procure twisted breadsticks, pesto, homemade pasta, and splendid produce at Modena’s delightful Albinelli Market.
- Don an apron, roll up your sleeves, and take part in a cooking class.
- Watch the world go by in Modena’s beautiful and historic Old Town.
- Delve into the details of Modena’s UNESCO World Heritage Cathedral.
- People-watch on Modena’s Piazza Grande. We were delighted to watch a wedding party celebrate there, just as the bride and groom emerged from the town hall.
- Pay homage to Modena’s magnificent motors at the Enzo Ferrari Home Museum.
- Watch master mosaicists as they craft inlaid stone artwork via the centuries-old Florentine marquetry technique.
- Pack a picnic and savor the magnificent city views — and the aroma of hundreds of roses — at the Giardino delle Rose.
- Learn how to make elegant, marbled paper at Florence’s oldest marbled paper and bookbinding workshop.
- Soak up Florence’s Renaissance splendor at its world-famous museums such as the Uffizi, Galleria dell’Accademia (home of the David statue), and Bargello Museum.
- Climb to the top of Florence’s Duomo (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore) and relish the extraordinary views. Afterwards, visit the Museum of Opera of Saint Maria of Fiore to better understand how Brunelleschi designed this groundbreaking piece of architecture.
- Explore the grand frescoed rooms of the Palazzo Vecchio, long the meeting place for Florence’s government.
- Ascend the 400+ steps of the Palazzo Vecchio’s Arnolfo Tower and get bird’s-eye views of the Duomo and the red rooftops below.
- Just across the street from the Milan chapel housing The Last Supper, take a peek at Leonardo da Vinci’s recently-replanted vineyards. The fledgling vines are situated on the grounds of an elegant Renaissance-era home.
- Best known for its annual Palio horse race, Asti has much to offer architecturally as well. Stroll the city’s streets to savor its churches and palazzi, beautiful brickwork, and Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance details.
- Explore the vineyard-dressed landscape of the Langhe: try Barbaresco wine, climb the Barbaresco Tower for magnificent views, and stroll through Alba, plus the snail-shaped town of Serralunga d’Alba.
- Meander through Monferrato: we greatly enjoyed Asti’s fresh markets and slow food, wine tasting in the countryside, and joining in on a truffle hunt with a man named Egidio and his faithful pup, Brill.
- Pamper yourself in the tranquil surroundings of an agriturismo.
- Shadow with an Italian nonna (granny) in Bari, as she masterfully makes ear-shaped Orecchiette pasta.
- Visit Bari’s sacred Basilica di San Nicola, where the remains of the precursor to Santa Claus are said to be housed. This is a popular pilgrimage destination for not only Roman Catholics but also Orthodox Christians.
- From Amarone to Valpolicella, sample wine in the captivating Valpolicella region. It’s just a short drive from Verona.
From Asti to Verona, Shawn and I have stayed at some lovely properties in Italy. And while we didn’t have the best of luck with accommodation in Milan, a listing of properties we would happily revisit follows. Some are affiliate links.
- Agriturismo in Piedmont’s wine country – We spent one wonderful – but too short – day at the Agriturismo Tenuta La Romana. Located in the Monferrato countryside, surrounded by vineyards and agriculture, the property was stunning! For dinner, we dined at the restaurant located just steps away from the hotel property. The rolling hillsides, hydrangeas, and sunset were gorgeous, and the agriturismo hotel property was historic and pretty too. I wish we’d had enough time to take a dip in the pool.
- Asti – We spent several nights at the La Fabbrica dell’Oro Hotel. The hotel was clean and centrally-located, and it was just around the corner from a tiny supermarket. We enjoyed our Palio-themed room, as well as all the black & white family photographs adorning the entryway.
- Florence – Shawn and I spent one month in Florence and stayed in Giotto, an Airbnb apartment. It was located in the San Frediano neighborhood, about 20 minutes’ walking distance from the Uffizi Gallery and the Santa Maria Novella Train Station. The apartment had a living room/kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom and it offered a lovely mix of old and new. The interior was recently renovated and had a brand-new washing machine, dishwasher, refrigerator, and two air conditioners. Like most Italian apartments, the Giotto also had an espresso maker, in this case a Bialetti Venus moka. We loved the sleek design and functionality so much that we later bought one. Since we had a fair amount of luggage with us, we also liked that the apartment had lots of storage space. What’s more, the ceilings above our bedroom and the kitchen were a work of art themselves! They were painted in the early-20th century. After a long day of sightseeing in the sweltering June and July heat, we loved coming “home,” lying in bed, and looking at the scenes of birds and nature above our bedroom. The apartment overlooked a courtyard that doubled as a small parking lot for the other residents. Since we weren’t facing the street (with all the scooters whizzing by), the apartment was blissfully quiet. We also enjoyed chatting with the the apartment’s thoughtful and helpful owners, Paola and Roberto.
- Modena – For three days we called the elegant, historic, and centrally-located Hotel Canalgrande home. One of our favorite memories from Modena was sitting on our hotel room balcony just before sunset. We looked out over Modena’s rooftops and enjoying gastronomic treats that we’d procured at the Albinelli Market earlier in the day.
- Verona – Using Verona as our hub, we day-tripped to the scenic Valpolicella wine region to go wine tasting. In Verona, we stayed in a centrally-located bed and breakfast called the Ai Leone. Our room at the Ai Leone was comfortable and clean, and had nice personal touches. It was not far to walk to the Old Town center either, including Verona’s Arena and Juliet’s House (Casa di Giulietta). In the Ai Leone’s communal kitchen, we enjoyed meeting travelers from around the world, chief among them a fun family from Brazil celebrating its matriarch’s birthday.
- Train – Trenitalia is Italia’s main provider of train services. Their website lists timetables, and you can purchase e-tickets on the site. You can show e-tickets to the conductor on your smart phone.
Additional Italy Resources
- Italy’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Calculate the current exchange rate.
- Since 1958, Italy has been been a member of the European Union. It is part of the Schengen Area.
- Italy Tourism (official website)