An Italian Holiday is Experience First
Nothing rushes in Italy, not even fast trains, though they are fast. Take your vacation in stride. Don’t try to do it all, see it all and post copiously in social media.
Discover what your tempo is, the time and pace that suits you and allows you to experience rather than rush through, and then create a rhythm for your trip.
You could easily spend weeks in major cities and never get bored. Even for smaller towns, you might find festivals and things to do that keep you happy, fed, and relaxed for days. There’s plenty to see, it’s the when and how that matter.
Have you ever been to Italy?
If you’ve never been there, then the places to go depend on the overall goals for your trip and how much time you have. Time of the year also influences your choices. Though in recent years winters have been fairly mild overall, for me the best times of the year are mid-spring and early fall.
So what do you do? It depends on what you’re looking for – a honeymoon, even if it’s not your first one, would suggest tranquil places to enjoy each other’s company, take things with a touch of improvisation; an art excursion demands specific cities to hit galleries like the Uffizi in Firenze, or the Sistine Chapel in Roma.
By the way, you probably noticed I don’t anglicize the names. I hope it’s still understandable. Makes it easier to talk Italian, you nail the cities, and you can ask for directions… yes? I know you’re not embarrassed to do that. It’s a great way to get a smile with that taste of Italian hospitality.
Maybe you’re interested in wines – I’m biased, but I’d start in the Piemonte region and work my way down to Toscana. At that point, you’ll want to stop in Bologna for some of the best food you’ve had in your life. Plan for at least ten days, please. So much to taste and experience.
That’s the foodie in me talking.
Been there, done that
But there’s so much left to see! If you hit the main cities like Roman, Venezia, Firenze, Milano, but have not seen some of the other gorgeous cities Like Verona, Torino, Genova, Napoli, and Bologna, that would be my suggestion for exploring next.
You pick one as your keystone, the place where you plan to spend say 3 days – either 2 nights or 3, depends on how you’re moving around – and then build your itinerary based on what’s near it. This means making choices – Torino is way north, Napoli is south. If you have ten days, it’s doable.
Bologna is a great one to visit if you’re planning to travel by fast train – central north-south hub. In that case, you do want to take fast trains and do look outside the window. Book them ahead of time, get seats, if you know you won’t have a change of heart. If you have five days, you should plan things around a major city anyway.
I’ve done it in four. You can do two main cities if there’s a 3-4-hour distance between them by train. Then take regional trains to visit smaller cities and towns on day-trips near your hub. If you’re planning to do smaller towns, and a longer period of time, then renting a car and booking an agriturismo or a small apartment make sense.
Know what you’re getting into
Do some research before you go – things to see, things to do, and also places to eat. Now most restaurants have websites where you can find menus in English, or you find them on social media, and review sites. About those reviews – note who writes them. If the Italians are saying good things about a restaurant, weigh that more than foreigners.
I book dinner reservations ahead of time. The best restaurants fill up quickly, and you may get to meet the owners. Many ask about food allergies. Study up on wines for that region, if you plan to taste them.
For other meals, book hotels with breakfast included, or AirBnB and find nearby food markets to get enough breakfast supplies. That way you won’t have to rush out in the morning. Plan to eat on the go for lunch – improvise, but stay local (why pick a food chain?) If your lunch ends up being a three-course meal at a wonderful restaurant, then maybe you change dinner plans and go more casual.
Any way you plan it, remember to experience the trip. Go out and see places and be willing to get out of your comfort zone or normal way of operating. It’s a holiday.
No matter your goal, make it a point to fit in culture, history, and the appreciation of Italian aesthetics. The memories will stay with you forever.