We asked travel bloggers, travel agents, and just plain ol’ travelers for tips on how to make the most of a summer vacation in Italy. Here’s what they said.
On heading off the beaten path:
“Spend a few days traveling along one of Italy’s many Strada di Vini (Wine Roads). These are usually well-marked routes that you can find out about online, or from one of the local tourist offices. You travel off the beaten tourist track, through beautiful vineyards and small towns. They are perfect routes to enjoy on a cycling tour, as they wind through some magnificent countryside. There are several to enjoy just outside of Venice and Verona, as well as Florence.”
“One of the things my wife and I loved was getting away from the other tourists by visiting some of Italy’s smaller towns. The Tuscan town of Lucca is still largely contained within castle walls built over four hundred years ago. It’s a beautiful city to visit…and holds one of the most interesting, but lesser known pieces of religious art in the country; a carving of Jesus [supposedly] carved by Nicodemus, one of the few artistic impressions of Jesus reportedly made by someone who actually would have seen him in person.”
—Mark Aselstine of Uncorked Ventures
On making the best of your trip:
“In the summer, the major cities and tourist attractions in Italy can be crowded beyond belief, so plan ahead and get there early to avoid long lines. Also, bring comfortable shoes and water because the best way to get around Italian cities is to walk and it does get quite hot!”
On the waterways of Venice:
“Taking a romantic gondola ride through Venice’s historic canals is a must. Steer away from the Grand Canal and find a gondolier off the beaten path. They will treat you to a peaceful ride and show you places in Venice that cannot be explored by foot. These beautiful views don’t come cheap though… It will cost you 80€ for 40 minutes, which increases to 100€ at night. The pricing is dictated by the local government, but to ensure there aren’t any surprises at the end, ask how much the ride is and for how long before you step into the gondola.”
But others disagree:
“…don’t spend €100 ($125+) on a gondola ride or €80 ($100+) for a private water taxi. Instead, rely on the vaporettos, the public water transport, to get you around the city. They are fun and easy, tickets are available at every pier, and they cost about €5-10 a ride. In a hurry? Do indulge in a water taxi from the airport, as it will cut 30-60 min. off your trip and deliver your bags to the door of your hotel.”
“The Verona Opera Festival began 100 years ago as a celebration of the centenary of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth. This year, more than 500,000 people are expected to attend the 100th anniversary of the festival. To celebrate, an all Verdi opera season is planned. Expect to see the well-known Aida, Rigoletto, La Traviata and Il Trovatore, as well as lesser-known favorites Nabucco and his Messa Da Requiem. Some productions feature Placido Domingo as conductor and Franco Zeffirelli as director.”
“Cinque Terra is one of my favorite summertime destinations in Italy. An easy day trip from Florence or a short train rain from Genoa, this stunning mountain pass offers some of the most beautiful views I have ever witnessed. A several-kilometer-long walking path winds through five picturesque old Italian villages, all preserved in time and tradition thanks to the area’s national-park status. There are numerous opportunities to photograph the incredible seaside vistas, with relaxing dining, shopping and drinking options scattered throughout. A can’t-miss for any trip to Italy!
“My best kept secret in Milan is the Aperol Terrazza, where you can enjoy fabulous views of the Duomo while enjoying this great traditional drink. Not easy to find as it’s disguised inside a building occupied by auto grill fast food. A true gem, and views much better than at the Rinascente department store!”
On wine and eating well:
“Want to experience the best of Italy’s small towns? Then coordinate your trip with a sagra, or food festival. Hundreds of sagre (Sagreneiborghi.it and sagre.it both have comprehensive listings of festivals going on across the country) take place across Italy over the year, each one celebrating a food (or wine) item that’s local to that town or area. The best time of year for sagre is usually the fall, when lots of Italy’s most-beloved foods (like truffle, porcini mushrooms, and chestnuts) are in season.”
“If you go in August, you might stumble upon the local wine and food festival in Tavarnelle Val di Pesa (just 45 minutes from Florence), which just happens to serve, in my opinion, the best food in all of Italy.”
“Eat where the locals eat. This simple rule of thumb has led us to some very memorable, affordable and delicioso meals. One of my favorites was in Rome; we were traveling with our children, who were 4 and 5 at the time. While walking through the streets, we happened to meet a nun in front of one of the churches, she heard us speaking English and told us that she had been born in Chicago but had lived for 30 years in Rome. We asked for a dinner suggestion, and she directed us to a little courtyard at the end of an alley, where a diminutive elderly woman with a head scarf greeted us. It was her place, she cooked the food, served it and hugged the kids and pinched their cheeks…it was like having dinner with Nonna. There was no menu, you ate and drank what she put in front of you, four amazing courses and a carafe of homemade wine.”
—Cathy Cordaro, luxury cruise concierge at LuxuryOnly
What are some of your best Italy summer travel tips? Share with us below or on Twitter (@utrippers)!