ITALY. No country in the world has inspired more poets, writers, and artists than Italy. So selecting 10 must-see destinations in Italy is a fool’s errand because for every place you pick there are a dozen more that qualify. With that thought in mind, let’s just call this taste of Italy a sampler. It’s a starter’s kit of sorts to whet your appetite for visiting one of the most alluring, captivating and beguiling countries on the face of the earth.
Chianti Country: A truly authentic tast of Italy
We begin our tast of Italy in a location that offers two for the price of one. That’s because it’s situated in Tuscany, the heart of one of the most popular regions in the Boot.
Chianti often gets a bum rap as being on the low end of a wine expert’s palate. Bbut traveling this rolling countryside filled with radiant fields of sunflowers dotting lush green hills will quickly change your mind.
Savor a glass of Italy’s most famous red wine and take home the bottle to use as a classic candlestick holder. For many travelers, and domestic consumers for that matter, this classic taste of Italy never gets old.
Florence at dusk
Head to Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset in Florence and soak in the magic. Situated on the opposite side of the Arno River from the city center, Piazzale Michelangelo radiates earthtones that captivate your soul. Muted tones like umber, sienna, ocher and a myriad of rust-colored browns and tans come alive as streetlights gradually replace the day.
The Duomo dominates the scene in Glorence. Romance is in the air, enveloping all in its invisible yet inescapable shroud. Embrace it, for this is a place to fall in love.
The saying goes “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Trastevere is the ideal spot in the Italian capital to do just that. In a city known for its food, Trastevere is arguably the best place to discover the literal taste of Italy.
This lively neighborhood is a favorite among locals. That alone should be ’nuff said. Trattorias abound amid colorful food markets and side streets that beckon to be explored.
Visit Trastevere in the early evening at sunset. And don’t leave until the wee hours of the morning.
Ravello, Amalfi Coast
If heaven is a garden, it must look like Ravello. Unsurprisingly, Greta Garbo discovered it. So did Richard Wagner, Gore Vidal and dozens of other celebrities. If you are wondering why Ravello isn’t better known despite its famous clientele, the reason is simple. The locals and their famous admirers are keeping the ravello secret to themselves.
If you can find more breathtaking views anywhere in the world, then tell everyone. Ravello itself is a 360-degree panorama of beauty that’s second to none. With its 13th-century villas surrounded by perpetually blooming flowers and eternal sunshine, if you miss Ravello, you have missed a most exquisite visual taste of Italy.
Compared to other destinations in Italy, Cinque Terre is relatively new to the touristic landscape. Part of the appeal of these five seaside villages on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites is that they can be visited by local trains, from the water or by walking.
The 10-mile stretch of small towns overlooking the sea from the cliffs above captures both the spirit and the taste of Italy in ways that you have imagined the country to be in your dreams. Dine al fresco in the village of your choice. Why? Because this is one destination where there is no way to make a mistake.
No list of great Italian destinations would be complete without mentioning at least one site that remains relatively unknown to most travelers. For our top ten sampler, the miniature islands of the Ponza archipelago get the nod.
Located just off the coast of Rome, the towering cliffs and spectacular bay of idyllic Chiaia di Luna appear much like an earthly moonscape. The charm of Ponza is that it feels like a well-kept secret. But unlike many “undiscovered” resorts, it is relatively accessible.
Knowlegable Italians say “this is the island where real Romans vacation” thanks to its timelessness and simplicity. And therein lies the magic.
Burano Island, Venice
Venice has twin islands, Murano (glass) and Burano (lace) that qualify for our current list. But given the limitations of this sampler, Burano is our choice.
One reason: Murano arguably gets more attention from travelers on a tight schedule than Burano And that’s too bad. Burano’s lace is some of the best in the world.
With its compact size and cobblestone streets, Burano is a great place to take a window-shopping stroll before stopping for some of the best espressos in Venice, another truly authentic taste of Italy. We’re betting that while you’re sipping your coffee, however, your window-shopping will ultimately morph into a purchase or two.
Thanks to its location along a serpentine road, the Italian fishing village of Portofino is a picturesque community with its own unique “wow” factor. This “lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous” locale on the Italian Riviera is filled with narrow tree-lined streets and ancient architecture.
The compact village clusters around a stunning harbor that is never without several ultra-deluxe yachts at anchor. Portofino is one of those places where you just feel richer by taking a stroll.
San Gimignano, Tuscany
From a distance San Gimignano’s impressive medieval skyline is the thing that beckons travelers to visit. With its tall towers, this Italian version of a New York skyline captivates from the moment you see it.
The dramatic hillside architecture has long appealed to Hollywood directors as a setting for their films. But once inside, yet another unique taste of Italy becons. San Gimignano’s myriad cafes will keep you occupied for hours.
Positano, Amalfi Coast
Though Positano prospered from the 15th to the 17th centuries, it existed as a relatively poor fishing village during the first half of the 20th century.
That all changed when John Steinbeck published an essay in 1953 in Harper’s Bazaar. There, he made the following observation.
“Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”
For some of the best views of the region, stop for lunch at Hotel San Pietro about a mile and a half outside of town. The check might bite a little, but it is a taste of Italy that’s well worth it.
We would like to call this our ultimate Top Ten list. But that would be unfair to the rest of the country. So for now we will just leave it as a primer. Use it as a guide to sample the flavor of Italian cuisine as well as this ancient country’s visual splendors.
Then judge for yourself.
— Headline image: Chianti Country in Tuscany at sunset (Courtesy: Chianti.com)
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up