While hosting off the beaten strada tours in Italy over the past years, I’ve discovered some important secrets (through plenty of trial and error!) to creating a fabulous Italy itinerary. In this post I’m sharing 5 of the most important, and here’s why …
I’m thrilled when I meet people who are thoroughly enjoying their time in Italy, and I’m downright sad when I encounter those who aren’t. Sometimes people are just struggling against a lousy itinerary, and we can’t have that!
So here they are … 5 secrets (simple but important) for creating your own awesome Italy itinerary.
1. Stay in cities and visit more popular sites at the beginning of your trip. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule, but around here we’re strict about it. Energy levels are naturally higher at the beginning of a big trip, and taking on Italy’s cities and major tourist sites definitely takes a lot of energy. Plus, many travelers underestimate the amount of walking required to tour cities and popular sites – not to mention the number of other tourists they’ll have to elbow through along the way. It can be exhausting, and that’s why secret #2 is a must!
2. Stay in the countryside and visit medieval villages towards the end of your trip. Switching gears from fast-paced, tourist-crowed sites to medieval villages in the peaceful countryside is like a breath of fresh air. Don’t get me wrong – there are fabulous sites to see in Italy’s cities, but it’s a striking and welcome contrast to meander along roads less-traveled. Plus, there are countless historic sites and hidden treasures tucked away in tiny, hilltop villages – not to mention the spectacular panoramas. What a wonderful way to end your trip – soaking in all that beauty!
3. Sleep in historic buildings. Where you sleep is one of the most important parts of a vacation, don’t you think? I love coming “home” to something special after a day of sightseeing and in Italy, with so many fabulous historic properties to choose from, your accommodations can become an integral part of your vacation. From medieval castles to Renaissance palaces to quaint farmhouses, there are historic accommodations available for every taste and budget – and they can be easily found online.
5. Each day, try to be both scheduled and free. I suggest doing planned things (guided tours, villages walks, winery visits, etc.) before noon, leaving at least part of the afternoon for the unplanned. Particularly in the countryside, the afternoon hours lends themselves to being savored slowly. After lunch (which runs generally from 1:00pm – 3:00pm) many shops close up until 4:00pm – 5:00pm, and about 5:00pm la passegiata begins. La passegiata is the time of day when Italians gather together to walk and talk – or sit and talk. Piazzas, parks and avenues fill with neighbors, family and friends. It’s a fabulous thing to take part in. Which leads us to secret #5.
5. Interact with locals. Even if you don’t speak Italian! I do suggest learning and practicing a few phrases before your trip, and there are plenty of cool, free Apps for that, but interacting with locals can be as simple as saying buongiorno when you enter a shop, or smiling and nodding when you are served in a restaurant. Interacting doesn’t necessarily mean having a conversation. One of the greatest lessons I learned when I first moved to Italy is that language isn’t required to get to know someone – or to simply share a moment together.