Oh, Italy, one of my favourite countries on this planet!
While I’m pretty sure I don’t need to make a case for visiting Italy, I have some time so let me explain why I love it and why you should go.
Italy is the land of pizza and pasta (and who doesn’t like those?!), beautiful art, and immense culture and history.
It’s easy to get to and get around (thanks to a slew of international flights and an extensive national train network), the people are lovely, and, if you travel there in the off season, it’s not wildly expensive.
What’s more is that it’s a country that has something to suit and attract every kind of traveller, no matter your demographic or the stage you’re at in your travel journey. Case in point, I’ve travelled to Italy with my mom (who’s in her sixties), my husband (buongiorno #baecation!) and all by my lonesome. Regardless of where you’re from, how old you are, who you’re travelling with, or your level of travel experience, Italy has something for you.
For this reason, I keep on going back. I was just in Bologna last month– my SIXTH visit to the country!
Beautiful Bologna is probably one of Italy’s best kept secrets, which likely accounts for the lack of tourists here (they flock to nearby Venice and Florence instead). Bologna is the largest city and the capital of the Emilia-Romagna Region in Northern Italy; it’s the seventh most populous city in the country; and it’s home to the oldest university in the world (Università di Bologna). Based on its stats alone it’s lit. ???? But perhaps what the city is most famous for is its food. Ever heard of “spaghetti bolognese”? It’s from here, and tortellini, ragù, and mortadella are native to the region also. For this reason the city is known worldwide for its amazing cuisine, earning itself the nickname of “la grossa” or “the fat one”. Which makes total sense since that’s exactly what I’m going to be when I leave. Because the only thing I really came here to do is eat! ???
While I haven’t been everywhere in the country (impossible to do, there’s just too much to see, hence why I’ve been 6 times), here are 6 things you should definitely do should you find yourself there. Keep in mind that I’m only sharing experiences from the cities I’ve set foot in thus far!
Stay at the Portrait Roma boutique hotel
Hotels are typically the most expensive part of any Italy trip, and if you’re not careful, you can definitely end up spending a lot for accommodation that is grossly lacking in amenities and customer service.
Add to this conundrum that during high season, not only are places at their most expensive, the good ones book out fast!
For this reason it is imperative to book well in advance of your trip and to vet your options accordingly.
And while it’s very tempting for us North Americans to just book a chain hotel, you’ll often find that, even in 2016, the big chains we’re accustomed to are few and far between in many Italian cities. A good number of the accommodation options are small-to-medium sized operations or family-run pensions.
For this reason, I’m happy to introduce you to the Lungarno Collection, a group of five hotels dotted around the country. The Portrait Roma, found in the capital, is the best of both worlds: a boutique hotel that prides itself on providing a high quality, super-personalized stay, and “pampers guests”. Sign me up!
Lungarno believes strongly in adding a personal touch to the stay of their guests; the Portrait Roma’s Lifestyle team not only make it their mission to make guests feel good by treating them with care, but also by personalizing every stay with tailor-made recommendations about the city.
According to the manager of Portrait Roma, Gianluca Vallerotonda, “By applying the “concept of home” to a luxurious place. For each one of us, luxury has a different meaning, but if we want to interpret it in just a few words, perhaps luxury is what “makes us feel good”.
And what makes you feel better than a luxurious accommodation in a boutique hotel, such as the Lungarno Collection?! For more info about the hotel and Lungarno Collection, click here!
Visit the Pantheon in Rome
If you don’t mind elbowing your way through the crowds, a brief visit to this temple, one of the best-preserved structures from ancient Rome, should be on your list. I love the columns at the front of the building, and once you get inside the views when you look up to the ceiling are simply divine! I’m not an architecture buff but consider this one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve been to across all my travels.
Eat pizza and pasta in Rome’s Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona is hands down my favourite square in Rome: flanked by three fountains and a slew of buildings in the comely Baroque Roman architectural style, it’s the perfect place to absorb the city’s beauty whilst gorging yourself on the finest Italian food. Moreover, the square isn’t just attractive, it’s important historically: Ancient Romans flocked here to watch the games! Of particular note is the majestic Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), which is worthy of at least a selfie if not an extended photo session.
Heck, eat ALL THE CARBS and ALL THE DAIRY in every city
Unless you’re lactose and gluten intolerant, there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t indulge in Italy’s national cuisine! From eating pizzas as big as wall clocks in Rome to downing multiples scoops of gelato in Sorrento, I can vouch for the food quality being quite high. Italy is not the time to watch waistlines or count calories so make sure you enjoy all the best food the country has to offer!
Ride a scooter along the Amalfi Coast
If you have a few extra days to spare, I highly recommend a weekend getaway to the Amalfi Coast. Y’all. This was probably one of the most scenic drives I’ve ever done! The landscapes from Sorrento to Positano are to die for: craggy cliffs capped with colourful houses, all framed by the deep azure waters of the Mediterranean. Moreover, the feeling of sitting on a scooter and having the warm breeze whip your face as you ride had me feeling like the heroine in a romance novel or chick flick.
Tour Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius
While in the area, head over to the Naples area to explore the excavated ruins of Pompeii and hike up to the crater of Mount Vesuvius! It was so fascinating that I’ve done it twice! While I enjoy the history of the places I visit, I’m not a fan of going to museums (too quiet and boring for me!) so I enjoyed the more “experiential” learning opportunity presented here.
So, as much as I relish exploring raw, less touristy destinations, I have a special place in my heart for Italy. There’s so much to appreciate about the country, particularly from a tourist’s perspective. In fact, writing this post is making think I need to plan a trip back for 2017! Who’s coming with me?!
Have you ever been to Italy? Which cities? And what are your top recommendations for what to do while there?
This post was done in collaboration with the Lungarno Collection hotels.