A Few Of Our Favorite Places in Italy
As we prepare to travel to Tuscany in a few weeks for the 2016 olive harvest and pressing, we can’t help but think of all the wonderful places in Italy we wish we had time to visit. While most people familiar with Italy know the main destinations: Rome, Florence, Milan, and Venice, we thought we might suggest a few of the equally magnificent but lesser known spots that many may not know.
At the top of our list would probably be Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is located along the Mediterranean coast in the part of the county where Italy starts to curve up and to the left toward Monaco and France. Cinque Terre is five small villages right along the coast in an absolutely beautiful setting. The towns are very difficult to get to by car but there is a very charming train that runs between the five towns quite frequently. You can also hike to each village which is an incredible experience hiking through vineyards and orchards while staring at the Mediterranean during the entire time. Each of the five villages, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore has its own character and visiting each village is an experience itself. We don’t want to write a lot here but please contact us if you would like more info. However, if you take the time to go and spend a few days, we are certain you will not be disappointed.
Next on our list would probably be Lake Garda. Located about an hour outside of Verona, when you come over the mountains and first see the lake, you can not believe your eyes. If you can imagine beautiful mountains with this enormous spectacular, deep blue lake right in the middle, that is Lake Garda. There are quaint villages all along the shore of the lake but our favorites are Malcesine and Limone. Malcesine is a great town to spend the night with great shops and restaurants. To get to Limone you take a boat across the lake (wonderful by itself) where you find the very picturesque Limone full of art galleries and more amazing restaurants. While many may have heard of Lake Como in Northern Italy, we can assure you that Lake Garda is equal or more beautiful. Furthermore, the lake is just one hour from amazing Verona.
Verona, home of Romeo and Juliet, epitomizes what an Italian town should look like. There are beautiful buildings, piazze, amazing restaurants, and great shops. But what sets Verona apart is the Amphitheater where classic opera is performed all summer long. If you can imagine sitting under the stars in a 2000 year old open air amphitheater watching Italian opera, you know what heaven is like.
Very high on the list has to be Siena. A magnificent city with very unique architecture, the town is historically significant as one of the previous capitals of Tuscany and battled Florence for years for the “capital” title. Today we believe the Duomo (Catholic Church) in Siena is perhaps one of the most beautiful in all of Italy. However, most important, Siena is the location for the most spectacular event in all of Italy – The Palio. If you can imagine a huge beautiful piazza in the heart of the city with a dozen horses, representing the different Siena neighborhoods, racing around the perimeter of the piazza while thousands watch – it IS INCREDIBLE. Arranging the be in Siena during the Palio is something you will never forget.
Clearly we could write pages on places in Italy we love. But we will conclude for now with two clearly undiscovered treasures where we lived while living in Italy. Our house was located in the village of Caprese Michelangelo and is the town where Michelangelo was born. His house is still there (reconstructed) set in a beautiful venue. While Caprese (population perhaps 500) is of course very beautiful located up in the hills, the most amazing thing about Caprese Michelangelo is the people. If you come to Italy and want to meet REAL Italians, come to Caprese. These people epitomize everything that is wonderful about Italy. They are warm, genuine, friendly and are almost like a page out of history. Coupled with amazing local restaurants serving the best authentic Tuscan cuisine, you will be so glad you visited.
Just 20 minutes from Caprese is the incredibly picturesque town of Anghiari. This beautiful town is clearly an undiscovered gem that you will not believe you have never heard of. The site of a famous Italian battle, the architecture of Anghiari is so wonderful as the streets wind up to the top of town. But if you are going to visit Anghiari, you must visit in July when every year they hold a music festival. This festival of opera, orchestra, quartets, ensembles, etc. is presented by young adult musicians selected from around the world. Held over two weeks, they perform in local churches, small piazze, in Caprese Michelangelo next to Michelangelo’s house, with a grand finale held in the large piazza at the top of Anghiari. So amazing.
Certainly we have many other favorite spots in Italy but we thought we would just share a few here that you may not be familiar with and might consider for your next visit.