Bologna is one of 2018’s top destinations…
Bologna is one of 2018’s top destinations…
Whats on the radar for exciting places in Italy? Here are a few ideas…
As I write this my mood is one driven from emotional and physical exhaustion. I want to travel and itching to get out and go yet somehow I crave a much easier and more laid back kind of destination. Less tourists and fuss, but still charming and visually appealing. Places that have some authenticity in the era of mass travel yet not so off the beaten path that it will take a while to get there. This usually means going to places before they are on the radar and in the mainstream. Let’s face it, by the time a place is being written about in the New York Times as the “new” place to go to before everyone else does that destination is way past its prime. It is about the quiet hum rather than the loud roar so with that in mind here are my choices of travel inspiration…
Bologna Long overlooked by tourists, Italy’s university town is filled with history and most importantly great food. Its not known as the Stomach of Italy for nothing. Rich in culinary history both through its produce and its cuisine, Bologna makes for an alluring destination for that alone but thankfully it has a great deal to enjoy off the plate as well. With vaulted porticoes, medieval streets and bustling cafe life this is everyday living done right. Of course not to be missed are the markets many with their produce tumbling out into the medieval streets and the elaborate food shops showcasing their goods as if in a painting. Less tourists and more local living make it a true Italian experience.
Procida Often ignored because of the popularity of its glamorous neighbour, Capri, Procida possesses local, small town charm. Colourful houses cascade down the island like pastel marshmallows floating on the azure sea. Its fishing port and little boats are exactly how you imagine a small Italian sea village to be.
Catania Sicily’s other big city and far too often neglected by visitors as a great Sicilian destination. Perilously seated between the sea and imposing volcano Mount Etna it has stood defiantly in the wake of constant volcanic activity. While most people go through Catania on their way to more polished local spots such as Taormina, Catania like much of Sicily’s eastern towns offers grand architecture with decorative baroque polish and a traditional old world Sicilian market. Not as big or overwhelming as Palermo yet possessing true Sicilian spirit.
Ponza Along the west coast between Rome and Naples lies a small island offering laid back elegance. A secret summer getaway known by a few Romans and their friends, Ponza offers a quieter alternative to Capri a bit farther down the coast. It does not offer the glamorous lifestyle because it is not trying to. However that does not mean it is lacking of allure. Its refinement is in the low key, stylishly retro, casual with creature comforts of one staying at an Italian friend’s delightful beach house. If you really want to get away and sleep by the sea, this would be a great pick.
Sorrento Unfortunately many vacationers just drive through Sorrento on their way to more popular Amalfi Coast destinations, which is a shame since Sorrento possesses much to stop and look at. It has more of the energy you find on Capri than other of the towns on the Coast. And when Italians go to the Amalfi Coast they come here, much more going on and equally breathtaking views of the sea.
Matera Last chance to get there before the crowds and the mass tourist push that will come when Matera take on the honour of City of Culture in 2019. Matera is a unique part of Italy unlike any other. A town filled with an almost mythical soul with its Biblical feel in its Sassi cave living and honey coloured streets. Matera is really two parts with an elegant old town that looks over the the ancient Sassi town right below. Together but somehow separate, two different worlds in one town. An easy day trip from Puglia, however Matera really is a jewel lit up at night and merits an overnight stay at one of the Sassi hotels where you can live history.
New Year and all the new travel possibilities…
Every year there is a buzz about new ‘in’ places to go. Unfortunately by the time they are on the radar they are already ‘discovered’ by hoards of tourists. So this year on my wish list of destinations I’ve picked places often passed over to go somewhere else more popular. Yet all these places are exciting in their own right and will definitely entice travelers in the near future for they are gorgeous destinations with loads to offer. Get there first…
Bologna– Many times one goes through Bologna by train on the way to Venice or Rome, yet Bologna offers as much history, charm, and most importantly food! as its more famous neighbours. Medieval streets and historical sights in a town almost free of tourists and crushing crowds. Want to taste the real Italy, this is it, from its locals only atmosphere to some of the best food in the world. They don’t call this region of Italy the “Belly of Italy” for nothing, some of the best produce comes from this region along with a legacy of top notch producers keeping the Slow Food movement alive and well. A must see destination for foodies and historians alike.
Amsterdam – Is having a moment, a very trendy moment. And wait too long to go and you will get there when it has already become the hipster destination in every Instagram post. It already has the coffee houses. But Amsterdam possesses romance and magic, canals and delightful architecture that win everyone over with its easy appeal.
Boston – The first proper North American city, Boston is as American as it comes. From Paul Revere, the Freedom Trail, and the Boston Tea Party, the birth of a nation began here. And it is fun and easy to access in this handsome city. Often passed over for the Big Apple, Boston while smaller, can boast of its own culinary place with choice restaurants and first class cuisine, much of it local seafood. Some great museums makes Boston a cultural city as well, and the continual variety of events means there is lots to do no matter what you fancy.
Antwerp – Yes Brugges is a gem, but Antwerp too is a jewel of its own. While Brugges has charisma, Antwerp has elegance and sophistication. Astonishing architecture, the city shows off gilded details of its past while incorporating new and exciting design forward modernity. Definitely a destination for designers.
Milos – The allure of the beauty of Mykonos but on a smaller, less traveled, less partied island of Milos is near heaven on earth for those looking for a quieter Greek holiday. Breathtaking views, all turquoise and white, picturesque stone streets covered with cascading branches and vines is the place of dreams.
Puebla – Two hours outside of the massive Mexico City is a much smaller colonial city of Puebla. The historic center is the essence of Mexico and visions of what most people conjure up when they think of this country. Known for its majolica tiles Puebla is stunningly pretty and a region of over 365 churches, one for every day of the year, most covered in these decorated tiles. Streets are brilliantly colourful from the painted houses to the balloon sellers walking along bustling in clouds of shiny bubbles. It is Mexico like you want it to be.
Sorrento – Most people forgo Sorrento for the more celebrated destinations such as Positano and Ravello. And you are missing out. Granted Sorrento is a bit more town than village, but it has real charm and character. Also this is where the Italians go when they want to spend time on the Amalfi Coast. So, if its good enough for them…
Every year I always make a wish list of places to go, some of them new, some are places to return to, but mostly because there is a buzz about them and the time to go is now…
Southern Italy: Mainly Calabria and Basilicata which are looking like the next big things in travel. While I have been to and mentioned Matera in Basilicata before, with it set to become the 2019 City of Culture it is best to get there before so as to enjoy and explore all the nooks and crannies of the Sassi town without the tour groups. As for Calabria, it is Italy’s final frontier, the ‘toe’ of the boot that is Italy, and mostly overlooked by travellers. The charming seaside town of Tropea is fast becoming a popular warm weather destination. Get there now.
Patmos: Santorini and Mykonos remain popular and filled with tourists, so where to go with a bit of flair but not the crush of people. Patmos is growing in popularity but still hasn’t hit the tourist Greek island holiday crawl of people. Quaint villages offer romantic views and charming cafes without the clubby atmosphere.
Rhodes: For a bit of history with your Greek Island escapade, Rhodes is a delightful destination. The old town has fortifications built by the Knights of Saint John during the crusades as well as an ancient Greek acropolis
Sayulita, Mexico: Already hot and gaining popularity, this colourful, laid back beach town is far from the madness of Puerto Vallarta and the opulence of big hotels on Punta Mita. On Mexico’s glorious Pacific coast, this artsy little town is a bit more unique.
Iceland: Is the big thing for the right now. Expansive natural landscapes made popular in many big movies and TV shows, have put it on the ‘go to’ travel list. Go for the natural baths of the astonishing Blue Lagoon but stay for the people.
Finland: Is starting to percolate lots more interest in part due to being the Scandinavian country less traveled and in part because Scandinavia is trendy. With Sweden and Denmark already popular, this is Scandinavia with less tourism, good skiing, and unique experiences like sampling Reindeer meat on the menu.
Charleston, South Carolina: For a bit of genteel Americana, the historical city of Charleston in the the United States proudly maintains the southern way of life by upholding traditions and good manners. The historical center boasts pretty cobblestone streets, gas lit lanterns and landmark buildings dating back to the first settlers.
Palermo: Faded yet grand architecture and a faceted history have always made Sicily’s capital city a draw, yet has been ignored or passed over in recent years. With Sicilian cuisine and wine becoming increasingly popular and a new old world sophistication polishing the city, Palermo is starting to buzz.
Provence: For a classic vacation in the purest sense, it is time to return to the south of France, mainly Provence. The land of great painters, this region has it all including great wine and gourmet cuisine, not to mention fields of lavender and perfume. What’s not to love in the land of charming villages.
Northern Italy’s “Second” cities: For a foodie’s trip, head to Bologna, Parma, and Turin. Learn to cook in Bologna, taste some of Italy’s more innovative restaurants in Parma, and hunt for truffles outside of Turin. While “second” cities, they are no lesser than their more famous counterparts, just a little less traveled. All offer historical sites, cafe culture, and most important fantastic dining experiences.