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.