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DISCOVER ITALY

Life in Italy in 2022: 10 things to add to your bucket list

There's more of Italy to see and experience than one lifetime could allow. But we can give it a go... The Local brings you the ultimate Italian bucket list. Which will you tick off?

The colours of the Cinque Terre, Liguria, Italy.
The colours of the Cinque Terre, Liguria, Italy. Photo by Sung Jin Cho on Unsplash

When it comes to Italy, there are dozens of items you could throw into your bucket list, but we’ve drilled it down to bring you our top ten things to do in Italy in this life.

Ski in the Italian Alps

A man on Punta Presena, Tonale Pass in Val di Sole near Trento, Italian alps. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)
 
If you find yourself in Italy in the winter months and fancy an adrenaline-pumping experience surrounded by breathtaking views, skiing in the Italian Alps is unmissable.
 
There are slopes suitable for all levels of skier or boarder, whether it’s your first time on the piste or whether those hair-raising black runs are really what make you feel alive.
 
 
Plus, there are plenty of hiking trails that can be accessed even in the winter when you fancy a (relative) rest, making for magical snowy walks that will stay in your memory bank for a lifetime. And as plenty of Italians will tell you, the Italian part of the Alps always comes with world-class cuisine to restore you from all that outdoor excitement.

Climb to the top of St. Mark’s Basilica

St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice is world-famous. But the views from the top give you a unique perspective of the square. Photo by Anna-Philine on Unsplash

Visiting Venice as a whole is on many people’s bucket lists, but once you’re within the lagoon city, there is a plethora of other unforgettable experiences to be had.

There’s no missing the impressive St. Mark’s Basilica that dominates the picture-perfect St. Mark’s Square. But rather than marvel at it from below, head inside and up the stairs to its museum for more than just its interior views and its history.

Once at the top, you can walk out onto the balcony among the famous four bronze horses and gaze out at Venice from an entirely new perspective. St. Mark’s square and all its outdoor tables are laid out in front of you, to one side you see the Torre dell’Orolgio – a Renaissance clock tower – in much closer detail. To the other, you get a different glimpse of the Palazzo Ducale – a gothic palace – with the blue of the Grand Canal beyond.

READ ALSO: 16 surprising facts about Venice to mark 16 centuries of the lagoon city

You’ll also pass the ‘real’ four horses, known as the ‘Triumphal Quadriga’, when you enter through the museum. Some scholars date the originals as far back as the 4th century, while the ones you see outside are copies to preserve the original works.

Hike the Cinque Terre

Photo by The Bored Apeventurer on Unsplash

Without wanting to add to the over-tourism that can sometimes blight this wondrous corner of Italy, the Cinque Terre really are spectacular and something to see at least once in your life.

The path known as the Sentiero Azzurro (the blue path) has to be one of the most beautiful in the world – and it’s one of the area’s easiest too. Stretching 12km, the trail hugs the coast and connects the Cinque Terre (five lands) of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.

As you make your way through the journey, you’re gifted with steep, lush green hills on one side and that turquoise and emerald sea on the other. Multicoloured houses perched in the cliffs dazzle the senses and stun you into silent awe as you crest each hill into another town. There has been talk of charging to access the route in order to better control the amount of tourists and to preserve the area. Perhaps visiting in low-season is one way to sustainably visit this remarkable area.

READ ALSO: The best events and festivals in Italy in 2022

Once you do make it to one of those quaint towns on your hike (and try to count all the colours), a must-try is the local Ligurian pasta speciality of trofie al pesto.

(Don’t) touch Juliette’s boob for luck in Verona

The bronze statue of Juliette Capulet stands near the balcony of her house in central Verona.  AFP PHOTO / Maurizio LAPIRA

Fair Verona, the stage of star-crossed lovers and the setting of William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. 

One of the city’s standout attractions is the 14th century building that is claimed to be Juliette’s house. Regardless of how true this is, the Gothic-style home attracts lovers and heartbroken souls from all over the world, who seek luck and love from Juliette.

Leaving notes on the walls for this member of the Capulet family has since been banned as the city officials attempt to keep the place clean and free of vandalism. But one custom they can’t seem to prevent is the touching of Juliette’s right breast for luck.

TRAVEL: Why Verona should be the next Italian city you visit

In the courtyard stands a bronze statue of the young protagonist, which is looking decidedly shiny thanks to millions of tourists having rubbed her boob while grinning for a photo.

Although there is a sign asking people not to do this, old habits die hard. One saving grace is that this is at least a replica – the original statue is inside the house and cordoned off from the public.

Go wine tasting in Valdobbiadene

Photo by Marika Sartori on Unsplash

Wine tasting in Italy? Not groundbreaking, you may think. But where to go when there are so many vineyards and internationally renowned varieties is the tricky part.

Valdobbiadene is known as the home of prosecco. Beware sparkling wines peddling themselves under this name – it can only be called as such if it comes from the prosecco region – and the hills of Valdobbiadene to the north-east of Venice is where you’ll find it (as well as nearby Conegliano).

READ ALSO:

While the region spans over 500 towns in total, only 15 make the top quality version known as Prosecco Superiore DOCG. This is produced around Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, where complex geology is claimed to produce a more diverse, flavourful taste.

Eat pizza in Naples

Members of the Pizzaioli Acrobats Coldiretti perform “twirling” pizza to celebrate the Unesco decision to make the art of Neapolitan “Pizzaiuolo” an “intangible heritage”, on December 7th, 2017 in Naples. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)
 
You’ve never quite tasted pizza like the pizza in Naples, in the south of Italy. Of course, pizza all over Italy is excellent, but here’s where you’ll find the real experience.
 
The art of Neapolitan pizza making – Pizzaiuolo – is a culinary practice that comprises four different phases from preparation of the dough to its baking in a wood-fired oven.
 
 
This became a UNESCO intangible world heritage in 2017, placing Neapolitan pizza among the list of Italy’s other world-recognised cultural customs such as truffle hunting and extraction and Sardinian pastoral songs.

Go diving off the island of Elba

Photo by Paul Cuad on Unsplash

It’s impossible to pick just one out of Italy’s many stunning islands – island hopping through Italy is a bucket list entry in itself.

However, for an experience you’ll treasure always, diving off the coast of Elba is right up there. The Mediterranean isn’t generally known for world-class diving spots, but just off Elba island is a marine park reserve called Pianosa, which is home to an array of sealife thanks to its protected status.

Fishing boats can’t enter this zone and the number of divers per day is restricted with marine park fees applied.

Splash into a zone of tranquility and excitement where the underwater visibility is generally good to excellent and in the right season, you might just spot a whole school of eagle rays elegantly gliding to you in the blue, giving you an awesome display of barrel rolls and play.

Cycle around Lake Garda and Parco Sigurtà

Photo by Elisabetta Falco on Unsplash

Lake Garda does grab the headlines a lot when in reality, we admit there are many stunning lakes in Italy to visit that also maybe carry a lower price tag too.

Still, cycling around Lake Garda and its surrounding areas is an experience Italy lovers should do at least once. You can hire mountain bikes or electric bikes depending on where or how far you want to go.

One striking trail is the route that leads from Peschiera del Garda all the way to the quaint and enchanting little town of Valeggio Sul Mincio. Peace and quiet greet you amid vivacious green landscapes and a pale green river that runs through – and envelops – its buildings.

Relax your legs after the scenic cycle with lunch and a glass of wine on one of the restaurants’ raised platforms while the water flows around you.

And while you’re on your bike, pedal on over to Parco Sigurtà, definitely a green space large enough to be enjoyed on two wheels. Its flower-lined immaculate gardens and stunning water features make for a truly idyllic day out in nature.

Drink espresso at the counter

Photo by Yamil LAGE / AFP

Lingering over a long coffee is not something Italians do. If you really want to live like the locals – even if it’s just while you’re visiting – order your coffee and drink it propped up at the bar.

Mornings in towns and cities are usually a vibrant affair with locals stopping by for a quick shot of espresso before work, which is then repeated after lunch when workers need a pick-me-up to push them through the afternoon’s tasks.

READ ALSO: Where, when and how to drink coffee like an Italian

There are more than a few rules when it comes to drinking coffee in Italy. Milk coffees like a cappuccino or caffè latte, for example, are strictly breakfast drinks to go along with your cornetto or brioche pastry. Order one of these drinks after about 10 or 11am and you might get a very strange look, but you have more of a chance of getting away with it as a foreigner.

Stay in a trullo in Puglia

Photo by Kirsten Velghe on Unsplash

And for a stay that’s definitely going to stand out, spend a night or two in a trullo in the southern region of Puglia.

If chain hotels aren’t your thing and you usually search for places with unique charm, look no further. These almost fairytale houses are traditional stone buildings characteristic of Puglia, characterised by their unusual conical limestone-tiled roof.

Wandering through the streets of these magical buildings alone is a moment to remember.

The Trulli of Alberobello are one of Puglia’s two UNESCO World Heritage sites and many have been converted into properties fit for tourists, some even furnished with pools to help you cool down from that southern sun.

How many of these have you ticked off from your Italian bucket list? Or which ones would you add? Let us know in the comments below!

Member comments

  1. Have managed to tick 5/10 on your list. Would need to have several lifetimes, to see everything beautiful Italy offers. I am missing Italy so much and can’t wait to visit again. Listing 10 is difficult, however, have had a shot at it and had to go to 11.

    MATERA – Get lost in the Escher like Sassi and stay in cave accommodation.

    MT ETNA – Take the cable car, then the 4×4 vehicles to reach 2,900 metres. Have done this twice and the landscape was incredibly different both times, despite it being the same time of the year but a few years apart.

    SCANNO – For their exquisite pieces of unique, handmade jewellery.

    GIARDINO DI NINFA – A huge garden among Mediaeaval ruins, a garden like no other.

    SANTA MARIA CAPUA VETERE AMPHITHEATRE – My personal favourite Roman amphitheatre. Able to roam freely beneath it with the added beauty of no tourists. Also visit the Mithraeum in SMCV.

    ISOLA SAN GIULIO – Incredibly picturesque.

    ALCANTARA RIVER – Take the walk near Francavilla di Sicilia. Lovely path with ruins and lizards.

    CASCATA DELLE MARMORE – Roman made waterfall, arrive in time to see them turned on or stay until they are turned off, we stayed for the latter and it was amazing.

    GIARDINO DEI TAROCCHI – Will delight children, while appealing to the inner child in adults.

    PARCO ARCHEOLOGICO DI SELINUNTE – Incredibly sad history, which is difficult not to reflect on when roaming the ruins. Magical location perched on a hill, overlooking the Mediterranean.

    NAPLES – For a sensational sfogliatella, which has just come out of the oven.

    1. Hi Kris,

      Thank you for your wonderful list. I have taken note and will try to tick those off in this life too! I agree, there is far too much to fit in when it comes to Italy.

      Buona giornata!

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Six of the coolest places to go in Italy to avoid a heatwave

If you're not a fan of the heat, here are six places in Italy you can go to stay cool this summer.

Six of the coolest places to go in Italy to avoid a heatwave

Italy is admired all over the world for the uncontaminated beauty of its beaches and the crystal-clear water of its seas. Unsurprising, its many seaside resorts attract millions of foreign visitors every summer. 

But while the country is surely heaven on earth for hot weather lovers, is there a place for those who are less keen on basking in the scorching sun of the Italian estate? Well, take it from an Italian born and bred: there’s a place for just about anybody in Italy.

The unparalleled diversity of the country’s landscape means that those preferring temperatures in the low 20s over the 30s (and sometimes 40s) of the summer heat have a plethora of cool-weather havens to choose from.

Here are just six of the destinations that you should consider when planning your escape from the heat.

Vigo di Fassa, Trentino Alto-Adige

Summer in the Dolomites is generally fairly cool but there’s a place in Trentino Alto-Adige where temperatures are particularly brisker than elsewhere. Located around 40km east of Bolzano and sat at an elevation of 1,382m, Vigo di Fassa enjoys temperatures which are significantly lower than in the surrounding comuni (municipalities). Suffice to say that in August, the hottest month of the year, daily averages are usually below 20C.

But, Vigo di Fassa is not just your average mountain location offering reprieve from the summer heat. It is also one of the most picturesque villages in the entire country and it happens to be just a stone’s throw away from popular attractions such as Lake Carezza, the Ciampedìe plateau and Sass Pordoi, a rock summit commonly known as ‘terrazza delle Dolomiti’ (Dolomites’ terrace).

In short, this is the perfect place for nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts.

Sappada, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Sappada is an enchanting mountain resort on the Carnic Alps, just south of the border with Austria. Located at the foot of the imposing Mount Peralba, the village offers visitors some truly breathtaking views of the surrounding Dolomite massifs as well as a magnificent natural landscape comprising extensive green pastures, thick coniferous forests and an array of alpine lakes.

Besides being a natural paradise for outdoors enthusiasts, the town is also brimming with folklore and local traditions, with a number of events and festivities occurring over the course of the summer.

Yet again, as in the case of the afore-mentioned locations, the town’s elevation (1,250m above sea level) keeps the temperatures relatively cool over the course of the summer, with the local thermometer rising above 22C only on very few occasions.

Castelluccio di Norcia, Umbria

From the heights of the Dolomites we move down across the country and stop on the Umbrian Apennines, which are home to Castelluccio di Norcia. Reaching an elevation of 1,452m above sea level, Castelluccio (literally, ‘little castle’ in Italian), is one of the coolest towns in Umbria, with temperatures hovering around 21C throughout the summer.

Besides being an unparalleled oasis of peace and tranquillity, the Umbrian town offers a variety of hiking trails to several renowned attractions, including Grotta della Sibilla (Sibyl’s Cave) and Lake Pilate.

Finally, it is advisable to visit Castelluccio between the end of May and mid-July, when the fields surrounding the town are coloured by red lentil flowers.

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Vallombrosa, Tuscany

The Vallombrosa forest has long been one of the best-kept secrets of Florence residents. When the heat becomes unbearable in the city – and it often does over the summer – the locals retreat to a 1,270-hectare reserve about 30km southeast of the region’s capital.

Why? Vallombrosa is a cool and shady natural haven where the beauty of uncontaminated forest land merges with majestic man-made creations such as the Benedictine Abbey of Vallombrosa and the Castle of Sammezzano. 

The forest is also filled with trails that are granted to give hikers the time of their lives. One of them, the Setteponti trail, will even take you as far south as Arezzo!

Pescasseroli, Abruzzo

Nestled at the heart of Abruzzo’s National Park on the Marsicani Mountains, Pescasseroli is one of the most scenic small towns in Italy. With its array of traditional houses, churches and artisan shops, the burg’s centro storico is a sight for sore eyes. 

In line with the above-mentioned locations, Pescasseroli also enjoys relatively cool summers as its elevation (1,167m above sea level) rarely allows temperatures to exceed 26C, even in August. So, regardless of when you choose to visit, it’s always a good time to saddle up and discover the natural wonders the surrounding national park has to offer. 

Oh, by the way, scattered across Pescasseroli are also a number of taverns, where you’ll be able to treat yourself to the scrumptious local cuisine.

READ ALSO: How to choose a camping holiday in Italy: A guide for the uninitiated

Ulassai, Sardinia

Yes, it is indeed true. Even Sardinia, which is globally known for the beauty of its beaches and seaside resorts, has something to offer to cool weather lovers. Sat at 775m above sea level, Ulassai (province of Nuoro) is one of the ‘fresher’ spots in the island, offering an alluring way out of the summer heat domineering pretty much elsewhere. 

The village is perched atop a huge limestone massif known as Bruncu Matzeu and allows visitors to enjoy stunning views of Sardinia’s eastern coast and the Tyrrhenian Sea extending beyond it. Ulassai also offers a number of natural attractions, including the imposing Lequarci Falls and the Su Marmuri Cave. In short, this is the perfect spot for those who love nature and local history.

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