We often use the start of a new year as a way to stop and take stock of our life. Where are we now? What have we accomplished? What have we learned? And of course: where do we go from here?
Now is the time to plan our coming year. Whether you want to make resolutions or simply day dream, there are some things to consider for your next Italy trip.
It’s no secret that I love lists, and for those who know me it’s not secret that I love goals, so New Year’s Resolutions are right up my alley. Though New Year’s Resolutions posts aren’t new for this blog (see 2014, 2015 and a 2016 reading resolution….) I did format it a little bit differently this year. Inspired by Rough Guides’ great 2017 travel resolutions, I took the best parts and adapted them specifically for Italy.
Want to come to the Bel Paese in 2017? Let this list guide you:
I will do research before I arrive.
Because being spontaneous isn’t the same thing as being ignorant. Learning about the history of the places you visit only increases the value of your visit, especially in a place with a history as rich and wide as Italy. Why would you spend thousands of dollars on an overseas trip without preparing beforehand? After all, planning a trip is half the fun of travel. Do research to create your itinerary, to help your day dreams and to plan the best damn trip to Italy that ever existed. Without it, you’ll just be floating along a sea of tourists, with nary a clue about the ancient statue, incredible trattoria or best day trip that ever existed that you missed. They say ignorance is bliss, but not in travel.
I will make a reasonable itinerary.
Your research will likely do two things: 1) add 100s of destinations to your list of must-see sights list and 2) make it possible to eventually narrow it down, making the best reasonable itinerary that exists. This means choosing an amount of sights that makes sense with the time you have. I usually suggest choosing a set number of cities, or basing yourself in just one region. Don’t jam-pack your itinerary, you’ll only end up tired, grumpy and stressed. Trust me, I would know.
I will explore Italy’s countryside.
Though everyone imagines Italy’s characteristic cities and world-famous monuments, few realize that it is a nature-lover’s paradise as well. From the Carribean-esque waters of Sardinia to the jagged pink peaks of the Dolomites, there’s plenty of nature to enjoy. Plan some time to appreciate Italy’s natural side into your next trip. Go for a hike in the Alps or explore one of Italy’s many national parks, such as Gran Paradiso National Park in Valle d’Aosta and Piedmont, Stelvio in Trentino Alto Adige or the Monti Sibillini National Park in le Marche and Umbria. You might even be surprised – beautiful Cinque Terre is itself a national park! Try an outdoor activity, like sea kayaking or bike tours, or simply escape the city for a stroll and a picnic, maybe along Rome’s ancient Appian Way.
I will rent a car.
If you need to, that is.
Far too often I see people cutting destinations they’re dying to see because it’s too difficult to reach by public transportation. Though I don’t recommend renting a car if you’re only seeing big cities, often it’s the best – or only – way to see outside of Italy’s main metropolises. Rent a car to explore the smaller towns on your own time. Take a road trip through Umbria or Le Marche, Tuscany or Friuli; and definitely rent a car if you’re heading to Italy’s mezzogiorno, or the southern end of the boot. The area might have a reputation for their aggressive driving, but the ancient public transportation systems and long distances practically require a car. Luckily for you the roads are less trafficked than the dense cities in the north and often as picturesque as a dream.
I will see more than the big cities.
The beauty of Italy is that its beauty is found everywhere. This isn’t a country where only the capital is worth a visit. Every single town, big and small, has a reason to visit. This year, go there! Include in your trip Italy’s secondary cities. Touring Milan? Make some time for a day trip to Lake Como. Seeing Rome? Get outside the city to explore the Ostia Antica or go a bit further afield to Herculaneum, Pompeii’s often overlooked sister site. Just remember to keep your itinerary reasonable. Give yourself the time to explore outside of the big cities and you won’t regret it.
Or, go to a different region entirely. Especially if you’ve already seen Italy’s big five: Naples, Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan. You all know my suggestion: Umbria’s where to go next.
I will stay in an agriturismo.
These farm-stays are Italy’s most in-vogue accommodation, and when done well they are the best way to experience Italy’s countryside. A mix of agriculture and tourism, an agriturismo is a farm designed to also receive guests, whether for a meal, accommodation or a combination of the two. Typically located in an idyllic country residence, they are the perfect introduction to “real” Italy: informal family-style service and meals; great hospitality; varied landscapes and local, organic food. Italy has thousands of agriturismi that run from rustic to luxe, but the vast majority tend to be basic rooms and amenities offered in a country house and real working farm. And yet you should definitely book ahead to ensure you get a room! Stay in one this year to explore the region, in and out of the big city and try an entirely new type of accommodation.
I will be brave.
Traveling can be overwhelming – even in a place as innocuous as Italy. So this year our Italy travel resolution is to be brave. Be brave in navigating travel; in managing trains, hotels and hospitality workers who bewilderingly don’t speak English. I will brave in my food choices, in my efforts to talk with locals, to use the local language, to try new things. Travel brings us out of our comfort zone and Italy’s well-touristed and friendly atmosphere is a perfect place to start. So say it with me: I don’t need to know what I’m doing every single second, I only need to be brave, and enjoy myself!
I will learn and use basic Italian.
Italians are great to practice with. They’re friendly, patient and have no problem if you butcher their language. It’s simply a joy that you’re trying. Italians have no highfalutin notions that the world should speak their language (few do) even as they consider it one of the most beautiful languages in the world. If you’re willing to try a few words here and there, they’re willing to listen. What better way to insert yourself into the culture, appease an Italian and make your travel all the smoother than learning 5-10 simple words or phrases? I’d suggest starting with hello, goodbye, please, thank you, beautiful and delizioso! Plus, how much easier is it to read a menu and get around when you know a word or two of the bella lingua?
I will travel more sustainably.
Stealing word-for-word from the Rough Guides article that inspired this post, we will make an effort to travel more sustainably. It says, “The UN has declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, encouraging ‘better appreciation of the inherent values of different cultures, thereby contributing to the strengthening of peace in the world’.”
That’s great, but just how do we do that? First, there’s the obvious options to do whatever you can to offset the admittedly large carbon footprints inherent in travel. Buy carbon offsets, donate to a related organization, take direct flights as much as possible, use public transportation. (Here are some links and even more ideas.)
Besides that, there are some specific things you can do to make your trip to Italy as sustainable as possible. Stay in an agriturismo – you’ll be eating local and, sometimes, organic. Follow the Italians and eat local as much as possible, but don’t forget to eat seasonally as well. Italy’s menus still run quite seasonal; Encourage that by choosing the dishes that highlight the seasons best produce and ingredients. Truffles in the fall, asparagus in the spring. You know the drill. Buy from local artisans, rather than imported souvenirs. This not only supports Italy’s strong artisan heritage, but it ensures a totally different type of product for you. One truly “Made in Italy”, truly authentic.
And finally, go slow. You’ll have a lot to see, but the best way to do it is at an Italian pace: laid-back, filled with plenty of time to find the spontaneity in life, the serendipity in travel and the beauty of all that surrounds you.
Happy New Year and Happy Italy Travels!
What are your Italy travel plans or New Year’s Travel Resolutions?
Need some help to plan? Start here:
How to Plan Your Trip to Italy: A Step-By-Step Guide
How to Pack, Budget and Get Around Italy
Tips for Tourists, How to Do Italy Right
11 Questions About Italy, Answered
My Favorite Travel Resources
Need more help? Contact me to book a consultation.