I was enamored with Italy even before I saw it.
Then, I saw it.
From my first jet-lagged lunch in a nondescript tourist joint in Rome I knew this was a place I wanted to know. In the light, the speed, the scene, there was something to learn here.
Since then I’ve traveled all over Italy – from the big-hitters like Cinque Terre, Rome and Venice, to lesser known cities. From tiny borghi like Spello, famous throughout Italy, to truly-no name borghi like those dotting the Lombard Alps.
I’ve seen more of Italy than some Italians, and yet I’ve missed so much.
For one, I’m missing Italy’s entire mezzogiorno, all the regions south of Lazio, and as each year passes I’m a bit more horrified by that fact.
Not to fear! Never complacent, I have a list as long as my arm of what to see in Italy (read: all of Italy) but in the spirit of not scaring you away by a seven-page blog post, I’ve narrowed it down to the places I’m most itching to visit now!
The dream is to drive the entire ring of Sicily, touring each of its gorgeous, ancien cities and towns. I want to soak in its history along with the sun and completely open myself up to a new culture (remember, northern Italy and southern Italy are quite different). BUT, if I had to choose one place on the island that I’m just dying to visit, it’s Palermo. Probably not the most beautiful of the options, I’m fascinated by its mixed-culture heritage, by its chaos and grit and charm. What better way than to deep dive into Sicily than by deep-diving into Sicily’s capital city?
All of the Salento calls to me – the heel of Italy’s boot. It’s an area with crystal water, the green countryside of Valle d’Itria, olive groves, cone-shaped trulli houses and a time all its own. Then where else to start but Locorotondo, an entirely white-washed city a la-Greece, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy and hometown of a dear friend? Sign me up!
Civita di Bagnoregio, Lazio
We were in Orvieto, on our penultimate stop of a ad-hoc loop across central Italy. Deciding where to go day by day, we asked our Airbnb host what she suggested nearby or as a next stop. Without hesitation she said “Civita di Bagnoregio.” None of us had ever heard of it at that time, but since then the name has come up again and again. The hilltop town sits surrounded by a vast canyon, the slight strip of land connecting it to the next town, Bagnoregio, long since eroded. The only way in or out is on a long, man-made footbridge.
We never made it to the town on that trip, but it’s stayed in our dreams since then!
Isole Borromee, Lago Maggiore, Piedmont
With grand sisters lakes like Como and Garda, Lago Maggiore doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it does have a trick up its sleeve: the Borromean Islands, especially Isola Madre and Isola Bella, both of which have opulent villas and even better gardens (we all know I prefer gardens to palaces!)
Bologna, Emilia Romagna
Named the ‘Educated One’ for housing the oldest university in all of Europe and the ‘Fat One’ for its world-class, and hearty, cuisine, how could I not want to visit? Bologna is a city I’ve passed or passed through multiple times, but never toured. So close, yet so far, I’ll get there sooner or later.
Ferrara, Emilia Romagna
Another town that I was meant to visit – twice – and each time wasn’t able, Ferrara is on the list more out of stubbornness at this point than anything else. I thoroughly enjoyed each of the mid-sized cities visited from Milan to Venice – Mantova, Padova, Sirmione, Treviso – and this one a bit further south from that route is a must-see. Along with Ferrara, I hope to tack on Ravenna and Modena in a sort of crazy loop.
Amalfi Coast, Campania
When I first came to Italy I didn’t have the Amalfi-Coast fever. Too over-hyped, over-crowded, expensive. I still think it’s all of those things, but also, I just have to see it for myself. I want to smell the lemon trees, the salt air, hike up the hundreds of steps in Positano and catch the well-earned view along the Sentiero degli Dei. I’m ready to go!
This is by no means a complete list. I’d like to see Matera and explore more of Lazio. Some day I’ll finally get to Naples, Pompeii and Herculaneam. I haven’t even been to Torino or Genova and of course Sardinia can’t be excluded. But we’ve got to start somewhere and these are the places at the top of my mind these days.