1. Visit Venice
It may seem passé, a tourist trap, and a cliché but the truth is that Venice is still a lovely, lively and real city teeming with actual inhabitants. It is also worth going because it so unique. A city built on water with canals instead of streets not to mention some of the world’s most beautiful squares, palaces, hotels and art galleries. Venice is timeless, an important part of Western and Eastern history, and yes full of tourists. However it is a favourite destination because of the above, why would you want to miss out on that just because everyone else is there too?
And do take a Gondola ride. Yes they are expensive but on your death bed will you be glad you had that extra hundred or so dollars in your pension fund or will you be glad that you took a romantic Gondola ride in Venice? The Gondoliers are a respected and traditional trade that is passed down from father to son. Only if you come from a family of Gondoliers can you become one, after many years of training. They know the city intimately and will show you places you can’t see on foot, and yes they will probably sing for you as well. All in all it’s an experience that you can’t get anywhere else.
Stay at: Le Guglie B & B, Cannaregio, Venice (see blogroll for more details)
2. Do the Dolomites
Part of the magic of Italy is that is so many countries in one. To appreciate the dry, almost African feel of the South you must have experienced the mountainous cool region of the North, more like Germany than Italy in some parts. The Dolomites are majestic and offer incredible skiing in the winter and beautiful walks in the summer with stunning views, authentic wooden chalets, beautiful towns, and magnificent food and wine of the region, not found anywhere else.
3. Miss Milan
I may get into trouble for suggesting this but as a long term resident of Italy I get a bit sick of the hype about Milan. It’s a shopping centre, a big church and then an industrial city of the type you can find anywhere in Northern UK or Southern Germany, and usually cloaked in fog. In a word, not unique. If you want to use your holiday to boast to your friends you have been to Milan or if your idea of a holiday is shopping, then you will probably like Milan and fit in well with the “seen to be seen” set. Otherwise you will be bored after a day.
4. Tour Tuscany
Siena, Volterra, San Gimignano, Cortona, Bagni di Lucca, Lucca, Pitigliano, Sovanna, Montepulciano, Pienza, Florence, Montalcino, Lucinangno, Pisa, San Severo… ……… so many medieval hill top towns all within an hour’s drive of each other. Tuscany is a nonstop feast for the eyes and stomach. Feast your eyes on the rolling hills topped with cypress trees, fields of sunflowers, stone farm houses and wild deer. Tuscany is the poster child for Italy. Then fill your stomachs on its rich, earthy Chianti’s, chewy salami, handmade bread and stews of wild boar, venison and hare. Once again everyone goes to Tuscany because it is gorgeous, peaceful, and breathtakingly beautiful. Nowhere else in the world looks or feels like Tuscany.
5. Revel in Rome
Of course if you don’t have Rome on your agenda when you visit Italy then you are a complete Philistine. Even if you have no inkling or interest in history I guarantee you will be bowled over by it in Rome. Where else can you go and stand in ancient chariot racing arenas, sit where tourists sat 2,000 years ago to watch someone mauled to death by a wild bear as part their Saturday afternoon entertainment, stand in the same spot where Mark Antony addressed the crowd after the death of Julius Caesar, visit the building where Roman Senators ruled the world for over 1,000 years or visit the illegal underground burial chambers of the first Christians?
If history and Roman buildings don’t grab you then how about the world’s biggest collection of art works and sculptures in just one city, ornate marble filled churches, squares full of fountains, tiny medieval streets and the Vatican. No? How about the chance just to chill in a café all afternoon sipping cold Belgian beers or Italian whites and watch some of the world’s most beautiful people go by, often two or three at a time on a moped, not letting their driving interrupt their smoking or ice cream eating?
Stay at: Hotel Locarno or Hotel de Russie (See Blogroll for links)
Tips 6 – 10 next week.