6. Knock off Naples
This is a tricky one. Naples is definitely a “must see” on your trip to Italy but in the past few years the number of street shootings have increased to the point where you can see them replayed on U-tube. And they are not occuring in “out-of-the-way” places, but in average downtown and shopping areas that anyone is likely to be in (hence them being captured on mobile phone videos). These days I wouldn’t actually go to Naples for safety reasons.
However Naples is still one of the top ten places to visit in Italy. Nowhere else is like it. It is the birthplace of pizza and the ones that you will taste here will leave you pining for the rest of your life. The centre of the city is an ancient labyrinth of tiny streets, filled to the brim with humanity and all its trappings. This is not a tourist city. The rhythm of this city is more like an African than a European city. The combination of art, history, food, overpopulation and danger means it feels like a city that is on the edge of a precipice. And technically it is. When Vesuvius, the volcano behind the city, blows up again in the not too distant future it will be bye bye Napoli! Just in case you don’t get here I’ve included a few more photos than usual.
If you dare to go to Naples stay at the appropriately named: L’Albergo del Purgatorio, +39 081 299 579.
7. Idle to an island
Italy has many, and to truly experience the fullness of Italian life, you need to go to one. Pick one, any one – Sardinia, Capri, Ischia, Ponza, Ventotene, Elba, Lippari, Procida, Lampedusa, Vulcano, Stromboli, just to name a few. They are all on the left side of Italy running down from Tuscany to Sicily, and are all easy to get to, and within a few hours by boat from the mainland or Sicily. They are the ultimate Italian holiday experience. Although each has its own character, they all operate at a much slower pace than the mainland and it is nice to see that even Italians can wear flip flops and shorts at times. Although in parts of Capri and Sardinia they maybe Valentino and Gucci.
Stay at: Casa Adolfo, +39081999443, Ischia
8. Absolutely Amalfi
I know that many people visit, and love, the Cinque Terra. However my theory is that only those who have not seen the Amalfi coast, love the Cinque Terra. Along the Amalfi coast is the town of Amalfi, although I recommend Positano as the place to base yourself in. I find it hard to describe the Amalfi coast as it takes my breath away every time I see it. Imagine sheer, grey, craggy cliffs, covered in bright bougainvillea flowers and green cacti, plunging into an aqua blue sea. Imagine driving along a road that hugs these cliffs and that winds in and out of them for hours, giving you enticing glimpses of the sea, flowers, the cliffs above you, and every now and then a set of dwellings that seem to hug in or tumble down from crevices in the cliffs. The views are stunning and world class. Add to this some deep crystal clear water to swim in, magnificent sea food, pizzas (you are still only an hour out of Naples), and delicious desserts and liquor made from Amalfi’s famously huge lemons, and I am in paradise every time I go (which is annually).
Positano is mostly a pedestrian town, fantastic shopping and eating, with views to die for from even the cheapest hotel windows. Because it is mostly pedestrian, and the town opens up onto the sea, it makes for a wonderfully relaxed and escapist beach holiday, and a truly summer Italian experience.
Stay at: Hotel Conca d’Oro, Positano (See blog roll for link), Pensione Casa La Reginella, +39089875324, Positano
9. Admire Albero Bello
There has to be one obscure gem on this list and this is it. Nowhere else in the world will you see anything like this little town, right at the southern end of Italy, in Puglia. It is a town made up entirely of Trulli, the name of the traditional rock and cave houses from this region. It is the only one of its kind in Italy and in the world. These houses were made entirely out of stones stacked on top of each other and consist of several round rooms joined together with a round roof. They are whitewashed and each has a different symbol on the peak of their rooves which indicated families or landlords they belonged to. It is a pedestrian town and you can eat, shop and visit all within these traditional dwellings. It is like walking through a film set and is a cross between a Hobbit village and a village from the Star Wars trilogy.
10. See Sicily
Sicily is a country in itself and unlike anywhere else in Italy. But again to understand and have a true feel of Italy you must see and experience Sicily. It is the wild west of Italy and extremely varied even within itself. See Palermo and visit the islands other ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine temples, palaces and churches. See the most amazing beaches in the Mediterranean, picturesque countryside, incredible food found nowhere else in Italy, and an ancient way of life clung to with fierce pride.
Photographs by A. Verhagen and A. De Luca