Italy is a destination loved worldwide.
It's a country adored for its ever-flowing local wines, and its corner cafes and patio restaurants; for its rich history depicted through art and ornate architecture; for fresh homegrown ingredients and distinct cuisine which is imitated but never truly duplicated. It's a country brimming with people who cherish family time and good conversation. And last but not least, Italy is collection of towns with picture-perfect views built upon mountains lying beside the green-blue sea. Swoon.
Start Planning Your Trip
The only way to experience Italy and her treasures, offered in its pretty coastal towns and busy historical cities, is to travel from top to bottom. (Or the reverse!)
Map your Itinerary
Italy has well-developed public and private transportation options, making it a piece of cake for travellers. Choose your dream destinations (there are so many) and then savour them one by one. Start in the north and work your way down the 'boot', or fly into Rome and explore the south before looping back and travelling north.
Best Time to Travel
The best time to travel to Italy is in the spring (April to June) and fall (mid-September to October). The weather is sunny yet comfortable, fresh produce is plentiful, rates are cheaper and the crowds aren’t overwhelming. I went in May and found it to be the perfect time for sightseeing. Other than in Rome where it’s to be expected, waiting in lines weren’t even a concern in spring.
Traveling to Italy from Canada is a breeze; non-stop flights from Toronto to Rome are approximately 9 hours and Alitalia offers convenient connections to 27 Italian cities and over 70 international destinations, with 4,440 weekly flights. Alitalia is a member of the SkyTeam alliance and is part of the Transatlantic Joint Venture alongside Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines.
Get your first taste of Italy on board. In true Italian fashion, Alitalia is serious about good food and wine. Award winning cuisine, paired with wines selected in collaboration with the Italian Sommelier Foundation awaits Business Class guests. Premium Economy guests enjoy a separate cabin with 40% more space than Economy Class and Economy Class guests experience enhanced comfort and an upgraded meal service.
For short jaunts the most affordable, time-saving method of land transportation are the high-speed trains that connect Italy’s major cities. Combine with local buses/metro to hop between regional towns. (Purchase these tickets before boarding from newsstands, convenience stores or ticket booths.) Just note, Italy's trains have a bit of a reputation for being less than punctual. Arrive early, armed with patience.
Don’t forget to take advantage of water transport as well, like the vaporetto (waterbus) in Venice. Ferries shuttle travellers to Cinque Terre destinations and long-haul routes service destinations all over the Mediterranean coast.
Italian Dream Destinations
Where to go with a few short weeks
Venice & Rome:
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Obvious destinations include the stunning, floating city of Venice with its romantic gondola rides, long white bridges, oversized basilicas, historical squares, and detailed architecture. My favourite experience in Venice is in the evening when the twinkling lights shine from the buildings along the Grand Canal. The soft lighting creates a whimsical atmosphere.
When travelling Italy, Rome is a must-see. Use the hop-on, hop-off bus which includes stops at the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Trevi Fountain, the Vatican and other important monuments/squares/museums.
Florence, the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, was the heart and soul of the Renaissance. Its masterpieces of art and architecture are proudly displayed in public squares throughout the city. Others are housed privately.
City highlights include visiting the prominent Uffizi Gallery (closed on Mondays) to view great works by Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Raphael, Michelangelo, Giotto di Bondone and more. A visit to Florence wouldn't be complete without admiring Michelangelo's David at Accademia Gallery. Make sure to see the famously romantic, closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, named the Ponte Vecchio. It is noted for the shops built along it since the 13th century.
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The town of Amalfi is centrally-located and a transportation hub for hop-on, hop-off buses, as well as SITA buses. This makes it a convenient stopover.
Amalfi itself has a crowded town square overflowing with restaurants, boutiques, gelaterias, and a gorgeous cathedral to keep guests occupied for a day (people-watcher perfection).
However you may want to save the majority of your time to visit nearby towns. One such treasure is medieval Ravello, the archaeological site of Pompeii and upscale Capri. Another perennial favourite is the picture-perfect seaside town of Sorrento.
A gem hidden in plain view
The most charming town along southern Italy’s Amalfi Coast is Positano, my favourite place in the world. It lies cliffside next to the sea; its colourful buildings and houses piled high and almost on top of each other. This creates a busy village of narrow streets lined with specialty boutiques and cafes. At the very bottom of Positano is its pebbled beachfront and gold-speckled, majolica-tiled dome.
I recommend staying at the family-owned and operated Al Barilotto Del Nonno. It is a bed and breakfast where family members serenade guests every evening while they enjoy home-cooked, family-recipe meals made from fresh ingredients picked straight from the garden. The owner, Giovani, teaches you Italian if you’re interested and offers free rides into town.
Have more time?
Some of our other Italian favourites
Turin - fast cars, delectable chocolate and bustling cafés; come for the coffee culture, stay for the snow-capped mountain beauty.
Lake Como - whose tranquil shores are adorned with ornate Italian villas and wooden boats.
Verona - the setting for Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers. Wander charming medieval streets to find out for yourself what makes it so romantic.
Cinque Terre - five colourful, centuries-old seaside villages heaped precariously on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline.
Bologna- a gastronome’s paradise with a rich tapestry of flavors on offer.
Siena - a medieval town famous for its Palio di Siena horse race in the fan-shaped central square, overlooked by the imposing and gothic Palazzo Pubblico.
Palermo- the pulsating melting pot of culture and history that make up the soul of the Sicilian capital; it's where historic splendour meets modern beaches.
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