Updated: 24th March 2021

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When it comes to travelling, there is no other country that has captured my heart like Italy. She has dazzling cities crammed with art and architecture, mesmerising mountains with epic lakes and hikes, breath-taking blue hues along the southern coast, and enough culture and cuisine to keep anyone entertained.

But, more than that, it’s the spirit of Italy – it’s something I can’t describe, but it’s the feeling in the air whenever I’m in the country. Sure, a lot of this is credited to the awe of the landscapes and heritage, but more than that, it’s about the people that make this nation so special. There is a degree of passion and pride in the Italian way of life that is captivating.

I’ve written before about some of my favourite hidden gems in Italy – in fact Italy is by far the most documented destination on my website – but I’ve never talked about the experiences which have made me fall in love with Italy. So, here, I want to talk about the people and moments more than the places – some of the moments that made me fall in love with Italy.

This is an ever-growing list, as I slowly work my way around every region, but here are some of the most special Italian experiences I’ve had as a traveller, hopefully, some of these will make your next visit even more special.

And please, add any other unique Italian experiences into the comments – I’m always searching for ideas for my next trip!

Learn to SUP on Lake Levico above Sparkling Wine stored below in Valsugana, Trentino

The sub-region of Valsugana in Trentino is all about watersports. Nestled just before the dolomites, the rugged terrain and peaceful lakes make for a tranquil getaway, with blue-flag beaches and plenty of boutique accommodation offerings.

One lake, in particular, is very special though, Lake Levico. I first discovered this lake when I learnt how to SUP, the still-waters reflecting the nearby mountains made for a fantastic place to learn. Little did I know though, there was a secret far below the surface.

The famed local wine is a Sparkling option called Trento Doc, and there are bottles of the stuff underneath the water. Nearby wine-producing brother duo Andrea and Giorgio from Cantina Romanese rest their wine at the base of the lake, due to the perfect temperatures and storage settings. Then, when it’s time, scuba-divers head down and retrieve the bottles. If you time your visit right, you’ll not only be able to enjoy a tasting at their intimate wine-estate but maybe even witness the bottles coming back to the surface!

Make it happen:
You can book SUP classes with Francesso via his Facebook page, and contact Cantina Romanese via their website.

Take a gelato tour through the capital of food Bologna, Emilia-Romagna

To me, Bologna is one of the most magical cities in the country, and the friendly locals make it even more special. It’s famous for many types of food (there is more on that later), but a random claim to fame is certainly the Gelato University!

Not to be confused of course with one of the oldest universities in the world, which encompasses many corners of the city. Thus, the best way to get to know Bologna well is on a walking-tour, and what better thing to combine with that than Gelato?

Make it happen:
My friend Rochelle wrote all about our Gelato Tour here

Experience the masks of the Venice Carnival, Veneto

It was a rainy and misty day when I arrived in Venice, which added even more mystery and intrigue to the masked characters roaming the streets.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Venice a few times, and while it’s certainly busy during the Carnival (when isn’t it?), it wasn’t actually as busy as the summer visits I had enjoyed previously.

The Venice Carnival officially dates back to the Renaissance period, and it can be enjoyed in various ways now. From free activities such as walking the beautiful streets and admiring the costumes, to attending lavish ticketed only events and balls.

Make it happen:
The carnival is in February and completes with the end of Vent. Find official details for future events on the local tourism website.

Learn how to make Orrichette with Olga and Massimo in their Watermill, Puglia

One of the most interesting foodie experiences I had in Puglia was in Foggia, between my visits to Bovino and Sant Agata’ di Puglia.

In an old watermill, dating back to the 1600s, which looked slightly in disrepair from outside, but fully working inside, the grain to make the pasta is still ground by the power of water and hard work.

Olga and Massimo guided us through how to cut and roll the pasta to make the ear shapes most known in the region, and while I’ll undoubtedly win no awards for my contributions to pasta making, the delicious lunch they served us afterwards was thankfully not made by me!

Make it happen:
Currently I can’t find the page online for the pasta-making workshops, just a link to a tour and tasting on GetYourGuide – hopefully the website will return soon.

Visit a Violin Makers Workshop in Cremona, Lombardy

It was in Cremona that the modern violin prototype was invented. Now, it is one of, if not the most famous places for the production of Violins in the world. Antonio Stradivari is a well-known name as producing the best quality violins in the world, and it was in the workshops here many of his stringed instruments were made, often referred to as Stradivarius.

Marianne Jost showed us around the Violin workshop she shares with her husband, and as well as showing us how these bespoke designs are made, also played her own instruments for us.

The workshop tour took us through the stags of the violin, from the sourcing of the wood to the tools used. Cutting out, sanding down, and piecing together these beautiful instruments is indeed a much more time-consuming task than I ever knew possible, and I left that workshop with a newfound respect for all those who are keeping traditional woodwork alive.

Make it happen:

Contact Marianne via their website to book a visit or workshop tour

Sleep in a traditional Trullo, Puglia

These white, conical roofed homes can be found in many places in Europe, but they are particularly linked to this region of Puglia and around the Vale d’Itria and UNESCO Alberobello.

In the tourist-popular town, you can wander around the narrow streets, where the Trullo have been converted into museums, shops and restaurants.

There are however some here, and further out in nature that can be rented as holiday homes, though check, as some are more traditional than others!

Make it happen:
There are various options available and can be found on the likes of AirBnB or other booking websites

Enjoy a classical concert high-up in the Dolomites, Trentino & SudTyrol

The Dolomites are often seen as an epic adventure destination – whether it be for hiking, skiing, or mountain biking, but this incredible backdrop lends it self to something else entirely – classical music concerts!

The Sounds of the Dolomites event occours in the summer months, and in various spots around the mountains, mostly with cable-car access, the hills really do come alive with music from sunrise through to sunset.

The high altitude, and lack of noise pollution make this an amazing location to enjoy an orchestra performance, and it’s a prime example of combining Italy’s amazing music scene and mountains into one memorable experience.

Make it happen:
Keep an eye on the latest ‘Sounds of the Dolomites’ events on the website.

Zip-wire between two mountain top villages at Castelmezzano, Basilicata

Known as the Flight of the Angels, the zip-line between the villages of Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa is a must-do adventure experince in Italy for thrill seekers. It might not be the longest zip-line in the world, but it takes in some of the most stunning scenery in the whole country. Plus, how often can you travel between villages like this.

Even if you aren’t up for taking part, the village of Castelmezzano is one of the most beautiful in the country, with the jagged mountains protuding behind it, and greenery all around, it’s well worth making a visit here regardless.

Make it happen:
You can book your ‘Flight of the Angels’ by buying a ticket online.

Enjoy the show in an ancient Roman amphitheatre in Verona, Veneto

In the heart of beautiful Verona, home to Romeo and Juliet, stands the impressive Arena, a Roman amphitheatre that stands open to the elements.

When I last visited Verona I was walking the streets and someone was playing Elton John really loud, then I realised it was in fact Elton John playing really loud from this open-air venue. A few days later, Kylie would be here. It’s used for various performance, from Opera to modern artists, and what a special setting to enjoy a concert at.

Dating back to 30 AD, taking in a show here is sure to be an Italian experience you never forget!

Make it happen:
There are various shows that take place at the venue, tickets and event can be seen on the Arena website.

One of the San Marino towers at sunset

Experience a country-in-a-country at the Vatican or San Marino

There is only one country in the world that can lay claim to having two countries inside of it, and that is Italy. The only other, with one country in its borders is South Africa, where Lesotho is land-locked.

The two countries are very small, one being the smallest in the world.

Exploring the Vatican is part of visiting Rome, home to the pope, and beautiful art work and architecture when inside, it’s something worth doing in Rome just because it’s right there if for nothing else – although the lines can be quite long.

On the other hand, San Marino, surrounded by the Emilia Romagna region, is somewhere I really do recommend you visit – and stay overnight. There is some fascinating history in this micro-nation, such as having it’s own calendar, two presidents at a time, and it’s strange links with the EU and the Euro, although it’s not officially a part of it. Once the day-trippers go, and sunset comes in, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views across the landscape.

Make it happen:
You can either drive, or even take a bus to San Marino as a day-trip or overnight stay easily. For the Vatican, tickets need to be purchased and often in advance – I recommend the early-bird access tickets so you don’t have to line up forever.

9 replies
  1. La Vida Gypsea says:

    This is a beautiful illustration of your travel adventures! We have been living in Bocas Del Toro Panama for over 5 years and we love it. We are now moving again to live on a sailboat and are documenting our adventures in a Blog and Vlog! Check out our website!

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    Reply
  2. Alfie Palasin says:

    Hello sir, I just want to visit you blog for academic purposes and when I was visiting you blog, I love your content and photography tips. Someday, I was dreaming to travel abroad also and thank you for your blog. It makes sense for me. I hope you reach my comment and I would like to interact with you when it comes to travels. Thank you very much!

    Reply
  3. ANUKRATI DOSI says:

    You have described everything so beautifully. You have convinced me to visit Italy as soon as the borders get opened.
    I have watched hundreds of youtube videos of how travelers enter the Vatican city on foot. It must be such a surreal experience.

    Reply
  4. Aparna Sisodia says:

    I’ve been to Italy but must admit I am disappointed that I haven’t experienced anything that you have listed. I had the typical tourist experience. Your list is much more interesting and hope to do at least a few from what you have mentioned in this post. Saving it for the future.

    Reply
  5. Sandrine says:

    Thanks for sharing all these amazing ideas for traveling in Italy.
    I personally LOVE this country so much and can’t wait to book a flight ticket.
    There is a crazy city worse the stop : NAPOLI.
    Ah Napoli it’s all about coffee, pizza, little streets and ice creams. Be careful with your belongings because theaves are everywhere in this city… I found myself with an open backpack after an hour walking in the streets there. Thanks God nothing was missing but…
    Now you know :)
    I urgently advice you to go to see a marvelous piece of art in la Cappella San Severo : the veiled Christ …
    Have you heard about it?

    Reply

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