Travel to Two Italys: How to Get the Most of Your Vacation
Let’s face it, the vast majority of tourists visiting Italy stop at Venezia (Venice), Firenze (Florence), Cinque Terre, Roma (Rome) and maybe Napoli (Naples). This is why as a native of southern Italy, I cannot help but think of Italy in two parts, the Italy of the north and the Italy of the south. Whether you are traveling to Italy for its rich history in the arts and architecture, to sample the culinary delights, research your family tree, spend a few weeks taking art classes, go on an archaeological dig, or figure out how to eventually move there, the Italians will welcome you with much love and enthusiasm. To have a full and unfiltered view of Italy, I strongly recommend experiential travel that allows you to spend time with real Italians and encounter smaller towns especially in the south.
I have seen magic happen when travelers leave expectations behind with tips from a local
Maybe I am a little bias as I am originally from Puglia (the heel of the boot in the south), but to have a real taste of Italy it is here that you will find it in all of its forms. The air, sounds, nature, food, and the warmth of its people make southern Italy a mesmerizing place. The Mediterranean Sea and its coastline offers countless peaceful seafronts, with calm emerald green-bluish water, charming fishing villages full of old rusty boats with paint peeling away from how salty the air and water are.
I have seen magic happen when travelers leave expectations behind with tips from a local and they end up in a little unassuming trattoria. Never be deceived by the paper tablecloth, plastic cups and paper napkins, as often it is here that you will find out where the locals eat, affordable food, great table wine, and come away having made new friends.
In the south you will find plenty of history and architecture dating as far back as II and III century before Christ but you will also be in beautiful countrysides under an hour away from the Adriatic, Ionic, or Mediterranean Seas. Regions such as Abruzzi, Puglia, Calabria and Sicilia offer some of the cleanest beaches and sea you will ever see, making it very difficult to decide which one to choose. Most beaches feature white sand and are public especially in Puglia and Calabria, and are perfect for snorkeling and swimming. One of my most favorite places is the Tremiti Islands off the northern coast of Puglia (reachable by boat in one hour), a great place for hiking, exploring caves, scuba diving, and the best selection of underwater marine life in the region (best to visit in June or September when it is not as crowded).
For a trip of a lifetime you should take two weeks to get the best of both the north and the south of Italy. Spend your first half visiting the cities of the north. Go enjoy the Renaissance and Gothic art and architecture at some of the museums and sites like the Uffizi, Colosseum, the canals of Venice, Vatican city, St Mark’s Basilica. Then hop on a train and head south to get away from the crowds of tourists and check out a small coastal town, relax on the beach, eat amazing food, meet some authentic locals, fish for sea urchin’s off the coast of the Ionic Sea, enjoy a pasticciotto in Lecce, and immerse yourself with the slower pace of life and soak in the passion of the people and culture. This will also benefit your budget as in the south things are generally more affordable and the train rides are comfortable and offer a great way to take in the scenery.
As they say, always best if you can kill two birds with one stone!
For more information on why we love Italy, we encourage you to check out our Guide to Italy.