Rome may be The Eternal City, but to find the center of the Italian Renaissance, Northern Italy is where you want to be. This historic region, with its ties to the Medicis and da Vinci, its architecture and natural beauty, has drawn the imagination of artists and travelers for centuries. Start planning your own destination vacation to this cultural mecca with these four tips.
1. Start Following Travel Writers
To find unique ideas of where to go and what to see in Northern Italy start following travel writers familiar with the area. Michael Canzian, with roots in the area, has good recommendations on who to follow. Look for bloggers like Katy Clarke, who regularly visits. These authors focus their blogs on information about smaller towns and local customs that will help you find undiscovered gems.
Once you’ve made a list of places you’d like to visit and foods you’d like to eat, go to bigger names like Rick Steve’s for planning the nitty-gritty of buying train tickets and the best times to go.
2. Read About the Area
Read some books set in the area. There’s a thrill in walking the streets your favorite characters trod. Try E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View before you walk along the Arno in Florence. For a local spin, read The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni before you visit Lake Como. Modern memoirs Under the Tuscan Sun and Extra Virgin may inspire you to leave it all behind for a life in the Italian countryside.
3. Connect With Locals
Once you’ve filled your brain with hidden locales and major destinations, fictional characters and pasta dishes, refine your itinerary. When your itinerary is in place it’s time to connect with some locals. Getting a local “handler” doesn’t just have to be for the big travel shows.
Ask fellow Americans who travel to Italy regularly or still have family there, like Michael Canzian, for recommendations on where to stay and whether they can connect you with friends or relations in the area. You’ll never know who your friends know overseas until you ask. Also, check out greeter programs. You can find out if the city you’re visiting has someone who loves her city and can’t wait to show it off at sites like Stroll Buddy. While you can use sites like Reddit, the previous options mean someone has vouched for your new travel guide.
4. Consider a Tour
While a tour won’t give you the same experience as planning your own trip and finding a local guide, for your first visit a tour isn’t a bad idea. If you only have a handful of days and can’t decide between Milan and Cinque Terre, Florence and Lake Como, a bus tour will give you all the highlights. These tours give you a few hours in multiple locations. While it’s a strenuous journey, you’ll see the beautiful countryside and your entry to major attractions is usually included. Once you’ve sampled a little bit of everything you’ll have a better idea of where you want to focus your time on your next trip.
Either planning route, your trip to Italy will be an unforgettable experience.
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