Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Big 3, and my Italy Top 5

When Americans think of Italy, the first cities that come to mind are Venice, Florence and Rome. Taking a romantic gondola ride in Venice (which only the tourists do- but it's still fun!), basking in the Italian Renaissance artwork of the museums in Florence, and then walking on the ancient streets of the Roman forum and seeing the famous Colosseum. But why is it that whenever someone tells me they are traveling to Italy, these are the only places they will visit? There is so much more to Italy than just these three cities! Yes, they are fantastic cities and must sees in my opinion, but when you come to Italy take more than just three days and enjoy all that Italy has to offer- not just "The Big 3". There is more to Italy than pasta, great wine, the Colosseum, and the canals of Venice.

Since everyone keeps telling me that they are only visiting "The Big 3", I felt it was time to post about my favorite places in Italy to help shed some light on this amazing and gorgeous country! Here are my top five choices for places to visit in Italy. When I thought back on all of the places we went to last year, and in the past, I decided to base my decision on where I would choose to go if I came back to visit Italy in 10 years. Assuming I would fly into Milan, I would also go to the following places:

5. Liguria
Liguria- It was overcast that day, but still beautiful!!
Liguria- land of crystal blue waters and amazing food! This is where basil pesto originates from, and they have wonderful seafood dishes. I could live on the Mediterranean diet very easily :) It’s impossible to drive on the highway and not be amazed by all of the shimmering seaside towns and the shimmering blue waters. You could stop in any town to find a beach and many Italians escaping the heat of summer (and most likely the heat of Milan). When I think of summer in Italy, this is one place that comes to mind instantly!

Nobel's house in San Remo, Liguria

4. Rome
There are so many things to do and see in Rome that it's almost impossible to get bored! I've been there a few times now and each time we see something new. I think we could spend two weeks in the city, do something new every day, and not see all that Rome has to offer. This is one of those amazing cities where history comes to life, and there is something ancient around every corner. For me, Rome is a must see when coming to Italy!

Trevi Fountain
3. Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is a National Park on the Mediterranean in the region of Tuscany Liguria. There are five little fishing villages on the sea and they seem to be perched on the side of a mountain hanging over the sea. The villages are very charming and the water is absolutely breath taking. The views of the sea and the coastline go on forever. There is just something so special about this place and I want to go back every summer for a week of fun in the sun! There are great places to lay out and tan, go hiking, eat amazing, freshly caught seafood, and friendly people with tiny shops selling amazing wine and other things. Cinque Terre holds a special place in my heart and is always a place I recommend when people want to visit Italy. Hopefully they have recovered from the mudslides that devastated a few towns last fall.

2. Venice
Yes, I mock those people that come to Italy just to see Venice, but it's an amazing city! There is nothing like it in the world and may one day be completely under water. The city seems to have coined the phrase "shabby chic". Just by looking at all of the buildings with the chipped paint, faded house colors, and window shutters that seem to be battered by the salty sea air, it's easy to see why people try to copy this look. It's amazing! There are no cars in the city and it's easy to get lost in the tiny streets winding in between buildings and canals. It's as if you are stepping back in time. There are also great museums, glass blowing factories and opera houses in Venice that I hope to go to soon. Also, we hope to get to Carnival before moving home to MN. That is definitely a must see! We planned to go this year, but we just didn't have a free weekend :(

1. The Dolomites
View from Tre Cime, Dolomites
Many Italians don't believe me when I say that I've been to the Dolomites. The Dolomites are an undiscovered treasure that only Italians, Germans and Austrians seem to know about. It's an amazing mountain range in the Alps, north of Venice. In fact, when driving into Venice on a clear day, you can see the peaks of the mountains from the highway. This place is magical! There are rolling green mountain sides and valleys, and suddenly the grass stops and a huge mountain of rock comes shooting out of the ground. It is unlike anything I have ever seen before and the American Rockies just can't compare. Year round this is a place you can go to enjoy the impressive beauty of nature. In summertime there are great hiking trails, and in the winter there are beautiful places to ski. This by far is my favorite place in Italy and I feel that we absolutely have to find time to visit again this year even though time is running short with little Bambino on the way.

As you can see, Florence isn't on my list. Yes, it's a great city and I really enjoy going there, but after visiting a few times, I'm a little tired of it to be honest. There are so many tourists (mainly Americans and Asians) that it's difficult to enjoy the beauty and splendor of the city. After our first trip to Italy, it was my favorite city in the world, now it's dropped on my list. Although, if I did a top ten of Italy it would probably be at #6. And of course, you can't discount the rolling hills of Tuscany, Umbria and the amazing medieval hilltop towns in those regions.

Of course, we haven't been able to visit all of Italy, so there are a few places that I can't count for this top five list. We haven't been to Sardinia, Sicily, Naples, or the rest of Southern Italy. We are hoping to make a long weekend trip this year at some point to see one, or more of these places. Hopefully soon!!

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