How To Plan A Really Amazing Trip To Italy

Villa Rufolo, Ravello

After the world being locked down for most of 2020, it now looks like international travel may finally be back on the horizon. Now that the vaccines have arrived along with the imminent arrival of the Common Pass, the world may just be ready to open back up. If you are anything like me then you too are more than ready to fly the friendly skies again!

Travel May Look Different

I am expecting travel to look different as we move forward with reopening the world. The mass tourism model has been so destructive to everything from ecosystems to local economies. Not only do I want mass tourism to be curbed, I also think that post pandemic people will be hestitant to take big bus tours, and leary of spending time floating around on giant petri dishes with 4000+ other cruise ship voyagers.

My hope is that more travelers will opt for small group travel, either with small tours or venturing out on their own

Research

While we wait for travel to reopen this is the perfect time to do some research for your trip.

Beyond the usual travel guide books I recommend watching movies set in Italy, reading books set in Italy, listening to podcasts about travel in Italy.

My Amazon storefront has a list of movies set in Italy to watch as well as a list called Books To Inspire Wanderlust, which is full of fantastic books set in Italy that I personally have used to help plan trips.

Podcasts

Check out episode 53 of the Untold Italy podcast where I talk about tips and tricks for planning a trip to Italy.

I just did an episode of the Untold Italy Podcast that was all about how to plan your trip. In the episode host Katy Clarke and I give you fantastic tips for how to put your dream trip together – (remember your most perfect trip won’t be the same as mine or as the person down the street’s perfect trip. The trick is to build the trip of a lifetime for you.) Then we also go over mistakes that we have each made. I learned everything the hard way, which gives me the perfect experience to guide you away from mistakes and keep you on track to do it all the easy way.

The podcast episode is fabulous and I’m really proud of it. You can listen to it here: Untold Italy Episode 53, How To Plan Your Trip.

How To Plan An Amazing Trip To Italy

Here are 9 important tips to consider when planning your trip, whether it’s your first time or whether you’ve already been to Italy multiple times.

1. What Type Of Trip Do You Want?

It seems obvious but oddly enough most people are so busy checking off bucket list sites that they don’t stop to think about what type of trip they really want.

Do you want to lie on the beach and swim in the Mediterranean? Do you want to have a relaxing couple of weeks staying in a villa in Umbria or Tuscany, driving around and exploring little towns and villages and wineries?

Do you want to visit as many Roman ruins as possible? Or maybe you are more interested in Etruscan ruins? Or shopping? Whatever it is that really lights you up and that would make this your absolute trip of a lifetime, that’s what we have to set about planning – rather than squeezing a twenty swim in between two big tourist stops.

2. What Type Of Traveler Are You?

This one is about being realistic. If you are a frequent international traveler the way you approach this will be different than if you are venturing overseas for the first time. If you are new to travel some things such as driving in a foreign country may be overwhelming. If you are a frequent traveler many things may be too touristy for you or you may want to get further off the beaten path.

The key is to design a trip that meets your needs and expectations. For example I would hate a trip that was staying in hotels every night – I prefer vacation rental apartments and villas. But the next person might hate that and prefer to be in hotels every night. No one is right or wrong, it’s just about finding th perfect style of travel for you.

3. Make A long List of Cities And Towns

As you research – watch movies set in Italy, read books set in Italy, listen to podcasts about Italy travel and read the posts of travel bloggers, make a long list of everywhere that sounds interesting or that you might like to visit. Ideally you will make a really long list.

4. Follow Travel Bloggers

I particularly like following travel bloggers as it is easy to find ones that do your type of travel. For example bloggers that travel with their kids, bloggers who backpack around the world, bloggers who like fashion inspired travel, foodie travel bloggers – basically whatever you personally are interested in. If you are a woman traveling on her own you will find solo female travel bloggers great resources and incredibly helpful. It doesn’t seem to matter how far you want to niche down, there are travel bloggers who not only do your type of travel but speak in a voice that makes sense to you.

I also find bloggers who specialize in towns and regions I’m interested in. In the podcast I talk about doing some research on Turin and googling travel bloggers, Turin as a starting point.

The two best ways to find travel bloggers are Google and Pinterest. I use Pinterest all the time. It is a giant search engine that speeds everything up by being a visual medium too. At a glance you can tell whether a place is for you or not. Most travel bloggers have a consistent presence on Pinterest. You can follow them and not only get quick access to their posts, but also they will be saving pins from other likeminded bloggers who are going to help flesh out your trip.

Not sure where to start with Pinterest? My Pinterest account is @Corinnamakeup. I have board set up for multiple different cities and regions in Italy as well as the rest of the world. You’ll not only find pins that link back to all of my travel blog posts, but also to those of other travel bloggers. Check it out here.

5. Look On A Map, Refine Your List

Once you have a big long list of cities, towns and villages that you would like to visit, its time to plot them out on a map and see what is feasible for this trip and what needs to be shelved for another trip.

I recommend staying at least 3 nights in any place. Constantly packing up, checking out, getting to the next town and checking in to your next accommodation is exhausting and chews up too much precious vacation time. For a 12 day trip I will try to stay overnight in only 3 places, using them as home bases from which to do day trips to some of the other towns and cities I want to visit.

When you block things out on a map you get a better idea of which places can be in this trip and you can avoid wasting precious vacation time by doubling back on yourself.

6. Plan Your Transport

As you refine the list of cities, towns and villages for your trip you also need to start researching your transport methods. You may want to rent a car or use the trains or do a combination of the two. Trains in Italy are fantastic, inexpensive and very easy to use. The high speed trains are game changers when it comes to accessing cities that would otherwise take hours to get to.

RELATED POST: HOW TO USE THE TRAINS IN ITALY

For example, Florence to Venice is only two and a half hours on the high speed train. Florence to Rome is an hour and a half. If Rome is your home base you can buzz up to Florence for a day trip one day and another day whip down to Naples, which is an hour and 15 minutes by high speed train.

The intercity trains and local regional trains also open up all kinds of options for you. Using Rome as our example again you can take a day trip to Orvieto in around 2 hours and you can take a day trip from Rome to Ostia Antica in 30 minutes by train. To get a better idea about day trips by train check out this post: Day Trips From Rome by Train and this post: Day Trips From Florence by Train.

Another way to get from one city to another or to do day trips either to places the trains don’t go, or just to be out driving through the countryside is to hire a driver. Professional drivers in Italy are NCC licensed. It is really important thaat you only hire an NCC driver and not someone’s cousin Bob who needs some cash. This post tells you what you need to know before hiring a driver in Italy.

Because all professionally licensed drivers in Italy belong to NCC they can help you get a driver somewhere else. For example if I am going to Piemonte, where I don’t know anyone, but I want a driver to pick me up at the train and take me to a winery, I can ask my Florence/Tuscany driver and he gets me the contacts I need. (I actually do this all the time.)

When planning your transport look at all the options. Sometimes the bus has a more direct and expeditious route, other times the train or a driver will. Flix bus has really nice coach style buses that are super comfortable to travel in and the tickets cost next to nothing. I took a Flix bus from Genoa to Florence. It was a really nice, modern luxury coach and it only cost 20 euros.

7. Make Lists Of Things To Do In Each Place

Now that you know which towns and cities you will be visiting, and how you will get around, you need to make a list of things to do in each place. In the podcast I talk about how I make a list of 20 to 50 things in each town but only plan on doing a maximum of 10. (For a day trip)

This way if the thing you planned on seeing is closed that day or if something goes wrong, you have other options up your sleeve. Things seldom go 100% as planned, so it’s a good idea to have some alternatives planned.

8. Be Mentally Flexible

If you’ve read my international best seller Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget) you will already be familiar with my travel philosophy that if Plan A goes sideways, Plan B is invariably 1000 times better anyway.

The trick to a completely fantastic trip is to be mentally flexible. If the thing you had planned on doing doesn’t work out you are bound to find that Plan B far exceeds anything you had imagined. This happens to me all the time. Over decades of international travel I have had so many absolutely incredible experiences that came my way because what I originally planned didn’t work out. From a missed train to Caserta to a Venice day trip being cancelled due to torrential rain, to a (local) friend winding up in hospital the night before we were supposed to go to Naples, to many, many other unexpected twists to my travel plans, every time something hasn’t worked out, whatever I did instead turned out to be amazing.

The key is to relax, don’t get stressed out and above all be mentally flexible.

The 25 – 75 Split

When you are planning your trip and looking at all the amazing things to do in any given city or town, plan on spending 25% of your time at the big ticket tourist sites and 75% of your time at the lesser known locations.

Most tourists just hit the same spots, which are invariably overcrowded. In every city there are masses of other things to see and do that are equally amazing but are off the tour bus radar. My books are all about the other things to do (you can see my books on Amazon here). Another great resource is Pinterest. Just search for “unusual things to do in” (fill in the city) or “other things to do in” (fill in the city) and you will find all kinds of fun and fabulous things to see and do that take you away from the tourist crowds.

You don’t want to miss the most famous sites but you also don’t want them to be the only things you see.

Want more guidance on Italy trip planning? My newsletter tells you about secret towns you may want to visit, foods and wines you need to try (and which regions they’re from), festivals you won’t want to miss, and much more! It only comes out twice each month so you don’t need to worry about getting endless emails from me! Join the thousands of newsletter members who love getting the inside scoop here.

Images used in this post are by Keith and Melissa Photography taken during a 2019 Glam Italia Tour

You Need To Know About These Chic, Modern Italian Cookbooks

Do you enjoy cooking? Or maybe you have a friend or family member who does?

This post contains amazon affiliate links.

I love to cook. I always think preparing a great meal and then enjoying it seated around a table with family or friends is an act and expression of love. Like most people I love Italian food. My books about Italy all talk about the foods of the region I’m in, and discuss which foods you absolutely must try while there. (I also tell you which wines to drink by region.)

A few years ago an Italian chef came to live with us to work on his English. His parents are dear friends of mine, and he was starting to teach cooking classes at his family’s agriturismo in Tuscany. He needed help with chatty, cooking English.

So each night one of us cooked. He made Italian dishes and I made Mexican dishes, which to him were novel and exciting. We stood side by side and I translated, teaching him words like whisk it, flip it, stir it – basically words he needed to be able to use during cooking classes. It was a blast! Marcello made fresh pasta on the nights he cooked, which my son and I both found fascinating and fabulous. Before he returned to Italy he filled our freezer (literally!) with homemade tortellini, casoncelli and ravioli along with a supply of sauces enough to last us a year.

This year while stuck at home I have taken to cooking Italian food. I make my own pasta, I even make biscotti which have become our favorite breakfast paired with Italian coffee. See how to make coffee, Italian style here and here.

photo not my own

I’ve also been watching all my favorite Italian chefs (and ex-pats living in Italy) on Instagram and getting inspired by their cooking. Several of them have cookbooks out. Like them, their cookbooks have a fresh, modern take on traditional Italian cooking. The fun thing about Instagram, and particularly the Instagram photos, stories, reels and IGTV is that it makes you feel as though you know these chefs personally. When you try their recipes you can hear their voices speaking the instructions to you.

So just for fun I am giving you a list of my favorite Italian cookbooks and including the Instagram acount of the chef for each. These make fabulous gifts for others or for yourself. The recipes are woderful and in most cases quite easy. And of course the photogaphy is just gorgeous!

Canadians know David Rocco from his TV show. He travels the globe cooking and eating and interacting with locals, somewhat like Anthony Bourdain. His Instagram @davidroccosvita is an absolute joy. He is always cooking up fabulous and easy recipes with and filmed by his three children. He has multiple cookbooks out but this is a great one to start with. It’s all about cooking for family and is a great exploration of Italian cuisine. The photos are to die for too. You can see David Rocco’s Dolce Famiglia here.

The Italian Table by Elizabeth Minchilli

This is one of several books by Elizabeth Minchilli, all of them are fabulous. Minchilli lives between Rome and a restored farmhouse in Umbria, and her Instagram feed is just dreamy. You can find her on Instagram @eminchilli. (Also check out her daughter Sophie’s fabulous feed @sminchilli.) The Italian Table takes you on a tour of Italy via Elizabeth’s beautiful photography, introduces you to foods from the various regions and not only has recipes but also helps you to plan a dinner party or gathering of friends and family with everything from menu ideas to giving you times to do the various tasks. (2 hours before guests arrive do this, 30 minutes before serving sinner do that.) You can see The Italian Table on Amazon her

I have mutiple reasons to love this book. Maria Pasquale is an Australian living in my favorite city in the world, Rome. She lives in my neighborhood, the Trastevere, and on top of that we were both guests on the Untold Italy podcast. My episode was about Florence, Maria’s episode was about Rome.

Maria has a blog, I Heart Rome and her Instagram account is @iheartrome. You may also have read her work for CNN Travel, Conde Nast Traveler and USA Today Travel. This book is special because each chapter focuses on a dining concept specific to daily life in Rome. You not only learn the food but also the culture, and you will come away from it with a list of places you want to visit and foods you want to try while in the Eternal City. The I Heart Rome cookbook is fabulous and you can find it on Amazon here.

Italy is a nation built on stories and this glorious book takes you on a journey via the stories of Australian born Emiko Davies’ husband’s family. Marco’s great grandparents were from Taranto in southern Puglia. He was a mailman who met and fell in love with a noblewoman. A match that was unheard of at the time, the two had to elope. They had nine children then moved as far away as possible – up to Turin in northern Italy. Marco’s grandparents were born in Turin but moved to Tuscany where his parents and he himself were all born.

This book traces the family’s heirloom recipes from Taranto to Turin to Tuscany. Along the way you will not only fall in love with the food Emiko cooks but also with the stories from the family and the infinite possibilities for you too to meet your perfect match in Italy and become a part of the story.

You can find Emiko on Instagram @EmikoDavies. You will love Tortellini at Midnight, available here on Amazon.

New Jersey born but Rome based, Katie Parla doesn’t just write cookbooks, she is a fully credentialed sommelier and does food and travel writing for every big travel publication you can think of. Her Instagram @KatieParla is a fabulous culinary romp that will have you itching to get to Italy.

This book is about the spectacular cuisines of Italy’s deep south. If you are a follower of this blog, my Instagram @CorinnaTravels or if you belong to my newsletter then you already know that I absolutely love and spend lots of time in Puglia, Campania and Basilicata, where this book takes place. I would go as far as saying it is impossible to explore the south of Italy and not fall completely, maddeningly, hopelessly in love with it.

Much of the food we associate as being Italian actually originated in the south, so even if you haven’t yet been there many of the recipes will feel familiar. Food of the Italian South is a wonderful book. You can pick up a copy here at Amazon.

I have more modern, chic, fabulous Italian cookbooks in my Amazon store. You can check them out here.

How To Make Fantastic Coffee, Italian Style

Italy is known for making the best coffee on earth. Once you’ve enjoyed daily coffee in Italy you find nothing can compare to it when you get back home.

Morning coffee in Puglia

Whether you have an Italian coffee lover to buy a gift for or whether you just want to up your own home made coffee game, these options will help you to make fantastic coffee, Italian style.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. All products are available on Amazon.com or on my personal Amazon storefront, Amazon.com/shop/CorinnaTravels, linked here.

Coffee Machines

Let’s look at three types of Italian coffee makers. They run the gamut price wise from the $20 mark to upward of $500.

The Moka

Every Italian home and every vacation rental in Italy has a moka. They make caffe, also known as stovetop espresso.

Most will have several in different sizes from the teeny tiny one cup model to the larger 9 cup plus models. Just remember a cup is about 1.5 ounces. I normally use a 3 cup moka for myself plus 1 person, or a 9 cup model if there are more of us. Typically here in America we drink a slightly longer espresso, around 3 or 4 ounces.

The Bialetti Moka

The traditional moka is the easily recognizable Bialetti model. The Bialetti moka comes in many sizes. I have linked the large 9 cup model, but click around and see them all. In general the 3 cup or the 6 cup will be ideal for most people.

RELATED POST: HOW TO MAKE COFFEE IN A MOKA

I normally use Lavazza Crema e Gusto or Illy coffee when I make coffee in a moka.

The Alessi Pulcina Moka

I’m fascinated with the design of the Alessi Pulcina moka. Not only is is chic and modern, it was designed by Michele de Lucchi in conjunction with Illy Coffee to improve the design and function of the coffee maker. It has multiple cool functions but one of them is a boiler that stops dispensing coffee at just the right time so that it doesn’t get a bitter aftertaste. The shape also enhances the rich aroma of the coffee, and the spout which was modeled on a chicken’s beak lets it pour without spilling a drop.

Alessi make multiple different modern looking mokas but this one is my favorite.

There are two types of Italian coffee that I like to use in my moka (I also use them in French Press coffee.)

Illy Moka coffee

I love Illy’s Moka coffee. They also have fabulous coffee for espresso machines, French Press and for American drip coffee.

I particularly love Lavazza Crema e Gusto. I drink it everyday in Italy and for the last several years have been drinking it every day at home too. You can buy individual bricks of it for around $8 but once you fall in love with it, and you will, you can buy multi brick packs for arund $3 per brick.

RELATED POST: HOW TO ORDER COFFEE IN ITALY

The Nespresso

There are several different options with Nespresso machines. The main thing to consider is whether you want the original line, which makes espresso and lungo coffee ot the vertuoline which also makes more of a traditional American size cup. The original can only use original size pods and the vertuoline can only use the larger, dome shaped vertuoline pods.

The original line uses a 19 bar pressure method to make espresso and the vertuloine uses a centrifugal system. The vertuoline capusles are barcoded and tell the machine what temperature and water volume is best for that specific coffee.

Vertuoline pods are more expensive than the original line pods, which should be factored in if this will be your primary coffee maker. Nespresso brand pods are 70 cents each for original line and $1.29 each for vertuoline. There are plenty of excllent off brand pod options for the original line that run around 39 cents each, but the vertuoline only has the Nespresso option.

The Inissia and Essenza

The Inissia (now being replaced with the Essenza) is the entry level model. I have had this machine for years. Both the Inissia and the Essenza run on the same principal, the two main differences being the Essenza’s more modern, sleek look and the new design is quieter than the Inissia. While they are phasing out the Inissia you can find some good discounts.

Both machines use the original size pods and make espresso in 1.5 ounce and 5 ounce serving sizes. Both machines are lightweight and take up very little counter space. Each has a 24 ounce water resevoir. Both machines have the option of coming with a milk frother or without. If you are on a budget you can get the same style milk frother at Target for under $30.

There are multiple models and multiple size options available in the original line.

The Vertuoline

The best seller in the Vertuoline range is the Vertuo Plus Espresso and Coffee Machine. Vertuoline machines don’t come with built in frothers, but the Nespresso brand Aeroccino milk frother can be bought with it separately. All Vertuoline models make 5 different sizes of coffee vs the 2 sizes you can make with the Original line models.

The Vertuo

The Vertuo machine is larger than the VertuoPlus. With a 40 ounce water holder and a larger used pod reservoir it makes a good choice for someone who either drinks more coffee or who has more coffee drinkers in the home or workplace.

Crema

There is some debate about the quality of the crema between the Original line and the Vertuoline machines with the latter promoted as having a thicker layer on the surface. This may well be a marketing ploy to attract new buyers.

To understand the crema equation you first need to understand the differnce between the two lines. The Original line uses the traditional pressure method to make coffee. This involves using higher temperature water which extracts more oils from the grounds making a richer, stronger, more flavorful coffee.

The Vertuoline uses a centrifugal force to whip up extra crema. The coffee doesn’t come out as hot and the brew method makes a milder cup of coffee.

What Is Crema?

Crema is the tan foam like substance that forms on an espresso. It is caused by a chemical reaction during the brewing process involving pH and coffee oils. It tends to be a little acidic due to the increased pH and the CO2.

Some people think crema is an indication the barista used fresher beans to make your espresso, but its normally an indicator that inferior Robusta beans were used. With Nespresso machines the Original line’s thinner crema is closer to the real crema you get when frsh Arabica beans are used. Vertuoline’s thicker crema could be from higher percentages of Robusta beans or it could be because of the high speed spinning used in the extraction process.

Which Machine Should You Choose?

My best advice when choosing a Nespresso machine is if you enjoy real espresso and espresso drinks (like cappuccino) and don’t want to buy a big espresso machine, then the Original line is the one for you.
If you prefer longer coffee drinks or coffee machines that make a full cup like American style coffee, then the Vertuoline maybe the one for you.

While You’re On Amazon Check Out My Glam Italia! Travel Book Series

Espresso Machines

The De Longhi La Specialista Espresso Machine

There are loads of options for anyone wanting the full espresso bar experience, from relatively cheap machines to very expensive ones. I’m showing two mid range options.

The De Longhi La Specialista has dual heating systems so you can be frothing milk while making espresso. It also has an integrated grinder, a handcrafted stamping station and a knock box. The Specialista is easy to clean and has an award winning design. This machine costs around $750. You can read all the features it offeres here.

The Breville Barista Express Espresso machine also offers on demand grinding, precise temperature control and milk foam texturing. It has a few less feature than the De Longhi but it did make the list of Oprah’s Favorite Things, so there’s that.

Again, there are plenty more options for espresso machines, so you should click around and do more comparisons before buying.

You can see more Italian Coffee making options including refillable nespresso pods and gorgeous espresso cups on my Amazon storefront in the Italian Coffee Style section. My storefront is Amazon.com/Shop/CorinnaTravels. I have lots of interesting things for travel enthusiasts, from books to clothing to gadgets to coffee!

Amazon Influencer Store Corinna Travels