10 unforgettable travel experiences in Italy for inspiration

Italy: Unique travel experiences - cooking classes, carnevale, palio

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This is probably not going to come as a surprise to regular readers of this site, but Italy is the country I love to visit the most.

Soon we will have seen most of the highlights and visited my husband’s relatives, so I started thinking about what’s next for our adventures in Italy.

Now, I want to explore a little deeper. There is still so much to explore of this amazing country full of natural beauty, incredible culture and history and of course a gastronomic heritage that is the envy of the world.

Here is my wish list of unique travel experiences in Italy.

1 | Attend Carnevale in Venice

Venice Carnevale - Top 10 experiences in Italy

Every February, Venice celebrates Carnevale, a two-week long festival of masquerade balls and parties culminating in Mardi Gras.

With origins as far back as the 12th century, this is a celebration with ancient roots that celebrates a military victory of the Venetian Republic and marks the beginning of Lent.

Carnevale attracts over 3 million visitors each year to Venice. Tickets to the most glittering balls are hard to come by however I would simply love to see the candle-lit gondola parade, concerts and people dressed in elaborate costumes wandering the streets and side canals.

2 | Enjoy an immersive food, wine and cooking experience near Rome
Penne carbonara

To understand Italy you must understand its food culture. From the hearty truffle based dishes of the north to the famed pizzas of Naples in the south, each region has its own culinary traditions that are so important to the culture of the area.

A long held dream of mine is to spend a week in a region of Italy exploring its unique food and wine. At Palazzo Tronconi you can fully immerse yourself in the food traditions of the Ciociaria region.

Here chef Leonardo Grimaldi will show you how prepare dishes such as creamed cod fishcakes and carbonara from the finest local ingredients.

You can book your stay at the Palazzo on Bookings for You – specialists in holiday villas and apartments in Italy.

Bookings For You - Palazzo Tronconi

You can tour the food producers and try the local biodynamic wine produced on the estate during your stay. Having tasted the wine and cooking from the estate, I can vouch for the attention to detail and incredible taste of the food you will try at Palazzo Tronconi.

3 | Spend a week on Lake Orta

View of Isola San Giulio from Orta San Giulio

We only spent an afternoon visiting Lake Orta last summer, but I was mesmerised by its quiet beauty.

One day I would like to return and rent a house draped in wisteria for a week. I would go for long walks, take boat trips to Isola San Giulio and go swimming with my children in the clear waters of the lake.

4 | Sail the Ligurian Coast

scenes from camogli liguria italy

When I say sail the Ligurian coast I mean: travel under sail. This dream is about lounging on deck and swimming in the sea while someone else does the hard work getting us from Portofino to Portovenere via the Cinque Terre.

There are so many beautiful spots along the Ligurian coast, also known as the Italian Riviera, you could easily spend a week or two cruising the coastline.

5 | Explore the fascinating Puglia region

Alberobello in Puglia, Italy

Southern Italy is where my husband’s family is from, and the region holds mystery and charm for me. After our visit to Calabria this year I would like to explore further into the Puglia region. Here I would visit the ancient town of Matera, carved into a rocky hillside, and the baroque opulence of Lecce.

As we often choose unique accommodation options on our travels, I would love the chance to stay overnight in one of the region’s famous Trulli houses found in the picturesque town of Alberobello.

6 | Graduate from Gelato University

gelato university

Yes, you read correctly – Gelato University. Based in Bologna, Carpigiani’s Gelato University is dedicated to teaching students how to make Italian style ice cream.

I have an ongoing obsession with gelato and would love to learn the techniques and recipes that make it so delicious.

7 | Experience the Palio di Siena

Palio di Siena
Image courtesy: ilventi

Twice a year on the 2nd July and 16th August a four centuries old tradition is played out in the Tuscan city of Siena. The Palio di Siena is a bareback horse race between 10 competing contrade or city wards that takes place in the city’s Piazza del Campo at sunset.

Though the race lasts only 90 seconds or 3 laps of the piazza, I would love to witness the build up and excitement of the Corteo Storico – a colourful parade celebrating Siena’s customs, history and power.

8 | See an opera in Verona’s Arena

Verona arena
Image credit: Tony Hisgett

One of the best-preserved examples of a Roman amphitheatre is found in Verona in Italy’s north. For over one hundred years the city has taken advantage of the incredible acoustics in their arena to stage some of the world’s most spectacular opera performances.

I enjoyed a brief concert of opera classics in Lucca and would love to discover more about the musical genre that originated in Italy in the 16th century.

Opera is not for everyone though, and as the arena holds 15,000 people it is also used for shows by contemporary artists like Adele and Radiohead. I would like to experience that too!

9 | Eat at the best restaurant in the world

Osteria Francescana parmigiano dish - an unforgettable travel experience in Italy

Since watching a documentary about chef Massimo Bottura on Netflix my husband and I put eating his restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena on our wish list of life experiences. In 2016 it was named the best restaurant in the world by the academy of the The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and holds three Michelin stars.

Bottura’s signature dish is – Five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano in different textures and temperatures – an homage to Italy’s most famous cheese.

Now you are either interested in fine dining, or you are not. We love the passion and technical expertise behind the creations of these talented chefs and are prepared to pay the price for such experiences.

If you live an incredible moment of happiness, that happiness is much much more deep and big if you share it with others.
– Massimo Bottura

10 | Study Renaissance art and history in Florence

top experiences in Italy - study in Florence

In high school, we learnt about the Medici and their dominance of the city of Florence.  We explored Renaissance Italy from our desks in urban Australia, and it was my favourite subject at school. If I had more imagination I would have pursued my studies in this area as I loved it so much.

Fortunately, that opportunity may not have passed me by. The British Institute of Florence offers short courses in art history in English and it is also possible to join the graduate program on paleography and best archival practice provided by the Medici Archive Project.

I am sure I am missing something on my quest to find the most exciting travel experiences in Italy. Can you help me out?

Meanwhile, if you are interested in planning your own trip to Italy, do head over to our Italy travel planning resources page for tips and information about building your independent trip to Italy.

Highlights of my travels in Italy (so far)

Venice | Lake Como | Sicily | Lake Orta | Tuscany | Lucca| Capri

Disclaimer – I was a guest of Bookings For You and Palazzo Tronconi at the launch of their culinary getaway experiences. All opinions are my own.

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