Earlier this month, my family and I embarked on a whirlwind vacation in Europe, bouncing around various cities throughout Germany and Italy. Though it was my third time visiting the latter country, it was my first time seeing the canals of Venice, the fashionable streets of Milan and the glamour of Lake Como.
With each trip I take to Italy, I discover a new neighborhood or city, each offering its own unique charm. And while I have only seen a fraction of the country, I already have a robust and growing list of favorites. Here are five of my favorite places worth seeing in Italy:
This tiny fishing island located 45 minutes from Venice is a photographer's dream. Vibrantly colored homes are clustered together around serene canals and bridges to create a place that feels magical. What I also love about Burano, aside from its colorful atmosphere, is the seemingly quiet and peaceful pace of life. Coming from one of the busiest cities in the world, it's always fascinating to see how others live, and Burano is no exception. And then there's the food. Oh man, the food. For anyone who loves seafood and pasta, head to Venice, take the ferry to Burano and go to Al Gatto Nero for lunch. You will not be disappointed. I truly believe this restaurant is what seafood and pasta dreams are made of.
I couldn't name just one place along the Amalfi Coast because I strongly feel the entire coast needs to be seen and experienced. Located in western Italy south of Rome, the Amalfi Coast is one of those places that looks like a postcard come to life. From the colorful towns perched on the side of green mountains, to the winding road that gives you glimpses of the ocean rolling up into rocky beaches, this is another one of those magical Italian places. During my time in the Amalfi Coast, I visited Positano, Ravello and Amalfi, but there are several other towns here that are also worth discovering. Another thing worth doing: viewing the Amalfi Coast from the water. The change in perspective makes you fully appreciate the beauty of this area.
I admit, I had no expectations prior to visiting Milan. I knew that it wasn't as popular a tourist destination as Rome, Florence and Venice. I also knew it's one of the fashion capitals of the world. So, I arrived in Milan thinking there would not be as much to do but everyone would likely look very stylish. I did not anticipate loving this city almost immediately. Over the next several days, I became charmed by the cafe culture, beautiful architecture, vibrant nightlife and effortlessly fashionable people zipping around the city on their vespas, bikes and motorcycles. I didn't view Milan as a place for great touristy attractions but rather an extremely livable place that I very much look forward to seeing again in the future.
Another great thing about Milan is its proximity to one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the world, Lake Como. Though Italy has several lakes worth visiting, none are as well known as Como. After all, it's the place where George Clooney, Sir Richard Branson and a slew of other celebrities have waterfront homes. After spending a perfect September day there, I can see why it's Italy's most popular lake. The villages along Lake Como are great to visit and stroll around, but what ultimately hooked me was the lake itself. Situated amidst mountains seemingly on all sides, the lake is the shining centerpiece. While taking the ferry from Varenna to Bellagio, I looked around at the water and the looming mountains and decided this was as close to perfect as it gets.
So, I'll be honest: I don't love Rome. Granted I have only been there twice, but I have never been charmed by Rome the way I am by other major cities. That being said, I have become enamored with one particular neighborhood in Rome: Trastevere. I had heard about Trastevere years ago but never made it there until recently, and as soon as I arrived, I understood why people love it so much. Small cobblestone pathways, unassuming trattorias and an intimate yet cool atmosphere make this an incredibly charming neighborhood. Trastevere is also home to some really good Roman food. Da Enzo al 29 and its carbonara, cacio e pepe, braised oxtail, meatballs, tiramisu and olive oil are worth the visit to Trastevere alone. If you miss the chance to make a reservation at this small but mighty trattoria, you can pass the wait for your table at Niji, a nearby cocktail bar and cafe that is the epitome of intimate and hip. I would be there every day if I lived in Rome. In sum, Trastevere had me at hello.
Of course there are so many other places to see in Italy. Though I've been to Florence, I have not yet explored the vineyards and hills of Tuscany. Also on my Italy bucket list: Cinque Terre, Sardinia, Portofino, Lake Garda, Bologna, the Dolomites, Puglia ... basically everywhere I haven't been. I look forward to working my way down this list during future Italian vacations.
Do you have a favorite place in Italy?