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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Italy

In my 11 April blog, I wrote about one of my favourite destinations: Sicily. I have been wondering since if I should write a travel blog on mainland Italy. I have been many times to the northern part of Italy and I have always liked it. I still hope to visit the southern part of Italy. This blog will avoid the famous tourist spots, like Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Rome and Siena.

Without the book "Under the Tuscan sun" (book, IMDb, movie trailer, Wiki) by Frances Mayes, I would probably never have visited the city of Cortona. Ever since that book & movie, it's one of my favourite Italian cities, although I have never found the villa Bramasole.

Cortona is a beautiful and rather compact city, located on a small mountain, at an elevation of nearly 500 meters. Unless you're a local, you must park your car outside the city on the sloped road towards the city gate. The hotel San Luca, located partly inside and partly outside the city walls, offers a beautiful view over the valley. Don't expect much more though.

From Cortona you have a beautiful view on Lake Trasimeno and the nearby province of Umbria. Source: "The only Italian region without access to either the sea or international borders, Umbria is a solitary and soulful world apart." I fully agree. Especially, its capital Perugia is a must-see. Don't forget to visit Assisi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site associated with St. Francis of Assisi, or towns like Spoleto, Orvieto, and Castiglione del Lago.

My other favourite places include the Italian-Swiss lakes (eg, Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore) and the Italian lakes (eg, Lake Como and Lake Garda). I was impressed by the beauty of surrounding towns, like Sirmione (Garda) and Stresa (Maggiore). The Swiss city of Lugano may bring the best of both worlds: Swiss efficiency and an Italian lifestyle.

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site is Cinque Terre. These must-see "five villages" on the Italian Riviera (ie, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) are packed with tourists. Remember that you must park your car well before entering and walk a lot.

Many people claim that Milan is beautiful. I recommend skipping it unless you are really interested in its rather small and indeed nice city centre (eg, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall, Milan Cathedral).

I do recommend an auto tour in the Chianti wine area, situated in the geographical triangle between ArezzoFlorence and Siena. The Chianti wine trail will bring you to small Chianti villages which will bring your perfect Tuscany feeling. 

Italy reminds me of the best things in life: Prosecco (aperitivo), bruschetta and/or vitello tonnato (antipasto), lasagne (primo), fish or meat (secondo), caprese (insalata), panna cotta (dolce), espresso (caffè), and my favourite limoncello (digestivo).

Se Stiamo Insieme (1991) by Riccardo Cocciante


Note: In 1991, Riccardo Cocciante won the Sanremo Festival with this song