Italy is one of the top destination choices for our travelers from Raleigh and Durham. And why not? Italy has excellent food, wine, history, and scenery — in other words, it has it all!
Maupin Travel advisor Tina Woolbright traveled to Italy in November. She shares her thoughts about the trip and some top tips to consider if you’re heading to “Bel Paese” (beautiful country).
Time to Go
Although November worked out well for Tina, it’s not the ideal time to visit Italy. If you’re hoping to avoid crowds, it’s perfect: November is the offseason. “As I was going through the smaller towns, all I could think was, ‘What would this be like in summer with wall-to-wall crowds of people?’” she said. But the weather is undoubtedly better in April, May, September, and October.
Top Travel Tips for Italy
- If a washcloth is essential to you, bring one along. Most Italians think they are unsanitary, and most hotels do not offer one.
- For people with mobility issues, be aware that Italy is not as conscious of accessibility as the U.S. Also, there is a lot of walking on rough terrain, stairs, and cobblestones.
- Most Italians don’t like air conditioning so the temperatures in hotels, restaurants, and public buildings will not be as cool as in the U.S.
- Learn to love vinegar and oil as a salad dressing!
- When ordering food at takeaway restaurants, place your order and pay at one counter. Then, take your ticket to the second counter to have your food or coffee prepared. Italians are not allowed to handle money and make food, so there will always be two people at the counter.
- Italians drink espresso in the morning for the jolt. They only drink cappuccino in the morning when the milk is fresh.
A Must Do!
Tina said her biggest surprise was “the heart-stopping, amazing beauty for little Portofino. It truly is as beautiful as every picture I have seen!” Add that to your itinerary!
Here are some notes from Tina’s itinerary.
Day One: Arrival in Milan. After checking into the Crowne Plaza, I made my way to the Corso Buenos Aires for great shopping and lunch of pizza and wine at a small café. We had a welcome reception at the hotel and met the rest of the group touring with Insight Vacations before making our way to dinner in the Brera District at Il Kaimano. We enjoyed many favorite regional dishes, including risotto!
Day Two: We toured Milan, visiting La Scala Opera House and the Duomo. La Scala is a very unassuming building from the outside but spectacular inside! I enjoyed our tour of the Duomo, especially our skip-the-line ticket courtesy of Insight Vacations. This pass took us inside in minutes, bypassing the crowd lined up outside. The gothic arches and stained glass windows of the Duomo are fascinating!
Day Three: Our day at Lake Como was rainy, so I enjoyed the comfort of our covered boat ride from Tremezzo to Bellagio. This town is the jewel of Lake Como with scores of restaurants and shops to explore. We spent the night in Como at the Grand Palace Hotel, one block from the center of Como.
Day Four: We had a surprise visit to Lake Lugano in Switzerland in the morning. While not on our original itinerary, Insight is fantastic about adding treats and experiences when they can. It’s only a short 30-minute drive with an easy border crossing. I bought fresh chocolate as a treat to bring home before we traveled to Rapallo for a two-night stay.
Day Five: Unfortunately, the weather was uncooperative, so our scheduled trip to the five villages of the Cinque Terre was cut short. The trains and ferries were not working due to high winds and rain, though we were able to look at them from the road above. Luckily, Insight Vacations made a switch, and we visited Porta Venere, a charming town nearby. There, we had a tasty lunch with fresh pasta and pesto at a lovely restaurant on the harbor.
Day Six: This was the highlight of the tour for me: charming Portofino on the Italian Riviera. The views of this little town from the hillside above are amazing! In the summer, the harbor is filled with yachts of the rich and famous. We then drove back to Milan for our last night.
Overall, we had a marvelous time! The food in Italy did not disappoint! Every dish is made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. I have never tasted so many fresh tomatoes and handmade fresh pasta!
If you’re ready for some fresh Italian food, contact Tina or any of our travel advisors for your next trip.