Plan Your Perfect Italian Vacation: Part 2Extras, Planning — By Briana P on February 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm
By Briana Palma
Italy offers experiences for many different types of travelers. Check out Part 1 of this planning special for trip ideas for both hopeless romantics and thrill-seekers.
People around the world imitate Italy’s cuisine, but natives claim that foreign versions rarely make the grade. Whether exploring a big city or a small village, you will eat well, but the country’s most celebrated centers of culinary excellence will have you asking for seconds (and thirds).
In Sicily, chefs have combined Mediterranean traditions with those of the Arab world for centuries. Visitors can fill-up on well-known specialties, such as cannoli, arrancine (rice balls) and Marsala wine. In Palermo, the island’s largest city, you can also wander through three historic markets to check out the day’s offerings, or sign-up to do so with Mamma Lucia and Vincenzo of Ristorante Cin Cin. In their cooking class, you will handpick your ingredients before heading back to the restaurant to prepare and feast on a traditional Sicilian meal.
If you have a sweet tooth, take a trip to Perugia, home of Perugina chocolate and its famous truffle-like Baci. Every October the city welcomes about 1 million visitors thanks to Eurochocolate, a festival devoted to all things cacao. Still, if traveling to the region a different time of year, indulge yourself by heading to nearby town San Sisto, where you can take part in the Perugina Casa del Cioccolato experience, which includes the factory, museum and plenty of tasting. The tour is free and available in English, but you should book in advance.
A gastronomic tour of Italy is incomplete without a stop in Bologna, the country’s culinary capital. This offbeat university town has witnessed the invention of tortellini pasta, ragù sauce and mortadella, known around the world as boloney. Check out markets like the Centrale or Pescherie Vecchie for fresh fish, and while you’re there, ask vendors for restaurant suggestions. Or join Bologna-based food expert Carmelita Caruana for a daylong walking tour. She will lead you through markets, take you to a wine tasting and arrange a meal at a special off-the-beaten-path restaurant.
Milan is Mecca for lovers of the ‘Made in Italy’ label. Several times a year the city looks into the future as fashion houses present collections for upcoming seasons. Everyday, though, you can admire looks in the shop windows of the Quadrilatero della Moda, the city’s version of 5th Avenue. Your itinerary can also include the four-year-old Triennale Design Museum, which celebrates Italian style through everyday yet extraordinary objects like teakettles and chairs. The museum has a bookstore and café and also hosts summertime happy hours at its open-air bar.
Anyone who appreciates aesthetics can’t pass through Italy without a stop in Florence. At the Uffizi Gallery you’ll lay eyes on some of the world’s most important pieces of art, such as Boticelli’s The Birth of Venus and da Vinci’s The Adoration of the Magi. The list of must-see works seems never-ending, though. The Galleria dell’Accademia houses Michaelangelo’s chiseled hero, David, while Palazzo Pitti shows off more Boticelli, in addition to Raphael and Caravaggio. Fitting in all the museums can prove challenging, but you can cut down on wait times by buying tickets in advance.
It’s easy to get caught up in the beauty of Rome, but don’t get so swept away that you forget about Vatican City. The world’s smallest state boasts a colossal art collection underscored by Michaelangelo’s colorful Sistine Chapel frescoes and life-infused sculpture, La Pietà. While you’ll come across the later in Saint Peter’s Basilica, you have to pass through the Vatican Museums to view the former. The diverse collection includes highlights such as a large bath carved from rare red marble and a section devoted entirely to Raphael.
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