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In this episode, we share a live session from our Italy Travel Planning Facebook community, where group member Jen joined Danielle Oteri from Feast Travel for a trip consultation – which is an itinerary review with suggestions on how to structure your trip and make the most of your time in Italy. Jen and her family are traveling to Italy in June for the first time and she was a bit stuck on how to plan her days so her family would have an incredible time. Danielle, with her deep experience of traveling in Italy, was on hand to guide her through some choices that would best suit them.
Our advisor, Danielle Oteri, is an art historian who runs a tour business Feast Travel specializing in southern Italy, who has an unquenchable passion for and in-depth knowledge of Italy, especially in the South. Jen’s family plans to visit Florence, the Amalfi Coast, and Rome which are very popular destinations for many of our listeners. Danielle has great tips and advice that is not only good for first-timers but we picked up a few pointers too.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- Jen wanted a mix of cities, balanced with, as it is June, the coast. They are flying into Florence and out from Rome. Although it can be seemingly more expensive to fly in one airport and out of another, it will really save a lot of key time, especially if you trip is less than 2 weeks or less and you’ll often spend the difference on travel back to your original airport anyhow
- Their accommodation is already booked and for the Amalfi leg they are booked to stay in Atrani. From here Danielle highly recommends the Path of the Gods hike, as is a very beautiful hike, and possibly one of the best in Italy. There are different guided tours that you can take or do it on your own. Danielle recommends doing them with a guide, with a family unit – not just for the information, but there are multiple ways to do the paths, and especially if you’re traveling with kids, they can pick what would work best for you, they have really specialist training and carry first aid kits
- Jen wanted to avoid too much windy road travel as pretty much everyone in the family gets carsick quite easily – a tricky one on the Amalfi Coast but certainly traveling by ferry boat and rail will help with that. The Circumvesuviana train line, means ‘around Vesuvius’ and is the one that will take you to Pompeii
- Salerno is a wonderful option to visit for the day as it gets less busy but for no good reason and it’s a fabulous destination to wander the historical center and enjoy the best shopping you’ll find on the Amalfi Coast and fantastic food for less than in other places nearby. People will say to shop in Florence, Venice, and Rome but there is actually a lot of chain stores. To buy something that’s really unique to that place is pretty tough, even in Florence with the leather making, unless you’re spending really top dollar, you’re buying leather from Asia – as is much of the stuff on the rest of the Amalfi Coast, the same linens and lemons. Things are generally not made in Italy unless you’re spending a lot of money. In Salerno, in the historic center, there are vintage boutiques, unique artesan shops, and little art galleries where artists are selling prints of their art, that are very affordable. There is a historic hat maker on Via Duomo. He is the world’s best salesman, but he makes these hats in this old traditional way that his father and his great grandfather did
- Going to Pompeii is a brilliant experience, but go early – partly as it will be cooler and also the cafe they have their shuts very early around 3 so the chances to get anything there end. Take water bottles as there are places you can fill up sprinkled around and you’ll need that in June as Pompeii is very exposed
- Pompeii is the archaeological site and that Pompeii has two i’s at the end and then Pompei with one i at the end is the city. It’s still a modern city – people are surprised it’s there as a place. A great tip (and surprise) is that the food outside of the ruins is spectacular. You think it’s going to just be like the worst tourist food because it’s near such a famous tourist site but no, the food is fantastic. In particular, there is one place called Mercato Pompeiano. It’s close to the cathedral. They have all sorts of authentic Neapolitan food, but in particular, this is one pizza you need to get called the Pizza Fritta with Ragu. It’s a pizza that’s been fried, which is a tradition of Naples. Traditionally, women make fried pizzas and men make baked pizzas
- Instead of Pompeii, you can go to the Villa of Oplontis. This was like a villa of the super-rich back in the day and it’s kind of a mini Pompeii experience. If you find your kids are just really wanting to hang out and not do too much history stuff, then head here. When Vesuvius exploded in 79 D, it took out the whole coast. Pompeii is just one of the towns, and it’s the most famous, but certainly not the only one. Villa Oplontis would be like the Versace mansion of its day. It doesn’t get crowded, it’s a quiet and impressive archaeological site and takes less time. Or course, if you have the time and energy, both are well worth a visit
- Positano is really the center of the Amalfi Coast and is not one for a budget. If you want a day of luxury, you kind of have to go for it. San Pietro is wonderful to have your aperitivo or cocktails. Be prepared to open your wallet if you’re going to do Positano. Dress up and get ready to spend $30 on Negroni 😉
- Vietri Sul Mare is a charming, less busy town that is the center of ceramics production in the area and is kind of connected to an even smaller town called Raito, where a lot of the manufacturing is done. Vietri Sul Mare is where you find a lot of workshops. It’s really like what the Amalfi Coast used to feel like in the 50s and the 60s and is where more Italian tourists go
- The very best swimming in the area is at Paestum on the Cilento Coast. From Atrani you could go to Salerno and then take a SITA bus. There are these blue buses that say S-I-T-A on the side, and they go straight to Paestum. They stop in front of the Paestum temples ruins which are three giant Greek temples – a beautiful archaeological site. Very close by you can also take a tour of one of the Buffalo Mozzarella farms. This is the area that is most famous in Italy – where all Italians agree (and Italians agree on nothing), but they all agree on the Buffalo Mozzarella!!
- Onto Florence. If art is really not your thing, then just skip the Uffizi. It gets really crowded and it’s hot and if you didn’t study art history (although Jen’s husband did!) don’t feel obligated to go to because people say you should. There are plenty of other things you’ll enjoy more so seek them out.
- Danielle suggests the Church of Santa Maria Novella. You get to go inside both the church and then the cloister around it, and you’re really sort of understanding what Florence was like in 14/1500s when it was in its glory days.
- At the Brancacci Chapel, you’ll see Renaissance art, but in its original place, rather than other sites, where the art got taken out of wherever, and put in a traditional museum or gallery
- The church is on the opposite side of the Arno. It’s called the Altro Arno and is a little more chilled out and a little more local. That’s also the side of the Arno where you will find very good shopping – you will find artesans and jewelry makers near the Duomo.
- Consider taking a food tour in Florence as it’s a really great way to get to know your way around. Maybe not your first day because you might be a bit jet lag or tired, but maybe your second day because it’ll help orient you to the city. They’ll talk to you about, not just the food, but really about the history of the city and you can get recommendations for all kinds of things. Be brave and try the local specialty Lampredotto, tripe and salsa verde. Danielle actually used to live in Florence and never tried it until recently when she kicked herself as she found it totally delicious!
- A way to kind of get outside the city, without having to rent a car or spend too much money, is to walk up to what’s called Piazza Michelangelo. It’s a long series of stairs, and it brings you to this park with a panoramic view of the city. It’s well know so won’t be hugely quiet but is a wonderful view point and you can explore on the way up and down, the quieter neighbourhoods
- Jen was keen to include some leisure time, to wander around, versus sticking to. “Okay. Today we have five things we have to see at this time, this time” because she thought it might end up making the family a little cranky or overwhelmed – Florence is the perfect place to do this
- Eating in Rome – it is very hard to eat well in Rome without a lot of pre-planning. Eater.com has a fantastic list and you can make your choices about restaurants ahead of time and can also get a sense of pricing, which is great, especially if you’re traveling with family
- Doing the Colosseum later in the day is recommended as the sunset tours are a really nice experience and also if you’re there in summer it’s a lot cooler. You need to make those reservations ahead of time.
- Conversely, it’s best to do the Vatican, as early in the morning as you can. The incredibly early tours means special access and fewer people, though those tend to be pricier and book up early, but as early as you can get will benefit you
- An overall tip for travel in Italy is to just do it your own way. Don’t feel pressured to do things just because you saw it on some itinerary online or on Instagram. If you’re really not into art, do not spend half a day in the Uffizi Gallery or the Vatican museums because although they are amazing, there’s no question, but no-one likes anything more by having gone through that experience where you waited inline for ages, you were in a crowded, hot museum, you didn’t understand what you were seeing. It’s so much better to have a meaningful experience of art than just an obligatory one
- Katy recommends your feet as the best mode of transport in Rome. Sometimes you can get the odd taxi but moving around by foot is straightforward and you’ll see so many great experiences and sights along the way. If we wanted to get from one place to the other. When she was last there with her four years old twins, they only got one taxi – and so if the little ones can take it, most (ability issues aside) can hack it and making a sit down on a bench with a gelato or a cafe stop part of your experience
About our guest – Danielle Oteri from Feast Travel
Danielle Oteri is a writer, art historian, and founder of Feast Travel (formerly known as Feast on History) a food, wine and art school specializing in Southern Italy. She is passionate about the city of Naples and surrounds and knows it inside out – including where to get the best sfogliatella and life-changing pizza. After visiting her grandmother’s town on the Cilento Coast she was inspired to celebrate her family’s homeland and help others do the same.
Danielle offers services for both itinerary consulting, itinerary design as well as Feast Travel’s own group tours. She publishes fantastic information on the many treasures of Southern Italy to help people can reach and learn more about them, especially as information available in English is hard to come by for many of these places.
If you’re visiting New York City you can also join Danielle’s company Arthur Avenue Food Tours on a delicious walk through Little Italy.
You can find Danielle on these channels:
Places mentioned in the show
- Atrani – southern Italy’s smallest town, and offers visitors a refreshing seaside break, removed from the hustle and bustle of the area’s larger resorts
- Amalfi – town set below steep cliffs on Italy’s southwest coast.
- Ischia – volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea
- Ravello – glamourous town with spectacular views
- Positano – one of the most picturesque places on the planet and likely the most famous on the Amalfi Coast
- Salerno – great shopping and eating spot on the Amalfi Coast
- Duomo of Salerno – Norman Arab construction from the Middle Ages, similar to the Duomo in Amalfi, but actually more interesting and elaborate
- Pompeii – the world famous, miraculously uncovered city that was covered by the Vesuvius volcano eruption in AD 79
- Mercato Pompeiano – head to eat here when visiting Pompeii
- Herculaneum – the town hit first by Vesuvius’s explosion and where people died the quickest, without warning – such as the ashy rain that fell on Pompeii hours before (though few recognized it as a warning sign)
- Villa Oplontis – at Torre Annunziata (a town famous for the production of pasta before industrialization) is a site of many recent and important discoveries and is full of frescos, mosaic, and even had its own infinity pool
- Vietri Sul Mare – home to ceramics factories
- Locanda del Cantastorie – restaurant in Vietri Sul Mare
- Raito – district in Vietri sul Mare which has a great viewing point
- Paestum – on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the town is the site of some of the best-preserved and important Ancient Greek ruins in the world
- Torre Normanna – incredible restaurant in a Norman watch tower, jutting out into the sea
- Sal de Riso – pastry shop
- Brancacci Chapel – a chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence – sometimes called the “Sistine Chapel of the early Renaissance”
- Tripperia Pollini – Florence food spot – great for tripe with green sauce
- Antico Vinaio – famous sandwich shop in Florence
- Sant’Ambrogio – neighborhood in Florence, home to Cibreo caffe
- Roscioli – fantastic restaurant in Rome
- afolato – which means very crowded.
- Circumvesuviana – which means around Vesuvius
- Stanley Tucci Searching for Italy – TV Series in which the actor and cookbook writer explores Italy and it’s food
- Masaccio – a Florentine artist who is regarded as the first great Italian painter of the Quattrocento period of the Italian Renaissance
- lampredotto – tripe dish
- sciattia – bread
- www.eater.com/rome – find the best restaurants in Rome
- Frecciarossa – the high speed train
Resources from Untold Italy
- Discover more about places on the Amalfi Coast in Beautiful Amalfi Coast Towns and our guides to make the most of Florence and Rome
- Listen: to some inspirational on amazing experiences for a memorable trip in Episode #104 Experiences to include in your dream trip to Italy and to our other episodes with Danielle in Episode #097 Magical Matera – the cave city, Episode #061: New Discoveries in Ancient Pompeii, Episode #044 Ciao Napoli! Don’t miss this noble and exciting city, and Episode #038: The captivating Cilento Coast
- How to plan a trip to Italy – our article that takes you step-by-step through trip planning so you can avoid our mistakes
- Italy Travel Planning – our FREE online community where you can ask questions and get inspiration for planning your trip
- Travel shop where you’ll find items mentioned in the show
Prefer to read along as you listen? You can download a PDF version of the full transcript of this episode.