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Episode #184: 2023 Summer update from Italy

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Listen to “Summer 2023 Update from Italy” on Spreaker.

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Travel to Italy has never been more popular, which whilst for good reason, means for those visiting soon or planning their visits now, there are some things you need to consider to help your trip run smoothly. We share tips on where to go, how to avoid both the heat and crowds, alternative coastal destinations and other suggestions to help you have an amazing summer vacation in Italy.

Show notes

Joining us for this live session is writer, art historian and Italy expert, Danielle Oteri. Danielle runs Feast Travel offering trip planning, consultations and small group tours. This episode is a replay of a live report from our Italy Travel Planning Facebook group all about how summer travel in Italy is playing out this year and what to expect if you’re traveling in the next few months and coming years. We talk about the importance of experiences and including contemplation time in your itinerary and suggest heading to less crowded, beautiful (and more budget-friendly) destinations like Le Marche, Puglia and the Lazio coast.

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What you’ll learn in this episode

Between them, Untold Italy founder Katy and Danielle have a lot of experience traveling in Italy and love to share it and help people have amazing trips. There is a lot of very poor advice out there and after their many years experience of traveling, they want to help people access the right information, the most up-to-date information as things do change in the travel world. 

The Amalfi Coast

  • Everybody has a different perspective! There is a lot of information out there but as everyone has different ways of travel and levels of experience, some of the information you come across may not be the best or considered an expert perspective. An example of someone who went to Italy misinformed which informed their perspective, was a TikTok of a young lady who arrived in Positano with unrealistic expectations fueled by social media. The reality compared to what she’d seen and heard was a bit of a shock. She had a bit of a rant about all the inconvenience of getting there in the first place – with unreliable services, lugging luggage around awkward spaces, the huge crowds, the huge amount of steps you have to deal with and even potential power cuts
  • People were sharing this TikToker’s post on social media, and commenting how spoiled and entitled she is and that she is in a beautiful place and she shouldn’t be complaining.  However, whether you sympathize with her or not – the simple fact is that she is also not wrong. These things she complains about are all the conditions of a trip to Positano that doesn’t have a huge, luxury budget. But she saw all those beautiful photographs taken by drones of a destination that is just a couple of square miles – full of primarily luxury resorts and she’s trying to do a budget version (budget by Amalfi standards – though still expensive) of a trip in one of the world’s most expensive destinations. With just a little homework she wouldn’t have been so surprised that it’s not so convenient
  • Both Katy and Danielle try to explain to people, over and over about the Amalfi Coast, but often people just simply don’t believe them, or don’t want to believe them – think they’re trying to sell them something or put them off for some other reason. But the fact is, the Amalfi Coast is a pretty small area – a series of sea-facing cliffs with tiny houses built into the cliffside. It’s not easy or inexpensive to visit. It’s certainly got some unique challenges.
  • It’s hard to explain the situation to people who want to go to this beautiful place because it is so very beautiful. It’s an amazing place but you have to be aware it is not a simple place to turn up and expect a lovely, relaxing time
  • For the creatives whose job it is to make beautiful things come alive – it’s an easy job to capture the Amalfi Coast and Positano in a positive light. But they make sure you don’t see the crowds you would be battling with
  • Katy and Danielle are in fact visiting together in September, but they are going to do it in a non-stressful way – going by boat from their base on the Cilento Coast. Ding it this way means you see the wonderful coastline, get to embrace the nature of it but enjoy it away from masses of other people. It’s a great tip to do the Amalfi Coast well, but there is no getting around it – it is not cheap – you have to splurge
  • The TikToker mentions in this video that the power was going out because the Amalfi Coast doesn’t have the infrastructure to support this mass tourism. What people need to understand is that the Amalfi Coast (and anywhere you visit in Italy) is a real place. People live there and have to get up and go to work, get on with their daily lives. Maybe they work at the hotels and drive taxis for the tourists – and their power is going out too because of this over-tourism
  • Italy is somewhere that people live – it is not a theme park just sitting there to be ticked off on someone’s bucket list. People need to have realistic expectations about what to expect when they get there
  • There are some particular struggles in Italy at the moment because of the huge numbers of visitors all crammed into the few handfuls of spaces that they’ve seen and think they have to do and see. But Italy has got a vast number of alternative options that people can choose from and we hope that people will try the different options because it will be worth it for them.

DISCOVER: the Hidden gems in Italy.

  • The reason everyone knows so much about Positano is tourism provides, not least cruise ships and resorts, have been drip-feeding people, especially outside of Itay, beautiful advertisements
  • The rich and famous go there. The Kardashians had a wedding there. You may have never intentionally ingested anything Kardashian, yet it still pervades our world – all these places appear, filtered beautifully through social media
  • The information is out there. There might be lots of surface-level information but this TikToker did not do their homework. The little-known places can be trickier to find information on, but there is plenty written about the classic destinations such as the Amalfi Coast and it doesn’t take long to find people talking about the downsides
  • We know our podcast listeners and those in our Facebook group, do their homework, so gold stars for them! And it will make a difference to your trip. If you still want to go to the Amalfi Coast, go – you just need to know what to expect

Amalfi Coast Alternatives

The Cilento Coast

  • The Cilento Coast, south of the Amalfi Coast is where Danielle’s family is from and where Katy is going to be staying later this year to celebrate a milestone birthday with friends and family
  • It’s the same coastline and the same beautiful water – but without the crowds
  • Villages there are like Positano was before the $ 3,000-a-night resorts appeared. You can go 30 miles south and find villages more like Positano was when Hemingway visited all of those years ago

Puglia

  • A lot of people wanting to go to the Amalfi Coast people are looking for an imagined experience that they have been sold about the Amalfi Coast, but it is not the most relaxing coastal experience. The Amalfi Coast beaches are not so great, so if you want really amazing beaches, head to Puglia.
  • There are beautiful towns like Monopoli and Locorotondo if you want to take pictures of yourself in a sun hat looking fabulous against stunning buildings and blue skies. These beautiful whitewashed cities like Ostuni and Polignano a Mare are highly Instagrammable
  • Even though it’s become a more popular destination, it is nowhere near Amalfi Coast’s business
  • Danielle was there in June and it was still pretty quiet. In July and August, the Italians go down to Puglia, so that is when it gets really busy. It’s a little bit like the Florida of Italy for Italians
  • Katy thinks Puglia has a similar vibe to Sicily but more chilled out
  • Danielle thinks if you’re not that into history, it’s also a great place where you can go and not feel the pressure to go see things that maybe you’re not that excited about. But if you do want some history there are some interesting things to look out for – particularly around the pilgrim’s trail (listen to our episode 135 for more on that), but generally it is much more of a vacation place
  • Puglia also has amazing food and wine. They even have the Italian version of sushi, which is a kind of raw fish called crudo which is utterly delicious
  • It is the perfect place if anyone is an adventurous eater and wanted to try a sea urchin. In Australia, for instance, it is very expensive. In Puglia, you can eat sea urchins right out of the shell. Danielle is a uni (as it’s called in Japanese) fan and suggests anyone else who loves it like her, she suggests going to Puglia in March which is the best time to feast on them
  • A Masseria is like an old fortified country house or farmhouse. So many of them have been beautifully renovated and many have swimming pools and beautiful gardens. Some also have restaurants on site
  • Our guests stay at a beautiful Masseria on our Untold Italy Puglia tours. It’s an amazing place to relax. You can be surrounded by olive trees that have been there since the dawn of time and some places have animals and are working farms still
  • It’s a totally different pace amid beautiful surroundings
  • Danielle stayed in a Masseria in Martina Franca for a few days when she was traveling with her dog and she was pretty much off the leash for three days at the Masseria which was also a lentil farm. There were no roads nearby so she was just left alone and had a wonderful time

READ: Our guide to the Best Agriturismo & Masseria in Puglia.

  • A bike ride is essential in Puglia because it’s all pretty flat. Even if you’re not athletic, a bike ride is easy and you can ride through beautiful olive groves and unique, almost unearthly landscape
  • There are so many different contrasts. You’ve got the red earth and the olive trees, the whitewashed towns, and the blue Adriatic Sea
  • It is a very different landscape than you’ll see on the Amalfi Coast, which is steep cliffs and stony beaches
  • In Puglia, on the Eastern side, the beaches are rocky. The beach clubs like the fabulous one Danielle went to in Savelletri are even sat on the rocks. Being Australian, where they only have sandy beaches, it can be strange to find rocky beaches but Katy now loves them – no sand getting everywhere for starters!
  • Then just an hour’s drive in the other direction over to the Ionian Sea, the beaches are sandy and so pristine that people call it the Maldives of Italy

Rome

  • The two most notable things about Rome to consider if you are planning a visit, are the heat and the crowds
  • This year has been what Danielle describes as a travel revenge year. Last year in the United States, you still had to test for COVID to return back, so a lot of people did go, but they made last-minute and more flexible plans. This year, however, people are going to do the classic journeys. They’re going to Florence, Venice, Rome, Amalfi Coast and the Cinque Terre
  • We totally understand why people are choosing these locations (they are classic for a reason) but the cities in the summer months are always a challenge because of the heat – especially Rome, and this year we have some extraordinary heat thrown into the mix

The heat

  • If you’re planning to go this summer and for the coming years, we want to share a few tips because as you likely have seen on the news Europe, but in particular Italy has been having an extreme heat wave and is also having issues with over tourism
  • Katy loves being spontaneous but if you want to make the most of your short and precious vacation time, especially in the heat, then you want to make sure you’re not standing in lines and waiting for trains etc
  • The infrastructure might also not be what you are used to at home. Currently, in Rome, there’s a lack of taxes because they haven’t issued licenses for many years and normal Uber is not available there either – so be prepared to walk and plan your days around specific areas
  • Visit things in the early morning or in the evening if you can, and make sure you’re not out of the sun too much
  • Be organized and be prepared for the heat. Take a water bottle. There are free water fountains everywhere in Rome so you can fill up wherever you go

Eating

  • Rome is not always the best place to be spontaneous even when it comes to eating. Danielle ended up going against her own advice at the end of her recent 6-week trip to Italy. She went to Calabria, Puglia, Pigna, Cilento, and then to Rome, unexpectedly for 5 days. So she didn’t have restaurant reservations, which she always advises people to do if they want to eat well in Rome.  It backed up her advice and she found some pretty dreadful food – even though she knows what she is doing and speaks Italian well
  • A lot of English speakers turn to Trip Advisor but all you will have on there is tourist reviews. A great tip from Danielle’s relatives is that Italians only use Instagram when they’re searching for something. If Italians are in a place, in a city, in a town and they want to know where to eat, they use Instagram to search for restaurants. So it might mean you need to also download Google translate so you can figure it all out, but that is where to go to find where the locals are eating
  • TripAdvisor in general has become a contentious resource. It is where people go to have a rant and there are also lots of bots and falsely created reviews as well as it being mostly reviews by tourists – so you have to take it with a pinch of salt

Other factors

Rome also has a variety of other issues going on right now:

  • There’s quite a lot of garbage on the streets where there are issues with collection
  • There are a lot of demonstrations due to political problems
  • Just the nature of it being a very busy capital city and the addition of so many tourists can make things tricky. There are ongoing issues with ticketing for the Colosseum and very recently they have added ticketing to get into the Pantheon. So even more details that you need to plan for ahead of time

Head out of Rome on the train

Get out of the heat of Rome and catch a train to the coast or the countryside

  • Santa Severa is a lovely place to visit, reachable from Rome by train. Here you find a castle on the beach
  • Sperlonga is another beautiful coastal destination that also has a great archeological museum. Danielle was recently chatting with somebody that had gone to Sperlonga because someone she worked with’s grandmother was from there – and she said it was the single best day of her two-week vacation

READ: our guides to the best day trips from Rome

Alternatives to the classic tourist trail

  • Many people are stuck traveling in July and August, because that’s when they have time off or that’s when their kids are away from school, but if you are flying in long-haul, you’re not going to want to fly all that way not go to some of the famous places. It is totally understandable, but we suggest that you mix one or two classics with some time in lesser-visited places to get away from the crowds but also to experience a more relaxed (and cheaper) vacation
  • When Katy travels on her own or with her family she dips in and out of the major destination. On her next trip n September, they are going to Florence for a few days, and then they are going up to the Dolomites
  • Due to having young children, she tends to plan the days in a particular way – doing an activity in the morning and then coming back and having a pool to plunge into, or chill by in the afternoon. Then in the evening, they go out for dinner or just go for a wander in the beautiful villages
  • If you feel you have to do Florence, Venice or Rome in these hot months, keep it short and put something else in there that is quieter and less on the tourist trail
  • Go to Rome and then go to La Marche for instance as one of Danielle’s clients recently did and said La Marche was their favorite part. When they told their friends where they were going, they would say “Why aren’t you going to Venice/Positano/Florence?” But they resisted this peer pressure, and then couldn’t have been happier with their plan

More on Le Marche

  • The Le Marche region is found North East of Rome and South East of Florence and is beloved by Italians for its stunning natural landscapes, rich cultural heritage and regional food and wine. The region borders Tuscany, Umbria, Emilia-Romagna and Abruzzo as well as the Adriatic Sea. It has a beautiful coastline line and a national park so lots to do.  La Marche is also best known within Italy as a place where all the best Italian shoes are made, so there are lots of good outlets sprinkled around La Marche if you want to do some shopping

There are two particularly amazing cities in Le Marche:

Urbino
  • Danielle actually studied Urbino as part of her master’s thesis. It is a beautiful hilltop village and is actually one of the cooler places in Europe. They get a lot of snow which makes it a perfect place to go in the summertime to cool down. If you want a Siena/San Gimignano-style experience, go to Urbino. It’s also a university town, so there’s a vibrant local life there too
  • There is also a beautiful city called Ascoli Piceno. The entire city is made from travertine stone and was designed to look as though it’s glowing under moonlight. It has big, beautiful piazzas where you can really live the Italian dream that everybody has in their heads of sitting in the piazza with a drink, people-watching. Though there you’re not going to drink an Aperol spritz, you’re going to drink a Maletti spritz because Maletti is the local bitter. These are really beautiful, well-healed, well-organized cities that cost a lot less and are a lot less crowded and cluttered (and clean right now) than Rome. They aren’t far from Florence or Rome so are easily combined for a perfectly well-balanced trip

So many choices…

  • There are so many cities and places in Italy to explore that one of our favorites. Katy and family will be going back this year is Emilia Romagna, an area just outside of Modena
  • It’s just a beautiful area, the people are friendly, they’ve got amazing food, there’s very pretty countryside and you’re not going to run into a lot of other tourists, but just have a beautiful, relaxing experience that you will cherish
  • It is hard to combat the relentless ‘you’ve got to see this, you’ve got to see that‘ message from social media and from even your own head, but it is worth planning this kind of diversion
  • Our Untold Italy Tour clients always report back that they love the contrast – exploring some of those major sites and then kind of getting that over and done with and then heading out into the countryside and seeing a different part of Italy that isn’t splashed all over Instagram or YouTube but will seep into your soul
  • Italians do both town and country so well. Danielle feels that in the United States there tends to be quite a big division between rural places and cities. Italians who live in rural areas and small towns, however, are still everything you want of Italians. In many ways, they live the Italian life much more than life in Florence and Rome and Milan where (especially Milan) it is a modern life that’s not that different from life in Danielle’s home city of New York. In these small towns, you can go out for la passeggiata and see the entire family eating dinner until two in the morning at a local restaurant
  • Many Italians that live in the cities also crave this kind of lifestyle for their holidays too. Italians are as nostalgic for their grandparents as a lot of Italian-Americans or Italian-Australians are. They yearn for that authentic Italian life in the countryside. Many people bemoan having to live in a place like Milan because that’s where their job is, and their heart is really back home in Puglia or in Sicily

When to go

  • In Australia, they have had no problem taking their kids out of school anytime to take them traveling, whilst other countries such as the UK and the US, it is not so easy if at all possible
  • For those that have flexibility around when they can travel, we really suggest going on the shoulder seasons. Go in March or even November. October has become very busy. If anyone’s traveling in October this year, make sure you’ve booked your accommodation. Katy was trying to book something in Rome recently and there is not much left. October is as busy as July this year
  • Katy’s favorite time to visit is in the late fall/ autumn and in early spring. She loves being in Italy then – when there’s a little bit of crispiness in the air and the rain seems to not hang around for too long and just washes through quickly if it comes
  • People ask about the shoulder season all the time and we refer to it here, but there is not much of a shoulder season anymore, so to avoid the crowds it really is now March and early April. And if you are going to Florence Venice, Rome, you spend so much time inside anyway because you’re going to museums and churches and sites, so good weather is not so necessary
  • Going to the Amalfi Coast or the Cinque in March is trickier as things may not be open/running so regularly but it is still possible with a little research

Experiences

  • Focus on experiences instead of sites or checklists – treating it like a theme park
  • Danielle always asks a specific question in her consultation question that actually 90 % of them don’t have an answer for and get a little thrown by. Which is “What’s your overall budget for the trip?”. A lot of people tend to think of things on a per-night budget, based on hotels and how much food they think they’re going to eat. But the reason Danielle asks for an overall budget is that she wants to prioritize experiences in the planning
  • The experiences are the things that they might dream of/imagine about Italy – to cook with an Italian Nonna and learn how to make pasta for instance. These experiences often cost more but It is definitely worth eating a few sandwiches or staying in a less expensive hotel for part of the trip in order to spend as much money as you can on having that beautiful experiences – because that’s what’s going to make your trip really special and memorable
  • You do have to search inside yourself and ask why is it that you want to go to Italy. What is driving you? Sometimes it can be a bit confronting because we get bombarded by so many suggestions and FOMO (the fear of missing out) that it can be a bit overwhelming. It is easy to lose sight of what is it that you want
  • Katy’s favorite experience in the last year was down to her friend, Arianna who, knowing Katy loves baby goats. When they went to visit her in Tuscany, she took Katy to a goats cheese farm which, as it was early summer had lots of bay goats which she got to cuddle as well as taste the delicious cheese and learn about the running of the farm. Katy is always going to remember that. And, of course, this was organized for her by a local, who has access to these things – to coordinate that experience
  • You often need somebody like that who can get you to these places and also be a translator. It is something really worth spending money on
  • Travel is a marketplace and online there are a lot of things you can buy. And people are, of course, thinking about their budget. You try to get the best deal on everything that you’re purchasing. But it’s really not the best way to go about travel
  • One of the experiences that Danielle had on her most recent trip was spending two days in a part of Campania called Irpinia. It is only around 45 minutes from Positano but it’s a different world. It’s in the mountains east of Naples and she spent two days visiting different winemakers there and having lunch with them, co-ordinated by Sarah an American who lives there who Danielle often collaborates with. They sat with these winemakers in their kitchens talking about the challenges of the last year with all the rain that’s had all over Europe and how this is going to impact the wine and how this impacts them and their traditions. One of the things that they said repeatedly was that they would always rely on their older relatives for wisdom about what to do when things are difficult but that they didn’t have any wisdom for these extraordinary events. That led to conversations about climate change. After she had experienced being sat there with real salt of the Earth people, eating delicious food, and having big conversations about the world – her heart felt full to the brim. A priceless experience. So much more than any perfunctory tour she might have felt obligated to do, especially as a first-time traveler
  • If you want to go and experience something that’s truly local and have those experiences, you are going to need quite a good amount of Italian
  • A lot of these places also do not advertise on Viator or Get Your Guide. They do not exist online. They don’t want to in fact. You often need to find a go-between, someone to facilitate these experiences
  • The first step, though, is to first think about what it is you want to do. To craft the experience, you need first to have the dream. You need to know what it is in your heart you really want to experience
  • Everyone’s different. There’s no judging. Everyone’s got a different budget. Everyone’s got a different motivation for their travel. But it is fair to say that you can’t just go and book those types of things online
  • If, for example, you want to go and visit a winery, you can find off-the-shelf tours and big wineries you can visit online, but it’s a different type of experience to that which Danielle was describing – visiting a local, family-run winery
  • You need to really understand what it is that you want out of the experience. If you’re really into wine, try and get find a local producer or operator that knows exactly about wine
  • When you’re feeling overwhelmed about all the options and you don’t know what to do, if you prioritize the experiences, then everything will fall into place. Prioritize the experience, then think about the budget, and then the decisions all start to become much easier
  • Don’t splash out unless it is an experience true to you. Danielle did the Key Masters tour of the Vatican Museum, which starts at 6 am. You have to get there to the door of the Vatican Museums by 5.50 am. Daniell is not a morning person so firstly that was not appealing. But getting up early and the cost was an investment she felt was worth it. It is very expensive. The tour is about USD450/500 – around €450. There are just 20 other people on this private tour of the Vatican Museums getting to see the inside lots of the rooms including the Sistine Chapel, before it opens. It is a heck of a lot of money but when people ask “Is it worth it?” for Danielle who studied art history – yes it was. Seeing the work of Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel she was just overcome with emotion. It was one of the best experiences of her life. But it’s not for everybody. It’s a lot of money, so if Michaelangelo is not your thing, you don’t need to do it. Some people may do it for the bragging rights, but we suggest thinking harder about the memories you want of your time. Danielle did have to eat sandwiches for the rest of the week because it cost so much – which was worth it

Family beach getaways off the beaten track

  • Danielle and Katy were asked about destinations for a great family beach getaway that may be off the beaten track and if Elba was a good option. 
  • Danielle said that while she likes Elba, she doesn’t think generally that Tuscany has got the best beach options. There was a report that came out in Italy recently that said the best beaches in Italy were in Tuscany and everyone she knew in Italy was wondering where that came from!
  • Danielle suggests the island of Ponza, which you can get to from Rome fairly easily, going over by ferry. It’s where a lot of Italians go and has an almost 1950s feel. Her love for the island of Ischia is also well documented and that, especially for families is a fantastic getaway
  • Katy still has her eye on Sardinia – to spend some time and enjoy its famously wonderful beaches
  • Ancona in La Marche is another good place to go for families
  • Even Venice, of course, has its beaches. If you’re in Venice and you’ve had enough of the city, you can go to the beach to chill out at the Lido, you just need to take Vaperetto number one
  • What we refer to in English when ‘going to the beach’, for Italians, is called a ‘Lido.  That’s going to be a place where you have easy access to the beach and where you will often that’s where you’ll find beach clubs or little stands. So if you’re doing a search to try to find where to go, look for that word

Beach clubs

  • The Italian beach clubs are an interesting feature and unusual to people from Australia, for instance, where the concept does not exist as you would never pay to go to the beach. But Katy has come around to loving the beach clubs in Italy. You go there, you pay and get a beach chair and an umbrella. They bring you things – you can order a cappuccino or a spritz. It’s all very civilized
  • Danielle still remembers the great octopus sandwich she had at a beach club in Puglia
  • Katy will be going to one of the beach clubs in Cilento that Danielle has recommended in September and Danielle assures her it is a truly glamour experience

Liguria

  • Levanto is another lovely destination. If you’re going to the Cinque Terree, it is a really great place to stay as it is just the next stop on the train line from Monterosso a Mare but way less crowded. You can easily get into the towns and then escape back to the beach there, which is a sandy beach with a sea pool
  • Within Italy, Ligurians are stereotyped as being unfriendly. But neither Katy or Danielle have found that to be true. This problem stems from the famous syndrome in Italy called Campanilismo, which refers to the campanile, the Bell tower of each town. This is about how each town believes their tower is the best place over all others and the neighbor’s bell tower is terrible
  • Genoa is like the Naples of the North. Liguria is a beautiful place and it has some of the most unique food. What is great about Liguria, especially Genoa, is that it’s a port town and so you have influence from all over the world there which makes for an interesting dynamic. It’s not frozen in time. The complaint that a lot of Tuscans actually have about themselves is that of course their history is extraordinary, but it also holds them back
  • Katy was in Genoa in April and adored it. There is lots of cool shops. It’s a wealthy town because they were the merchants and they provided all the Navy when people were discovering the New World and so they have an extremely rich past as well, but it is not always so obvious
  • We’ve got an Untold Italy tour in Liguria in Spring next year. And Katy is very excited for our guests to experience the food there as it is so amazing. It’s very focused on the local terrain. There are a lot of lentils and pulses and of course the basil and pesto. People teach how to make pesto all the time but it doesn’t taste the same as when you’re in Liguria because it’s the actual variety of basil that they use, the variety of garlic and their olive oil – which makes it taste so distinctive and much more wonderful when you are in Liguria. Which they are rightly very proud of
  • Danielle believes that the best cities in Italy to do a food tour – if you are a foodie, are Genoa, Modena, Naples, and Palermo.

The new Rome to Pompeii train

  • There is a new service from Rome to Pompeii but it only runs once a week on a Sunday and runs there and back, leaving you in Pompeii for 9 hours, so would take some thinking about as even the most ardent Pompeii lover could not stay at the site for so long
  • Daniell suggests that if you are in Rome, just don’t take the trip from Rome to Pompeii in a day at all and go to Ostia instead. Ostia Antica is a Roman city near the airport in Rome. Unlike Pompeii, it wasn’t covered in volcanic material but instead sank into the silt, and it’s perfectly preserved. It’s vastly more well-preserved than Pompeii
  • If you’re staying in Naples, go to Pompei. From Rome, go to Ostia
  • Danielle recently suggested to a friend who had 24 hours in Rome to go to Ostia and she reported back that not only is the place incredible but nobody is there!
  • Danielle is by no means saying you shouldn’t go to Pompeii. She has been there about 30 times, has written articles about it, her father’s family is from just outside of Pompeii. She loves Pompei, but if you’re in Rome, it’s really far
  • Katy and her family went to Herculaneum last year instead of Pompei which they found amazing. They have artifacts there that they don’t have in Pompe and you can get up really close to the frescos and mosaics there. It’s also much more compact
  • If you’ve got some mobility issues getting around Pompei, it can be quite brutal
  • If you really have mobility issues another great option is to go to Oplontis, which is just a villa that was also destroyed in ’79. It is really flat, and you can walk around the entire villa without having to traverse any of the uneven paving stones that you have all over Pompeii and in Herculaneum too

The beaten track

  • Famously in the movie, A Room with a View, they are trying to follow the Baedeker, which was the main guidebook of the time. And Lucy gets so frustrated that it is just taking her to the same places that everyone’s going she wants to throw it in the river. We have that these days but on steroids!
  • Recently in Venice, was walking to meet Monica Cesarato (episode 35), a local and great food guide. Katy put the destination into Google to get the best route and guess what? Everyone had the same route instructions to get to everything. Everyone is being pushed into the same street which was so packed you could hardly move
  • Google is pushing us in the same funnel. But we don’t all want to be in the same funnel as Google. It was a light bulb moment for Katy – to take the route around and not necessarily where you are directed
  • A lot of people that are traveling now are Generation X. Their kids are getting to the age where they’re either coming with them or they’re out of school now. Many of these people who had traveled previously would have done so without a phone, maybe even without a guidebook. Certainly no Google Maps or Trip Advisor
  • Now these Gen Xers are returning to travel after maybe 20 years, but Europe is not the same place anymore. You might want to re-capture your former travel memories of stumbling across amazing sights but they will be rammed – if you want to have that same kind of experience you have to get more into exploring new places
  • People can feel uneasy about this. They are out of practice – but they did it back then with no resources, so why not now! And of course, you still have the backup of Google Maps and Google Translate if you need them
  • Don’t feel the peer pressure to go anywhere people think you should go
  • Katy will never forget arriving in Florence for the first time, back when arrived at the train station at Santa Maria Novella, walked out with her backpack and there were all these people holding signs up offering a room for rent and the price (in Lira back in those days before Euros). And you just had to make a choice. The next thing you know, you’re waking up in an apartment in the middle of Florence and the bells are tolling next to your room and you’re thinking “oh, this wasn’t a bad choice”. Of course, you sometimes would get horror stories, but that is still true today and gets to be great stories for the future
  • Remember that not everybody and everywhere in the world is as wired as we are in the United States or Australia or Canada etc. When Danielle was in Calabria, there was no WiFi to be found. She has had a similar experience in Sicily, just outside of Palermo, so not in the sticks but somewhere fairly well-populated and metropolitan. People are just not as connected to the Internet as you might be
  • You also have to remember that you may have your experiences on their timeframe, which is going to be slower and more local. But this generally makes them deeper and richer, too. You have to be open to it all

Danielle’s Trip consultations & travel planning

  • On her website Feast Travel you will find her Consultations and Planning services. You can make an appointment with her for a 90 minutes online consultation. She shares her screen with you, opens up their database of all of the resources that they use to plan trips for private clients – restaurants, guides, tours, places you should see, all those good and meaningful experiences. They can craft your whole trip in 90 minutes and then you also have access to Danielle later to ask questions as you’re making your bookings and maybe encounter any problems.
  • Danielle loves doing consultations and feels like she is opening up the keys to the kingdom in sharing the knowledge and resources that she has built up over a long time. She’s met so many people this summer who have taken her advice and they were really happy, which makes her happy in return. She wants everyone to have a wonderful time in Itlay. 

Capacity

Katy and Danielle are not meaning to seem as though they are always telling people what not to do but they are trying to give options and ideas of what you could do that might mean nicer experiences. It is not always possible or sensible for them to share their resources with everyone  Untold Italy reaches a very large audience with the website, podcast and Facebook group, so she needs to be very careful who she recommends and how – because some of these providers, simply can’t take the huge volume of requests and queries that Katy gets every day. Authentic and unique resources generally mean a small capacity. If you are wanting the special, personal recommendations then you do need to find the right people to aid your travel plans.  Book a consultation with Danielle, or join a tour with one of the Untold Italy Tours – boutique, multi-day small group tours. They can’t put the pressure of too much exposure on the people who are providing a service on their own time and at their own pace. But we do, of course, still provide lots of resources on the website with 100s of articles that will give a lot of suggestions and the show notes from all the podcasts have lots of details too. 

About our guest – Danielle Oteri from Feast Travel

danielle oteri feast on history

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

  • Cilento Coast – The coastal area south of the Amalfi Coast which not only is much quieter but has better beaches. Learn more in Episode #39 Captivating Cilento Coast
  • Pigna – city in Liguria, southwest of Genoa
  • Le Marche – region north east of Rome and south east of Florence – bordering Tuscany, Umbria, Emilia-Romagna and Abruzzo as well as the Adriatic Sea
  • Urbino – birthplace of artist Raffaello and a popular place to visit in Le Marche
  • Ascoli Piceno – beautiful town in Le Marche great for a base to visit the area, with a main square Piazza del Popolo
  • Modena – city in Emilia-Romagna region known for its balsamic vinegar and opera heritage, plus Ferrari and Lamborghini sports cars
  • Santa Severa – a small seaside resort on the Lazio coast, with a castle
  • Sperlonga – another coastal town on the Lazio coast with a great archeological museum
  • Irpinia –  a mountainous in Southern Italy
  • Martina Franca – a town in Puglia, with a charming old quarter full of winding alleys and white-washed houses
  • Savelletri – coastal town in Puglia with beach clubs on rocky coastline
  • Elba – island located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, where Napoleon was exiled for a while
  • Ponza – the largest island of the Italian Pontine Islands archipelago in the Lazio
  • Ischia – island near Capri with hot spring beaches
  • Ancona city on the Adriatic Sea, the La Marche region’s largest city
  • Gaeta – coastal town 75 miles from Rome
  • Levanto – city in Liguria, great for a base to visit the Cinque Terre
  • Camogli – fishing village on the west of the peninsula of Portofino, on the Golfo Paradiso
  • Sestri Levante – town on the Baia del Silenzio, the (Bay of Silence)
  • Ostia Antica – a well-preserved ancient Roman city at what was a port at the mouth of the Tiber River, but is now inland, with magnificent frescoes and impressive mosaics.
  • 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

Resources

  • travertine stone – a form of limestone found around mineral springs. It exists in pale shades – with white, tan, cream-colored, and rusty varieties
  • Meletti – the bitter drink from Le Marche
  • la passeggiata – the walk or stroll after dinner that’s a strong part of Italian culture
  • campanilismo –  the word comes from the Italian word for bell tower (campanile) and means a huge sense of pride for one’s hometown or city
  • Baedeker – the guidebooks published in the mid-1800s to mid-1900s
  • A Room with a View – 80s movie set in Florence based on the EM Forster novel 
  • Before Sunrise – 90s movie set in Vienna
  • Italian Lira – currency in Italy pre Euro

Resources from Untold Italy

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