Episode #020: Josie’s top 10 places in Italy

episode 20 - josies top 10

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Could you pick your Italy top 10? Co-host Josie agonized over choosing her favorite places  to visit in Italy. After many years traveling from the top to the toe of the boot of Italy it was not an easy task. In the end her favorites came down to memories she shared with her family and those afternoons  spent soaking up the sun and atmosphere in a pretty piazza. And of course, the beaches which she is so fond of.

Show notes

After Katy shared her top 10 places in Italy in a previous episode, Josie took on the challenge to select her own. In this podcast she shares the places and memories that are forever Italy in her mind. You’ll discover the church she’d like to renew her vows in, the hiking trail she’s proud she persevered with and all the fabulous beach towns where she and her family have soaked up the Italian sun.

Josie’s journeys through Italy have a distinctly southern flavor and in her list you’ll find destinations from lesser known regions – Calabria and Puglia – as well as Sicily and Campania. But she also includes some much loved classic Italian cities and regions.

What we love about our top 10 episodes it that it really brings home how differently we perceive places that we visit. And how an event or circumstance can color our views. We hope you find some new and interesting cities, towns and regions to visit based on our travels and some inspiration to create your own memories in bella Italia!

 

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Josie’s top 10

  • Tropea (Calabria) – a spectacular beach town in the region of Calabria where Josie’s family is from.
  • Siena (Tuscany) – beautiful Tuscan city with a famous horse race in the main square
  • Verona (Veneto) – famous for star crossed lovers and an impressive Roman arena, Verona stole Josie’s heart
  • Sorrento (Campania) – gateway to the Amalfi Coast, Capri and Pompeii, this town has its own unique charms
  • Monterosso (Liguria) – one of the famous towns of the Cinque Terre
  • Alberobello (Puglia) – where you’ll find charming conical trulli houses, a unique sight in Italy
  • Lecce (Puglia) – gorgeous Baroque city in the south where Josie dreams of living
  • Taormina (Sicily) – hilltop town in Sicily that overlooks the Straits of Messina and Mount Etna. The Madonna della Rocca church built into a rock is Josie’s favorite church in the whole world
  • Florence (Tuscany) – the Renaissance city full of art, culture and elegance – highlights of Florence, and our city guide
  • Rome (Lazio) – one of the greatest cities on Earth and Josie’s number one favorite place to visit in Italy. Learn more about the Eternal City in our travel guide, podcasts and articles

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Transcript

Prefer to read along as you listen? Below is a full transcript of our episode conversation. Unfortunately it does not pick up our lovely Australian accents however!

Click here for full episode transcript

Intro (00:05):
Ciao and benvenuti to Untold Italy. I’m Josie and I’m Katy and we’re here to help you plan your trip to Italy. Between us, we have many years of travel experience and we want to help you uncover your own as yet untold stories and adventures in Italy. Each episode you’ll hear practical advice, tips, and ideas to help you plan your own trips to the magical land of history, stunning landscapes, and a whole lot of pasta. We’ll have interviews from experts and focus on local destinations and frequently asked questions about traveling in Italy. Thanks for listening and make sure to subscribe to our show. Now let’s get started on your regular dose of Bella Italia

Katy (00:52):
Ciao. And welcome to Untold Italy episode number 20. We hope you’re staying safe and well wherever you are in the world. A couple of weeks ago I shared my favorite places in Italy. So today we are going to hear from Josie all about her top 10. How did you go trying to make your list, Josie?

Josie (01:09):
Well, Katy, I made my list and I have two daughters, as most of you have heard on the podcast. And they’re quite as passionate about Italy as you and I are. So I made my list and I forgot one of the major cities that I love on it. And then I kept remaking it and redoing it. I’ve decided that my list comes from the love of all the top 10 come from all the beautiful memories I have with my beautiful daughters and my husband that we made when we took a big trip. And I think it’s really hard. And I saw that through you last time picking your top 10 and when you talked about when you were there and what you felt. So my top 10 is really the top 10 for our family and what we loved and the amazing memories that we’ve got. So these are my memories and the reason I love these 10 places. So should we get started?

Katy (02:02):
Yes, I can’t wait to hear them. Okay. Number 10, Josie.

Josie (02:05):
So it was really hard to put this one. I didn’t know where to put it. So my family, as I’ve said in our first podcast comes from Calabria – both my mum and dad. And so over many years I have traveled to Calabria. One of my favorite places is a little town called Tropea. And Tropea is deep in Calabria at the toe of the Italian boot. So it’s a beach town and it’s stunning. It’s absolutely beautiful. It has fantastic beaches. It’s got a really beautiful, charming historical center, great seafood restaurants that sell beautiful fish and seafood because it’s just where it sits. And you’ve got all those beach clubs as well so that you can drive in and you can leave your car and go. Now, one legend says that it was actually founded by Hercules who is honored in name of the main square Piazza Ercole, which is really interesting.

Josie (03:03):
So but it’s an amazing, amazing place. It just draws me. It’s the sun. It’s the sand. It’s the Southern Italian feeling. We always go in July and August. And there’s a lot of people and it’s just honestly amazing. The beaches are fantastic. So you’ve got a good five kilometers of pristine white beaches, but with really rocky formations. Tropea sits on the cliffs and there’s lots of grottoes that are actually dotted through the coastline and around that area as well. The water, is Caribbean like water. It’s just that beautiful color. So it’s amazing. So that’s probably one of my favorites. And again, it’s that summer feel, right? The Italians, you know, having your mortadella panino on the beach, because you take it or you can go back to the restaurant.

Josie (03:57):
And, if you go up Tropea into the town and you walk up the hill from the beach, there’s lots of pottery. So it’s not, I’m not going to say as sophisticated as like the Sorrento pottery or the Sicilian pottery, but it’s really beautiful as well. So they’ve got lots of artisans there, and you can get jewelry, handmade jewelry and lots of homemade stuff. Obviously great restaurants, great food. And it’s just a really great place. So that, that was my number 10.

Katy (04:29):
Okay. Well actually I’m a little bit jealous because when we went to Calabria a few years ago. And I really did have Tropea on my list of places to go. But we didn’t make it there because we were taken around Calabria by our relatives and they didn’t take us to Tropea. So I’m very, very excited to go one day. How long would you spend there?

Josie (04:55):
Look Tropea itself I think two to three nights if you like the beach. I’m a bit of a beach lover, and you could do a couple of beaches along the way. I mean I’ve got family, so to be honest, we stayed two weeks which is probably too long for just someone coming from a long way away. Now driving, cause we drove from Sicily up to Calabria, was really easy as well. We would visit our relatives and go to different beaches because there’s a lot of beaches around there that are really quite well known. So you could stay in Tropea, which is a beautiful obviously as I said, it’s a hilltop town. Just right above the beach. And then what you could go is drive around a little bit. So I definitely would say two nights and get that sort of Italian really cultural Calabresi feeling of Italy; very Southern and rustic.

Katy (05:51):
So you probably wouldn’t get too many non Italian tourists there. Is that right?

Josie (05:56):
yes. No, you don’t get very many. Actually I was talking to my cousins when we were there and they said there’s a lot of Germans that do come now. And there is a lot more movement from, from Europeans coming down and a lot of the Southern Italians or Calabresi did go up to Milan and went to Germany and Switzerland. So there is a bit of a movement in summer, but not as much as probably Sorrento or Cinque Terre. It’s, it’s definitely not as touristy. The only tourists really that you get in Tropea or in that Calabria area of the beach is really locals and their families coming back. And then other people that know. So it is busy yes, but not as crazy busy as the other places that you would visit.

Katy (06:46):
Okay. Well it’s definitely going on my list again, so that hopefully we can make it there one day. How about let’s move on to number nine then Josie.

Josie (06:57):
So my number nine is actually something similar to what you had. We talk about this Tuscany region and again, I need to explore it a bit more. I think we found that from your top 10. And one of my favorite places is Siena. And we visited there with my husband and the girls. And s we were reminiscing, as I was putting this together, we had a bit of a lovely laugh about how beautiful that city is. So obviously it’s in the Tuscan region, it’s full of medieval brick buildings and it’s an amazing place to go. You walk through, and it’s a Gothic town, and it’s got beautiful towers and churches and you have the, the main square. I think it’s, it’s just one of those places that you go and you’re transported back in time. I just always felt that when I was there. It was just a little bit different to other places and it just had a different taste, but it still had that Tuscany feel to it, I think. Have you, have you been there and what, what did you think?

Katy (08:14):
Well, I went there in November and I absolutely loved it. And that was the most recent visit. And what I did love about Siena was, yes, you have those cobbled streets and you have the, the cathedral and it’s up on the hill really as well, isn’t it? So, yes. But then you walk down through the streets and you keep walking and you keep going through the little streets and you can stop at a cafe and you can have a coffee and they have those cantucci, the almond biscuits.

Josie (08:44):
As you’re going down, you go into the central piazza, which is Piazza del Campo, which is amazing. Right. And they also have the famous Palio the running of the horses around the piazza two times every summer. You could imagine all of the fanfare of that because when the Italians do it, the Tuscans, they get out their big banners and it’s a big event. And I think you could just feel it. So yes, I do love it. And we sat there and had an ice cream and dinner in one of the restaurants around there. So it’s an amazing place. And definitely worth seeing. And there’s lots of cathedrals and churches and lots of history there as well. So it’s definitely worth spending a couple of days there, I think.

Katy (09:43):
I think so too. I’ll never forget that feeling when we walked around the corner and you go under an archway, then you’re in the Piazza del Campo, a huge open space and you can imagine the horses going round and round. And it’s a very beautiful and inspiring place actually, which I really enjoyed. And the cathedral is pretty magnificent too with all the mosaics inside.

Josie (10:06):
And the Duomo is amazing. There’s again, a lot of art and history. And of course you’ve got amazing wines from the Tuscan region. If you sit down, then you’ve got the, the Piazza you’ve got the beautiful Duomo as well, and then you’ve got the streets.

Josie (10:27):
I mean, just walking around the streets and then you’ve got great artwork and there’s definitely a lot to see. It’s just a beautiful city to sit in and just relax. But then you can walk around and do things.I would definitely put it on the list eventually if you haven’t gone there. Definitely go and have a look at Siena.

Katy (11:02):
Yes. Beautiful Siena is at number nine. So what’s it number eight Josie?

Josie (11:04):
Number eight – now, this one’s very interesting. This is, it’s actually Verona. Everyone absolutely loved Verona. So this is a really beautiful city. And before we went I’d heard a bit about it, but not a lot. So Verona is a city in the Northern Veneto region. It’s again another medieval old town. It’s fantastic and also very famous, for those of you who might know, for being the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. And you can see the 14th century residence with the tiny balcony overlooking a court yard, which is said to be Juliet’s house, which is amazing. The other thing about Verona, is that it’s very old and it’s got that old city feel. And it’s got an arena which was built in the first century. It’s a first century Roman amphitheatre, which still hosts concerts and very large scale operas. It has Porta Borsai which is the ancient Roman gate leading into Verona. And that’s it’s layered with the modern city of Verona.

Josie (12:17):
And I have to say, I was really surprised. It was one of those places that I wanted to go to. I’d not heard so much about it, and I suppose it was one of those places that I just hadn’t thought that it was going to be as beautiful as it was. It’s also a UNESCO world heritage site, as well as being one of the most beautiful towns. So it’s taken me maybe six or seven times to go to actually go to Verona.But it was just beautiful. I’m a bit of a shopper and the shopping is amazing and they’ve got cobblestone streets and you go through these beautiful shops in these beautiful buildings and you meander through these little alleyways and streets.

Josie (13:12):
And there’s no cars in that ancient area and then you’ve got this area near the amphitheater where you can sit and there’s lots of restaurants and people. And it’s great to just sit back and people watch. We did walking tours. and discovered arts and history. There are castles, and museums as well. You can do beautiful walks through Verona and around Verona. Out of my top 10, this city was just a big surprise for me.

Katy (13:52):
Oh, well I actually went there on my first trip to Italy and I fell in love with it straight away. And I was like, “Oh my goodness, I’ve never seen anything quite like this.” Because of the amphitheater and the piazzas. And while Venice was the first big city that I saw, Verona was the first city that I saw in Italy and I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was magical. And in one of the piazzas, there’s a statue of Dante and it’s really brooding. He looks down over the piazza and he looks very serious. But yes, it’s a very pretty city. It’s a really great place to stay overnight. But you ca do a day trip there from Venice or even Milan.

Josie (14:39):
yes. Actually we actually stayed there for two nights and we loved it. Honestly, I can’t talk about it more highly. We went to the Castello Vecchio. We did the Verona arena. We did Juliet’s house and the Duomo of Verona. We walked around. I felt that the two nights were great. It was just the place that we needed to relax in and watch the world. And I have to say it was just beautiful. And so definitely one of my highlights and I didn’t know where to put it, but it sits at eight at the moment.

Katy (15:21):
Well Verona, was actually on our itinerary for the trip that we missed out on. So we’ll definitely be putting it back on the list. Okay. Number seven, Josie.

Josie (15:30):
Number seven. Now this is interesting. It’s Sorrento. I just have beautiful memories of Sorrento. Not to say picking any part of the Amalfi coast was hard but I think the reason I love Sorrento is that you come in and you as you’re driving in, you get that beautiful view. And then you can go to the water and as you walk down you can see across to Capri on a good day. But I think it also connects you to the rest of the Amalfi coast too. It’s got something, some sort of charm about it that I really, really loved.

Josie (16:23):
We stayed there and it has great restaurants. And then we also spent a day on a beach club because as you probably all going to hear on this podcast, I love my beach clubs. It was a very expensive beach club, but we spent a day out on the water. And I think it’s also got the little Marina, and the big Marina. Plus there’s the city, and you can walk down to the cliff, to the beach. I loved everything about it. And again, is it the fact that it’s got beautiful memories for my family? Probably. But from there we took a week to go to Capri for a day, and then we took a car to Amalfi and Positano and we did all of the Amalfi coast.

Josie (17:19):
And then we came back to Sorrento at night you dress up and you go for your passegiata after you’d have your dinner. And again, amazing restaurants. There was really great seafood and very local cuisine. So actually I really loved Sorrento.

Katy (17:35):
Well, it has an unbeatable position, doesn’t it? I mean it’s right in the heart of everything. There’s the Amalfi Coast, Capri and Ischia, if you wanted to go over to one of those smaller islands. Plus Pompeii and Naples. It’s really got everything. I can’t think of a better position for a city really.

Josie (17:53):
I think for me it’s at a leisurely pace. So you just sit down and then you meander through the streets. You go to the historical center, you have your cappuccino or latte – they don’t call them the lattes there obviously. Then you go through the little streets and you’ve got all of the amazing linen and limoncello you can buy. And then you’ve got the beautiful sunset that comes through. So I think it is a leisurely city. I found that it was really relaxing and it had everything that we needed. And it’s the doorway to everything, right? You get a boat to Capri, which is one of your favorites and you can also get to Positano and Amalfi or you can take the boats or the ferries that can go to everywhere from Sorrento as well. So I think it just offers a really great experience for anyone. And I think for me, again, it comes back to those amazing memories.

Katy (19:06):
yes, it really does. And did you manage to go through the lemon groves?

Josie (19:11):
Yes, we did. And we took one of those tours with a driver. And there was our two girls, my husband and I, and the driver asked, “would you like to have lunch?” And we thought, Oh yes. Now my husband’s always a little bit dubious about where we’re going to have lunch. So we ended up at this restaurant just outside of Amalfi and can I tell you, we had the most amazing limoncello we’ve ever had and the most amazing lunch we’d ever had. To the point that when the girls go by themselves with their friends, they go and rebook this restaurant. It was amazing. I mean we love limoncello, but I think having it from Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, there’s nothing like it. Don’t you think Katy?

Katy (20:12):
It always tastes better when you have it there for some reason. I mean it tastes really good when you’re at home, but it just doesn’t have that same taste. It must be the air that mixes in with the limoncello I think. I wish that was there now!

Josie (20:25):
Don’t we all! Anyway, it’s definitely something to put on your list. Okay, so now up to number six. So this is the way we became a little bit. My girls and I debated this, so it’s actually Monterosso in the Cinque Terre. For me, Monterosso, which is one of the largest of the coastal towns in Cinque Terre is beautiful. It’s located on the hill, cultivated with the lemons, vines and the olive trees. And it’s just amazing. And I love the beaches again. So we came in by train and it’s easy to get around. We had four or five pieces of like each cause we don’t travel light from Australia.

Josie (21:18):
Our hotel was just right on the front there. And there were amazing restaurants and the seafood was great and the pesto and the food and the people were just amazing. I really loved it. I loved that place. The city is divided into two parts, the medieval town, and then there’s the newer part of town. And I think one of my best memories there is doing some of the walks that we’d heard about. I said to my daughter at the time, I wasn’t sure that I could do the five cities. But we got up one morning. It was about 6.30 or 7.00 and we decided to walk from Monterosso to Vernazza.

Josie (22:12):
And it was absolutely amazing. I have to say, it’s certainly not a walk that is on a perfect trail. As I was huffing and puffing my way up, I’m like, why can’t they fix these steps? But can I tell you when you get to the top, the view from there is absolutely beautiful. I have got some amazing photos from that view. And I have to say one of my most amazing memories with my daughter has to be that walk. And that day we ended up just spending the day walking around Vernazza. It was just amazing. And then we caught the train back because I couldn’t have walked for a couple of days!

Katy (22:54):
Well did you know that they’ve actually made a rule that you have to wear proper shoes when you’re doing those hikes in the Cinque Terre because people were trying to attempt them in flip flops or thongs. And that does sound like an amazing memory and that’s one that I would like to have as well. I, however, I did spend a lot of time on the beach at Monterosso enjoying a wine and a cappuccino after quite an eventful day, but I would love to go back there. Absolutely. Monterosso – a perfect place. Okay. Number five.

Josie (23:38):
My number five is Alberobello. So where is it you may ask? I know that you would know, but maybe our listeners don’t. It’s actually in the region of Puglia in Southern Italy. Now it is a UNESCO world heritage site because of the amazing little houses which we call trullo houses or trulli houses. So the zona di trulli is in the western part of the town and they’re bee hived shaped houses. So they’re white tipped as if they’re dusted with snow and they’re made from local limestone. And they’re all very, very old. There’s a sort of history behind the trullis and it had to do with, I love this, evading taxes. I won’t go into the full details, but they needed to make a house that could be taken down really quickly so that they didn’t have to pay land tax. So what they did was they built these trulli houses to make them easy to, to break down and move. So what you’ll find is you can stay in them when you go and they’re amazing. They’re just absolutely beautiful. They take your breath away. Actually, I don’t know if you’ve been Katy?

Katy (25:08):
That’s another one that where we were supposed to go. But they do look like fairy houses, don’t they? My daughter is very entranced by them, being very small. She thinks they look like where fairies live.

Josie (25:21):
And look when you go down there and you walk around them, they are so pretty. And honestly if you look at my photos, they’re just amazing. You can’t have a bad photo there. We found this beautiful restaurant and it was in a trulli. And honestly, you can stay in them. The way they’ve built these truly houses are honestly magnificent. And then you’ll find them scattered in the countryside because they were also on the olive groves as well. So you’ll find them scattered around the area, but also in the township. There’s also beautiful churches. It’s nice to just have a walk around. For those of you like to shop, I bought two beautiful dresses there. It’s got everything and it’s really relaxing, not much else to do. I would suggest staying one night. We drove in late in the morning and we stayed one night. We had dinner, we had time to walk around. And we left after breakfast the next day and that was enough. So it was beautiful. But all of the Puglia area is I have to be honest. We spent a week in Puglia and it was very hard for me to pick somewhere unique or somewhere that I loved out of all of them. The reason I picked Alberobello is that you’re never going to find it anywhere else in the world. And I think that’s what makes it truly beautiful.

Katy (27:05):
Oh, I can’t wait to go there. I love that they have all these little flower pots and you see the photos with the red geraniums that really pop against the white of the walls. And they just look so gorgeous. And as you said, it’s a unique culture, something completely different and it’s born out of trying to evade taxes. But I’ve got to say it’s pretty amazing that, even though they had to pull those houses down quickly, that they have stood the test of time for so long. And I’m glad they have.

Josie (27:35):
yes. And, they’re obviously heritage listed so nothing can be done with them and they’re quite protective and all of the trulli houses. We went in June and I can’t say there were hundreds of people there. It was relaxing. So definitely worth putting on your list. There’s also some amazing places to go in the Puglia area close by like Grotte di Castellana are amazing. We found that on a drive. Polignaro al mare is another one. I’m sure Katy can put info on these in the show notes. But honestly, if you love a beautiful photo of a beach area or want some amazing images I can’t recommend this region more. I could do a whole a whole podcast just on Puglia because I think it’s an amazing region and there’s so many things to see. So yes, Alberobello is my number five and I go into my number four being Lecce. Again this city is in the Puglia region and it’s known for its Baroque buildings. If I had to pick a place to live, I would live in Lecce.

Josie (29:13):
We drove from Bari airport and it took us about three hours to get there. Lecce has a new city and an old city in a fortress. So we opted to actually stay in the old city. So you can take cars to a certain point in the old city and then you need to find parking outside of the old city. And then when you get into the city, it’s amazing. You have just so much history. It’s very Baroque. It’s a fairy tale to be really honest. And it’s one of those cities that is just worth having a little bit of a wander around.

Josie (30:04):
And as I was getting ready for this podcast, I was looking it up again and reaslized, I just love this place. And every photo just doesn’t do it justice. You just honestly get there and you just wonder through the narrow golden sand stone buildings, there are piazza’s in every little corner and churches and wine bars. It has so many churches. One night, I think it was about six o’clock, we’d had a Aperol spritz and then we thought we’d go to have a look at all the churches and they were opened and you could actually just walk in. There was so many, it was just amazing. I don’t have the words to express this place.

Josie (30:56):
And the reason I loved it as well is that it’s so close to the beaches and to different beach resorts. So we stayed there for four nights. It’s easy to walk around and get around. But it gets very hot and they still do their siestas in the afternoon. So it was really funny the first night we got there, or the afternoon, I decided to go for a walk. It was about two o’clock and there was no one out. And then I realized that they do their siestas. So we went back to our amazing B n B and had a bit of a rest. So that southern region of Puglia still has their siestas. And I think it was just amazing.

Josie (31:43):
What we did was we would get up in the morning and we wanted to go and sit by a beach club or we want to drive somewhere. And so our hosts gave us the option. You could either be on the Greek side of the water or the more of the Italian side. It depended on how the wind was blowing. So the lovely BnB people that we had, they would tell us, “I wouldn’t go to the beach this side today, I would go to this one.” So we found places like Bianco Grande and we went to beach clubs where you can drive and leave your car and you stay there for a day. I mean the beaches were amazing. It was just a beautiful place. Katy, I can’t talk about it more and Lecce, honestly, I could buy my little house and live there forever.

Katy (32:33):
And I can hear that in your voice. It has really have made a big impression on you this place. I can tell, and again, his is one that we missed, but I’m definitely going back. And do you think you definitely need a car while you’re there in that region?

Josie (32:47):
yes, a hundred percent. Look there’s places, and I’ll give you a couple of places where went to in Puglia. You must visit Monopoli and Gallipoli. And go to Taranto or Ostuni and the only way to sort of really get there is to drive. We can talk about how the younger generation did it too. So my daughters went to Puglia and they went and caught buses. Now the challenge with this Southern part, and a little bit more also in Calabria, is that the buses aren’t geared up to the full tourist season. So on a Sunday, the buses don’t run in the afternoon. They have siestas. So it’s not as it’s not as common to get around by bus or as easy to get around.

Josie (33:38):
So to have the freedom of a car I think was great. And I have to be honest to all of our listeners, I am a panic driver, and my husband will not drive in Italy. So I, I do worry sometimes because we have to drive there on the opposite side of the road (to Australia). But honestly the roads were beautiful, the freeways were amazing and I always get worried about going around roundabouts, but they actually have all the signage that shows you where to go. So we we drove up and down the beach, we went to the beach, and we parked. You definitely need a car. I don’t think that you can see some of these places without having a car because you just wouldn’t get in and see the different destinations. Or you would have to be at the mercy of the buses or you could do a tour I suppose. You know, seven day or 14 day tours if you you had to. But if you’re a free sort of spirit like myself and my husband, where we like to see things and have rest, go to restaurant or stop along the way, I think it’s definitely worth it. And I will be back because I have missed so much of it. I’d like to spend more time in Puglia cause I think it’s just amazing.

Katy (34:52):
Wow. Well you’ve definitely sold it to me and I’m getting ready to go as soon as I can. Okay. So Josie, after all of that, what could possibly be at number three?

Josie (35:04):
So another favorite one of mine, obviously number three is actually Taormina in Sicily. I haven’t explored all of Sicily and I know in your top 10 you’ve done a bit more. But is a hilltop town on the Eastern coast of Sicily. It sits near Mount Etna – obviously the active volcano in Sicily. It’s got a bit of everything. It sits up on the cliff so you can go up to the cliff top. And that’s where our our hotel was. You’ve got the ancient theater. So Sicily also had many different invaders or people that have added to the culture of Sicily and the Greeks were one. So they’ve actually created the ancient theater there, which is absolutely beautiful and is still used today. Katy , I think you have been to Taormina?

Katy (36:03):
Oh I have and, wow. Is there any better view than standing in that ancient Greek theater and seeing Etna kind of smouldering in the background with this smoke coming out? I loved it so much. And just at nighttime with the passegiata through the streets and there’s a beautiful piazza there with the views of Etna as well. I loved it. Loved it, loved it. Loved it.

Josie (36:29):
yes, definitely. I think it’s just the environment. The old and the ancient all mixes together with the beautiful Etna in the background and with the waters close by. And like most places, which I love Taormina has a gate – the Porta Messina, which is the Northern entrance to the city. It is a magnificent ruin that you come through into the city where you’ll find great shops and great food. But there is a little favorite thing that I have and it’s called Chiesa Madonna della Rocca. And this church is made out of rock. It’s a church that you can actually walk to from the heart of Taormina. And it’s, it is honestly amazing, it’s made all out of rock and it’s really beautiful, beautiful, definitely worth it.

Josie (37:30):
I always say to my husband, if ever I’m going to get married again, I’m going to get married there. So you can walk from the steps from the main street of Taormina and it takes about 30 minutes on a leisurely walk. But you can also stop at different viewpoints along. And on a beautiful day, you can see everything. Okay, you can see the Greek amphitheater, you can see out towards the sea and beyond. And it’s on the top of a rock, this church. And,

Katy (38:08):
Oh, that sounds beautiful, Josie. But I actually thought you were going to Isola Bella was your favorite, cause that’s the beach area – where you get the cable car down to the beach from Taormina.

Josie (38:20):
yes, I liked Isola Bella. But for me, I love churches. It’s the Catholic in me probably. But this one, and I’ve seen a lot churches, I would say one of my favorite churches in the world. It was beautiful. Isola Bella is beautiful. But I’m not a real fan of the stones down there to be honest. So I always remember that I have to buy those shoes so that you can actually walk on stones. And the first time I went there, I could see all these people and I wondered, why are they wearing those shoes? But then when you get there, you realize that you are the silly one that didn’t have the shoes. And wehave a little favorite little bar that there’s a bar called Bamba and it’s very well known and very famous in Taormina.

Josie (39:08):
It’s where you have your granita. You can have it with brioche and you pick your own granita. And you can have different flavors and then you can have it with or without cream. And it is amazing. It is sort of like the Sicilian delicacy and Bamba bar granita is one of the best ones to have. And everyone, whoever you talk to that has been to Taormina says, “Oh my gosh, did you have a granita at Bamba?” And of cours you say, “Yes, isn’t it the best?” It’s one of those places in in Taormina that everyone goes to see. So definitely worthy, and fantastic photos from from that place in Sicily. We only stayed one night and I’ve been promising myself, that next year we’re going to stay seven nights in Taormina because we just think it’s an absolutely beautiful place in the world.

Katy (40:00):
It really is. Oh Josie, we’re getting down to the business end of things now. So you need to tell me now what is your number two?

Josie (40:08):
So I actually forgot this city off my list until my daughters and I sat down and went through it. And I can’t believe I forgot it. It is definitely not worth forgetting and it is at my number two and that would be Florence. It has a little bit of my heart, Florence. I love everything about it. There is just so much to do in Florence. How many masterpieces can you have in one city? How much beauty can you have in one city of all the Renaissance? I don’t know. There’s just so much you look out for Florence from the Duomo or the Uffizi gallery, to walking through those amazing streets and just sitting there and having a coffee. I just think of all the history there and how many people have walked these streets.

Josie (40:57):
I don’t know. It gives me a little bit of it gives me that sense of place in the world where you just see the whole culture evolve from where we were to where we are. Thanks to the Pitti Palace and all the different museums, I think that you need to take this city with at a slower pace than we probably did it. We went for four nights and it probably didn’t give it justice. My daughter stayed there for four months. Now four months is probably too long. But I think to get the feel of it, if you had the time, this is city is one where we’d love to spend six months in. Because it’s also the region, right? So it’s not just what can you do here, it’s the people, it’s the places, it’s the history and there’s still things to explore beyond the city. And we’re all waiting for the Vasari Corridor to open next year.

Josie (41:53):
So if it opens hopefully, you can go from the Uffizi Gallery to the Pitti palace, and this is going to be amazing. I want to see that. Katy, I can smell and the scents of the city and if I can close my eyes. you get the whiff of pizza and other cooking smells. I really do think Florence needs to just be one of those places where instead of rushing through it, you actually breathe, you sit, you drink a wine and you relax through it and really, really enjoy it.

Katy (42:35):
yes, it’s really interesting actually because I was obsessed with going to Florence having studied Renaissance history at school. And when I got there, I have to say I was a little bit disappointed and I can tell you why now having returned several times. It’s because I did rush through and I didn’t take the time to really enjoy the city as it is itself. And the last time I visited I just really fell in love with the place actually because there was a lot of wandering and although we did set a pretty fast pace actually, it was more going to different shops and trying out different things and going to stop at the truffle place and then going to the Santa Maria Novella pharmacy. We ended up buying several perfumes from there. It’s an 800 year old pharmacy, which is pretty amazing and people should definitely go and visit. But yes, I think you’re right. It’s like a wine. It needs to be savored and developed and I really feel like I didn’t do it any justice. So I’m really glad it’s on your top 10 list, Josie because it wasn’t on mine. But I don’t know, my mind can probably change this week anyway.

Josie (43:46):
yes. We also talked about it with the girls when we were doing this list and one of the things said was, “Oh, but maybe we didn’t really enjoy Florence as much because it was too hot on the four days that we were there.” It was really hot and it was really interesting because one of my daughters went to stay in Florence from April. She spent four months there and she thinks it was beautiful. I think we’ve got to be careful also because sometimes you can experience the city and it’s too hot or something else. And Florence is one of those cities that during July and August has just too many people as well. So sometimes I think we just don’t see the beauty of certain cities because we’re rushing through and because of different reasons. I think it’s just one of those cities that I’ve been back there three times and I could definitely go back again and actually spend the whole time in Tuscany. Because again, I think there’s just so much to see, do and just enjoy. I think it’s definitely a city that I love to explore. And every time I go back there’s something new to find.

Katy (44:51):
Yep. It is beautiful. Right. So that just leaves one.

Josie (44:57):
yes. Which is Rome for me. It was really hard to pick my number one, but I think we’ve spoken about it ever since we started podcasting. For me, Rome has it all. I love everything. I’m looking at pictures as I’m talking and it just fills my heart. There’s just so much love for this city. The history behind it, the architecture. I absolutely love the Vatican and everything to do with the Vatican. I think for me, just having the history behind that, and it’s in every time you walk through a street, there’s something different to discover. So it’s not just about the big amazing Colosseum or the Trevi fountain or the Spanish steps. I think it’s the way that city moves and how that has stayed for generations after generations. How it has evolved from a such a central hub of Europe to continually be an amazing city in the new age.

Josie (45:56):
I love the different cultures and customs and food and that every corner has something new. I love the way the Romans speak Italian. I love the way they dress. And I just think that this city is just amazing and every time I go, I could spend weeks and weeks there again. It is a city that never disappoints me. It’s a city that I always find something new and there’s always something to learn. And I think it just brings out the best of humanity because you’ve got everything there. You’ve got amazing artworks and people and I just love it. It’s got the ruins. It’s got inspiring art. It’s got the city life, the street life. It’s the hot blooded capital really. It’s got the romantic part about it and those sunsets over Rome. It just warms you. I think it’s one of those places that is a treasure and it’s a living treasure. And I love every part of that city.

Katy (47:13):
Your enthusiasm for it is infectious. Yes you really have to go to Rome and just sort of immerse yourself in it. And I think, again, it’s one of those places where the temptation is to kind of rush through it. But wow, if you invest a extra days, you’ll be very well rewarded by just wandering around finding those cute little fountains, a tiny piazza or just wandering through a park. And as you said before, these are parts that people have walked for thousands of years. It’s kind of amazing that that’s the case.

Josie (47:49):
yes. And I think what we’re doing in our podcasts, and I think what you do so amazing in your Facebook group for Italy is really show people the beauty of this country. And it’s about sitting down. We rush around and we think we’ve got to get here and we’ve got to do this and we’ve got to tick off stuff. And I think I’ve been lucky enough to go to Rome so many times that now so I know it’s not about rushing, it’s about sitting. And you sort of become part of Rome. So you’re walking past things and you started admiring as opposed to looking in a book, you actually look up and look at the world and look at this city and think, it is amazing. And it’s those experiences that make it special. It’s talking to the locals, it’s buying the chestnuts while they’re heating at night when you’re going for your passegiata, it’s buying that gelato in that same place that you remember. It’s having those walks and talks with your family or your partner. And those beautiful memories of looking up at the Spanish steps for the first time. Or going to throw that first coin into the Trevi fountain, but actually taking the moment to actually be in the moment as opposed to rushing around and taking photos. And I think that’s the beauty of Rome. I think sitting back and actually walking through and going to different parts of the city. I mean, you and I talk about our favorite restaurant. And how we find different parts of Rome every time we go. So for me, I just love this city. I love big cities, but this one especially. So that is my number one. Absolutely. Rome is number one.

Katy (49:26):
Wow. Of course it was Rome and I love the way we have really different views and perspectives on what we love. Although some of them are pretty similar and I’m sure that some of the ones that you mentioned that are on my list as well that I’ll absolutely love just as much as you did. So everyone, I hope you enjoyed the show today. I know I have. Josie shared so many fun memories and new places that I want to go go to. And thank you so much Josie. I really loved chatting about these today because you know, even though we know each other pretty well, there’s things that always come out.

Josie (50:00):
yes.. don’t we all wish we could go? I want to get on a plane today and go back to Italy. But hopefully sooner rather than later we can all experience Italy again. And actually I’ve got a few places from your list too last week, Katy, definitely. So I think there’s some amazing places that we still need to go to and lots of amazing memories to make there.

Katy (50:22):
Exactly. So now everyone, if you’d like some more information on the places we mentioned in the show, head on over to the show notes at untolditaly.com/20. We really appreciate that you take the time to listen to our show. Do let us know if there’s a topic or place that you’d like us to cover, and we’ll do our very best to make that happen. In the meantime, if you’ve enjoyed listening, please leave us a rating or review and don’t forget to subscribe. Thanks for listening. Ciao for now.

Josie (50:51):
Ciao for now.

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