This article may contain compensated links. See our full disclosure here
Even if you can’t be there in person, a virtual trip to Italy is good for the soul.
Do you dream of Italy? I sure do, but as we live on the other side of the world we can’t be there as often as we would like. So to keep my connections to this beautiful country strong while we await our next trip, I like to immerse myself into Italian culture, food and language as much as I can.
If you’re dreaming of Italy but can’t make it there any time soon here are my favorite ways to bring a little piece of bella Italia into your life.
Eat and cook Italian FOOD
There is nothing more Italian than eating and enjoying food. When I am missing Italy, cooking up my favorite dishes takes me back there in a single bite. From a simple pasta pomodoro to my favorite melanzane (eggplant) parmigiana and decadent tiramisu, it’s an easy way to enjoy a little piece of bella Italia every day.
Best Italian cookbooks and resources
Even if you don’t have a lot of confidence in the kitchen, Italian cooking is wonderfully simple and easy to master. And there is no shortage of cooking books dedicated to Italian food. Find a style that you prefer and start with making simple pasta and sauce dishes.
Here are some of our favorite Italian recipe books to get you started:
- Jamie Cooks Italy – celebrity British chef Jamie Oliver was trained and mentored by some of Italy’s best chefs. His love for Italian cuisine knows no bounds and he keeps his recipes simple and easy to follow. We’ve been using his pizza dough recipe for years and you will never look back once you’ve tried his version of the classic chicken cacciatore hunter’s stew
- Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking – Marcella Hazan introduced Americans to many traditional Italian dishes in this classic book. In you won’t find pictures but instead consider it a guide to techniques, ingredients and recipes that are typical in Italian cuisine
- Pasta Grannies – cookbook to accompany the YouTube channel of the same name. In this collection you’ll find recipes for basic ravioli and ragu and a mouthwatering pasta basket with ricotta and lemon
Plus some of our go-to Italian recipe sites:
- Italy on my Mind – Paola shares beautifully photographed and very tasty dishes focused on seasonal produce
- Emiko Davies – Florence based cook and photographer Emiko has a beautiful collection of regional Italian recipes to explore
- Jamie Oliver – this huge online collection of recipes includes instructions for pizza fritte and cannoli!
If you want access to Italian ingredients and produce and are not near or able to access a specialty store, check out our favorite Italian pantry items on Amazon including this chocolate hazlenut spread – a Nutella alternative – delicious!
Learn to make pasta live with Nonna Nerina
Nonna Nerina is famous on AirBnB experiences thanks to over a thousand 5 star reviews. Her enterprising grand daughter Chiara has found a way to live stream her 84 year old nonna’s pasta class live to you from their home in a lovely village just outside Rome. You’ll learn to make pasta from scratch and some family recipe secrets – not all of them though! >> Click here to check class times
Nonna Nerina is often sold out and hard to book into so here are some other options
- Take Walks / Walks of Italy run pasta and pizza making classes weekly with chefs and cooks based in Italy. The $US 10 class fee also includes a $US 25 voucher for tours around the world valid for 2 years > browse classes
- If you’re looking for a private cooking experience try Withlocals. Book in a time to learn the secrets of Tuscan pasta making with a local expert > class details
Learn modern Italian cooking with Massimo Bottura
Massimo Bottura is head chef at Osteria Francescana in Modena – twice voted the best restaurant in the world. I’d love to eat there one day but his online English language cooking course might be the next best thing!
Massimo is a really fun guy with some great ideas on sustainability and assisting people who are socially and economically vulnerable. In this course Massimo teaches you how to transform classic Italian recipes into exciting modern dishes. You’ll learn how to make tagliatelle al ragù, pumpkin risotto, and a MasterClass-exclusive Emilia Burger recipe > course details
Watch Italian movies or films set in Italy
How lucky are we to have movies and tv shows available at the click of a button to immediately transport us to where we want to be. Now I know it’s not the same as actually being there but there’s nothing like beautifully produced Italian scenes to soothe the soul.
Favorite Italian movies and films set in Italy
Life is Beautiful (La Vita e Bella). Set in Arezzo, Tuscany at the outbreak of Wold War II, Roberto Bernigni’s Oscar winning film tells the love story of bookshop owner Guido and Dora. As the war and persecution of Jews gathers pace, and their family is torn apart by the war, Guido guides his young son through the trauma with imagination and grace. This is my favorite film of all time and it’s beautiful to watch when you’re feeling hopeless in times of adversity.
A Room with a View – Merchant Ivory’s production of the classic novel by E.M. Forster perfectly captures the beauty of Florence and surrounding countryside. Swoon worthy views from the pensione overlooking the Arno river ensure you’ll covet a room with a view in Florence too. The contrast between Italian and British culture is laid bare as the heroine, Lucy Honeychurch, undergoes her own awakening under the Tuscan sun.
Roman Holiday – starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck star in this fun story about a modern day princess who escapes the confines of her strict life and has an adventure in Rome. Gorgeous frocks, romance and scooter rides around the sights of Rome in 1950s style make this movie a must watch for pure escapism.
Want more movies? Here are some favorite movies set in Italy to add to your watch list.
Take a virtual tour to Italy’s favourite sites
We love this initiative by Take Walks (Walks of Italy) to bring the Colosseum into your home. Known for their first class guides and knowledge of Italian history and culture, an expert from Take Walks shows you through you one of the world’s most iconic buildings on this virtual experience followed by q&a with the guide.
At only $US 10 per tour this is a great way to test out if their tour style. They’re also offering attendees a $US 25 voucher (valid for 2 years) to spend on tours in Europe and the USA >> click for details
If you’re looking for a more intimate experience, Withlocals offer private online experiences for up to 10 participants. Discover the mysteries of Pompeii, Venetian secrets and more with your personal tour of some of Italy’s best known cities and sights. You can even prepare aperitivo with a host from Rome! Cin cin! > browse private online experiences
Our friends at the Roman Guy / Tour Guy have also started a fantastic initiative to support their tour guides in Italy. Join one hour online virtual tours of the Vatican, Ancient Rome and Florence with live Q&A with their fun, passionate and knowledgeable guides after the tour.
What a great way to get a preview of what you will see in person when you get to Italy. I have done several tours of the Vatican with the Tour Guy and learn something new every time. All proceeds go directly to the guides themselves to support them while Italy remains in lockdown. If you want to watch as a family then you only need to buy one tour >> click here to book your tour
Read books about Italy
Are you a book lover? I fell in love with Italy through the pages of books and I love to explore Italian culture, cities and regions through written words to this day.
- A Room with a View – E.M. Forster’s classic coming of age story of an Englishwoman discovering Italy (and herself) in Florence
- My Brilliant Friend – the first in a brilliant four part series of novels exploring the lives and friendship of two women growing up in Naples in the 1950s by Elena Ferrante. I read all four in two weeks – full review here.
- The Agony and Ecstasy – the epic biography of genius Michelangelo that transports you straight into Renaissance Florence.
For more reading inspiration, check out our huge list of books set in Italy and about Italy.
Watch TV shows about Italy
TV Dramas set in Italy
- Medici: Masters Of Florence – highly dramatized series exploring the rise and fall of the ruling Medici family in Florence. Starring Richard Madden and Dustin Hoffman, it is an entertaining series that is loose on historical accuracy.
- My Brilliant Friend [HBO] – 2018 adaption of the beloved books by Elena Ferrante following the lives of friends Lila and Lenu growing up in Naples in the 1950s. The second season starts streaming in 2020
- The Borgias [Showtime] – 3 seasons of high drama starring Jeremy Irons and Holliday Grainger tracking the impact of one of Rome’s most powerful families, the Borgia, through the Renaissance era.
- Rome [HBO/BBC] – historical drama that chronicles Ancient Rome’s transition from Republic to Empire.
- Inspector Montalbano [RAI/BBC]- Italian series about a fictional detective in Sicily. With subtitles
- Gomorrah [Sky Atlantic ] – equal amounts grit and drama in this series about organized crime in Naples
Italy travel shows
- Dream of Italy [PBS] – American travel writer Kathy McCabe explores the places and people of Italy
- Rick Steve’s Europe – Travel writer Rick Steves takes us to 21 popular places throughout Italy
- Travel Channel’s Italy episodes – includes several featuring chef Anthony Bourdain
- BBC travel – stories to inspire travel to Italy
Italy food and wine shows
- Jamie Cooks Italy [Channel 4 UK] – celebrity chef Jamie Oliver eats and cooks his way around Italy with mentor Gennaro Contaldo
- Chef’s Table [Netflix] – Season 1, Episode 1 – Massimo Bottura (head chef of Osteria Francescana – twice voted best restaurant in the world; Season 4, Episode 2 – Corrado Assenza (Sicilian gelato); Season 6, episode 2 – Dario Cecchini (renowned Tuscan butcher)
- Vincenzo’s Plate [YouTube] – Vincenzo takes us on a food journey around Italy with his nonna, family and friends
Learn to speak Italian
Italian is such a beautiful and expressive language. It pulls you in and makes you smile when you hear it spoken. There are so many ways to brush up on your Italian these days if you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced speaker.
Want to get beyond a friendly “Ciao!”, “Buongiorno!” or “grazie”? Then invest some time in your language skills. Take advantage of free online resources like Duolingo – an online platform and app that uses game-like lessons to accelerate your learning.
Or, if you’d like to focus on pronunciation and conversational Italian these podcasts
- Coffee Break Italian – 15-30 minute lessons focused on building confidence around every day experiences using Italian
- 5 minute Italian – bite sized fun Italian language lessons
- News in slow Italian – current affairs for those with an intermediate understanding of Italian
For those of you who like or need a more structured approach, we are working through the Rocket Italian program. This three stage course (beginner, intermediate and advanced) uses a variety of techniques to get you speaking and reading Italian quickly.
Use the voice recognition technology to perfect your accent and learn at your own pace with easy to digest 20 minute lessons. Everyone learns differently, so it’s a good idea to test out what works for you. Access the Rocket Italian free trial and try it for yourself.
Visit Italian museums and sites with your laptop
The internet gives us the opportunity to admire the art masterpieces and historical artefacts on display in Italian museums like the Uffizi Gallery, Pompeii archaeological site and the Vatican Museums. These days you don’t have to leave your home to discover the treasures of these famous locations. Here are some of our favorites:
- Sistine Chapel – stunning 360 views of one of the most beautiful and most visited paintings on the planet. Use the zoom function to examine Michelangelo’s masterpiece for yourself.
- Uffizi Gallery – this video shows some of the many highlights of the Uffizi in Florence including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and the Caravaggio Medusa.
- Pompeii – there’s no narration but this walk through Pompeii shows you the scale and size of the city destroyed when Vesuvius exploded in 79AD
Google also has a project to document major cultural sites in Italy in conjunction with UNESCO and the Italian government. You can browse many sites and cities across Italy via the Wonders of Italy project.
LISTEN TO ITALIAN MUSIC
Can you visit Italy in a song? Of course you can! We asked our Italy Travel Planning community to nominate their favorite Italian songs and created this playlist from the answers. You’ll find classic tunes from Andrea Bocelli, Paolo Conte and Il Volo.
Or, if you just need more Andrea Bocelli in your life, download his greatest hits!
Browse the Internet for inspiring content
There are almost too many resources to choose from on the internet so we’ll share our favorites across the many platforms at your disposal.
Blogs and websites
- Italy Magazine – online publication dedicated to all things Italian – culture, food, travel and even property
- Italian Tourist Board – discover the places to go and things to see across each of Italy’s beautiful regions
- Atlas Obscura Italy – explore quirky places and curiosities across “the boot” including a bookshop that uses gondolas for storage in Venice and a keyhole where you can look through three countries
Top inspiration articles from our sites
- Beautiful Tuscan towns
- Our favorite fountains in Rome
- Picturesque towns of the Italian Riviera
- The best beaches in Calabria
Italy Instagram accounts
A little Insta-escapism never hurt anyone. Here are some of the best accounts to fuel your Italy wanderlust
- @borghiitalia – a collection of the prettiest towns and villages in Italy posted daily
- @nickipositano – escape to the Amalfi Coast with gorgeous images and scenes from southern Italy
- @italy_bestplaces – all the incredible sights of bella Italia in one beautiful feed
YouTube Italy content
YouTube is very popular however there aren’t too many channels specifically dedicated to Italy. Here are some that you can get lost in for hours
- Rick Steves’ Italy playlist – hours upon hours of Italian history, culture and sights from the ever prolific American traveler
- ProWalk tours – no narration and really just a guy walking through places with a camera strapped to his head but it really does give you the unedited view of what your trip to Italy will be like
- The Roman Guy / The Tour Guy – informative and fun videos with Italy travel tips and inspiration from one of our favorite tour companies
If you haven’t checked out our Untold Italy podcast then head on over for discussions on the highlights of major destinations, Italian food and wine and general travel tips for your trip to Italy. If you love listening to podcasts then I can also recommend
- Italian Wine Podcast – exactly what it says on the bottle
- A History of Italy – bite sized insights into important events in Italian history
- Rick Steves Audio Tours – Rick takes you on a walk through some of Italy’s famous sights including the Colosseum
Latest episodes from our Italy travel podcastClick here to browse all episodes
Shop Italian made goods and gifts
What you discover when you visit Italy is that Italians are master artisans and craftspeople. Great care and attention is paid to the quality of materials used whether they are creating a designer leather bag, a moka coffee pot or a bottle of wine. Often traditions and skills have been passed down over many generations. So the products you buy are themselves steeped in history
When I can’t be in Italy then I like to have a few beautifully made things that remind me of the time I spent there. My favorite fragrance from Capri, this Alessi cheese grater for my pasta and Gray Malin’s stunning coffee table Italy photography book to thumb through.
You can browse our shopping guide more of our favorite products and Italian themed gifts.
Make a photo book of your last trip to Italy
Do you have hundreds of photos of your trip to Italy sitting on your phone or laptop? I do! Actually thousands. There’s no better way to relive the memories of your trip to Rome, Tuscany or the Amalfi Coast than to browse your curated photos in a beautiful album of cherished memories.
Create a photo book and you’ll need to select your favorite snaps and arrange them. Spend time reminiscing over past vacations and adventures while you create your book and those memories will come flooding back. If you want your book to last, along with your memories choose a professional quality photo book. We like Blurb’s print on demand service where you can choose from a range of sizes and layouts – you can check out the options here.
Plan your travel to Italy
To be honest, planning our next trip is my most favorite way to bring a little piece of Italy into my life. I love gathering inspiration, mapping out itineraries and choosing accommodation for adventures to come.
If you want to get started planning your next trip then head over to our article on planning a trip to Italy that takes you step by step through the planning process.
Other useful resources from our websites:
- Want to know the best time of year to visit Italy? Click here
- Read our guide to the costs of a trip to Italy
- Choose a guidebook from our selection of best Italy travel books
- A fast paced 10 day itinerary for first time visitors
- The best booking sites for travel to Italy
How will you take a virtual trip to Italy?
So no matter how long it is between visits, you can always go to Italy through your tastebuds, your television, your mind and your dreams. Italy is waiting.