Our Italy travels in 2017 took us to a few new places as well as some old favorites, including Sulmona in Abruzzo and the prehistoric rock art park in the Val Camonica. Our new experiences included the Tuscan hill town of Anghiari, the Friuli coast town of Grado, and three seaside towns near Cinque Terre. Most of these places are off the main tourist track.
Sulmona is the perfect place to discover the food and culture of central Italy’s Abruzzo region. Set in a picturesque position below the mountains, it’s near picturesque small towns and national parks that can easily be visited as day trips. We stayed at the beautifully restored Gramsci 29 Vacation Apartment on the second floor of a historic palazzo. With its large main square and compact historic center, Sulmona is one of my favorite small Italian cities.
Between Lakes Como and Garda, Lake Iseo is a smaller and more laid back vacation spot. 16 small towns ring the lake, most with a lakeside promenade, historic area, and bars, restaurants and shops. Monte Isola, Europe’s largest inhabited lake island, is a car-free island with 11 pretty villages, woodlands, and a small mountain in the center. We stayed at Villa Serioli, comfortable vacation apartments in the centrally located town of Marone on the eastern shore. Just to the north is Val Camonica, home of Italy’s first UNESCO World Heritage site.
Italian Riviera Seaside Gems
In spring we were introduced to 3 small coast towns very near Cinque Terre, offering a less-crowded and more laid-back contrast to the 5 popular and often crowded villages. Levanto, at one end of the Cinque Terre express train line, makes a great base for visiting the area with plenty of restaurants and shops and a good beach. Farther along the coast are the villages of Bonnasola and Framura, easily reached by train, bike or walking from Levanto. We stayed at A Durmi, perfectly located just before the start of Levanto’s pedestrian-only street.
Grado is an island town in the lagoon between Venice and Trieste. We spent a week exploring the small town, enjoying Grado’s many restaurants, and visiting nearby places. We stayed in a comfortable apartment at Residence Hotel Hungaria, perfectly located just off the main street and just outside the pedestrian zone. The northeastern part of Italy is different from other parts you may have visited. Since it’s near Austria and Slovenia, there’s a lot of Austrian and Slovenian influence and German is widely spoken. The ancient Roman town of Aquileia is just a few kilometers away. From Grado we also took a day trip to the interesting city of Trieste near the border of Slovenia.
Although Anghiari is often touted as being one of Tuscany’s most evocative hill towns, it sees fewer tourists than many of them. Anghiari has a charming historic center enclosed by walls, museums and churches, great views, and good places to eat. We stayed at Agriturismo Val della Pieve, a comfortable farm house a few minutes walk from town. Anghiari makes a good base for exploring nearby towns in eastern Tuscany and western Umbria such as Arezzo and Sansepolcro.
Florence Vacation Apartment
After spending time in less-visited places, we ended our 2017 Italy travels with a stay right in the center of Florence as guests at Asso’s Place. This beautiful and well-appointed vacation apartment has a stunning view of the cathedral dome, just a couple of blocks away. If you want to be in the center of things, I highly recommend a few days at Asso’s Place, owned by Piero Asso who was born and raised in Florence and happy to share his knowledge of the city with his guests. Read more about our evening in Florence with Piero Asso including where to eat.
Plan your Italy travels:
- 2016 Martha’s Italy Highlights
- Recommendations for places to go in 2017
- Book train tickets on Rail Europe.
- Italy Travel Planning Basics
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