Italy Travel Highlights 2016

Martha's Italy Top Picks

Here’s a look at the highlights of our Italy travels in 2016. We visited a few new places as well as some old favorites, including the island of Sardinia, the first place I ever went in Italy back in the 1980’s. Our new experiences included visiting Etruscan sites, cooking in Tuscany and exploring Southern Italy’s Cilento coast.

Bauladu, Sardinia

While most people associate Sardinia with beautiful beaches, the island’s interior, dotted with villages and prehistoric sites, has many interesting and unusual places to go. We first came to Sardinia as part of an archaeological dig uncovering a village around a nuraghe, one of many prehistoric stone towers found on the island, in the village of Bauladu, and it’s still one of my favorite places. This year we took the overnight ferry to Sardinia and spent a week staying in a friend’s house in Bauladu, where we had spent 2 summers.

We learned to make cheese and local sweets, ate great food, visited archaeological sites, and explored nearby places, such as the neighboring village of Milas. We re-visited one of my favorite museums, the ethnographic Museum of Contadina Technology and the Sinis Peninsula near Oristano that includes beautiful Roman and Phoenician ruins overlooking the sea.

sardinia countryside photo
Sheep and Rocky Outcrop in Sardinia's Interior
tharros roman site, sardinia
Roman Site at Tharros, Sardinia

Agropoli, Cilento Coast

Campania’s Cilento Coast is a less-crowded and less-expensive alternative to the nearby Amalfi Coast. We stayed in the town of Agropoli, a perfect place for exploring the area. Agropoli has an interesting old town and castle on a hill, a pedestrian zone with shops and restaurants, and a pretty harbor that serves both fishermen and tourists. The Cilento Peninsula has beautiful scenery, small villages, and fantastic Greek and Roman ruins including the well-preserved Greek temples at Paestum and the extensive ruins at Velia.

greek temple at paestum
Greek Temple at Paestum
cilento coast photo
Cilento Coast, Southern Italy

Cooking in Tuscany

Tuscan Women Cook’s new owners invited us to participate in their week-long cooking program based in the small Tuscan hill town of Montefollonico. We took cooking classes taught by local women in several restaurants, visited nearby towns and sites, and of course ate some fantastic food. If you’re interested in a learning vacation, this is a great all-inclusive program. – get details on the Tuscan Women Cook web site or read about our experience with Tuscan Women Cook.

We also had the pleasure of attending a morning cooking class and lunch with Food Artisans, led by our friend Pamela Sheldon Johns at Poggio Etrusco, her organic farm and B&B outside Montepulciano.

Rhonda and Coleen, Tuscan Women Cook
Tuscan Women Cook Owners Rhonda and Coleen in the Kitchen. Photo by James Martin
pamela shledon johns photo
Pamela Sheldon Johns Prepares an Apertivo to Enjoy with Our Class

Etruscan Sites in Southern Tuscany

We re-visited one of our favorite Tuscan hill towns, Pitigliano, an old stone village perched on a tufa ridge with three small main streets and lots of little alleyways. It has an interesting 15th century Jewish Quarter and it’s a great base for exploring nearby Etruscan remains that were carved into the soft tufa rock.

We also explored the area of Populonia, dating from the 9th century BC and the only Etruscan town that had a harbor. There’s a large archaeological park where you can see several types of Etruscan tombs and hike up to the ancient quarry site. The small medieval hill town of Populonia is also worth a visit.

populonia etruscan quarry
Etruscan Quarry at Populonia and the Sea
pitigliano photo
Pitigliano Houses Built on Rock

Assisi, Umbria

The Umbrian hill town of Assisi is another place we hadn’t been for many years but our friend Rebecca invited us to stay in her newly opened Brigolante Town Apartments overlooking Assisi’s main square. We had a wonderful visit exploring the town, visiting the Basilica of Saint Francis, and walking through the recently opened Saint Francis Woodlands, a nice pathway from town to the river below. We also took a day trip to Perugia, one of my favorite cities, to visit a couple of artisan workshops – Giuditta Brozetti maker of traditional hand-loomed linens and Studio Moretti Caselli stained glass workshop and museum.

assisi apartments view
View from our apartment at Brigolante Guest Apartments, Assisi


Rome is one of our favorite cities and a place we visit often. This year we rented an apartment with our friends Anita and Tom from Anita’s Feast and enjoyed a week of exploring the Campo Marzio neighborhood of Rome that’s between Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps, enjoying culinary experiences, and taking day trips. Highlights were a walk on the old Appian Way with Wendy of Flavor of Italy and with a visit to the Villa dei Quintili, suggested by Elyssa of Rome Wise , seeing the Roman houses at the Palazzo Valentini multi-media museum, and taking a day trip to Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli.

photo of trajan's column in rome
Part of Trajan's Column by Trajan's Market in Rome
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villa d'este neptune fountain
Neptune Fountain at Villa d'Este in Tivoli
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agropoli sunset photo
Sunset from the Port of Agropoli, by James Martin

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Italy Travel Highlights 2016 originally appeared on , updated: Mar 05, 2021.