Our guest Melanie Renzulli is the founder of Italofile.com, the Italy Travel Resource. In addition to her Italy travel website, Melanie has written or contributed to several Italy guidebooks, including “The Unofficial Guide to Central Italy” and Michelin’s Green Guides for Italy, Rome, and Tuscany. She also writes about Italian cities for About.com.
We got in touch with Melanie (via email) and asked her to help us plan an Italian getaway.
What are some of the must-see locations and attractions in Italy for those who have never been? Are there any off the beaten path spots that travelers shouldn’t miss?
There’s a reason why the Rome-Venice-Florence triangle is so popular. All of those cities are iconic of Italy, yet each has its own unique look and mood. In Rome, you’ve got the ruins, the Vatican, the buzz of the big city. Venice has canals, romance, and mystery. Unbelievable Renaissance splendors and art await in Florence. If you’re visiting Italy for the first time, you must visit at least one of these cities if not all three. Even easier, of course, is dwindling it down to Rome and Florence which are connected by train and highway. There are too many off-the-beaten-path areas that I could suggest for first-timers, with the easiest being the small towns sprinkled throughout Tuscany and Lazio (the regions in which Florence and Rome are located, respectively).
Are there any special events or festivals in Italy that are worth planning a trip for?
It feels like there are always special events and festivals going on in Italy, from “sagre” (often food festivals devoted to a particular ingredient) to musical events to festivals rooted in medieval tradition. The Palio, a medieval horserace in Siena (Tuscany), comes to mind as a spectacular sight to see, though it’s extremely popular and requires ample planning. If you’re visiting in winter (the least expensive season), there are numerous Carnevale celebrations going on around the peninsula, with the most famous in Venice. In the fall there are many festivals focused on mushrooms/truffles, wine, pork, hazelnuts, etc. Planning your Italy vacation around eating is always a good idea!
What is your favorite time to travel to Italy?
Italy is spectacular in the spring when everything is bloom. But I’m particularly fond of early fall, when the weather is starting to get nippy and it’s both warm and cool enough for Romans to don their incredibly fashionable duds – leather jackets, tall boots, etc. Autumn weather is also ideal for long walks around town doing sightseeing or shopping as well as for enjoying multiple glasses of red wine.
Any tips for saving money once in Italy?
I think the easiest money-saving tips for Italy are living more like a local as much as possible. Consider staying in self-catering accommodations, which have kitchenettes. While going out to dinner in Italy is one of the highlights of visiting, it’s also a pleasure to visit the food markets and stock up on fresh produce, fruit, crusty breads, cheese, olives. As far as sightseeing, most cities have city passes that allow you to see multiple museums or attractions for a single entry fee. Also, don’t be afraid to take long walks. Getting lost seeing the sights is half the fun of it.
For the latest Italy travel tidbits, follow Melanie on Twitter @italofileblog.