Music in Unlikely Places: Macerata's Sferisterio Opera Festival

Italy was once divided between east and west by the long Apennine mountain chain that runs down virtually the entire length of the country like an Alpine spine. For centuries, crossing from one side to the other was a long and arduous day of navigating tortuous mountain roads, so many towns nestled in the scenic valleys or perched on hilltops along the route had remained relatively remote.

Il Monte Vettore e la Valle del Menocchia(Photo by Mariano Pallottini via Flickr)

Today, of course, a number of modern, multi-lane highways cut across this natural barrier and traveling across the Apennines is both picturesque and quick. A road trip to visit these mountain towns charmingly untouched by time has become an easy excursion, one which we recently enjoyed when we headed from Foligno in Umbria to the pretty town of Macerata in Le Marche for their annual opera festival.


Christmas in July: What to Expect during a Winter Trip to Italy

The lion's share of visitors to Italy plan their trips during the high season summer months, but Italy in the winter has a singular charm as the cities empty of tourists and locals return to their daily routine, the biggest museums and attractions are delightfully quiet, and the cooler temperatures make it more pleasant to tour, despite the shorter days.

january-travel-italy-ciutravel-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

What can you expect during a winter holiday trip to Italy? Here are some of the seasonal specialties and activities that can be the highlight of a vacation during the most wonderful time of the year:

december-pienza-tuscany-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Christmas in July: Why Winter is the Time to Visit Rome, Florence, and Venice

The torrid heat wave in Italy has been all over the international news. Rome's ubiquitous public drinking fountains have been shut off for the first time in history, wildfires on Mount Vesuvius are darkening the skies over Naples, and Florence and most of surrounding Tuscany have been on red alert for high temperatures for weeks.

Maria in Portofino(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Though Italy is beautiful on any day and in any season, when the mercury shoots sky-high, it can be a challenge to fully appreciate the charm of the Bel Paese. During these languid July afternoons spent digesting our pasta lunch in comfort of a powerful fan, we are reminded of why a winter visit to Italy can be so rewarding, and why now is the time to start planning.

christmas-gubbio-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)


So, You Want to Go to the Beach in Italy...

When the temperatures soar in Italy each summer, a cool break from the sweltering cities of Rome and Florence suddenly seems like a great idea. Luckily, there are very few towns in Italy that are more than a couple of hours from either the Tyrrhenian on the west coast or the Adriatic on the east coast, so you can easily hit pause for a day and relax on the clear waters of the Mediterranean to recharge your travel battery.

(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Unfortunately, you will find that you aren't the only person who has had that bright idea, as Italians love the seaside in the summer and Italy's beaches are usually very crowded, especially on the weekend. But follow these tips and you can still have a relaxing beach break, even on the hottest and most crowded time of year.


Italy's Islands: The Tuscan Archipelago

The Tuscan landscape is known for its rolling countryside, dotted with hilltop villages and covered by a picturesque patchwork of thick oak woods, tidy vineyards, and rich farmland. Lesser known is the region's archipelago, a chain of seven islands including Giglio, Capraia, Montecristo, Pianosa, Giannutri, Gorgona, and Elba located just off the coast that are part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. Beloved for their pristine flora and crystalline waters, these beautiful islands are said to have divine origins: when the goddess Venus emerged from the sea, her necklace broke and seven pearls fell into the water, from which sprang these legendary islands.

Laconella(Photo by Maurizio Abbiateci via Flickr)

The Tuscan Archipelago was Italy's first major marine park and is the largest protected marine area in Europe. Though largely unknown to international tourists, these islands are a popular destination for Italians during the summer months who flock to the immaculate beaches, tiny resort towns, and excellent dive sites. To visit the islands, there is ferry service from the Tuscan coast or the main island of Elba, or you can book a private speedboat to island hop at your own pace.