A Slow Roll Through Northern Italy

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Advisor - Allen Bartimioli
Curated By

Allen Bartimioli

  • Food & Wine

  • Italy

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Romantic

  • Greatest Hits

  • Bucket List

A Slow Roll Through Northern Italy
Curator’s statement

Our second trip to Italy was very different than our first. The first time we went, we assumed that it would be our once-in-a-lifetime trip to the country of my family. I am a second generation, full-blooded Italian from the US. On that first trip, we planned to see all of the iconic cities from Rome north. We had itineraries and tickets to many famous sites in Venice, Rome, Florence and the Cinque Terre. We saw those and were, of course, blown away. But it was during a little side trip between Rome and Florence that something happened. We stopped at the small, walled, medieval town of Orvieto. We slow walked the cobblestone streets, visited the local artisan shops, tasted wines, ate a simple lunch and, obviously, had some gelato. That night we went to a very small village called Montefioralle. This fairytale village sits on a hilltop surrounded by olive orchards and vineyards. We had dinner at a restaurant and had our first bistecca Fiorentina and a lot of other food, much of which we did not order, they just wanted us to try things. It was then that my wife said, “I could have done this day the entire time.” While I am glad I saw the Collesseum, the Doges Palace, the Roman Forum and the Uffizi Museum, her sentiment resonated with me. So we returned.

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On our second trip, we flew into Milan, rented a car and drove to the region of Aosta. Aosta sits where France, Switzerland and Italy Join in the northwest corner of Italy. While in the city of Aosta we stayed at a flat of a house. While in Aosta and drove through the alps-seeing the Matterhorn, Mt. Bianco, Parco Nazionale Paradiso, drove through a 17-mile tunnel to France and around to Switzerland, then through Monte San Bernardo back to Aosta in a few hours. We were there for five nights.

We then headed to central Tuscany, stayed in a small village called Chianciano Terme and took day trips to visit tiny enchanted villages. Our hotel was the Hotel Villa Ricci. Nothing fancy but a clean hotel with great customer service and a fantastic breakfast. One day we would head north, the next south, etc. The food, wine and scenery were like living in a dream. We were there for six nights. Our hi-lights were Pienza, Montalcino, Orvieto and our very favorite, Montepulciano.

Finally, we went to Ascoli Piceno, Le Marche on the Adriatic side. This fabulous medieval town is a hidden crown jewel of Italy. The Piazza Del Popolo is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. There are scattered Medieval villages throughout the region. From Ascoli, a day drive in any direction will reveal castles and churches, amazing food and wine and the warmest people you will ever meet. There are multiple National Parks in the region as well including Monte Sibilini NP, and Gran Sasso NP. We also visited San Benedetto Del Tronto on the coast. This beach town is only about 17-miles from Ascoli and Has incredible Seafood. We had a seafood FEAST at the Ristorante Nautilus. While in Ascoli we stayed at Il Giardino Segreto, a B&B in the Centro Storico of Ascoli. Il Giardino Segreto is a converted renaissance villa including a room in a tower overlooking the city. They include a cook to order breakfast.

We flew from Phoenix, AZ, stayed in a hotel, an Airbnb and an ancient tower. We ate great food, drank great wine, rented a car and drove everywhere. We were there 17 nights, met wonderful people and filled our suitcases with souvenirs.

Two years later we returned to see southern Italy and Sicily. I'll share that experience in another guide. To keep the cost down, all you need to do is avoid the hot-spots, be ready to buy airfare about five months out, look for inexpensive places with high ratings and you will find Italy to be a wonderful-inexpensive journey through Paradise. At the time of this writing we have visited Italy four times. I can help you with all of that.

Here are some key takeaways from our journey: 1) Don't be afraid to drive in Italy as long as you avoid big cities. 2) In Italy, off-the-beaten-path is just as awesome as iconic locations. 3) Get off of the Autostrade and drive the backroads. You don't need to spend a fortune to enjoy Italy. 5) Don't forget to have your daily gelato.

Need to Know

This trip report is part of our ongoing series on travel to Italy. In need of further inspiration? Check out Rileigh Tower’s guide, The Hidden Gem of Italy: Lake Maggiore.

Advisor - Allen Bartimioli

Travel Advisor

Allen Bartimioli

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