Now that summer vacation is in full swing, thoughts of Italy come to mind as a lot of travelers visit the big three: Rome, Florence and Venice – with Amalfi Coast right behind them in terms of popularity. But what some relish is the path less traveled – Umbria, Piedmont Region, and Sicily.
With a perfect geographical location, just one hour by car or train from Rome or Florence, Umbria is an ideal destination for those in search of art and culture. The region is celebrated as “the Green Heart of Italy” for all the olive groves and vineyards, which populate this area. Stay in Relais il Castello – a historic residence in a medieval village named Monte Castello di Vibio near Perugia (the capital of Umbria) where you can take a cooking class at the hotel or visit the nearby Arnaldo Caprai Winery. A very reasonable accommodation with all the comforts of home, but with a unique ambiance that will definitely remind you that you are in Italy, not Connecticut. What’s more, you can rent a car and use it as a base to explore other towns such as Assisi, Perugia, Siena, Florence or Rome.
In the Northern area of Italy, to the west of Milan, you will find the vineyards of the Piedmont region with Turin as the largest city – featuring the Shroud of Turin and three great museums, one of the world’s largest Egyptian museums, a National Cinema Museum and an Automobile museum. Bordering Switzerland and France, Piedmont is surrounded on three sides by the Alps, with the highest peaks and largest glaciers in Italy. The Monviso area has many ski resorts for winter sports enthusiasts and the Langhe and Monferrato areas are more hilly with beautiful vineyards and small towns and castles. Lake Maggiore is the most sought-after tourist resort in the lakes regions, including Stresa and the Borromean Islands, with ancient villas surrounded by beautiful lawns and gardens.
Sicily is another area – off the beaten path – that many people don’t get to explore on a typical tour of Italy. Some cruiselines stop in Taormina since Sicily is an island in the heart of the Mediterranean. But with all of Sicily’s riches, a land tour gives you a deeper dive into this area known for its ancient ruins and seaside resorts – with some of the best seafood in Europe. And of course, there’s the Cannolis. In The Sicilian, a 9 night Globus tour, visit cities such as Palermo, Marsala, Ragusa, Agrigento, and Sycacuse. In Agrigento, for example, you can walk through the amazing Valley of the Temples, dating back to the 6th century BC. Even travelers who have visited Athens are awed by the gigantic, but graceful Greek structures. In Savoca, a very traditional Sicilian village, visit the Church of Santa Lucia, made famous as a location for Michael Corleone’s wedding in The Godfather.
When we experience hidden gems, we become travelers – not just tourists.