Italy is one of the most visited (and arguably most beautiful) countries in the world. It has the colosseum in Rome, half the Renaissance in Florence and even Romeo and Juliet in Verona (with a romantic stretch of the imagination. You know they didn't really exist, right?!)
But what if you're looking for more unusual things to do in Italy? Well, you check out this handy list! All tried and tested with my own fair hands. Even the crazy mountaineering one (well, I was younger and bendier back then...)
So without further ado...
High in the north, over to the east, Trieste dazzles with its waterfront and horrifies with its history. Name-checked in Churchill's famous Iron Curtain speech, the 20th century saw Trieste switch from the Austro-Hungarian Empire into the Italian fold.
The result is a fascinating city with a mix of architecture and great food (think sauerkraut and pasta, and that's just for starters.)
But that's not all. Trieste offers so many things to do, from drinking hot chocolate in the footsteps of James Joyce to wandering around tourist-free canals.
Top tip: visit Caffe Tommaseo for great coffee and an interesting glimpse into history.
Head south to the steep, sunshine-flecked coast and, quite literally, walk the path of the gods. It runs between hot spots Amalfi and Sorrento yet provides solitude, authenticity and tourist-free eateries.
Swim in the sea at the start and end of the day and cap it all off with limoncello. In this region, this is authentic, and you'll walk surrounded by lemons.
Insider tip: combine a walking trip with a look at Vesuvius.
Everyone and his wife (or her husband) knows about Tuscany. Those trees that stand tall and pierce the sky. Those rolling hills. That appearance in Gladiator.
What many people miss is just how beautiful Umbria is, and she only lives next door.
Look for slow food, the gardens of Assisi and Etruscan remains that are older than ancient Rome.
Unusual dish: try roasted goose and fried perch fillets in Lake Trasimeno
Carpino overlooks the twinkling Lake Varano, which spills on down through the olive groves to the popular beach resorts of the Gargano National Park.
And every year, this village of 5000 welcomes back its travelling sons and daughters, those who left to find work. What began as a family sing-song and long stories told over deep red bottles of wine has evolved into the region’s biggest folk festival, attracting crowds from all around.
The multi-generation spirit remains, though, as grandmas and grandpas (nonnas and nonnis) take to the stage belting out haunting melodies and giving accordions a good work out as darkness falls.
Insider tip: hire a car from Barri Airport and enjoy drives through the rich forests and sandy beaches near Carpino.
“This is the classic ragù that my grandmother taught me: a delicious, versatile sauce that can be used in many ways. ” Lella from Cuoche in Vacanza
Let's face it. Italian food tastes good. Really good. But only if you know how to make it well. And where better to learn than in Italy?
Don't just spend your time eating. Learn how to make a real ragu as well.
Via ferrata means “iron path” and it’s an adventure sport that began as a survival mechanism during the dubiously named Great War.
The bloody, icy dispute that straddled the Dolomites during the First World War left the Italians in trouble. Just a brief hike from the fashionable ski resort of Cortina, young men battled for their lives on the mountainous border between Austria and Italy.
While the Austrians excelled at mountaineering, Italy found itself with soldiers more used to the sun and sand of the south than the spiky peaks of the north. Their army included men who had never seen the snow, let alone knew how to climb mountains with a crippling load of ammunition on their backs.
Italy had a problem – and the solution was via ferrata.
Today, you can enjoy this soft adventure sport in the Dolomites around Cortina.
Insider tip: if you're a beginner, make sure to hire a qualified guide.
Venice may have trouble with crowds but it's still remarkably easy to slip away and find an untouched spot. The secret? You'll have to find out how to get off the beaten path in Venice here.
Most people visit Chiavenna as a day trip from Milan, or as they're passing into Switzerland. But the Valtellina area deserves more time. Explore deserted mansions, ski slopes, cheese cellars and a network of caves that residents have turned into fine eateries.
Insider tip: try piping hot sciat with Valtellina wine. Perfection!
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