Follow your five senses through four of the country’s diverse regions
Artisanal. In America, it’s a buzzword. In Italy, it’s a way of life. And you won’t experience it shuffling single-file past the David, looping the Colosseum or lazing over a glass of wine in Piazza San Marco—though all of those are requisite experiences when visiting the country.
Artisanal Italy exists in the terroir that imbues the people here with authenticity and warmth. It is the intangible souvenir you take with you after tasting olive oil with the farmer who pressed it before your eyes, exploring the secret alleyways of Pompeii with an archeologist who helped excavate the ruins and conversing with a Sardinian in his native tongue. Here are a few highlights from Classic Journeys’ Italy trips.
HEAR The crackling wood-fire teases you. This, Luca tells you, is the only way to make real Neapolitan pizza. And so you wait, your mouth watering in anticipation, as you listen to the made-fresh-last-night mozzarella bubble to perfection in the kitchen of Luca’s private cliff-top home. He’s invited you in for a homemade pizza tutorial, accompanied by a barrel tasting of his family’s wine. The sounds of convivial laughter accompany the gentle lapping of the waves against the rocks on the Amalfi coastline below.
TASTE Alfredo Fallati’s family has been making La Toma del Mottarone, or “mountain cheese,” for generations on the slopes of the 4,500-foot peak that overlooks lakes Orta and Maggiore. Visit his small shop, where he’ll tell you about his all-organic cheese-making process and explain how the high-altitude air, sunny skies and alpine-lake water affect the grass upon which the milk cows graze. And yes, before you leave, sample a fresh slice or two.
TASTE At wineries and commercial vineyards around Italy, wines are aged in barrels before they’re bottled and shipped—down the street or around the globe—for mass consumption. But Sicilians don’t do mass-consumption anything. They make their own wine and store it in terra cotta jugs, as you discover on the island of Lipari, where the owner of a local trattoria gladly pours you a glass and invites you to linger while enjoying the midday views, even though his seaside restaurant is closed for lunch.
SEE There is one hotel in Sicily’s Valley of the Temples, and it’s your home for two nights. The five-star Villa Athena is in the heart of the archeological zone and in walking distance of the temples. You’ll dine al fresco on the hotel’s terrace with unrivaled views of 2,500-year-old Temple of Concordia, illuminated against the night sky.
TOUCH Michelangelo’s David is impressive to the millions of sightseers who visit Florence every year. But for the few travelers who have the unique opportunity to run their fingers across a block of raw Apuane marble—like the one from which David originated—the masterpiece is even more remarkable. As you travel from Chianti to the Cinque Terre, you’ll visit a workshop in Pietrasanta to see how sculptors have meticulously plied stone for thousands of years. Three days later, when you’re standing in front of the statue, you’ll fully grasp the artistry and skill required to bring out its details—David’s furrowed brow and the veins in his right hand—that have made it one of the world’s greatest works of art.
SMELL Patrizia and Massimo live in a 15th century castello in the San Gimignano countryside, where they welcome you in for a home-cooked lunch. Before you sip their homemade wine—made from grapes grown just outside the window—swirl the glass and savor the earthy aroma. You’ll detect notes of Mediterranean Ocean air, Tuscan sunsets, and, of course, amicizia—that’s Italian for friendship.