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Italy

Italy Travel Guide

Italy is a country that needs no introduction. The whole country could be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, this southern European country isn’t just a collection of historical sites; it’s a series of sounds and movements. It’s no coincidence that opera was birthed into this world in Italy. Life in Italy is opera. It’s a voluminous moving masterpiece of generations intermingling, life spilling onto the streets, people gesticulating, laundry hanging and mopeds flying.

We love Italy. We love the Adriatic coast, the whitewashed coastal villages of Puglia, the caves of Matera, the energy of Naples, and the Dolomiti. We invite you to discover the most incredible off the beaten path destinations in Italy.

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Italy Travel Guide

Italy Travel Guide Overview

  • Where to Go in Italy: Map
  • What to Experience in Italy
  • What to Eat & Drink in Italy
  • Italy Travel Basics
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Italy Travel Guide, Matera Sassi

Where to Go in Italy

Click the dots to explore specific off the beaten path destinations in Italy
Italian Alps
Southern Italy
  • Puglia
  • Matera
  • Naples
  • Capri
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In vino veritas.

 

 

 

 

 

Italian Saying

In wine there is truth. 

What to Experience in Italy

Our favorite things to see and do
Hiking in the Dolomites, Italy Travel Guide | Moon & Honey Travel
Seceda, Val Gardena

Hiking in the Dolomites

It’s hard not to gush when describing the uniquely sculpted peaks and pale coloration of the Dolomites, a mountain range in northeastern Italy. When you hike in the Dolomites, you feel like you’re at the meeting place between heaven and earth.

Beyond the scenery, one of the best reasons to hike here is for the comfort, or as the Austrians would say, “Gemütlichkeit.” Much of the Dolomites lies within a province that was formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Austrian love of coziness still permeates the regional culture of northeastern Italy today. And luckily for visitors, that means cozy mountainside huts to sleep and eat in.

There’s a large network of rifugios (mountain huts) across the Dolomites that makes hiking here more accessible. One of our most memorable experiences in Italy was hiking hut to hut in Naturpark Schlern – Rosengarten.

Here are some of our top Dolomites posts:

 
Wonder Woman (2017) Film Set, Matera, Italy Travel Guide
Wonder Woman (2017) Film Set, Matera

The Cave City of Matera

Matera is an ancient city in Southern Italy famed for its cave dwellings that are carved into the mountain, known as the Sassi. In 1993, the Sassi districts were awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Though it’s a tourist destination today, it was actually a very poor region in the 1950s. The people of Matera were evacuated by the government because the living conditions were so bad.

The Sassi are so unique to Italy. As you explore the caves, you might even think you’re in the Middle East. For that reason, Matera is a favorite destination for filmmakers, especially those filming Biblical tales. Some of the films shot in Matera are The Passion of the Christ (2004), The Nativity Story (2006), King David (1985), The Young Messiah (2006). When we visited in 2016, we nonchalantly walked onto the set of Wonder Woman (2017) and saw drop-dead-gorgeous actors clad in market and warrior costumes.

When you visit, you’ll want at least three days here (at least). We highly recommend sleeping in a cave (maybe one with a cave pool) and walking down the deep ravine (Gravina of Matera) to see ancient dwellings and a great vantage point of the Sassi. There are excellent food options throughout the city. Here are two spots we can wholeheartedly recommend.

  • Ristorante Francesca (Vico Bruno Buozzi, 9, 75100 Matera) – This cave restaurant is a dream. The cuisine was quite literally out of this world. We will never forget the epic cheese plate we ate here. 
  • Panecotto (Vico B. Buozzi, 10 Matera) – This casual restaurant specializes in bruschetta and soups. The atmosphere is lovely and the food is simple, but delicious.
 
Monopoli, Adriatic Coast, Italy | Moon & Honey Travel
Monopoli

Driving the Adriatic Coast

The Adriatic coastline is one of our favorite destinations in Italy. This region doesn’t perform a caricature of itself like other popular Italian destinations. It’s more subdued in its charm. More authentic. Puglia’s coastal villages are disarmingly good-looking. Town streets are narrow and rimmed with cactus plants. The whitewashed buildings contrast ever so gracefully against the turquoise sea waters. And, blue fishing boats line the shores and fisherman sell their daily catch.

We recommend visiting the following towns (North to South):

  • Bari (Coast)
  • Polignano a Mare (Coast)
  • Monopoli (Coast)
  • Alberobello (Inland)
  • Martina Franca (Inland)
  • Ostuni (Inland)
  • Otranto (Coast)
 
Alberobello, Italy | Moon & Honey Travel
Alberobello

Dining in a Trullo in Alberobello

Alberobello is a small town in Puglia in southern Italy. The most striking feature of the town is the dense collection of trulli houses. A trullo is a dry stone hut with a conical roof. There are lots of theories regarding the origin of the trulli. One theory is tax evasion. In the 17th century, nobles could impose heavy taxes on permanent structures. Peasant families, who were unable to pay the tax, built their dwellings in such a way (without any mortar or cement) so that they could demolish the hut easily. The conical roof needs the topmost stone to prevent the roof from collapsing. So, someone could pull the stone out, collapse the hut and avoid paying the tax, at any given moment. 

In Alberobello, trulli are actively being restored and used. Most of the huts are habitable and function as stores, restaurants, and hotels.

Now that you’re mildly intrigued, let’s talk about the swoon-worthy and tear-worthy food of Alberobello. Actually, let’s just talk about a place called Trattoria Terra Madre. Located in a trullo, this gift-to-humanity restaurant serves beautifully prepared vegetables, pasta, and meats. Terra Madre sources its ingredients locally and from its organic garden. If a meal can shape destinies, then this meal may have done that. We didn’t become chefs the next day. But, we decided to ditch our respectable lives in our respective cities (Vienna and San Francisco) for something more exciting (living together in one city. Hint: Alaaf!).

 
Capri, Italy | Moon & Honey Travel
Capri

Capri

Capri is an island in the Bay of Naples in Southern Italy. Given its easy proximity to Sorrento and Naples, Capri is a popular day-trip. However, if you stay the night, you’ll discover the unspoiled charm of the island.

We visited Capri in early Spring. For anyone thinking it’s too touristy, you’re right. But, if you venture beyond Capri Town and Anacapri, you’ll be rewarded with untraversed footpaths and remote coastal access.

For a non-ostentatious, yet delicious fish dinner, we recommend Ristorante Buca Di Bacco (Via Longano, 35, Capri) in Capri Town.

 
Neopolitan Pizza at Antonio e Gigi Sorbillo (Via dei Tribunali, 38), Naples, Italy | Moon & Honey Travel
Neopolitan Pizza, Naples

Eating Pizza in Naples

Naples is the capital city of the region Campani in Southern Italy. This lively city animated with swift motorbikes is the birthplace of pizza as we know it. Making a pilgrimage to Naples to taste Neapolitan pizza is something every food lover must do. We recommend eating at Antonio e Gigi Sorbillo (Via dei Tribunali, 38).

There’s so much to experience in this dynamic Southern Italian city beyond its pizza. Here are some ideas for unraveling Naples’ layered history and culture:

  • Tour the Opera House, Teatro di San Carlo
  • Walk the Spaccanapoli in the centro storico
  • Check out the extravagant handmade puppets (Pulcinella) and Crèche work of Naples craftsman along Via San Gregorio Armeno 
  • Eat gelato at Gay-Odin 
  • Have a glass (or bottle) of wine in Piazza Bellini, a lively gathering spot that feels like the heartbeat of the Napoli youth culture.
  • Tour Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo, built in 1470. Don’t miss the 17th-century reliquary busts of 70 martyred saints.

We recommend spending at least 2 full days in Naples. Read this helpful guide on where to stay in Naples to find the perfect accommodation for you.

 
Aosta Valley, Off the Beaten Path Italy Travel Guide
View of Mont Blanc, Aosta Valley

Discover Aosta Valley, the land of Fontina Cheese, Roaming Ibex, and Medieval Castles

Aosta Valley (Valle d’Aosta) is Italy’s smallest region. Surrounded by Europe’s highest peaks and snuggled between France, Switzerland, and Piedmont (Italy), Valle d’Aosta is the ultimate destination for mountain lovers. If you want to experience the beauty of Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco), Europe’s highest mountain, or Gran Paradiso National Park, the Valle is the place to go. 

Learn More: Aosta Valley Travel Guide

 
Wine Tasting in Cantina Tramin, Alto Adige - Italy Travel Guide
Wine Tasting in Cantina Tramin

Tramin and the South Tyrolean Wine Road (Alto Adige)

Tramin is a wine village, situated on the South Tyrolean Wine Road (aka Alto Adige Wine Road) in Northern Italy. It’s also the alleged birthplace of Gewürtztraminer wine. On our way to Aosta Valley, we detoured to Tramin for the sole intention of drinking Gewürtztraminer. “Gewürtz” means spicy in German, and you can really taste the spice in these Tramin wines.

Elena Walch makes sophisticated and elegant world-class wines. We left with bottles of Gewürstraminer Concerto Grosso (2017), Chardonnay Cardellino (2017) and EWA cuvée (2017). There are several ways to visit the winery. If you plan on buying wine, you can head directly to their tasting room. If you want to enjoy a glass (or bottle) of Alto Adige wine with some food, go to their Garden Bistrot Kastelaz “Le verre capricieux”. They also offer winery tours (May – October). If you’re interested in a tour, we recommend making a reservation in advance.

Also, check out the gorgeous tasting room of Cantina Tramin. Here, you can try a huge selection of whites and reds in a modern tasting room that overlooks the wide valley of the Adige River. We loved their Nussbaumer Gewürztraminer and Unterebner Pinot Grigio (2017).

 
Trek around Mount Ortler - Italy Travel Guide
Ortler High Mountain Trail Stage 1

Trek around Mount Ortler in Val Venosta

Mount Orter, or fondly called King Ortles (3,905 m, 12,812 ft), is the highest mountain in the Ortler Alps and the entire Eastern Alps. This prominent mountain is situated in the Vinschgau (Val Venosta) region of South Tyrol. 

We came here to hike part of the Ortler High Mountain Trail, a multi-day trek that circumnavigates the Ortler Group. We loved our experience because of the glacier views, the solitude, and the South Tyrolean hospitality and food. 

Things to Do in the Ortler Alps

  • Hike part of the Ortler High Mountain Trail 
  • Eat Lunch with a view of Mount Ortler at Furklhütte (Rifugio Forcola). You can hike to the hut from Stelvio Pass (highly recommended) in 3 hours, or ascend here by chairlift from Trafoi village. 
  • Stay in Hotel Bella Vista in Trafoi village, when you want great food, wine, hosts, and views. 
  • Wine, dine, and luxuriate in Hotel Burgaunerhof’s panoramic wellness area in Martell Valley.
 
Monopoli, Italy travel Guide

What to Eat & Drink in Italy

Italian Custom: Coperto

Coperto means cover charge. It’s the fee you pay to sit at a table in a restaurant. Generally, the fee is somewhere between 1 EUR and 5 EUR. This may, or may not be advertised on the menu.

 

Italian Gastronomy

Italian cuisine is probably the most loved food globally. For that reason, we’re not going to tell you what to eat. Instead, we want to share with you some of the highlights of our food adventures.

 

Orecchiette in Puglia – In Otranto and Alberobello, we saw pasta shapes we had never seen before. And, my goddesses and gods, were they good. We packed at least 6 bags of orecchiette pasta in our already stuffed backpacks and carried them joyfully back home.

 

Knödel in South Tyrol spinach dumplings, cheese dumplings, ham dumplings. We can sing about dumplings. Our most memorable Knödel experience was in a mountain hut in the Schlern – Rosengarten Dolomites.

 

Espresso in Taranto – it’s really easy to find quality espresso in Italy. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a comfortable place to drink your espresso. Italians drink their coffee like most people drink a shot: at a bar, standing up. The best espresso we had was at a gas station in Taranto. Seated in white plastic chairs on a sea of asphalt, we laughed in disbelief about how good our 80 cent gas station espresso was.

 
Italy Travel Guide, Martina Franca

Italy Travel Basics

Official Name: Repubblica italiana (Italian Republic) 

Capital: Rome

Government: Unitary Parliamentary Republic 

Regions: Italy is divided into 20 regions. Each region, apart from Aosta Valley, is divided into provinces.

Population: 60.6 Million 

Language: Italian is the official language of Italy. In the autonomous province of South Tyrol (Alto Adige) in Northern Italy, German has equal status. 

Currency: Euro 

Payment Culture: Cash

Tipping Etiquette:  A service charge (servizio) and a coperto (cover charge) is automatically added to the bill in restaurants. The coperto is charge for the tablecloth, silverware, etc… For outstanding service, you can round up the bill.

Water Quality: This is somewhat controversial. Many sources say that it’s safe to drink the tap. But, Italians are amongst the greatest water bottle consumers globally. We say, do as the Italians do (especially in old, dense cities.

Something Interesting: Stray cats are protected as “biological heritage” in Rome. It’s estimated that there are 300,000 cats in the Eternal City. The cats are regularly fed by Le Gattare, or Cat Ladies.

Alberobello, Puglia, Italy Travel Guide
@moonhoneytravelers
  • Sunrise in the Karwendel Mountains.

The weather forecast predicted early afternoon thunderstorms, so we woke up extra early and started hiking at 5:30 am. Seeing the sunrise as we crested the Mandlscharte was like entering heaven.

After a long and difficult 9-hour stage, we arrived at @solsteinhaus in rain. Luckily, the thunder never came.

The highlight of this incredible day was meeting @clarazijlstra and @jaqi_sta - two brilliant and talented women who radiate passion and warmth! Hope to see you both again! 💛💛💛
  • Italian Dolomites Tip:

Skip Lago di Braies (Pragser Wildsee) and Lago di Sorapiss and hike to Lago di Coldai instead for a crowd-free alpine lake experience.
  • The 6-stage Karwendel High Trail was one of the highlights of our summer. This hut-to-hut hiking trail traverses part of the Karwendel Mountain Range in Tirol, Austria.

Tips for hiking the Karwendel Höhenweg:

- Make reservations for huts 3-5 months in advance.

- Hike the trail east to west. It’s more common to hike in the other direction, but we think the trail unfolds more beautifully if you hike east to west.

- Hike to Speckkarspitze peak on Day 2 and Kleine Stempeljochspitze peak on Day 3.

- Bring climbing gloves for securely and comfortably grasping steel cables.

We’ll be publishing a Karwendel High Trail Trekking guide next week. Let us know if you have any questions about the route.
  • Kati and I decided to hop over the border to explore the Pala Group for a few days and we’re so grateful and overjoyed to be here.

This magnificent range has something for everyone: easy valley walks to alpine pastures, grueling peak climbs, via ferratas, and so much more. The Alta Via 2 traverses the range as well, which is making us miss our dear friends @susielambie and @jored7 who we met while hiking the AV1 last year.
  • On top of Slovenia. 

@feelslovenia @triglav.national.park
  • Eagle Walk Stage 22, Lechtal Alps, Austria.

The trail starts out gently, descending loamy terrain across grassy slopes.

After several water crossings, the grueling ascent to Grießlscharte commences. 

The hike up Langkar cirque is relentless and unforgiving! It feels like it’ll never end.

Luckily, the final stretch is semi-vertical and secured with cables, delivering you hastily to the Scharte.

As soon as we reached the ridge, we howled at the wind, feeling strong AF.

This trek was unforgettable! We hope more international hikers will discover the beauty and remoteness of the Lechtal Alps.