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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

  • Italy Travel Basics
  • Where to Go (Map) in Italy 
  • What to Experience in Italy
  • What to Eat & Drink in Italy
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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.

Italy Travel Guide, Matera Sassi

Where to Go in Italy

Click the dots to explore specific off the beaten path destinations in Italy
Destinations
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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

The Heart of the Italian Alps: Aosta Valley

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. 

Read our Aosta Valley Travel Guide to find out what to experience in the land of Fontina cheese, roaming ibex, and medieval castles.

 
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).

 
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.

 
Alberobello, Puglia, Italy Travel Guide
@moonhoneytravelers
  • Living with Kati‘s Parents in Lockdown (Part 3). Do you know how to make lockdown/isolation/quarantine MISERABLE?  Kati’s family figured it out!  FAST😳! Fast as in the verb. Fast as in “abstain from food.” Fast as in cleanse. Fast as in 6 days of misery.  Yup, we’re fasting over here. It’s day 4 of starving and I’m not a happy camper.  To make the fast more effective, we’re eating Japanese apricots 🍑in the morning, which helps flush and detox your body. Sounds tasty, right? Well it’s freakin painful. Kinda feels like having food poisoning🤒. Anyway, if I live to see Friday, I’ll be treating myself to a pound of Sachertorte.  In all seriousness, this is kinda the ideal time to do a detox/fast. I can’t make any excuses (e.g. going to work, not enough time, dinner invitation, events, need energy to hike, etc...). And, it’s a real test in self-discipline - not my strongest trait.  Thank you Kati for pushing me to become a stronger 💪and healthier person. I’ll endeavor to be more gracious in the future.  Photo: Punta de Teno, Tenerife
  • Having a super productive day listening to “How you remind me” (more than once) 🙈, scrolling through period drama Instagram accounts (there are so many) and thinking about how it’s time to watch The Last of the Mohicans again.  What did you do today??
  • Living with Kati’s Parents in Lockdown (Part 2). See yesterday’s post for Part 1.  Living in the Austrian countryside with Kati’s parents had some huge advantages.  1. I get to master Austrian phrases like “Es ist mir Wurst” (it’s sausage to me), which means “I don’t care/ it doesn’t matter,” and my favorite expletive, “Geh scheissen,” which means “Go take a shit!!” 🙊  2. There are so many adorable childhood photos ⚽️of Kati around the house.  3. Watching Kati’s parents interact really proves that long-lasting, loving relationships do exist. ❤️Kati’s mom’s eyes still sparkle when she looks at Kati’s dad! They tease each other and explode into laughter every day.  4. Countryside living is super peaceful. 🌾We’re surrounded by farmland and vineyards. There’s no noise and hardly any traffic.  5. I get daily insight into why Kati is the way she is: patient, clumsy (breaking things), meticulous (especially with laundry), and unflappable.  6. Kati’s mom has an extensive doTerra collection. For those unfamiliar, doTerra is the Rolls-Royce of essential oils. That means I get complimentary doTerra treatments for sore muscles, insect bites 🦟 , and fatigue.  7. We have so much space. After living out of a backpack for months, it’s amazing to just settle in and use a closet.  Photo: Teno Mountains, Tenerife followed by photos of Kati growing up.
  • Living with Kati’s Austrian Parents in Lockdown.  So, first off, I'm extremely grateful that we have a safe landing place right now. If it weren't for Kati's parents, we'd be homeless.  But OH MY GOODNESS, living with your partner’s parents as an "adult" can be quite the test.  Here’s my life right now 😂  1. Kati's Mom says to me everyday (at least 3 times a day) “Isst du schon wieder??” (Are you eating again?) or “Hast du schon wieder Hunger? (Are you hungry again?) I’m not sure what she’s trying to say. 🍽  2. Kati's Mom also regularly inquires about my digestion. 💩 #pooptalk  3. I don’t understand Kati’s Dad. He speaks an Austrian dialect that probably most Germans wouldn’t even be able to understand. 🇦🇹 So, we can’t communicate and it’s often AWKWARD.  4. Kati’s Mom loves to show us her yoga positions. 🧘‍♀️ She’s been practicing yoga for years and she’s pretty damn good. But, we’ll be cooking dinner, and she’s like: watch me do Sirsasana.  5. Kati’s Dad thinks pants 👖 are optional.  To be continued.  Photo: Anaga Mountains, Tenerife. Finally published a few posts about our time in the Canary Islands > www.moonhoneytravel.com
  • Austria Lockdown Day 12.  As we settle into life in lockdown, I keep thinking about “time.” In some ways, time has stopped, or at least significantly slowed down.  There’s a whole lot we can’t do right now. We can’t go out for dinner. We can’t meet friends. We can’t go to a Therme. We can’t plan future trips.  The funny thing about all these constraints is that it’s creating space for new things… new thoughts, new routines, new activities.  Instead of planning trips and adventures and fantasizing about the future, I’m committed (more than ever) to today, just today.  I’m starting my morning with more intention. I’m taking time to breathe and sit in child's pose. I’m writing without pressure to post. I’m drinking more tea and likely eating way too many Manner Schnitten. And, I’m using my new electric lint remover with a vengeance.  How’s life in lockdown going for you?  Xo
Sabrina
  • How’s everyone doing?  Sabrina here. The last few days have been challenging. I’m so grateful to be healthy and safe right now. But, I’m also exhausted. Seeing our income disappear in a matter of days has been pretty unsettling.  I know lots of you are in the same boat.  Lately, I’ve been inundated with messages on how to stay healthy, active, productive, and creative during this time of self-isolation.  There are tons of helpful resources floating around, but it feels a bit overwhelming. It feels like everyone is telling me how to use this time to become a better version of myself.  And, while I very much want to grow and learn, I’m not loving how so many influencers/brands/businesses are leveraging this crisis to push their product/service forward.  That being said, I’m definitely interested in how you are all staying happy and sane in these chaotic times.  Here are a few things that are helping me right now:  #1 Taking daily walks around my neighborhood.  #2 Listening to @karaloewentheil (Unf*ck Your Brain Podcast) when I’m feeling anxious.  #3 Starting my day with the Miracle Morning by @Hal_elrod.  What are you doing to feel energized and happy?  Xoxo
Sabrina