Updated: Apr 9
A bucket list is unique to the person who compiles it. Here is my personal list of must-have experiences from my own Italian travels. From north to south, from the small experiences to the more jaw-dropping moments. Personal but also relatable. I hope you enjoy a little arm chair travel.
1. Marvelling at the cave homes in ancient Matera.
Sassi di Matera, Basilicata
The historic part of Matera, Sassi di Matera, is a unique part of Italy. If you're venturing south, be sure to visit this paleolithic town. The history is fascinating and the surrounds stunning. And you'll find some delicious regional vegan-friendly dishes too.
2. Meandering around countryside villas
Villa d'Este, Tivoli
A hop, skip and a jump from Rome, Tivoli is an easy train ride away from the busy city. The grounds at Villa d'Este are glorious and the villa is well worth meandering through on a hot summer's day.
3. Staying a night or two in a countryside villa
Villa de Luccheri, Frasso Telesino
Historic stone buildings, fresh air, peaceful surrounds, gorgeous views. Instead of Tuscany, try Benevento, a province in the Campania region, and largely off the tourist radar. Staying at Villa de Luccheri is a treat, friendly owners, who make you feel at home and are happy to provide for their vegan guests.
4. Eating granita in Sicily
Skip gelato and choose granita instead. Mostly made with fresh fruit, sugar and ice, granite is usually vegan (especially the fruit, nut and coffee based varieties). And by the way, it's a perfectly acceptable meal for breakfast.
5. Shopping at local markets (and speaking only Italian!)
Porta Palazzo, Turin
You've got to love the fresh produce at Italian markets. Wonderful quality and low prices. Porta Palazzo market in Turin is one of the biggest open air markets in Europe. Markets are also the perfect place to practice your Italian speaking skills.
6. Taking a pasta class (that’s vegan friendly)
Head south and learn how to make eggless regional pasta. Why south? Most handmade pasta in southern Italy is traditionally made senza uova. This class happened to be ultra vegan friendly. Check out pasta classes by the awesome The Apulian.
7. Visiting small villages perched on cliffs
Sant'Agata de' Goti, Benevento
The ingenuity (and courage) of where Italians build their homes is quite amazing. Hill tops, caves, cliff faces. The southern Italian village Sant'Agata de' Goti is off the tourist track and well worth a visit.
8. Eating pizza in Naples
Does Naples pizza deserve all the hype? Yes, yes it does. As you can see by my smiling face.
9. Visiting the house where my dad grew up
My dad spent the first 9 years of his life in this stone home, filled with family and even animals. After hearing many stories about his home, in 2016 I finally got to see it for myself.
10. Eating breakfast on a balcony overlooking the ocean
Nocelle, Amalfi Coast
I've always dreamed of eating a leisurely breakfast on a beautiful balcony, overlooking the ocean on a clear sunny day. The type of view where you can't tell where the ocean stops and the sky begins. In Nocelle, perched on the slopes above Positano, this dream came true. The gorgeous B&B is Villa Antica Macina.
11. Eating street food
From the south to the north
Unfussy satisfying flavourful food. Be sure to try arancine balls and pane and panelle in Sicily, Roman and Jewish artichokes in Rome and cecina in Tuscany (also called farinata further north).
12. Finding an authentic Venetian mask
Venetian artists are worth seeking out. Authentic hand-crafted character masks, beautifully made. I have a love of theatre, so these quaint artisan shops are a delight. You've just got to take one home.
13. Enjoying views of terracotta roofs
Rustic, red roofs, age-old and filled with stories. A gorgeous birds eye view.
14. Getting some Italian beach action
Isola Bella, Taormina
I'm not a huge beach-goer, but there is no way one should miss out on soaking up the sensory splendour of Italy's beautiful beaches in the height of summer. Clear clean blue water, perfectly hot, blue sky days. The warmth from the pebbles seeping through your skin. Bliss.
15. Stepping back in time in an Ancient amphitheatre
Perhaps a film festival in an ancient Greek amphitheatre isn't exactly authentic, but it's something magical nonetheless. This ancient theatre with views of Mt Etna, as the sun sets over Taormina, is a moment that will sit with you for the rest of your life. You've got the best seat in the house.
16. Taking daily Aperitivo
Aperitivo 'hour' comes alive in the early evening, usually when Italians knock off work and before dinner time. It's one of the liveliest times, especially in summer, to hit the streets, grab a table at a piazza and watch the world go by with a spritz or two and a little snack.
17. Staying in rooftop apartments with a terrace
Places like Airbnb make it easy to stay in beautiful apartments that feel like home. Well, perhaps not quite like home, because home doesn't have the views of historic cities!
18. Discovering vegan Italian restaurants and grocery stores
From north to south, we met the most wonderful vegan business owners paving the way with quality vegan Italian food. This is a round up of the 100% vegan restaurants and shops we visited in 2019.
Links to pictured restaurants/eateries
Il Gelato Amico (Turin)
Vegan Store 83 (Rome)
Origami (La Spezia)
Il Vegano (Florence)
Nandas Burgers (Lucca)
Mezzaluna Restaurant (Turin)
iVegan Eat (Rome)
L'Orto gia Salsamentario (Turin)
Ops Restaurant (Rome)
Pesto di Pistachio (Trani)
Ratatouille Vegan Food (Turin) (2023 closed)
Al 23 Natural and Veg (Milan) (closed)
Haiku Restaurant (Palermo)
19. Seeing captivating views from Anacapri
The bus ride to the highlands of Capri (Anacapri) can be frightening, as the bus drives along the perilously steep cliffs. But the view is worth it, don't you think?
20. Eating all the pasta
It's your god given right to eat pasta in Italy. Every day. All the time. Without fail.
21. Enjoying mouth-watering regional flavours
Taste the vegan delights of each region. In Sicily, we went head-over-heels for sundried tomatoes, capers and pistachios. In the Piedmont region, it was hazelnuts and gianduia chocolate. Fresh porcini mushrooms in Tuscany and taralli in Puglia. Wherever you are, there's plant based delights at your fingertips.
22. Falling in love with Sicilian ceramics
Places like Taormina are an open-air ceramic museum. It's a feast for the eyes.
23. Visiting family
Nothing beats connecting with family for the first time and getting to know each other better. If you don't have family in Italy, there are many ways to connect with locals. Ask questions, listen to their stories, be enthusiastically curious and you will find connections wherever you go.
And what haven't I ticked off my Italy bucket list?
Going to sagre (food festivals)
Seeing the Dolomites (2022 ticked!)
Meandering through the Christmas markets (2022 ticked!)
Cooking up a storm in an epic Italian kitchen
Olive picking and olive oil tasting
Seeing an Italian opera in style
Visiting all the regions
Eating more pasta
And lots more!
So, your turn. What's your Italian bucket list? Do you share any from my list?