We’ve been enjoying our time here in Italy, exploring the Italian countryside. After our amazing six months in Mexico, I didn’t think any other country would be as fun. But as it turns out, Italy is just as great. And while there are many things about Italy that have been stressful for us, for the most part, we have been enjoying our time here.
The interplay of ancient history and modern culture is abundant here. And it’s one of the most interesting things to see in Italy. In some small towns in Italy, you can stroll through a historic medieval square, and then turn around and walk straight into an H&M! In Rome, the Colosseum, a building that’s over 2,000 years old, sits blocks away from modern stores and restaurants.
There’s a lot to see and do in Italy. And it’s worth taking some time to venture out beyond the usual sites. While Italy’s cities are certainly beautiful to explore, we have loved experiencing the Italian countryside even more.
Things to see in Italy
For visitors to Italy, visiting the main cities are a must. We loved exploring Rome and Milan. The abundance of museums and activities in these cities show that there are just so many things to see in Italy.
Even smaller cities, are worth visiting. For instance, in Parma, you can learn all about the culinary history of the Emilia-Romagna region. You can take your pick from visiting dairies, culinary museums, sampling local food, or all of the above. Other regions in Italy have their own respective things that they’re known for.
But limiting things to see in Italy to just the cities would be a mistake. Many of the small towns in Italy have their own wonderful charm and allure. Condé Nast recently wrote about the 10 most romantic small towns in Italy. And recently, we spent a weekend visiting the small town of Trento in the Italian Alps. These small towns in the Italian countryside show a completely different side of Italy.
Five ways to visit the Italian countryside
Most of our time here in Italy has been spent in the Italian countryside. The pace of life in the country is much slower. We see people working on the farms early in the morning, while the afternoons are fairly quiet.
While we know there is so much more to life in the Italian countryside than what we can see as tourists, it has been fun taking in what we’ve observed so far. In a way, it’s much like farm life anywhere in the world. What I’ve loved about being out in the country is catching a glimpse of how life in Italy might have been like centuries ago.
If you’re interested in seeing a different side of Italy, far from the bustling cities or historic monuments, here are five ways to experience the Italian countryside.
Stay a farmhouse
One of the best ways to experience living in the Italian countryside is to stay at a farmhouse in one of the small towns in Italy. We found our farmhouse through Airbnb, but you can also look into house sitting opportunities. Our house is in a small commune about 45 minutes outside of the city of Parma. But you can find plenty of places like ours throughout Italy.
As more people move out of the countryside to come to the cities, many of the old farmhouses are sitting empty. What this means for you as a traveler is that farm stays are quite easy to find in Italy. Farm stay vacations, known as agriturismo in Italy, allow travelers to experience life in the Italian countryside.
Road trip through small towns in Italy
If spending an extended amount of time in one small Italian town isn’t possible for your Italian itinerary, consider taking a road trip through the Italian countryside.
Car rental is relatively inexpensive here in Italy. We’re spending less $600 to rent our car here in Italy. If you’re comfortable driving around Italy, and you have an International Driving Permit, plan out a few days to road trip through small towns in Italy.
Take a train ride
If you don’t want to drive, consider taking the train. Many of the small towns in Italy have train stations, including the famous coastal towns of Cinque Terre. You can purchase train tickets and essentially city hop.
Plan day trips into the countryside
If your itinerary doesn’t allow for too many days out in the Italian countryside, you can still experience that side of Italy with day trips. Each of the cities in Italy are surrounded by small towns and communes. Do a little research ahead of time to see what points of interest are outside of the cities that you’re visiting.
In Parma, for example, many of the food-related museums that showcase the culinary traditions of Parma are actually located outside of the city limits. This gives travelers an opportunity to take day trips to the Italian countryside to visit those museums and learn about Italian food culture and history.
Go with an organized tour
If you’re nervous about venturing out on your own, consider taking an organized tour. TripAdvisor is a great place to start to look for tour companies that offer excursions into the Italian countryside. Take a look at the reviews of the companies to see what the high points and low points of each tour.
Going off the beaten path in the Italian countryside
We are really enjoying our time in Italy. I hate to admit this, as I’m a big advocate of families traveling beyond countries like the United States or European countries. But Italy does have its charm.
What I’m realizing though, is that even though we’re in an oft-visited country, there are still ways to venture off the beaten path. Spending time in the Italian countryside, and experience Italian history and culture outside of the main cities is a great way to do this. You can really get a glimpse as to what life in Italy might be like.
Have you visited the Italian countryside? What’s your favorite place to experience country living in Italy?
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