Hello, everyone! I really need your help and any answer is much appreciated. I was wondering if you could tell me where can I find authentic experiences in Italy. I am talking about staying at locals, see how they cook, be a part of their activities and get into their culture. I don't want to sleep in a big impersonal hotel. Can anyone make some suggestions for me?
Thanks a lot!
Hi Adina! There are a couple of things you can do to get a feel for daily life in Italy. First, instead of staying in hotels, try out Airbnb. You can rent a whole apartment or choose to stay in a room in a private home. Read the info and reviews for each property carefully, to get a sense of how "hands on" the host is willing to be.
My other suggestion would be to stay in a few places that are a little more out of the way. To give an example - back in the summer of 2003, my family took two weeks to drive from Venice to Rome. My father wanted to stay in the town of Pistoia for a few nights. It was already a little off the beaten track, but our hotel ended up being awful - noisy, no AC or fans - and this was during a historic heat wave. None of us slept that night, so early the next morning, my mother went down to the local tourism office to find a new hotel. They suggested a brand new business hotel in nearby Lamporecchio. Hotel Antico Masetto was beautiful, and at the time, nearly empty. It was literally the only thing in town catering to travelers. While there was really nothing to do or see in Lamporecchio itself, it was a great base for day trips to Vinci, Florence, Pisa and Lucca.
The best part of staying in Lamporecchio was eating in town. The first night, we ate at the pizzeria across the street. The second night, we wandered to the end of the main drag and picked a restaurant. The waiters and owner hardly spoke any English, my Italian was extremely limited, but they took good care of us, bringing us their house specialties and even throwing in a complimentary round of limoncello at the end of the meal. Walking back to the hotel under the glowing streetlights, we passed people just sitting on their stoops ("buona sera"), or walking around town visiting with friends as the temperature slowly became bearable. It was a unique experience, perhaps the most "authentic" evening we spent in Italy. So while I wouldn't necessarily say "Go to Lamporecchio!" I would advise you to try out some smaller towns, and to not be afraid to go where Italy takes you!
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You can stay at a typical agriturismo which is a great way to do something more authentic, these are usually country inns with great food and even cooking tours. I did one here in Bologna (an amazing city) and here is a post I did on it...also lots of other posts on Bologna so check it out.
I just come back from Roncade (in Venice countryside) where I spent one of the most exciting stay in Italy I never had ... The Castello di Roncade is a breathtaking Renaissance villa (1508) with 8 very historical rooms transformed into B&B. You actually become the private guest of Barone Vincenzo Ciani Bassetti, who is famous for the fantastic wines he produces in the castle. The villa is absolutely gorgeous, with very refined frescoes, 6 meter high ceilings, period furniture and works of arts ... Amazing! Just a few kilometers away from Venice (but without the millions of tourists). Absolutely authentic!
There are plenty other such inspiring accommodation in Italy. You just have to search out of the beaten tracks. Some other ideas:
Bologna: nothing like a medieval tower (12 stories!) for you alone in the heart of this beautiful city (said to be the one in Italy where traditional food is at its finest) ... Try the Torre Prendiparte, for a unique stay in Bologna!
Last but not least, I cannot resist suggesting you an 'albergo diffuso' (diffuse hostel), like the hilltop village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, in the Abruzzo. I've never experienced traditional rural life a more authentic way ...
So much choice ... Let me know where you decided to stay, Gery
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Just chill out, breath and think that Italy must be seen in a slow mood. With this, you will get a real Italian experience!
That would be my fairest answer, enjoy!!!!