I like to make lists. I don’t know why; it’s just one of those quirks. I like the memes like Five Favorite Words, or Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Me (which I keep meaning to get around to and somehow haven’t quite done it yet).
Today I’m giving a Five List – my five favorite towns in Italy. I’ve done a lot of informal email consulting since I started my blog and this is a question that comes up a lot. Of course, taste is subjective; the places I adore may not suit your ideal, but here are my picks, in no particular order.
Oh come on, you knew this one would be on the list! I lived there for three years and it still feels like home to me. This is an appealing place: it offers amazing architecture, pretty piazzas, and friendly folks. And if that’s not enough for you the food is fantastic and the wine is wonderful. (So why haven’t you been there yet?) There's plenty to read about Ascoli here at the Pinon Tree; just do a search and you'll have reading material to keep you busy for a while.
This is another obvious choice, at least one that habitual readers would have expected. Matera is almost indescribable; it is unique, complex, beautiful, haunting. Wandering the silent Sassi gives me an almost spiritual feeling, while the lively, hip centro up above buzzes with life. Some of the best meals I’ve ever enjoyed in Italy came from simple Materana kitchens. (More about Matera.)
It’s a true contrast that I bought a house in a remote, mountain-top village of 600 people yet I love, love, love Rome. I pledged my undying affection for Italy after about twenty minutes in the Eternal City. It is stylish, vibrant, noisy, beautiful, gritty, distinctive and chaotic all at the same time. I love the feeling of being embraced by millennia of history when I am there. And I feel at home among our “famiglia” there. I echo the sentiments of Princess Anne in Roman Holiday when she said, “Rome, by all means, Rome.”
If you’ve never heard of Sulmona before, you’re about to. George Clooney’s newest movie, The American, was filmed there. This lovely small city is one of Abruzzo’s real gems. Sulmona is famous for its confetti, the sugary almonds that are given out at weddings, but it is also surprisingly upscale, with trendy shops, pretty palazzi and coffee bars aplenty. The evening passeggiata brings out most of the town, with an endless parade of stylishly-dressed residents laughing and walking, eating gelato, meeting and greeting. (More about Sulmona.)
This town is almost too perfect. It’s a picture-postcard type of golden-hued hill town that gleams in the gauzy light and embodies everyone’s image of Italy. As the birthplace of Perugino, it contains some fabulous artwork inside its charming churches. It is surrounded by olive groves, sunflower fields and vineyards. It is at the edge of Tuscany, making it a great home-base from which to see central Italy.
What are your favorite towns in Italia?
Check out my Five List for Foodies to learn where to eat well in these towns!