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What do you love about Italy?
Its art and cultural heritage. The historical and cultural treasures are spread all over the country, from the big cities to the small hamlets. I love the diverse landscape and nature – from the very south Sicilian Island and coast of Calabria and Basilicata to the Alps in the north, you’ll find beautiful beaches, dramatic mountains, scenic lakes, amazing nature reserves, national parks…
Food, glorious food. Eating in Italy isn’t just to satisfy the palate or for nutrition, it’s a way of life. Like the many dialects of the language, the food is very diverse and varies from region to region.
Last but not least, the people. They have a passion for life, music, food and the closeness of family life, which makes them so interesting and charming.
Which are your favourite Italian destinations?
Puglia. Situated in the heel of Italy, it offers beautiful sandy beaches and rocky coves along the Adriatic and Ionian seas; amazing and unique historic towns like Alberobello (with the mysterious trulli houses), the baroque town of Lecce, the charming towns of Ostuni and Otranto; fresh Mediterranean food with olive oil (the region has more than five million olive trees) and tomatoes that are some of the best in Italy.
I also love Tuscany – it offers something for everybody. From the historic towns of Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, Montepulciano and Pienza (hosting some Renaissance masterpieces in the beautiful churches and palaces), the amazing food and world-renowned wines, to the large sandy beaches and ‘dolce vita’ lifestyle of the Tuscany Coast.
Any favourite hotels?
Having worked for Citalia for 12 years, I have a few! Hotel Belvedere in Bellagio, Lake Como. Beautifully situated 3-star hotel with a 5-star service. Hotel Capri Palace on the island of Capri. It’s epitome of style, with applied modern art, great service, amazing food and a passionate and creative ownership. Finally, Su Gologone in Oliena, Sardinia, which combines a unique mountain location with Sardinian art and décor and traditional, mouth-watering local delicacies. A haven of tranquillity.
Have you come across any ‘hidden gems’ you could recommend?
The quaint little hilltop town of Cisternino in Puglia (about 30 miles from Brindisi) in Itria Valley. Its historic centre is full of whitewashed limestone buildings, narrow lanes, old churches and commanding views down to the valleys.
Also, the stunning picturesque fishing hamlet of Sant Angelo on the volcanic island of Ischia. It’s got some amazing sandy beaches (Maronti and Fumarole), unique beachside thermal spas, great fish restaurants and lovely views from the harbour to the little islet of Torre Sant Angelo, connected to the village by a sand spit.
What’s your top Italian dish or most memorable meal you’ve had in Italy?
My favourite starter is spaghetti alle vongole (a dish from the Campania region). A great combination of clams, white wine, fresh tomatoes, garlic and parsley. The most memorable meal was in Tuscany, trying to fight my way through 900g of T-bone steak alla Fiorentina. The full-bodied Brunello Di Montalcino red did help though…
What would your dream multi-centre itinerary be?
Florence (including the Tuscany countryside), Rome, Puglia, the Amalfi Coast and Sicily. You asked!