Italy is a self-saboteur. The country complains about overtourism but it keeps finding itself as the backdrop in the world’s favorite TV shows.
Italy can’t help herself. She looks beautiful, as always, on screen. And she can’t pass up a chance to be the setting of a hit TV show. Of course, that leads to a boom in tourism. This leads to more people falling in love with Italy’s gorgeous settings. Yada yada yada…it’s a vicious cycle.
Now that the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us — or is just pausing before it jump-scares us — Italy is seeing higher tourist numbers than ever. The threat of overtourism looms large once again. Venice is set to enforce daily entrance fees in 2023, lest it becomes Disneyland. And Italy is expecting a tourism boom again, not just from Stanley Tucci tourism but now because of White Lotus tourism to Sicily.
Since 2023 looks to be another tourism boom year for Italy, I thought I would weigh in on my most-coveted experiential tours and trips for the coming year. Several of these are based on backdrops from recent tv hits, so they may be sold out pretty quickly!
Top 5 Tours to Take in Italy in 2023: My 2023 Italy Travel Wish List
Mount Etna Hike
The Etna eruptions in the background of the final episode of The White Lotus made me want to get closer to that volcano. I’ve always been more fascinated with Vesuvius but Mount Etna has been begging for attention for the past few years.
That said, if I were going to splurge on a day trip, I think it would be this Mount Etna full-day tour. It includes a visit to a winery and knowledgeable guides who are going to be able to answer your questions about pyroclastic flows and Sicilian wine’s volcanic soil terroir. This day trip to Mount Etna also has private car transport throughout, which seems essential to me. Hot mountain, cool car. You dig?
Day Trip to Noto from Taormina
Taormina is probably going to be packed with White Lotus obsessives in 2023. So you should probably snag a room at the San Domenico Palace in Taormina ASAP. If you can’t get a room there—but stay in Taormina anyhow (and you should!)—a day trip to Noto may be an itinerary idea. I’ve always wanted to see Noto Infiorata in May.
Bergamo and Brescia: Capitals of Culture
The Lombard cities Bergamo and Brescia are the twin Italian Capitals of Culture for 2023. The two cities hit hardest in the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic in Italy were awarded the cultural spotlight so they could rebound in the face of such devastating loss. When I was reporting the Capital of Culture news, I was intrigued to learn about Bergamo-Brescia’s Ciclovia della Cultura, a 75km bike path connecting the cities. The idea of cycling around the Bergamo-Brescia area sounds appealing. Also appealing is the idea of visiting the Raphael paintings in Bergamo and Brescia’s museums.
Visit “La Cupola,” An Abandoned Binishell in Sardinia
La Cupola is Michelangelo Antonioni and Monica Vitti’s mysterious dome-shaped love nest built in the wilds of Sardinia in 1971. When their affair ended in 1972, they abandoned the property. I want to visit it.
If it also intrigues you, then you could stay in nearby Gallura and take a day trip. Or, you could rent a place in Costa Paradiso and hike to its historic cliffs and Antonioni Cupole.
Another thing I would love to do is learn beekeeping with Luigi Manias in Ales, Sardinia. The segment on bitter honey in Searching for Italy, Season 2 appealed to me.
Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia
Wait…that’s not in Italy. But of course, it has a strong Italy connection.
2023 is the year that Croatia joins the Schengen and adopts the euro, making it easier to travel between the two countries hugging the Adriatic. Ferries between Italy’s Adriatic ports and Croatia will be easier, too.
So, you can visit the remains of Diocletian’s Baths in Rome then see the emperor’s palace in Split. Pretty cool putting history into context, eh?
This post first published on 12 December 2022
Updated on 17 May 2023