8 Off-the-Beaten-Path Italian Experiences You Must Have
Kathy McCabe, host of the travel TV series Dream of Italy, has been sharing her insider Italian tips for more than 16 years. It all began with her Dream of Italy website and newsletter, which you can still join for information, discounts, and early access to her TV show and podcast episodes. Kathy joined me on the Postcard Academy to share some of her all-time favorite experiences you should have across Italy.
Subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast for free to hear the whole story (including all about her experience interviewing Francis Ford Coppola and Under the Tuscan Sun’s Frances Mayes on her TV show). Here are links to the places we talked about.
Best chocolate school in Italy
Perugina School of Chocolate — near Perugia, Italy
In 2004, Kathy was one of the first students of Perugina’s chocolate school, held at the Perugina chocolate factory. Classes last 3-4 hours and are usually held in Italian, but you can probably figure out what’s going on. You can also do a guided tour that includes a tasting and a peek into the chocolate factory. And if you want to see a charming Italian rom-com that revolves around chocolate, try to find Lezioni di Cioccolato (the first one, not the second) — love!
Best truffle hunting experience in Italy
La Casa del Trifulau - Asti, Italy
Brothers Giorgio and Natale Romagnolo will take you on a two-hour truffle hunting and tasting experience. While the most prized white truffle is only found in the autumn, you can hunt for black truffles throughout most of the year.
Best mozzarella making experience in Italy
Tenuta Vannulo — Capaccio, Italy
On this organic farm in Italy’s Campania region, you can taste cheese and meet the cows who produce it. They live a very nice life which includes eating clover and getting massages. There is also a chocolate and bread shop at the farm!
Best pizza school in Italy
Pizza Consulting — Naples, Italy
Kathy learned how to make Neapolitan-style pizza (more puffy than Roman-style) from Enzo Coccia. This school attracts both the casual pizza maker and those who want to start their own restaurants. If you want to skip hands-on study and go straight to eating, head to Pizzeria La Notizia.
Best gelato school in Italy
Gelato University — Bologna, Italy
I have often toyed with the idea of going to gelato school. My grandparents owned an ice cream shop. I’ve worked in one, and I enjoy the fantasy of having a food truck of some kind. If you’d like to spend a month experimenting with delicious flavors and learning every aspect of the gelato business, check out Bologna’s Gelato University.
Best spa experience in Italy
Terme di Saturnia Spa & Golf Resort — Manciano, Italy
The ancient Romans loved soaking in a hot spring, and this beloved activity lives on. Kathy’s favorite place to take the waters is in Tuscany’s Maremma region. The thermal baths are accessible to the public for free, or you can treat yourself and go to Kathy’s favorite spa resort, Terme di Saturnia.
Best place to watch Italian cowboys ride off into the sunset
Alberese— Maremma, Italy
Kathy loves Maremma, the southwestern region of Italy where you’ll find a slower pace of life; her favorite spa (recommended above); and cowboys that look like they are straight out of old Western films. Maremma is “just a little bit wild, and a little bit wonderful,” Kathy says. Curious about the cowboys? Watch Kathy’s Tuscany episode of Dream of Italy.
Best artisanal cashmere shop in Italy
Chianti Cashmere Farm — Radda in Chianti, Italy
Seeking a bit of local luxury? American expat Nora Kravis sells cashmere scarves and other items, as well as goat’s milk soap, which Kathy swears by. You can also tour the “only certified wildlife friendly farm in Europe” and organize a weaving or knitting class. And while you’re in the Chianti region, you should visit Castello di Brolio, home to the second oldest winery in the world and birthplace of Chianti wine.
If you found this article useful, please share it, and subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast. Each week, expats and adventurers share their insider travel tips on the best food, nightlife, and cultural experiences in the most interesting places around the globe. I’m your host, Sarah Mikutel, an American who's spent the last 8 years living in, and traveling around, Europe.