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.


 
Kathy McCabe with her mom in Castelvetere, where their Italian ancestors came from. All photos in this article are courtesy of Kathy and Dream of Italy.

Kathy McCabe with her mom in Castelvetere, where their Italian ancestors came from. All photos in this article are courtesy of Kathy and Dream of Italy.

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.

On the Basilicata episode of Dream of Italy, Kathy learned how to make mozzarella. Note: This is not Tenuta Vannulo, the place recommended in this article. But I’m sure this guy’s cheese is killer.

On the Basilicata episode of Dream of Italy, Kathy learned how to make mozzarella. Note: This is not Tenuta Vannulo, the place recommended in this article. But I’m sure this guy’s cheese is killer.



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.



Kathy living out my fantasy of going to gelato school (and pizza school and wine school).

Kathy living out my fantasy of going to gelato school (and pizza school and wine school).

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.



Kathy McCabe, host of the travel TV series Dream of Italy. This season, Kathy interviewed several people, including Francis Ford Coppola, who did something that both Kathy and I have done — return to our ancestral homeland to reconnect with the villages our relatives left behind. On the Postcard Academy, Kathy and I talk about our personal experiences with this, and of course, I ask her all about her favorite must-do experiences throughout Italy.

Kathy McCabe, host of the travel TV series Dream of Italy. This season, Kathy interviewed several people, including Francis Ford Coppola, who did something that both Kathy and I have done — return to our ancestral homeland to reconnect with the villages our relatives left behind. On the Postcard Academy, Kathy and I talk about our personal experiences with this, and of course, I ask her all about her favorite must-do experiences throughout Italy.

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.





Kathy learning about the Duomo in Florence

Kathy learning about the Duomo in Florence

Kathy McCabe biking through Bologna.

Kathy McCabe biking through Bologna.





Sarah Mikutel in Dubrovnik

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.