In addition to time spent in Cilento and Naples, I select a handful of places every year to visit for the first time or revisit. The list always includes places I want to learn more about on behalf of my Trip Consultation clients and also places where I can relax or learn something new. In 2023, those places were Irpinia, northern Puglia, and Pizzo, Calabria.
Here's where I'll be visiting in 2024 and the reasons why:
The Venice Biennale is among the most prestigious cultural events in the world, and it's happening in 2024. Established in 1895, it features curated exhibitions by artists worldwide. While I normally prefer to spend time with the Carpaccio paintings at the Venice Accademia, the Biennale fits very much into the historical essence of Venice as a sophisticated global crossroads. Even though Venice can be overcrowded, I still think it's one of the best places to visit in Italy in 2024.
Villa Augustea, Somma Vesuviana
While everyone has heard of Pompeii and Herculaneum, not much is known about the towns destroyed on "the dark side" of Mount Vesuvius because little archaeology has been done there. But more recently, major discoveries have been made there that reveal what happened immediately after the deadly eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD -- people started rebuilding almost immediately. The Villa Augustea, probably built in the fourth century, is now sporadically open to the public. It's just outside Naples in Somma Vesuviana, which also has a wine bar that several local friends have told me is fantastic.
The Reggio Calabria Archeaological Museum
The Reggio Calabria Archaeological Museum is home to the extraordinary Riace Bronzes, two life-sized Greek statues dating back to the 5th century BC. Twenty-two years ago, I saw them on what was a disastrous trip to Calabria, and their beauty was so extraordinary it redeemed the trip. Since then, the galleries have been reinstalled, and it has emerged as one of the best museums in the world. The strategic location of the museum, overlooking the Strait of Messina, adds to the allure, and a couple of nights in Reggio Calabria eating fantastic seafood and strolling along the Lungomare is the perfect prelude to the ferry ride to Sicily.
I recently discovered that my Oteri family, who emigrated to New York from Sarno (on the dark side of Vesuvius), actually originated in Modica, Sicily. I traced documents back to the 1790s when my fifth great-grandfather left Modica, where he was a doctor from a family of doctors. (This is all quite surprising as the Oteris became butchers after settling on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.) I conferred with my friend and colleague Karen LaRosa, who specializes in Sicily, for more information about my visit there. She told me about the best chocolate shops to visit -- Modica's signature product-- and confirmed that it's an excellent alternative to neighboring Noto, which tourists have overwhelmed since The White Lotus.
This past September, I enjoyed spending time with Marco Santini, an Italian journalist and photographer who is a repeat guest at Borgo La Pietraia turned friend. He showed me pictures of his recent travels in the Romagna, an area of Italy known for friendly people, biking, the sea, and treasures like the mosaics at Ravenna, the former seat of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Biblioteca Maletestiana, the world's oldest public library. Marco would like to host a tour of the Romagna for Feast Travel clients in 2024. If you're interested, let me know ASAP so I can give you the details as soon as the itinerary and pricing are ready.
I just finished reading "The Novel of Ferrara" by Giorgio Bassani, and now I can't wait to revisit Ferrara with his luminous characters in mind. As a Jew writing under Mussolini's race laws, he had to publish under a pseudonym. I admire how he was able to create so much beauty in a world that was organized against his very existence.
I last visited Ferrara when I was in graduate school to study its Renaissance architecture. Ferrara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a college town with a lively and intellectual atmosphere. Its well-preserved city walls and majestic gates offer a glimpse into its grandeur in centuries past, but it also has an exciting culinary scene -- all the ingredients of an ideal Italian vacation.
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