Julius Honnor - Italy Uncovered

Do you fancy Venice? Rome? Tuscany? Hmmm, tough choices. Italy is well-known as our favourite holiday destination, read on to discover author Julius Honnor’s thoughts on this beautiful country..

Favourite region in Italy and why?
Umbria - apart from the sea it has a bit of everything you could want from Italy: history, hills, art, wine and a refreshingly anti-establishment streak to boot. It’s strikingly beautiful, and relatively empty of visitors. 

What would you recommend as a must-see for anyone travelling in Italy for the first time?

There’s so much to see around every corner... I’d say don’t stick to the obvious sights and explore some backstreets to find the Roman column holding up an old house, the Renaissance masterpiece in a gloomy church, the old men playing dominoes in a bar. But if I had to pick one must-see sight I’d be torn between the canals of Venice on a cold misty winter’s morning and the awesome majesty of the Pantheon in Rome. 

Who do you think will benefit from the new FootprintItalia series?

Anyone who likes their guidebooks to look good but is also independent enough to want to explore of the beaten track a little. They’re a great combination of glossy, readable and practical. 

Have you got any suggested itineraries?

Try to take in a combination of town and country. In Umbria and Marche I’d pick one of the many small hill towns as a base and also spend a few days in the Sibillini National Park. And a night in the wine bars of Perugia.

Italy is renowned as one of the world’s most popular destinations - what makes it so special? And, with this in mind, what are your tips for escaping the crowds?

It’s special because of its extraordinary wealth of history, art and culture, and the landscape, food, wine and ice-cream don’t hurt either. Given its popularity, however, it’s surprisingly easy to escape the crowds. There’s a lot of Italy to go round and if you steer away from the major tourist attractions (Assisi is about the only place that qualifies in Umbria and Marche) you’ll find plenty of great places. Take time to explore the national and regional parks too - there’s no real tradition of walking in Italy so you don’t have to go far from your car to find yourself pretty much alone in some fantastic countryside. 

Food - pizza, pasta or gelati? And which regions provide the best of each?

Eat everything! Though not at the same time... Romans like their versions of the flat round things, but they’re kidding themselves: the pizzas in Naples knock the socks off them. Luckily the Neapolitans have spread their bread dough across the country so in most places you can find a decent pizzeria. Every place (sometimes each village) has their own speciality pasta shape/sauce combination, the merits of which the locals adhere to more closely than the flag. Northerners tend to eat heavier food - polenta and risotto - the fertile centre of Italy has some of the best natural produce, and the poorer south tends to stick to simpler dishes. But you’ll find good food all over. It’s even possible, despite its reputation, to find a good meal in Venice.

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