Romantic Italian get-away on a thread-bare shoestring budget?
March 18, 2012 2:08 PM   Subscribe

My SO are trying to plan a short, romantic trip to Italy for our 3rd anniversary. Flying out from London for two nights in May, mid-week (if that matters). What small, pretty, fairly quiet town would you suggest?

We're considering either Bergamo or Treviso, but are open to any other ideas.

Money is an object, so we're looking for places with lots of natural/architectural beauty and spots where we can picnic or eat cheaply. Cheap, but private lodging recommendations would also be most welcome.

Thank you in advance!
posted by sundaydriver to Travel & Transportation around Italy (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Taormina should be reasonably quiet. Very pretty, surrounded by history and natural beauty.
posted by londongeezer at 2:14 PM on March 18, 2012

I love Urbino and Gubbio, in Le Marche.
posted by nicwolff at 2:26 PM on March 18, 2012

I've been to lots of little towns in Italy -- it can be really fun to just rent a car in Tuscany and go from small town to small town -- and I would say that my "best of list" would be:

Ravenna - incredible mosaics, pretty town
Montelpulciano - incredible wine, cute hill town
Montalcino - also incredible wine in a cute hill town
Volterra - has an incredible museum and is cute hill town, but I think that it has something or other to do with the Twilight books and may be a bit over-touristed these days
Tarquinia - easy to get to from Rome, has the most incredible and amazing Etruscan frescos ever -- you've definitely seen pictures of them and it is a cool visit.

In slightly bigger towns, I would definitely recommend the usual -- Sienna, the Cinque Terre, the amalfi Coast. I would also add Perugia, which is a really pretty town and not super touristed, and pretty much anywhere in Sicily (someone mentioned Taormina, which is nice, but tends to be overrun by German tourists in search of beaches). Often, you can find really reasonably priced b&b type places just a bit outside of town, which can be very peaceful and save you money.

Good luck!
posted by artichoke_enthusiast at 3:12 PM on March 18, 2012

There are flights from London to Innsbruck, in Austria, with EasyJet. From Innsbruck you can either drive or catch a one hour train to the northernmost region of Italy with is S├╝dtirol. Trains connect the different towns very efficiently. The main town there is Bolzano, but every other town deserves a visit. In three days it would be possible to visit Merano, Vipiteno, Bolzano and Bressanone. The towns combine medieval flair, stunning alpine landscapes, fabulous food and Italian hospitality, all in a region where people speak both German and Italian. In May the weather will most probably allow all kinds of excursions, mountain walks and pic nics, but mountain huts that offer a meal in the middle of a hike are not expensive. Also very affordable is accommodation in ubiquitous pensions or B&B's.
The official website seems to be offline at the moment, in any case it is
posted by uauage at 3:20 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Montelpulciano and Montalcino. We stayed in between the two and had such a great time. Buy wine to bring back because it's so inexpensive and sooooo yummy!
posted by goggie at 3:55 PM on March 18, 2012

Sant'Angello, just north of Sorrento will likely be quiet mid-week and is lousy with natural beauty. You can fly in and out of Naples and take the Circumvesuviana train. If you can get into a private double room at Mami Camilla, it should not be too expensive for just two nights ( has April 17-19 for 130 euros total). Hit up the Standa supermarket in Sorrento for good picnicking supplies.
posted by soelo at 4:13 PM on March 18, 2012

We really enjoyed Lucca.
posted by munichmaiden at 4:46 PM on March 18, 2012

San Gemignani, in Tuscany, is one of those old walled medieval hill towns. Lots of trees and surrounded by gorgeous countryside--the farms literally start right outside of the city walls. Might be a little bigger than you specify but it's still very beautiful, especially if you just stick around the old town. And there's a bus that goes there from Florence, so no need to rent a car if you don't want to.

I know there are cheap easyJet flights from Stansted to Pisa, which is only an hour away from Florence by train.
posted by Emms at 4:51 PM on March 18, 2012

Orvieto is a small, lovely medieval town atop a steep hill. It's historic and charming (beautiful cathedral) and has lots of tasty wine.
posted by unsub at 6:43 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have to second the suggestion of Taormina. If you go there, make your way up (emphasis on up - it's very much elevated) to the Teatro Greco. Stand in the back and look toward the stage, and look at the natural scenary behind it. The left side of your vision will be the sea. The right side will be the rolling landscape of Sicily. Dividing those two sides, almost perfectly down the middle, is the cliff/coastline of the island extending into the distance...

I don't remember much else of Taormina, but that sight alone is enough.
posted by Groundhog Week at 7:12 PM on March 18, 2012

I've been to the islands of Ponza (for a long weekend), and Ischia and Procida for day trips and they are lovely, and in May they will be nice and quiet. You can fly in to Naples on BA or EasyJet (RyanAir still only uses the Rome airports, which would add another train trip), and then take public transit to the ferry, which either go from the main port of Naples or Pozzuoili at the far end of the metro or commuter rail line. We stayed at a nice B&B on Ponza - there are lots of them all over these islands (I'm sure if you Google you'll find a central booking website where you can check them out). We were there in May too, and the weather was lovely and warm enough for swimming - we rented a motor boat to get over to a neighbouring uninhabited island.
posted by Flashman at 7:25 PM on March 18, 2012

Stay at Il Cassero in Lucignano. Take day trips through Tuscany, or don't and just luxuriate in a real castle with spectacular views, modern conveniences and yet preserved historical decor, two excellent restaurants within walking distances within the walled city, (one pricier, and one cheaper pizzeria) and absolutely charming and delightful caretakers (assuming Luigi and his wife are still there.)

Damnit. Now I'm going to blow my night pricing flights to Italy.
posted by synapse at 7:54 PM on March 18, 2012

Seconding Lucignano. And since you're going in May, don't miss the Maggiolata festival (last two Sundays in the month)!
posted by aqsakal at 1:06 AM on March 19, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you very much, everyone! I had no idea how many viable, beautiful choices we would have. We've done a lot of oohing and aahing over all the suggestions, and it's harder than ever to decide, but this is all a great help.
posted by sundaydriver at 2:44 AM on March 19, 2012

If you're looking for a quieter town, Tuscany may not be the best choice since it gets much more tourist traffic than the rest of Italy.

There's beatiful, quiet towns around Bologna such as Ferrara and Dozza in Emilia-Romagna. Urbino, as recommended above, may be a bit more well-travelled but has amazing architecture. (Ferrara and Urbino, for what its worth, are UNESCO world heritage sites) It'd be easy to dip into Bologna itself for its food markets.

Also seconding uauge above about the Alpine Italian villages. Around Bolzano, there's pretty italian villages such as Castelrotto. The food in this area is unique with German chefs cooking Italian food. Actually, an amazing combination.

Talking about food, the best food and wine region of Italy is arguably Piemonte in the North-West. We go there once a year on a food holiday. The prettiest towns in the area are probably the small villages in the Langhe vineyards such as Barbaresco or Barolo or La Morra.

Nearby is also Lake Orta. The town of Orta San Giuilio along with the nearby Isola is another, scenic romantic setting I can recommend.

Finally, if you want a small, beautiful village all to yourself, look at the I Borghi Piu Belli d'Italia. These villages are in that guide for a reason - they have a lot to offer but are under-touristed. The guide is there to try and promote them. The only drawback is that they usually won't have a big market to offer you. But if you pick one near a larger town (such as Dozza which is in the guide) then that will probably work.
posted by vacapinta at 3:12 AM on March 19, 2012

Taormina is incredibly gorgeous (very rarely, the clouds clear and you can see Mt. Etna through the Roman stageworks on the Greek teatro, along with the coast and the mountains) but honestly it will take up more of your travel time to get there, as it's on the coast in Sicily. Sicily is worth a proper longer visit, in my experience.

I can also second Ravenna and Orvieto which can easily keep you entertained for two languid days. Verona and Bologna would also be lovely. I would add my beloved Viterbo, which is easily accessible by a short train from Rome, which is much smaller and quieter, but close to some spectacular gardens and estates which are easily reached by public bus. Depending on when in May, there are some local festivals and things as well. You can also play "spot the Viterbo references in Dante's Inferno," since it was a home of the Popes, and it still has one of the more intact medieval neighborhoods in Lazio. It is admittedly much smaller than Ravenna or Orvieto, but it has a very different cozy feel than the big tourist spots.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:20 AM on March 19, 2012

I stayed a few days in Cortona and it was beautiful. We stayed here. Goooorgeous.
posted by sucre at 5:52 PM on March 19, 2012

The lakeside town of Stresa in northern Italy is a perfectly manicured jewel. You can go on wonderful mountain hikes, downhill mountain-biking, explore the botanic garden, swim in the lake, go on boat cruises, gawk at the lovely Italian mansions, walk along the lakeside promenade. I think you'll have a lovely, romantic time there.
posted by travellingincognito at 4:01 AM on March 21, 2012

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