Swimming with locals at a Sicilian beach, Aperol Spritzes at sunset with the Colosseum for a backdrop, and a bottega di panini in Florence that’s so popular, the store only opens for three hours a day. Italy has long been a favoured destination for Australian travellers, but what is the boot-shaped peninsula like to explore in 2022? Four Qantas Frequent Flyers give us the lowdown on their recent Italian sojourns, from what they ate and drank to where they rested their weary heads.
“I lived like a local in Rome and it was wonderful!”
For Queenslander Morgan Reardon, a Roman holiday afforded her the opportunity to live la dolce vita and discover the Eternal City’s best cacio e pepe.
“I travelled to Europe in June for a friend's wedding, and I knew that no matter what happened, I wanted to live like a local in Rome for a few days. On a previous trip, I’d visited hotspots like the Colosseum and Vatican City, so this time around, I wanted to stay in an area frequented by locals. I got an Airbnb in Trastevere with my cousin Becca and friend Jess. The apartment, built in the early 20th century, was cute and charming.
“Every morning, we’d visit the local market, Mercato San Cosimato. It has clusters of stalls in the piazza and they sell colourful fresh produce: strawberries, plums, oranges. One of my favourite parts was just having a yarn with the growers – they were so friendly and wanted to know all about our travels.
“The bakery across the road from our Airbnb, Le Levain, makes the most to-die-for pastries. Get the chocolate croissant! I also had the best cacio e pepe of my life at Tonnarello. It’s tucked away in a little alley and the waitress didn’t speak English so we communicated through smiles and vigorous hand gestures. We accidentally ordered fried artichoke and had no idea how to eat it. So we watched the table of Italians next to us and just followed their lead. It was the most delicious mistake ever!”
“At a rooftop bar near the Colosseum, we watched the sunset while drinking Aperol Spritz.”
Jade Wilkins flew direct to Rome from Australia for a few days of exploring, and of course, wining and dining!
“I flew to Rome with Qantas; it’s just 16 and a half hours direct from Perth. It was so quick and easy. My friends and I were staying 10 minutes’ walk from the Spanish Steps, so when we arrived, we dropped our bags at the hotel, had a quick macchiato and then made for the ‘Steps’. We were in full sightseeing mode; we stopped by the Trevi Fountain for photos (with a pistachio gelato in hand, of course!) and then headed to the Colosseum. We’d booked a table at a nearby rooftop bar called Royal Art Cafe where we watched the sunset while drinking Aperol Spritz. That was a pinch-me moment. I mean, when in Rome…
“We also visited the cool neighbourhood of Trastevere, where there are beautiful markets along the river. Then we found Impiccetta, a restaurant popular with locals. We had veal ragù, fried prawns and calamari, and stuffed zucchini flowers, all washed down with some delicious local wine.
“If you’re thinking about a Roman holiday, do it! You can pack so much into a short amount of time – history, culture, architecture, and the food, obviously. Plus, the welcoming hospitality of the Italians, on top of that. They are such beautiful people.”
“The beach at Mondello near Palermo is the most beautiful I've seen.”
For Dominique and her husband John Parisi, a trip to Italy saw them reunited with their favourite country.
“In June, my husband John and I spent six weeks in Italy. We started by driving from Rome to Montalcino in Tuscany, staying at Casanova di Neri Relais, a winery with on-site accommodation. We spent four days visiting all the lovely wineries in the area, and also found a quaint, untouched hamlet called Sant’Angelo in Colle – the views were incredible.
“Returning to Rome, we then flew to Palermo in Sicily. The beach at nearby Mondello is the most beautiful I’ve seen – casual, relaxed and popular with locals. From Palermo, we drove to Porto di Milazzo and spent a week on Lipari, the largest of the Aeolian Islands, where my husband’s family is from. You feel like you’ve gone off-grid there. There’s not much to do other than go to the beach all day, then it’s aperitivo time!
“Following Lipari, we visited Scilla in Calabria where my father was born. It was my first time visiting so it was very special. We also went to Taormina on Sicily’s north-east coast before stopping into Bologna, Verona and then Milan, where we shopped and ate at Da Giacomo, a renowned trattoria dating from 1958. It was such a wonderful trip; I’m already planning next year’s holiday!”
“Naples is chaotic but so full of life – we had sfogliatella and espresso at a historic grand cafe.”
Stefano Catino discovered the best bars and restaurants when he returned to his home country.
“I’m from Cinque Terre – I moved to Australia when I was 26 – and before Covid, I would go back to the ‘motherland’ with my family every year. This was my first trip back after the past few crazy years. This trip was so special as my relatives hadn’t met my youngest daughter, who is now one year old. And my three-year-old was old enough to enjoy the holiday.
“We went in July for a month. First, we flew into Rome and then made for Ponza, the largest of the Pontine Islands that lie off the coast of Naples. Ponza is a bit of a secret – everybody tends to go to Capri or Ischia instead – and the water is super-clear.
“After that, we went to Naples which is chaotic – crazy, even – but so full of life. While there we visited the famous and majestic Gran Caffè Gambrinus and had sfogliatella and espresso.
“Following Naples, we spent time in Florence. We visited a new restaurant and bar, Locale, housed in a medieval building. Ino-Panino is an absolute must-visit. It’s close to the Ponte Vecchio and super-famous for its high-quality panini. The owner only opens three hours a day because he doesn’t need to be open longer – that’s how popular it is! I had the panino with mortadella – I’m a sucker for mortadella. If it’s on the menu, order it.
“Finally, we arrived in Cinque Terre. As a former local, I can tell you that the best time to go is before or after summer. Visit some of the towns either side of Cinque Terre’s ‘five towns’, as they’re just as beautiful and not nearly as touristy.”
Make the most of your 2023 Italian adventure – visit our Rome travel guide to start planning your trip.