5 Ways to See Italy
Bespoke travel agent Andrea Grisdale leads the way to the area’s best shopping.
Andrea Grisdale has visited just about every corner of Italy, yet the place that the Lake Como–based CEO of IC Bellagio keeps returning to is the Sorrentine Peninsula. “The bright blue water, fresh food, and Mediterranean sun make the Amalfi Coast one of my favorite places in the world,” says the U.K. native. “Most of all, I love the handmade ceramics: my house is full of them.” Rich with natural clay pits, the area has been known for pottery since the 13th century. Grisdale is especially partial to the tiles and dishware painted with the region’s palette: seaside azures, lemon yellows, and sunset pinks.
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The center of Amalfi Coast ceramics production since medieval times has been Vietri sul Mare. At the best factory and store, Ceramica Artistica Solimene Vincenzo, a building covered in 20,000 brown and green vase bases, you’ll find crockery designed with handsome, nature-inspired motifs (grapes, lemons, flowers, foliage). Grisdale’s recent discoveries: a tapered vase with blue-and-yellow flowers and simple blue-and-white dinner plates. A 10-minute drive from Vietri takes you to Marsia Ceramiche for contemporary pieces by Salerno-born, London-trained artist Mariella Siano. Don’t miss her spherical lamps with light filtering through pinholes and her decorative agave-leaf sculptures. Ten miles to the northeast, in Monti Picentini Natural Park, Antico Cotto di Berardino De Martino is where the De Martino brothers bake terra-cotta-colored tiles in a 450-year-old wood oven. In nearby Ravello, visit
Modena: A Foodie Drive
Chef Massimo Bottura whips up a weekend tour of culinary treats and cultural highlights.
Modena-born Massimo Bottura recalls his grandmother making pasta dough twice daily to serve the family fresh tortellini for lunch and dinner. “In her hands, the dough became a translucent yellow sheet that illuminated the dark rooms closed off from the summer’s heat,” he says. At his Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana he draws on the local bounty he remembers from his childhood dinner table: Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar, and prosciutto crudo.Day One
Check in to Great Value Hotel Cervetta 5 (doubles from $140), an unpretentious hotel in the city center. Then drive 20 minutes east to the Abbazia di Nonantola to see an eighth-century monastery with an imposing vaulted interior. Continue 10 miles to Antica Osteria del Mirasole (lunch for two $100), a rustic trattoria where owner Franco Cimini grills steaks from the region’s bianca modenese cattle. Pair your lunch with a glass of Lambrusco or Sangiovese (drivers: the bottle can be recorked for later). Before returning to Modena, stop in the suburb of Cittanova for Hombre, an organic Parmigiano-Reggiano dairy (a tour finishes with a sampling of cheeses). End the day over dinner at Hostaria del Mare (dinner for two $150). Bottura’s pick: chef Vittorio Novani’s fresh pasta with ricci (sea urchin).
Florence: Art Tour
Ori Kafri, gallerist and hotelier, opens his little black book to the city’s modern art world.
The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance has become a hot spot for contemporary creativity. “The gallery scene in Florence is buzzing,” says J.K. Place Hotels founder Ori Kafri, an ardent photography collector who recently co-opened a gallery in the Tuscan capital. Kafri’s FOR Gallery is one of about a dozen spaces that have arrived in the past decade, bringing with them fresh local and international talent. “Many artists are trying to comprehend the present while relating to the past,” Kafri says. “Florence provides an ideal context.”
In Diladdarno—the city’s up-and-coming art district—you’ll find FOR Gallery, Kafri’s photography and video gallery, dedicated to cutting-edge talent such as Israeli street-art photographer David Kassman and Italy’s Massimo Listri. Also in Diladdarno, the long-established Poggiali e Forconi has impressive rotating shows that include Patti Smith and David LaChapelle. Museo Marino Marini, in a former church, houses 183 sculptures by mid-20th-century Tuscan artist Marino Marini, famous for stylized equestrian works. Art guru Isabella Brancolini oversees the centro storico’s Brancolini Grimaldi, a bookstore and gallery that shows edgy international photography. She also curates for the nearby Gallery Hotel Art (doubles from $391). At
Mantua: Design Scene
Style guru Carla Sozzani highlights the best spots in her native Lombardy town.
Carla Sozzani may be synonymous with cutting-edge style in Milan, but the founder of the 10 Corso Como shopping emporium actually hails from a history-rich town 120 miles east of Italy’s fashion capital. “Mantua informed my earliest experiences,” she says. “The beautiful places that surrounded me still influence my aesthetic choices.” Mantua’s palpable past—medieval streets; Renaissance palazzi—is now the backdrop of a burgeoning arts, design, and literary enclave, which continues to draw Sozzani back to her birthplace year after year.Sleep
Great Value Hotel Casa Poli All 34 minimalist rooms are outfitted with Flos and Groppi light fixtures; beds are dressed in dark blue and bordeaux linens. Doubles from $216.Eat
Ristorante Il Cigno Sozzani’s favorite restaurant is housed in a 500-year-old palazzo and serves the town’s best tortelli di zucca (pumpkin ravioli). Dinner for two $150. L’Aquila Nigra Under original 14th- and 15th-century frescoes, choose from a mix of classic and experimental dishes. Try the crunchy fried river shrimp with zucchini. Dinner for two $180.Drink
Bar Caravatti Select a table by the window, order the golden-brown namesake aperitif, and watch the bustle in nearby Piazza delle Erbe. Drinks for two $15.Shop
Agape The white-and-wood design store sel
Umbria: From the Vine
Winemaker Giampiero Bea shares his short list of standout natural vintners in central Italy.
Mineral-rich soil and a wide range of native grape varieties make Umbria an ideal center for organic wine production, says Giampiero Bea, who helps run his family’s winery outside the region’s medieval town of Montefalco. “Our wines are beyond organic—we use no chemicals at any stage of the process, from the vineyard to fermentation.” Bea, who joined Antica Azienda Agricola Paolo Bea in the 1980’s after training as an architect, is part of Consorzio ViniVeri, a small group of dedicated producers who are leaving their mark on Italy’s wine scene.
The Bea family’s Antica Azienda Agricola Paolo Bea is 25 miles south of Perugia near Montefalco. Stop by for a degustazione in the bio-architectural headquarters, constructed with radon-free travertine stone. Taste the Montefalco Sagrantino red, made from Sagrantino grapes, with sweet hints of blackberry and persimmon. From here, it takes just 10 minutes to reach Fattoria Colleallodole di Milziade Antano, where owner Francesco Antano organizes tastings by appointment amid metal and wooden barrels in a modern farmhouse cellar. The Sagrantino Colleallodole red is a limited-edition 14-degree cru reminiscent of wild berries. Follow a winding road through an olive-and-pine-tree-dotted landscape for about 15 minutes until you reach Cantina Collecapretta. This long-established producer makes chemical-free wines: Umbria Terra dei Preti has an intense, flinty flavor, and the bottles have charming old-fashioned green-and-white labels. Arrange a tasting in the cellars of the v