You don’t usually hear the expression “nooks and crannies” when you’re talking about travel.

After all, travel is about great distances, expansiveness, a broader understanding of the world around us.

But aren’t the moments we truly cherish when we travel the most intimate ones? They’re cozy, singular memories, no matter how big or small the actual space is that they were made in.

When we create our Italian Fix tours, we make sure to fold our favorite Italian nooks and crannies into every itinerary, the places that serve as little “magic moment anchors” throughout the week, the spots that elevate a trip from supermarket vanilla sightseeing checklist to artisanal Sicilian-lemon holiday flavor explosion.

Here are some of our faves, plucked straight out of our Italian Fix tour calendars over the years:

A cliffside vineyard in the Cinque Terre

vineyard in cinque terre

Once upon a time, before tourism became the main industry in the Cinque Terre, many locals made and sold their own wine. Pretty much every inch of arable land along the coast was carved out into terraced vineyards, and if you’ve seen this area you’ll know that this was no easy feat.

Even to this day, there is no way to access these vineyards with vehicles or to work them using cumbersome machinery. The townsfolk hike up steep trails to their plot of land teetering on the cliffside over the sea, till the soil, build the trellises, irrigate, and harvest all by hand, and then carry down their baskets of grapes in the fall. In fact, one of the most iconic images in the Cinque Terre is of the village women making their way down the hills with huge cestini of grapes balanced on their heads.

Because winemaking is so labor intensive here, and because there is only so much space for grape growing, you’ll be hard pressed to find any Cinque Terre products at your local wine shop. That’s why enjoying the wine while you’re in the area is so special — you can’t really enjoy it anywhere else, unless you ship a case back privately.

On our Cinque Terre overnight tours and day tours, we treat our guests to an afternoon at one of these vineyards. It’s a leisurely and immersive way to learn about how wine was made hundreds of years ago here, and to see that not much has changed since then. It’s also one of the most picturesque places to sip a cold glass of white in the world. This little nook, perched in the hills above Vernazza, is definitely one of our faves.


A cave in Castellana Grotte

grotto caves in Puglia

Near the entrance to the Itria Valley in Puglia is one of the most spectacular crannies we bring our guests to — the Grotte di Castellana, a 3-kilometer network of caves that are millions of years in the making.

The tour route has you bending down to pass through some narrower caverns one minute and finding yourself in massive airplane-hangar-sized spaces the next, all dripping with beautiful stalactites and stalagmites — the experience feels borderline extraterrestrial. And you thought Italy was all Da Vincis and cypress trees! Also, this is a great place to visit if you’re in the area during the sweltering summer months, as the temperature is naturally nice and cool.

A copper tub filled with almond milk in the Aeolian Islands

hotel signum spa treatments

Yes, we’re talking about the copper tub with the almond milk again. If you’ve followed Italian Fix for any length of time, you’ll know we love to mention this spa treatment at our hotel on Salina! But that’s because it’s THAT AMAZING, and it’s only one of dozens of ways you can spoil yourself during our stay there on our Sicily tour. The Orange Blossom Soak, the Prickly Pear Hydrating Treatment and the Toning Treatment with Capers are other yummy faves.

A friend’s home in Siderno

authentic italian experience dinner at a friends home

One of the best parts about our tour guides actually being from the areas we visit is that we get to offer our guests experiences that they would never have access to otherwise. Like a home-cooked lunch at a friend’s family home in Siderno.

These guys not only prepared a delicious spread for our group, they also had some musician friends come over and got everyone up and dancing! I mean, memories like these are what it’s all about.

A champagne & oyster bar overlooking Positano

positano oyster bar hotel sireneuse

Last year, everyone who registered for our Southern Italy tour on the first day we launched was treated to a special gift from Italian Fix — a dinner at the Champagne & Oyster Bar at Le Sireneuse, right across the street from our hotel.

Reservations are very hard to come by here, and when you lay eyes on the view from the outdoor dining area, you understand why. It’s quintessential Amalfi Coast, the kind of twinkling beauty you see on Instagram and assume it has a million filters on it because how can any place be that gorgeous in real life? Good thing our tour guide, Tommaso, is the best in the biz — he worked his Italian magic and got our group of ELEVEN a table on a Saturday night!

The inside of an Ape Calessino in Matera

ape transport in Matera

The women on our Southern Italy tours rave every year about the Ape Calessino tour we take them on in Matera. I mean, how much fun is it to zip around an ancient city in one of these little cuties? And how very Italian, amiright?

These tiny little cars pick us up at the hotel, and we tool around the city, visiting a church carved right out of the limestone and an original cave dwelling along the way. There are local products to sample as well, but we try not to fill up too much (“try” being the operative word here!), because the tour ends at one of Matera’s best restaurants — also repurposed from a cave, of course!

A private collection of designer pieces in Lecce

private designer collection and school visit in Lecce

One of the guests on our Southern Italy tour this summer was positively giddy about the fact that she got to touch an honest to goodness vintage Chanel for the first time. We take our group on a shopping trip on one of our days in Lecce, and stop at a fashion school to check out their private collection.

Whether you’re into clothes or not, this is such a cool experience because it’s easy to forget when you’re visiting Italy that this country is home to thousands of workshops that turn out the most beautifully hand-crafted clothing, leather goods, pottery and footwear. Not only do we stroll through the school’s private collection of designer pieces, but we see young people in the studio sketching in a genuine Italian creative workspace. Not every tourist gets to do that, so we love to offer our groups a truly special opportunity.

Looking for some “magic moment anchors” to elevate your next trip to Italy? Here are a few places we love, straight from the pages of our own tour itineraries.

Marble Studio Stagetti in Pietrasanta for a behind-the-scenes tour of their Carrara-marble-sculpting genius.

The wide stone steps just past Vertical Bar in Riomaggiore (Cinque Terre) for resting and people watching. (We buy lemon cake for our guests from the panificio down the street to nibble on as we sit.)

The playground above Nessun Dorma in Manarola (Cinque Terre), for a pretty little place to watch the sunset from on high.

The inside of one of Alberobello’s trulli houses, to be momentarily transported back in time.

The pool at Masseria Montenapoleone in the Puglian countryside. Just… the pool there.

Rinella, the black sand beach on Salina Island. It’s a rough-around-the-edges slice of old-school Italy, with salt-eroded houses spilling down to the shore and neighborhood kids dragging row boats into the surf.

group dinner on our tour

Interested in joining us on a tour, to experience some of these moments for yourself? We’re releasing our 2019 Tour Schedule this fall. If you’re not already on our mailing list, add yourself here. Questions? Write us at ciao{@}italianfix.com.

Image credits: Image 9, Hotel Sireneuse Positano

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