What’s your dream trip? While it’s hard to pick just one place, I have to say that I really, really want to explore more of Italy! While I’ve been once in college for a few days, I only visited a small area and would love to see (and experience) so much more of its incredible culture and eat copious amounts of pasta. At the New York Times Travel Show, I learned more about the book 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go by Susan Van Allen and became even more obsessed! Especially after reading Van Allen’s book that charts some of her favorite places from her travels to Italy for the past 40 years that not only provided a source of some serious inspiration but a clear guide with budget tips, maps and more. Read on to learn more about Susan Van Allen and why traveling to Italy is so important to her and for women, too!
Interview with Susan Van Allen about Italy
Weekend Jaunts: What do you love about Italy?
Susan Van Allen: My answer could fill your blog for years! I love everything about Italy, from the shape of the country, that looks like a beautiful boot that I’d love to try on, to it’s masterpieces of art and architecture, fascinating history, of course the amazing cuisine that varies from region to region. To experience the culture when traveling there is a beautiful revelation: there’s the lively morning caffe, outdoor markets, lunch followed by a long afternoon break, the evening passeggiata–where townspeople of all ages take a stroll, late dinners under the stars. I love the slowed down pace, that gives us a chance to really experience La Dolce Vita = The Sweet Life, moment by moment.
Weekend Jaunts: What is your favorite region?
Susan Van Allen: You’ve challenged me again–I’ve never met an Italian region I didn’t like! That said, there are certain times of year when regions shine. For example, Tuscany is fantastic to visit in autumn, to join in the celebrations of the wine and olive harvests. Campania, in the south, is glorious in May, when the gardens are in bloom, and the beaches begin to open–before the summer crowds.
Weekend Jaunts: Why do you think it’s important for women to go?
Susan Van Allen: The moment we women arrive we’re struck by the fact that we are in a country where women have been adored since the earth was cooling–from Venus, Goddess of Love and Beauty, to the Madonna, saints, and every native’s mamma. And who doesn’t adore being adored?! Plus, there’s handsome Italian men who have mastered the Art of Flirting. It all adds up to being a place where women feel especially appreciated, and understood for all that they are, making a visit there a deeply transforming, nurturing, and inspiring experience.
Weekend Jaunts: What is some of your advice for a first-timer to Italy?
Susan Van Allen: Believe that there will be a second-time! The biggest mistake I see first-time travelers make is trying to cover too many locations in a short amount of time. If you’re rushing from place to place–museum to monument, there’s no time for La Dolce Vita, which is an essential part of a trip to Italy. I suggest you do pre-trip research and design a trip that includes your special interests and desires–which could mean a hike in the glorious countryside, a special museum tour, a cooking class, or a visit to an artisan workshop. Also, be sure to make reservations for the big sights–you certainly don’t want to waste precious travel time waiting in line for the Sistine Chapel or Uffizi Galleries in Florence. There’s loads more advice in my books and website.
Weekend Jaunts: What’s the optimal amount of time a women should visit Italy?
Susan Van Allen: At least two weeks, to balance blockbuster sights with spontaneous adventures and time to simply sit in a piazza and soak in the beauty. I always encourage women who come on my Golden Weeks in Italy trips to arrive early and extend their trip afterwards. Of course, if you can stay longer, even better! Italy’s treasures are boundless–I’ve been visiting for 40 years and still have a Bucket List of more places I’d like to experience.