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As much as we love bringing you the latest news about coffee and inflammation and clearing up myths swirling around about canola oil each day here online, our wanderlust is strong at the EatingWell HQ. We love any opportunity to set our out of office message, step away from our desks and explore the world after a long hiatus from travel due to COVID-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Turns out, we're not alone: According to a March NerdWallet survey conducted online by The Harris Poll, 70% of Americans reported that they planned to embark on a vacation in the next 12 months. Now that borders are opening up more, travelers are thinking big, too: About 7 in 10 parents surveyed in the American Express Travel: 2022 Global Travel Trends Report have deemed 2022 the year when they head abroad for the first time with their kids since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
So where to?
Ina Garten makes a great case for Paris, true. And this week, Giada De Laurentiis is making a strong case for Italy.
In her brand-new Giadzy guide to four under-the-radar cities for food-lovers, De Laurentiis says, "There are very few wrong ways to do a trip to Italy. With such a multitude of amazing regions and cities to visit all over the country, you can make the visit anything you want it to be."
De Laurentiis gives a hat tip to more common destinations like Rome, Florence, Venice and Capri in the roundup—admitting that they're more than worth a visit, too—but says these less-frequented cities steal her heart. "Overgrown alleys, old-world villages overflowing with charm, unique small towns with local culinary specialties, beaches far away from the main tourist spots—those are the lesser-known Italian destinations scenes that make a visit magical," she says.
If you're not quite ready to book a trip yet, you can get a taste right in the comfort of your own home by "traveling" alongside De Laurentiis and her pal Bobby Flay in the Discovery series Bobby and Giada in Italy. We're planning to tune in, pop open a bottle of Montepulciano and cook our way through a couple of these 25 classic Italian recipes until we can book an excursion to one of these stunning De Laurentiis-approved Mediterranean destinations.
The 4 Best Italian Cities Food-Lovers Should Add to Their Bucket Lists, According to Giada De Laurentiis
In no particular order, discover the top culinary destinations in the country where De Laurentiis was born.
This coastal area is the epitome of the Italian philosophy "il dolce far niente," which roughly translates to "the sweetness of doing nothing." If you're feeling frazzled and are dreaming of a stress-reducing spot, consider Puglia. The seaside community features crystal blue waters and beaches dotted with unique villages with shops that sell burrata cheese (which was invented here), the largest olives in the world (Bella di Cerignola) and orecchiette pasta.
Quite possibly the No. 1 most underrated destination in Italy, according to De Laurentiis, Sicily "is well-known for exceptional luxurious beaches [and] dramatic castles, cliffs and sweeping vistas." The region's capital, Palermo, is overflowing with history and fantastic farmers' markets. Sicily's cuisine stands out among other Italian spots, featuring ingredients and inspiration from North African and Arabic cultures. Save room for eggplant caponata, arancini, anything pistachio (the nut is prominent here) and cannoli. The latter cream-filled dessert is beloved and widely available in Sicily.
Think of this like De Laurentiis' Netflix recommendation. If you liked Positano, another hotspot on the Amalfi Coast, try Ravello next! "Ravello is a hidden gem. It isn't the destination for a classic beach vacation, as the town is high above the ocean—as a matter of fact, there is no beach access at all. However, the height of the cliffside town makes for jaw-dropping sweeping views of the Tyrrhenian Sea and coastline," she says. "It also might provide a bit of relief after a visit to Positano and needing to walk up and down so many flights of stairs to get to the beach." Spend afternoons strolling through and shopping amid boutique-lined streets, saving time for stops to refuel with bowls of seafood risotto and glasses of prosecco.
Centrally located between Rome and Florence, this area is similar to Tuscany in style—just with a fraction of the crowds and lower prices. (Stanley Tucci is a fan, too!) Hikers take heed: "Umbria is often called 'Italy's Green Heart,' due to the lush natural beauty," De Laurentiis says. "Scenic forests, picturesque rural countrysides, lakes and beyond, it's the epicenter of outdoor activities in Italy. If you're looking for a hike, this is the place to do it!" Plan said hike to conclude at a restaurant that showcases local faves like mushrooms, truffles, farro, cheese and wine.