My favourite festival in Italy

Palio di Siena, Tuscany

Italy hosts many a spectacular and entertaining festival, but if you are in the vicinity of beautiful Siena around the dates of July 2 or August 16 (yes, those precise dates, every year no matter the day), then get prepared for Il Palio – the most exciting horse race you will ever see. Forget the Melbourne Cup, this race has 10 jockeys dressed in appropriate colours, representing 10 of the 17 different “contrade” or city wards, who ride bareback circling three times around the town Piazza del Campo, on which they lay a temporary layer of thick dirt. Sometimes the jockeys are thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and despite the fact that, once they get going, the race is a mere 90 seconds, thousands of locals and spectators crowd in and around the Piazza to watch the fiercely competitive race twice a year. Having witnessed myself this year, I am not surprised, and I dare say I will be back again!

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My favourite coastal town in Italy

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre, built on a rugged and steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea in north-west Italy, is actually my favourite place in the world. A bold statement I know, but one which I stand by. Choosing my favourite of the “five villages” is a difficult task, but I have decided on one – Manorola. For now I am lost for words as to where to begin describing this place, so instead will just post these pics.

My favourite Italian B&B

Villa Monica, Sorrento, Italy

We stayed for 3 nights at Villa Monica last September, and have since been discussing how and when we can get back there. Staring down from the hills of Sorrento onto the Amalfi Coast and ominous Mount Vesuvius directly opposite, this small B&B not only has beyond description vistas for a small price tag, but the owner Pasquale is what makes this place really memorable. He will drive you in and out of town when you need (while telling a good old joke or two), he will recommend great restaurants nearby, and he will even make you a great cappucino in the morning. But don’t just believe me, believe everyone else. And be sure to book ahead.