We love Yolanda Edwards’ Yolo Journal, a magazine and newsletter that pairs savvy travel recommendations with gorgeous photography of absolutely swoon-worthy destinations. A lifelong traveler who was formerly creative director of Condé Nast Traveler, Yolanda’s impeccable taste and curiosity make for the most stunning journeys. We asked her to share a few of her favorite Italian destinations that are just a hop, skip, and a jump from Rome.
Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park, in the Abruzzo region, is only a two hour drive from Rome, but looks like you’ve landed in the Himalayas. We love to stay in the tiny medieval village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, which has an incredible inn called Sextantio, which was so thoughtfully restored and is incredibly comfortable. We use it as a base, and take drives into the park for lunch at the molto rustico Ristorante Mucciante, which is essentially a shop that sells meat skewers, bread, and cheese, and has a ton of grills going outside for you to cook them on, and picnic tables for you once they’re ready–all with the most epic mountain backdrop. Rocca Calascio is another of our favorite stops–a beautiful fortress at the highest point of the Apennine mountain range–1500 meters–it’s a lovely place to hike. We always have dinner back at Sextantio, which has the coziest candlelit tables, and great Abruzzese traditional recipes using all local products.
Most people plan a Naples trip if they are doing the Amalfi or heading to Ischia or Procida, but I think it’s a great day trip from Rome, given that it’s the easiest 1 hour and 10 minute train ride from center to center. No it isn’t a bucolic escape, but it is another world–one of my favorites–and I think it’s far better to pair it with Rome than adding on at the beginning or end of an Amalfi Coast stay. I like to stay at the Hotel Excelsior or the Vesuvio–both are on the sea overlooking the harbor, and there’s nothing better than watching the little boats come and go, and watch the local sunbathers get out there first thing in the morning. Lunch at the Concettina a Tre Santi is a must–the pizza tasting menu has literally brought my husband and I to tears–it’s that emotional. I always head to Talarico to get a hand-made umbrella, and I love the vintage bookshops on Via Port’Alba. Before dinner, we head to L’Antiquario for cocktails–it’s so chic and the drinks are divine. For dinner, we love Ciro e Mergellina which is a crowd pleaser since it has literally the best version of everything–pizza, pasta, fish, or Da Dora for the best seafood pasta.
While there are plenty of Roman Coast beach clubs, they are often crowded, and for a weekend, I think going a bit further north up to the Tuscan Coast is worth the drive. You can also take a train to Orbetello and bike and taxi around if a car isn’t an option. The Pellicano is one of my favorite hotels in the world–if you can get a reservation there, take it! It’s a piece of paradise–the sea, the views, the staff–it’s all heaven. Another favorite of ours is the intimate Casa Iris in Orbetello, a historic 16th century palazzo bed and breakfast. Owners James and Matthew know all the ins and outs of where to eat, and beach, and will help with arranging boat trips to the neighboring islands of Giglio and Giannutri. If you do drive, plan to stop for lunch at L’Isola del Pescatore on the beach of Santa Severa, and then try to build in time to visit Necropoli di Monterozzi ed al Museo di Tarquinia which is just off the highway.