Your staycation guide: Northern Italy


Photograph: Simon Peel

Let’s not linger too long on where we’re not right now. Recreate the Italian Riviera in your back garden with our hit-list of what to watch, listen to, read and eat

Pour yourself a glass of serious Prosecco, an Aperol spritz, Americano or something else appropriate – and start planning the lowest-maintenance trip to Italy’s northern reaches. Here’s our primer for how to bring a taste of Italy to you.


  • Casino Royale: Since No Time to Die’s release date has been delayed until November, get your dose of 007 (along with an optional Martini, or indeed Americano) with Daniel Craig’s début performance as the slick spy – with its iconic scenes in Venice.
  • The Italian Job: Obviously we’re talking about the 1969 original with Michael Caine. Yes, you’ve seen it before, but you definitely want to see it again.
  • One Night in Turin: As sport gets underway once more, and 30 years after the event, relive the glory of Italia ’90.
  • Romeo & Juliet: In fair Verona, where we lay our scene… Pick whichever version you fancy, but we’re getting behind Baz Lurhmann’s 1996 edition. It’s also worth catching the Royal Opera House’s performance of Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet, which was aired live on Friday night and is available for another 10 days.


  • A Season with Verona – Tim Parks: While we’re limited to on-screen spectating, immerse yourself in stadium crowds as Tim Parks follows Hellas Verona, and its most extreme fans, around Italy.
  • The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith: Read it, then watch the film too for a dark look at life on the Italian Riviera
  • The Enchanted April – Elizabeth von Arnim: Follow four women as they escape dreary London, finding themselves in amongst the beaty of a crumbling medieval castle in Portofino.
  • Almost Blue – Carlo Lucarelli: If you haven’t got a well-thumbed paperback thriller on the go, is it even a holiday? This – the first in the Inspector Negro series – is our choice. (Although for a southern counterpart, you can’t beat Andrea Camillieri’s Inspector Montalbano.)


  • Donizetti: Born in Bergamo, crank up any of this composer’s operas full volume to give any evening an Italianate twist. Start with the comedies – our favourite is L’Elisir d’Amore.
  • Gino Paoli: From Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Gino Paoli is the master behind classics such as Il cielo in una stanza, Senza fine and Sapore di sale – set his dulcet tones going and try not to feel like you’re in an old-school Italian local.
  • Venice Queen – Red Hot Chilli Peppers: Don’t limit yourself to just the one song; this is the only hit from this classic Noughties album that we could justifiably shoe-horn in. Go the extra mile and pretend you’re watching them live in Milan.
  • That’s Amore – Dean Martin: Ok, technically we’re in Naples for this, but let’s not let the facts get in the way of warbling along to this as you rustle up a master batch of Bolognese.


  • Grissini: Moreish and wonderfully easy to make, rustle up some grissini to munch on with your apéritif, or dip in a batch of bagna càuda
  • Osso buco with risotto Milanese: If the weather’s looking a little less Italian, this delicious slow-cooked veal with saffron-spiked risotto is guaranteed to brighten the mood. Try it with (Russell Norman’s recipe from his book Polpo is failsafe.)
  • Frico: A classic Friulian dish made with cheese and potatoes, try our recipe from Federica Pecorari Lis Neris – one of the region’s best producers of serious Pinot Grigio. Serve it with one of her outstanding wines for a superlative aperitivo.
  • The best Italian food – made by other people: Get someone else to do some of the hard work. Lots of our favourite Italian restaurants are doing delivery or at-home kits – Lina Stores, Bocca di Lupo, Luca, Trullo, Ombra and Artusi, to name a few. And you can now eat in at many of these restaurants too, meaning no washing up either (check their websites and/or social media channels for service updates).

Make sure your wine rack is as ready as you are: here’s our pick of Barolo, Barbera, Gavi, Pinot Grigio and Prosecco to ensure your wine glass is always on-theme.