Who doesn’t love to discover a new country by travelling through it by car, taking your time and stopping when the mood strikes?  Travelling by car is a wonderful and relaxing way to explore Italy and provides great opportunities to experience local culture. Here are a couple of our favorite ‘gems’; hotels, restaurants, and activities to discover in southern and central Italy.

Le Marche (or The Marches) of central Italy

On the top of our list is Oasis Biologica, a stunning agrotourism-style B&B located in Montedinov. This gem of a hotel is both working farm and tourist accommodation. Owners, Giovanni and Irma, have been hosting guests at their farm since 2000, where old world charm shares the spotlight with modern convenience at this lovingly renovated property. The interiors of this property are gorgeous with original wood beams and many original architectural features have been preserved, providing guests with both a relaxing vacation experience and an interesting and educational insight into the day-to-day operations of a working farm.

Oasis Biologica offers a set menu lunch and is value priced at 16 euros for three courses. This daily changing menu offers an array of delicious dishes and wine produced from ingredients from the farm itself.  It’s well worth trying.

This charming farmhouse is suitable to both families and couples alike. Choose either a room or one of the stunning renovated apartments, depending on your needs. It’s good value and worth a stop.

The surrounding landscape will leave you speechless. The location could not be prettier. Be sure to visit the nearby village of Montedinov with its famous church that houses the remains of Thomas a Becket, who was Archbishop of Canterbury.

Monopoli, Puglia

Traveling by car can leave you feeling tired and dusty and in need of refreshment. The bustling seaside community of Monopoli, on Puglia’s Adriatic coast and in the province of Bari, is the perfect place to stop and recharge your batteries.

The beaches feature clear blue water that is perfect for a dip, but be warned, the sandy stretches could use a good cleaning and you will see a lot of trash here. The castle walls and fortifications date back to approximately 1552.

Grab lunch from the local, nearby market, for a beach picnic or check out any one of the convenient restaurants.

Stay at La Porta Vecchia, a B&B in the historic old town, for about $60 euros a night. It’s close to the beach and a 15 minute walk from the train station. It is captivating and offers good value.  It features large rooms and a tasty breakfast.

Be sure to visit the Basilica Cattedrale Maria Santissima della Madia, renowned for its beauty. In Monopoli, the locals are friendly, the views are beautiful, and the food and drinks are exceptional.

Consider taking a side trip inland to Alberobello, a UNESCO world historic site, to see the trulli, a picture postcard town with its famous conical roofs. It is approximately 30 minutes away.

Exploring some of Italy’s lesser known travel destinations can offer the budget traveller the opportunity to experience much more of Italy than is listed in traditional travel guides, and save money in the process!