How to have an Italian vacation without ever leaving Toronto

This summer, it seems like everyone is traveling to Europe. Whether you’ve got your own European vacation planned this summer and don’t want it to end or are dreaming of getting a taste of Italy or Portugal, we’ve got you covered. Here’s your how-to guide to summer like a European this summer — without ever leaving Toronto, this time with all things Italy.

Concert alfresco

At the base of Castel San Pietro in Verona, there’s a Roman amphitheatre that hosts performances throughout the summer. In Toronto, we’ve got our own version — Casa Loma’s Symphony in the Gardens. Italian-Canadian conductor maestro Paolo Busato leads the Casa Loma Symphony Orchestra, where concert-goers will have the option of enjoying alfresco food and drink.

Try your hand at Venetian glassblowing

A visit to Venice isn’t complete without a glass-blowing workshop on Murano Island. At Artscape Wychwood Barns, you can get your own glass-blowing education to make Italy proud, Toronto style, thanks to Playing With Fire. Try the glass fish workshop to own a piece of Venice that you’ll find in practically every Italian household. 

Playing With Fire

Explore the (Ontario) grotto

Ontario’s answer to the Amalfi Coast’s Blue Grotto is the Grotto in Bruce Peninsula National Park — and you can get there in a day trip from Toronto. The trip with Ontario Adventure Tours  includes a kayaking tour on Lake Huron, a hike around Horse Lake and a swim in the famous Grotto, with water so clear and blue you might mistake it for the Bay of Naples. 

Get a taste of Italian disco

Sprezzatura Spaghetti Disco on Dundas West serves up a true Italian disco experience with a side of fresh pasta. Visit for a delicious meal followed by a night of dancing. The restaurant has committed to the theme and transformed the space into a ’80s Italian disco club, complete with disco balls and zany decor. Now if only Sprezzatura were open until 5 a.m. like a real Italian club! 


Do as the nonnas do

Everyone and their nonna (literally) in Woodbridge has shopped at Grace Textile. In the business for over 40 years, this sprawling linens store is known for its reasonably priced imported products. With Italian-made undergarments shelved beside European bed linens and a Jesus-embossed candle, you won’t get a more authentic Italian experience than this!

Duomo in the six

The stunning Duomo (meaning cathedral) di Milano is always one of the highlights of a visit to Milan, from the dazzlingly intricate exterior to sky-high, ornate ceilings inside. Whether you’re intrigued by religious history or just enjoy the opulence of Catholic places of worship, St. Paul’s Basilica in Corktown will do the trick. The oldest Roman Catholic congregation in Toronto, the meticulously painted ceilings and elaborate design inside this church will take your breath away.

Indulge in a bougie Florentine treat

Italian native Andrea Pittis wants to transport you to the streets of Florence at Tutto Gelato, a Beaconsfield village corner shop. Using gelato-making machinery imported from Italy, the Toronto shop’s creamy, frozen treats are made daily in-house, where just a handful of gelatos — including hazelnut, tiramisù and pistachio — rotate daily.

Tutto Gelato

All landscaped roads lead to Rome

The regal Villa Borghese Gardens in Rome are landscaped works of art, with walkways surrounded by serene ponds, historic sculptures and fountains, maze-like hedges and a whole lot of incredible views. If you’re itching for a similar nature-filled respite from the city this summer, look no further than Edwards Gardens. This peaceful slice of paradise features picturesque bridges over Wilket Creek running through the gardens, a labyrinth of hedges, blooming flowers and some cute wild animals to keep you company on your stroll.

Sip on a taste bud–awakening spritz

If you want to drink like an Italian, forgo the wine and opt for an Aperol Spritz, the iconic bright orange bevvy from Padua, near Venice. At La Pizza & La Pasta located in Yorkville’s Italian mecca, Eataly, there are two spritzes on the menu — there’s the classic Aperol version, which is traditionally made, as well as the Limoncello Spritz, which subs in tart lemons instead. 

For more of our Summer Like a European series, click here. 

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO