Jan 17, 2023

Travel podcasts: Put the earbuds in and discover new destinations


My favorite podcast about Italian travel

I love listening to podcasts while I'm cooking, exercising or driving. I subscribe to programs that offer in-depth takes on current events (ie: inflation, the missing classified documents, China's rise in Covid infections), but there are times when I want to forget that the world seems to be a caldron of chaos.

This is when I turn to travel podcasts. 

For the next 30 or 40 minutes - time enough to chop some veggies or do my morning weight routine - I'm transported to Lisbon, Bologna or Paris by an enthusiastic host clearly in love with his or her city. I smile when I hear a guest speaking English with a thick Italian accent, detect the sound of wine glasses clinking or the blare of sirens in the background. 

The hosts and their guests remind me that there's always something new to discover even in places where I've been. 

Here are five of my favorites. All are available free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts etc. 

Destination Eat Drink

Food and travel guidebook write Brent Petersen, currently living in Portugal, has 215 episodes archived on his site. Guests talk about tooling around Bordeaux, France in a Soviet-era motorcycle sidebar; eating in Pizza in Rome; or how to support indigenous producers while dining in Bogota. 

Petersen will sometimes introduce a show with the sounds of street life as he records inside his  favorite cafe. His style is relaxed and unscripted as he probes his guests for in-depth answers.  Many are experts in their fields. For a piece on Valencia, Spain, he hosted Eunice Reyes, author of Spain: the Ultimate Vegan Travel Guide. In a podcast about Lisbon, he invited   former Seattle resident Scott Steffens to talk about what is is like to open a craft brewery in a city with no craft beer.

Petersen's site links to his blog with stories he has written on various destinations. Unlike some travel podcasters, he doesn't appear to be selling or promoting tours or books. There's a button for making for a $10 donation to keep the research going.  

Seattle to Italy and back 
The Bittersweet Life

NPR veteran Katy Sewall, based in Seattle, and her long-time friend Tiffany Parks, an ex-pat tour guide living in Rome, host what they title a podcast "for ex-pats, travelers, seekers and dreamers."

They began the podcast six years ago in Rome when the two  reconnected in Italy, and decided to explore the highs and lows of the expat experience. 

Recent segments covered Katy's long -planned trip to Rome after the pandemic, interrupted by Covid; Tiffany's thrill of having her baby baptized by the pope in the Sistine chapel; and the challenges of putting together a Thanksgiving meal in Rome. True to radio, they are careful about incorporating sounds into their podcasts. Most memorable was the sound of babies crying while being baptized.

New episodes, released every Monday, focus on a specific theme or topic. On Thursdays, they publish mini-episodes that often take you onto the streets of Rome or Seattle.   The two banter back and forth as if they were sitting next to each other instead of thousands of miles apart. 

Bittersweet Life has $5, $10, $20 and $50 monthly Patreon membership levels that come with extras such as access to behind-the-scenes production videos, and live virtual meet-ups with the hosts. 

The Earful Tower

Australian ex-pat, author and tour guide Oliver Gee moved to Paris in 2015 as a journalist, then switched to podcasting in 2017. 

His weekly shows are best when he includes guests ("What's it really like to be a Paris waiter"), less so when he and his wife, Lina Nordin Gee, a Swiss fashion designer and illustrator (Paris Postcards), giggle their way though most of a half hour, leaving you wondering when they are going to get to the point.

I give them credit for tackling some ambitious projects such as a series of podcasts on how to spend 24 hours in each of Paris' 20 districts, and a recent two-parter on what to do on your first and second trip to Paris. Their web site is worth a look for links to videos with photos that pair with their podcasts.

Gee has developed a man-about-town reputation among Paris ex-pats. Besides podcasts, he does walking tours and has published a book, the Earful Tower Guide to Paris 2023 for sale on his website. He offers $10, $20 and $50 monthly Patreon memberships.

Untold Italy

This is my top pick when I want to get away and "go" to what I know will be hidden parts of my favorite country.

Travel planner Katy Clarke is the author and founder of the travel blog Untold Morsels. She launched Untold Italy in 2019 to share her passion for all things Italian, and help others plan trips by putting together tours to towns and cities most large tour operators ignore.

She and her Italian guests, often speaking with thick English accents, are frank about telling you how to get an authentic experience by avoiding expensive and touristy places such as the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre, and choosing other close-by destinations instead. 

I loved her recent hour-long report on Italy's northern Piedmont region, especially the city of Tornio where I visited last year. Her guest was a Toriono tour guide at whose home my husband and I dined through the website eatwith.com

Travel with Rick Steves

Is there anyone who travels who isn't familiar with Rick Steves?

Best known for his European guidebooks, Public Television shows and sold-out group tours, Steves expands his reach beyond Europe in his weekly podcasts. All 890 are carefully edited and scripted, so no off-the-cuff banter here. I find them more interesting than the TV shows, perhaps because they include interviews with guests. 

Each 52-minute segment covers two or three different topics along with guest commentary and pre-recorded call-in questions and answers.

Recent programs have included an interview with an American author describing her experience in raising her family in France; Alabama's popularity as a destination for international travelers; and autumn in Japan with author Pico Iyer. 

Do you have a favorite travel podcast? Please share it in the travel comments here.


  1. Thanks, Carol! Love these!

  2. Great list, Carol. The Untold Italy podcast saved my sanity during COVID and also gave me numerous helpful tips that I used in subsequent travels! 🇮🇹

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