Our love affair with Southern Europe’s boot-shaped peninsular goes beyond its good coffee, irresistible food and plush designer labels. From rustic Sicily in the south to cosmopolitan Rome in the north, Italy has the business of holidaying signed, sealed and delivered. Here’s our pick of Italy’s top 10 holiday spots.
If time is of the essence, you want to hit the ancient streets of Rome running. Compulsory stops include: the Trevi Fountain (where you can wish for more time), the ancient Roman Forum, the Sistine Chapel and Il Gelato di San Crispino for the best gelato in town. Just be sure to book a hotel in Rome before you leave home, especially during high-season.
The birthplace of the Renaissance and home to the Michelangelo’s David, Florence is essential viewing for art lovers, history buffs, fashionistas and foodies. You can’t go past the Uffizi Gallery for some of the best art on the planet, and the Duomo Cathedral for stunning architecture. Florence is also home to to-die-for leather goodies, so be sure to allow enough time for a shopping spree. Another bonus: it’s the capital of Tuscany – home of Italy’s premier wine country and most picture-perfect scenery.
3. San Gimignano
This small-walled hill town in the hills of Tuscany makes a great day trip from Florence. As well as being drop-dead gorgeous, San Gimignano is famous for medieval architecture, especially its high towers. Of the 72 that once existed, 13 remain today. Spend the night here and the city quiets down and takes you back in time.
Known as ‘The City of Lovers’, the floating island of Venice in Italy’s northeast offers more than just romance. It has architecture, music, food and history all wrapped up in one nice little package. Stand in the middle of Piazza San Marco (watch out for all the pigeons!), get lost in its labyrinth of tiny alleys, and take a gondola ride through the Grand Canal. Venice may be an expensive city, but it is worth every Euro.
5. Cinque Terra
If you’re a sucker for good looks, Cinque Terra (‘The Five Lands’) is the place for you. This cluster of five fishing villages built into cliffs overlooking the Italian Riviera is spectacular. Spend the day walking the 12km-trail that connects each town, exploring their tiny streets, and stopping at little cafes. Explore the olive groves in the hills and relax yourself with a shot of Limoncello. Just be sure to wear comfortable shoes!
Made famous by the mafia, Sicily has a long history of foreign domination and the result is an eclectic culture that mixes it all in. Every little city seems to have its own culture. Come and explore the countryside and well-preserved towns. Just don’t ask for Tony Soprano!
Located in northern Italy’s Piemonte region, Turin is a good base for exploring the nearby Alps. It’s also home to some of the best cafes and best food in Italy. With the Po River flowing through the city and villas dotting the surrounding area, Turin is well worth a visit.
If island-life is more your speed, head to the Italian island of Capri in the Gulf of Naples. Capri has been a major resort destination since Roman time and is popular with well-heeled. During summers, the island sees a lot of tourists, who mostly stick to the major towns. Venture of the towns and the island is yours!
While you’re down south, be sure to head to the sea port of Sorrento on the beautiful Amalfi coast. It’s especially busy here during summer and very popular with honeymooners, but the city is big enough to handle the crowds.
History buffs, take note – Abruzzo in central Italy holds some of the country’s best-preserved medieval and Renaissance hill towns. Many lie entirely within regional and national parks so they won’t be developed anytime soon.