Think Italy, think ‘la dolce vita’ where life is indeed sweet. The British holidaymaker has been flocking to Italy since time immemorial and it is easy to see why. Italy is a country that really does have it all; beautiful and diverse countryside, an enviable climate, a cultural history that is second to none and of course a delicious national cuisine.
Culturally, Italy is home to some of the world’s greatest treasures. Tuscany alone has more classified monuments than any country in the world and there are remains of Roman history peppered all over the country not least in Rome itself.
Starting in the north; Venice speaks for itself, it is a city one can never tire of, at every turn there seems to be a beautiful church filled with exquisite art or a pretty square to stop in and enjoy the wonderful Venetian cuisine in an osteria or trattoria. Nicknamed ‘la Serenissima’ or most serene by Byron, it is easy to see why. Spend your time navigating the city by vaporetto or the outlying islands by boat.
Heading west, Verona is so much more than its iconic opera festival held every summer in the open air Roman arena. It is a year-round destination with pretty palazzi, picturesque squares and medieval architecture at every turn.
A visit to Verona or indeed Venice without a side trip to the ancient university town of Padua and Giotto’s fresco masterpieces in the Scrovegni chapel are a beauty to behold and a ‘must’ on anyone’s bucket list.
Before arriving at Emilia Romagna’s capital Bologna; the ancient towns of Ferrara, Mantua, Parma and Ravenna are sure to give any visitor a taste of the ‘real’ Italy. Relatively undiscovered, they all offer a real flavour of Italy at its very best. Each individually endowed by the ruling families of their day, they all boast a rich cultural and artistic history and gastronomy and make for an excellent multi-centre combined itinerary.
Bologna is often forgotten about by tourists travelling the well-trodden path between Venice and Florence which is good news for those who do take time and stop in this fascinating city where every day Italian life is more evident than in some of its more polished counterparts such as Florence and Rome.
The cradle of the Renaissance, Florence is renowned for its art and architecture. Meander through the city’s medieval streets and sample fine food and fine local wines. Like the rest of the country, its regional cuisine is unique to Tuscany and is centred mainly around beef with ‘bistecca alla Fiorentina’ or T-bone steak being the most famous.
A tour through rural Tuscany on its own or as part of a stay combining Florence comes highly recommended and its nickname of ‘Chiantishire’ goes a long way to explain the English’ s love affair with the region. Beautiful country house hotels and renovated ‘castelli’ in hilltop villages and towns adorn the region serving the finest of cuisine and wines, many from their own vineyards, in the most serene of surroundings. Head a bit further south into Umbria and you have all the same charm but without the large number of tourists and prices that go with it!
Rome mixes the modern buzz and vibrancy of a capital city with the ancient Roman monuments and Christian history and the classic renaissance art and architecture of the Vatican City.
The Amalfi coast, a short drive or an even shorter train journey south from Rome boasts one of the world’s most spectacular coastlines and offers the holidaymaker every conceivable experience in one. Pompeii, Vesuvius and Herculaneum make for an easy excursion whether staying in Naples or in Sorrento and continue the up the coast to Positano, Amalfi and Ravello and some of the most dramatic vistas await. The driving is not for the faint-hearted, the roads snake around the coast clinging to the hillside and overhanging the azure-blue sea below as if barely glued on! But what awaits is truly breath-taking.
Sicily, the Mediterranean’s largest island is where ancient history and culture collide. From the lava-spilling Mount Etna to the Greek temples at Agrigento, the amphitheatre in Taormina and Segesta’s temple, the island is awash with natural and manmade beauty. The climate is sublime and the island enjoys a season longer than on the mainland just across the straits of Messina.
From Italy’s toe to its lesser known heal, Puglia. The region is relatively undiscovered by the tourism of the rest of the country and that gives the area its charm. Rich in history, it has seen invasions from the Greeks and Romans to the Spanish. Many of its hotels are lovingly converted Masserias which are fortified farmhouses, built to protect their inhabitants from the invaders of the time.
Combine all Venice, Florence and Rome in a week or visit one at a time over long weekends, the three great cities of Italy are full of some of the most remarkable sights in the world. Finally, We can organise all aspects of your trip, from trains, transfers, tours and tickets.