11 December 2017
Italy fascinates most intrepid travellers with its grand historical sites, ornate churches, decadent art and culinary delights. Head off the beaten track as we take you under the skin of Italy, showing you the unique experiences you can find in this intriguing peninsula-nation.
There are a range of hotels to stay in during your Italian holiday. Lay your head in an ancient convent converted into a hotel at Monastero Santarosa on the Amalfi Coast, or spend time in a real gallery while saying at Milan’s ultra-chic Straf Hotel. The Danieli Palazzo Dandolo is a must for those staying in Venice as it’s a real-life local landmark, and if you want an intimate experience in Palermo go for the small Plaza Opera boutique hotel located in the city centre. Find a one-of-a-kind experience at the Castelfalfi in Florence with its 27-hole golf course, wine producing farm and 11th century chapel!
Do as the Italians do by drinking coffee and wine! In Venice visit the Caffe Quadri where the coffee comes with opera concerts, while you can find some of the best espresso in Italy at the historic Gambrinus café in Naples. Wine lovers, head to the high tech Feudi Di San Greggorio winery in Naples to taste standout vintages. Other must-sees for wine aficionados are the wine cellars in Verona’s Al 12 Apostoli and Florence’s Enoteca Pinchiorri, which are some of the most extensive in Italy.
Dining is always a pleasure in Italy, with various intriguing restaurants on offer. For a relaxed experience visit one of the oldest trattorias in Rome, the Giggetto Al Portico D’Ottavia, which is based in the old Jewish quarter and serves quintessential Roman cuisine. Find a unique experience at Tenuta La Fratta in Siena where the delicious ‘Chianina’ steak was first created. Enjoy unrivalled views at Locanda Cipriani, an eatery located on the island of Torcello in Venice, where the Bellini originates from. Fish lovers should look no further than Al Convento, a restaurant based inside a former church on the Amalfi coast, which does the best Bottarga and Anchovies in Italy!
Italy is a nation of food lovers, so there are many local delicacies for you to tuck into. Sample ‘altamura’, the world’s only patented bread, in Puglia’s town of the same name, or head to Palermo and try their delicious stuffed rice balls. Cheese lovers should travel to Parma for its famous ‘parmiggiano reggiano’ while your kids will love the legendary ‘cannolo’ and ‘cassata’ sweets of Sicily. Enjoy a succulent ‘cotoletta alla Milanese’ deep fried T-Bone steak in Milan, ‘moeche fritte’ fried shell-less baby crabs in Venice, or ice-cream-filled ‘brioche with granita’ soft sweet pastries in Sicily!
Delve into Italian culture by attending traditional events. A highlight is Tuscany’s ‘Teatro del Silenzio’ opera festival held every July, which features famous singers. There are family-friendly events like Peruglia’s October ‘Eurochocolate’ festival with its sweet delights and the ‘Pizza Village’ of Naples where for the first week of September one village is turned into a pizzeria with a competition to find the world’s best pizza maker. Cultural enthusiasts head to Noto in Sicily during the third Sunday of May for the ‘Infiorata’ religious parade where the streets are lined with flower-paintings, while if you go to Siena in July you’ll see the ‘Palio di Siena’ horse race which has been held since Medieval times.
A spectacular view is never far away in Italy. Near Rome see the glorious Marmore Waterfalls, the highest in Europe, or for one of the continent’s most scenic gardens visit Giardino Sigurtà in Verona with its vivid flower beds. Marvellous marine sights await in Capri like the Faraglioni Rocks which spring from the sea or the ‘Blue Grotto’ with its underground lake, while the ‘Emerald Grotto’ in Amalfi boasts rich green waters that are navigable by boat. For something unique visit the ‘keyhole’ situated in a historic gate on Aventino Hill, Rome, which offers views of St Peter’s Basilica.
Italy has many interesting sites for your itinerary. Travel to Trentino Alto Adige and in the middle of Lake Resia you’ll spot a submerged bell tower. Frederick II Castle in Puglia is worth a visit, as it’s the only octagonal plant castle on earth, while in Siena you can see Galgano Abbey – the open sky church which is said to be where the ‘sword in the stone’ myth originated. Another must-see is ‘Galleria Borbonica’ tunnel in Naples which was a shelter for Spanish Kings in World War Two, while for a spectacular sight see the ‘Cascate del Mulino’ open air thermal windmill waterfalls in Tuscany.
There are various unique tokens you can buy, to take home with you as a reminder of your destination. If you’re in Florence be sure to snap up their aromatic artisan perfumes or quality leather products. While you’re viewing the well-preserved ruins of Pompeii, pick up some ornate jewellery. During your time on the Amalfi coast, buy some intricate handmade ceramics and purchase the famous inlaid-wood products of Sorrento, so you have a piece of Italy with you forever.