Holiday destinations in Italy
Italy is one of our favourite countries. Not only does it offer beautiful scenery, fabulous food, charming people and historic artworks – there is also tremendous variety, whether you are looking for a family beach holiday, a hike in the country, a romantic city break or a lazy summer in a villa with private pool. Here we present our holidays ideas for Italy.
If you’re travelling with kids, see our tips for the best family holidays in Italy.
Note: all the travel companies featured are personally recommended by our editors.
There are few more romantic destinations than the Italian Lakes. With boat trips, beaches and a wide range of hotels, the region offers an excellent and good-value alternative to the Mediterranean in summer. Lake Como, the most popular, has grand lakeside hotels surrounded by mountains, but other options include charming Lake Iseo and stylish Lake Maggiore.
The region of Le Marche is often neglected in favour of its better known neighbour, Tuscany. However, Le Marche is a wonderful region of Italy, rich in Blue Flag beaches, medieval hill towns and historic palaces. You can enjoy nights at the opera and Renaissance masterpieces and stay at great-value villas.
If you love beaches, head to Puglia in the heel of Italy’s boot. It boasts 500 miles of sandy coastline as well as some magnificent unspoilt countryside, beautiful towns, the baroque city of Lecce and charming places to stay including a luxury masseria, a boutique spa hotel and self-catering trulli.
The best time to visit the cities of Rome and Florence is away from the peak summer period. Spring and autumn are favourites. Venice, on the other hand, is fabulous in winter when the mist rises off the lagoon and the vaporetti are free of tourists. The ultimate way to arrive is on the Orient Express from London. You can also take a luxury hotel barge trip across the Venetian lagoon.
If you’re interested in history, take a fascinating archaeological tour of Pompeii and Herculaneum, where Roman life was frozen in time with the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. Other options include a cultural tour with Martin Randall focussed on art, architecture, music, history or literature, and a small-boat cruise along the Amalfi Coast.
If you love Italian wine – and who doesn’t? – how about taking an expert-guided tour to discover one of the country’s great wine-producing regions such as Tuscany, Piemonte or Sicily? You’ll experience tutored tastings, fabulous food and charming accommodation.
One of the best ways to enjoy the Italian countryside is on a walking holiday (details here). Take an independent walking tour where your luggage is transported from one hotel to the next and you are provided with all the maps and instructions you need. Also try this cultural walking tour of Italy.
You could also take a “wellness weekend” at L’Albereta, a luxury hideaway in the Lombardy countryside with expert guidance on nutrition, exercise and treatments plus a fitness centre, two swimming pools, sauna and steam bath.
You can combine spa treats with haute Italian cuisine at the five-star Castel Monastero Tuscan Resort & Spa. Indulge at the Gordon Ramsey restaurant and treat yourself to some pampering at the wellness centre.
You don’t need to fly to Italy. You can travel by train to Venice via the Alps on a high-speed TGV with a stopover in Lucerne or Zurich. For a treat (perhaps a big birthday or anniversary) you could even travel back on the Venice Simplon Orient Express.
The Italian islands
Sicily combines superb beaches and historic towns with wonderful ancient sites and fine food. Try Cefalu, a charming town with a hive of medieval streets and some of Sicily’s finest sandy beaches. Must-sees include Palermo, the cosmopolitan capital, and the medieval port of Syracuse.
For a luxury stay on Sicily, we recommend Sir Rocco Forte’s Verdura Golf & Spa Resort.
Sardinia has arguably the best beaches in Italy, many of them unspoilt and protected by dunes. The sea is clear and turquoise in many places. The island also has some great places to stay including the Forte Village Resort, one of the best family hotels in the world.
For an active holiday – for couples or families – with watersports and tennis included, try a beach club in Sardinia. Details here.
Also see the best time to visit the Mediterranean.
Best Italy holiday companies
Citalia offers a wide selection of holiday destinations in Italy.
Kirker Holidays specialises in luxury short breaks, opera and music holidays to Italy.
Long Travel specialises in unusual hotels and villas in Southern Italy, Sardinia and Sicily.
To Tuscany has a great selection of villas in Tuscany.
Inghams offers holidays to the Italian Lakes.
Sardatur has a great selection of hotels in Sardinia and across Italy.
Inntravel is a walking tour specialist.
ExpertoItaly offer handpicked villas and good-value hotels plus everything you need for a tailormade holiday experience.
Headwater Holidays offers cycling holidays in Italy.
Andante Travels offers archaeological tours.
Martin Randall Travel runs art, architecture, history, music and cultural tours.
Destination Yoga offers yoga holidays in Puglia.
Mark Warner has a beach club in Sardinia.
Last updated: 7 November 2016