Holiday destinations in Italy

By Mark Hodson, Sunday Times Travel Writer

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 pool.

If you’re travelling with kids, see our tips for the best family holidays in Italy. Follow the links below for details of prices and rebooking policies. Note: all the travel companies featured are personally recommended by our editors.

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Lakes, beaches, countrysideCitiesOther holidaysIslandsSpecialist companies

Lakes, beaches, countryside

One of the most exciting – and authentic – ways to experience Italy is on one of these agritourism holidays. Places to stay are all in beautiful rural settings and are owner-managed, ranging from rustic hideaways for couples to family-friendly hotels and self-catering rentals. Most have a swimming pool and all offer a genuinely warm welcome. See the latest special offers.

For romance you can’t beat the Italian Lakes. With boat trips, beaches and a wide range of hotels, the region offers a 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.

Don’t ignore Tuscany, though. Its reputation is well deserved – we recommend staying in one of these stunning villas with private pool.

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.

Other holiday ideas in Puglia include Masseria Torre Maizza, a relaxing and contemporary 5 star hotel immersed in the glorious countryside.


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 Venice Simplon-Orient-Express from London.

You’ll find many wonderful festivals and cultural events going on all year round. Take a trip to the Carnival of Venice in February or watch opera in the open air at the Verona Opera Festival.

Love motor racing? How about this Formula One break at the home of Ferrari?

Other holidays in Italy

If you want to see a lot of Italy in one visit, join of these great-value escorted tours. Popular choices include a one-week Amalfi Coast Tour and this amazing 14-night Grand Tour.

Too much culture? You could enjoy the old-school style and fine food at a fabulous hotel overlooking the Amalfi Coast. Visit nearby Sorrento and the island of Capri.

One of the best ways to enjoy the Italian countryside is on a walking holiday. Take an independent tour where your luggage is transported from one hotel to the next and you are provided with all the maps and instructions you need.

The islands: Sicily and Sardinia

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. Look at these gorgeous well-priced places to stay.

For a luxury stay on Sicily, we recommend Sir Rocco Forte’s Verdura Golf & Spa Resort. It’s also a great venue for a golfing break.

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, and the good-value Chia Laguna Resort.

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

Classic Collection offers a wide selection of luxury hotel holidays in Italy.

i-escape has good value stylish accommodation across Italy.

Kirker Holidays specialises in luxury short breaks, opera and music holidays to Italy.

Vintage Travel and CV Villas offer villa holidays in Italy.

Long Travel specialises in characterful 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 Holidays has a great selection of hotels in Sardinia and across Italy.

Oliver’s Travels has a wide selection of villas throughout the Italian mainland and in Sicily and Sardinia.

Inntravel is a walking tour specialist with a range of self-guided holidays throughout Italy.

ExpertoItaly offer handpicked villas and good-value hotels plus everything you need for a tailor-made holiday or short break.

Martin Randall Travel runs art, architecture, history, music and cultural tours.

Mark Warner has a beach club in Sardinia.

Last updated: 22 October 2021

Before you book

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