Holiday in Italy: what do I need to know before I go?
Italy, a country steeped in history, art, delectable cuisine, and stunning landscapes, ever stands as a captivating and enchanting destination for travellers worldwide. Planning a luxurious holiday in this Mediterranean gem offers a myriad of possibilities—from exploring ancient ruins and historical heritage, relaxing in serene natural surroundings, and savoring world-renowned gastronomy, to enjoying modern indulgences, like world-class shopping in chic boutiques. Whether you're planning a weekend retreat, a family adventure, or a romantic escapade, this guide aims to provide insight in into some of the best of Italy's 20 diverse regions, such as Lombardy, Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, Sardinia, or Sicily. And we hope to help you navigate and choose between the great variety of sights and experiences available, and to ensure you enjoy superb comfort and luxury throughout your stay. So read on, before booking your stay in Italy, and get a tasting of the Italian "dolce vita".
When is the best time to visit Italy?
Understanding Italy's varying climate and peak seasons is important. Generally speaking, spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October) are usually favoured, for the mild temperatures and smaller crowds. Summers can be bustling and hot, while winters offer a quieter ambiance with occasional snow in the northern regions. That said, from north to south Italy is geographically diverse and the climate along with it:
- Northern Italy (Milan, Cinque Terre, Venice, Lake Como, Dolomites): spring and autumn offer offer ideal condtiions for exploring cities and enjoying outdoor activities. Winter is of course ideal for visiting Christmas markets and skiing in the Italian Alps or Dolomites, although many attractions, particularly along the coast may close. Summer meanwhile is often host to cultural events such as Milan Fashion Week.
- Central Italy (Rome, Tuscany, Florence, Umbria): again spring and autumn offer the best conditions, while summer can be hot and is more crowded, mild winters are great for avoiding crowds but not if you plan on swimming!
- Southern Italy (Amalfi Coast, Naples, Sardinia, Apulia, Sicily): spring and autumn are again the best months to visit. Although summer brings the heat and perfect beach weather, it also draws the holiday crowds particularly in popular areas like the Amalfi Coast or Sardinia. Winter can be a great choice for tranquilly exploring historical sights, but it's important to not that some places may be closed, particularly in rural areas or the Amalfi Coast.
Which is the best place to visit in Italy?
Italy boasts an array of captivating cities and regions. From the Eternal City of Rome, the Renaissance charm of Florence, the romantic canals of Venice, to the sun-soaked coasts of Sicily and Sardinia—each destination offers a unique allure. Consider your preferences, whether it's historical sites, artistic treasures, or picturesque landscapes, when choosing your ideal holiday destinations. Here's our run-down on some of the top Italian destinations:
Rome: The Eternal City
It is said that "all roads lead to Rome"... and if you're wondering where to start, then you can't go wrong with the Italian capital, whether for a week's holiday, or a long weekend getaway! Home to iconic landmarks like the Colosseum, Vatican City, Roman Forum, and Trevi Fountain, the entire city is like an open-air museum, rich in history, art, and ancient architecture spanning from its time as the capital of the ancient Roman Empire, through to modern times.
Rome is an iconic and legendary holiday destination, promising a stay full of discoveries. And aside from the historical attractions, discover the unique atmosphere of modern Roman life, the fantastic shopping opportunities, and the incredible gastronomy on offer. Stroll around Piazza Navona or Via dei Fori Imperiali, visit the Cinecitta Studios, have a drink on a terrace, then enjoy the amenities of your luxurious VeryChic hotel.
Florence: Jewel of the Renaissance
The Tuscan capital, the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is rightly considered one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. It is well worth a detour, if not then the actual focus of you holiday. Boasting renowned art galleries like the Uffizi Gallery and Michelangelo's David at the Accademia, along with stunning cathedrals, palaces, and picturesque streets, the city alone accounts for 25% of Italy's artistic heritage. Stradling the Arno River, artistic and architectural wonders await you in all directions.
Follow in the footsteps of the famous Medici family, admire Michelangelo's works, awe at the Piazza del Duomo, and take a stroll down the river banks, from Piazza Santo Spirito to Piazzale Michelangelo. In summary, a long weekend in Florence is the ideal destination for a charming, culture-oriented city break.
Pisa: Leaning Tower Marvel
Pisa, an enchanting city again found in the Tuscany region, beckons travellers with its iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa, an architectural marvel which is instantly recognised worldwide. Beyond this, Pisa boasts a rich historical tapestry and captivating cultural heritage, with impressive medieval architecture and a numer of other historic landmarks. The Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), is a a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which not only houses the Leaning Tower, but also the city's magnificent Cathedral and Baptistery, which showcases exquisite Romanesque architecture.
Delve into Pisa's charming streets lined with vibrant cafes and lively markets, embrace the local atmosphere, and savour Tuscan delicacies. While not necessarily a number one choice of destination, if you have time, Pisa is well worth a detour and promises an enriching Italian experience.
Tuscany: Timeless Beauty
We've talked about both Florence and Pisa, but of course the region of Tuscany where these two famous cities are found, is a major destination in its own right. Renowned for its rolling hills, vineyards, and charming medieval towns, which also include the likes of Siena, Lucca, and San Gimignano. Tuscany, is a spectacular rural Italian region which captivates visitors with its breathtaking countryside vistas. Rolling hills, vineyards, olive groves, and cypress-lined roads create a picturesque landscape that seems straight out of a Renaissance painting. Of course it is also home to the famous Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Chianti wine regions, which all produce world-renowned wines – and, there are therefore plenty of wine tours and tastings to be found across the region.
This is also an excellent region to experience some of a typical Italian agriturismi (farm stay) experience. At these establishments, guests can immerse themselves in nature and tranquil seclusion, experiencing farm life with a luxury touch, savoring fresh and organic farm-to-table Italian cuisine. Tuscany's rural charm embodies an authentic Italian experience, fostering a deep connection with its land, culture, and timeless beauty.
Venice: City of Canals
Venice, the floating city, is both unique and mesmerizing. Traditionally known as La Serenissima ("the most serene"), it is famous for its beautiful canals, ornate palaces, historic bridges and splendid piazzas – and it immediately evokes images of romantic gondola rides along the winding waterways and Grand Canal. The elegance of Venetian Gothic and Byzantine architecture is reflected in landmarks like St. Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace, while on the island of Murano, travellers can see the exquisite craftsmanship and vibrant beauty of world-renowned Murano glass. While there are plenty of museums to be found throughout the city, there also also some more contemporary offerings such as the captivating Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and the city is also host to numerous events, such as the annual Venice Film Festival.
As you navigate the labyrinthine of streets you will continue to discover hidden gems from quaint cafes, to artisanal shops and local markets – Venice's timeless and unique beauty make it an unparalleled destination, promising an unforgettable experience steeped in history, art, and romance.
Milan: Fashion Capital
Milan, is northern Italy's vibrant metropolis. It is sometimes overlooked in favour of more historical, romantic cities such as Venice, Florence, or Rome, however, it has much to offer. It boasts a number of historical attractions and iconic landmarks, such as the magnificent Duomo di Milano, a breathtaking Gothic cathedral, and the illustrious La Scala Opera House, emblematic of Milan's rich cultural heritage. Art enthusiasts can revel in masterpieces at the Pinacoteca di Brera, and the Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" at Santa Maria delle Grazie.
But somewhat in contrast to it's counterparts, Milan also enjoys a modern sophistication, and cosmopolitan charm. Renowned as a global fashion and design capital, Milan is a hub of contemporary innovation and architecture, of exquisite gastronomy, lively nightlife, and world-class shopping – in particular along Via Monte Napoleone and the Quadrilatero della Moda where haute couture and designer boutiques are showcased. With its juxtaposition of historical treasures and modern skyline, and its avant-garde spirit, Milan emerges as a multifaceted and unforgettable destination.
The Italian Alps & The Dolomites: Alpine Beauty
A luxury holiday in the Italian Alps or Dolomites presents the opportunity to enjoy breathtaking natural beauty, secluded relaxation, and exhilarating outdoor activities. The jagged peaks, verdant valleys, and pristine alpine landscapes create an idyllic setting for diverse pursuits throughout the year. In winter, the region transforms into a snowy wonderland, inviting ski and winter sport enthusiasts to the likes of Courmayeur or Cervinia in the west, or Alta Badia and the chic Cortina d’Ampezzo to the east in the Dolomites. As spring blooms, the meadows burst into vibrant colors, ideal for hiking, cycling, and exploring the charming villages and alpine lakes nestled amidst the mountains.
There are plenty of rustic luxury hotels and chalets to be found throughout the Italian Alps and Dolomites, many of which not only offer the opportunity for outdoor adventures and panoramic vistas, but also some superb spa experiences and the chance to indulge in some of the hearty and unique regional Italian cuisine.
Cinque Terre: Seaside Charm
While the entire Ligurian coastline, commonly referred to as the Italian Riviera, is magnificent and full of gorgeous towns and beaches, we have to give a special mention to the area known as Cinque Terre. Comprising five picturesque villages perched along the rugged coastline near the border between Ligura and Tuscany, the area is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. These colourful cliffside towns – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore – are postcard-perfect with their pastel-hued houses, narrow cobblestone streets, and breathtaking sea views. Each village presents a unique character, with a genuine warmth of the residents, inviting exploration of the local cuisine and vibrant markets.
The allure of Cinque Terre lies also in its beautiful surrounding landcapes, offering fantastic hiking trails along the coastline, unveiling panoramic views of terraced vineyards and azure waters. Cinque Terre is an irresistible destination for those seeking a blend of seaside holiday and cultural immersion, and there are plenty of luxury boutique hotels to choose from across all five villages.
Bologna: Culinary Delights
Bologna, often dubbed "La Dotta" (The Learned) for its prestigious university, one of the oldest in the world! It is a vibrant city and treasure trove of medieval charm, adorned with elegant porticoes, historic towers like the iconic Asinelli Tower, and stunning squares like Piazza Maggiore. There are numerous museums, galleries, and intellectual pursuits to be explored, along with bustling markets, and vibrant street.
However, Bologna is perhaps best known for its excellent gastronomy, its culinary prowess entices food enthusiasts from all around the world. Discover its authentic trattorias, serving delectable Bolognese cuisine such as ragù and handmade tortellini.
Verona: City of Romance
Verona, the romantic city immortalized by Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" captivates visitors with its timeless allure, blending history, culture, and captivating beauty. It's even possible to visit Juliet's House, where the legendary balcony and statue of Juliet draw romantics and literature lovers. A UNESCO World Heritage Site the city also entices with its well-preserved Roman ruins. This includes the stunning Arena di Verona, the second largest amphitheater in the country. Still in great condition, it hosts operatic performances amid a backdrop of historical grandeur. The city's charming streets reveal architectural marvels, medieval bridges like Ponte Pietra, and elegant piazzas adorned with Renaissance palaces, and numerous churches, including the Basilica of San Zeno with its astonishing 12th-century bell tower. Discover art galleries, vibrant markets, and delightful cafes serving authentic Italian cuisine from the region.
Naples: Gateway to the South
Naples is the capital of the Campania region, known for its lush nature framing breathtaking landscapes, unspoilt villages and fairy-tale coastlines with beautiful gulfs. While the city of Naples itself is known for its vibrant energy – and for being the home of Pizza! Trying an authentic Neapolitan pizza here is of course a must, however, the regions culinary prowess is not limited to that, it is also known for its exquisite seafood, high-quality dried pasta, wide variety of cheeses, traditional salumi, and liqueurs.
Nestled by the azure waters of the Bay of Naples, this southern Italian gem presents a kaleidoscope of experiences to be discovered. The city's lively streets buzz with colorful markets, Baroque architecture can be found around every corner, and artistic flair is showcased in galleries and in the street art. There are a number of historical sights within the city, and then, nearby you will find fascinating ancient sites like Pompeii and Herculaneum, both buried and perfectly-preseved under volcanic ash ejected from the majestic Mount Vesuvius. For those looking for a chic seaside escape, Naples also serves a a gateway to the ever-breathtaking Amalfi Coast, and the beautiful islands of Ischia and Capri.
Amalfi Coast: Luxury Coastline
The Amalfi Coast, a picturesque stretch of coastline in southern Italy, lies just south of Naples. A UNESCO-listed site, it boasts a stunning landscape of steep cliffs, pastel-colored villages nestled into hillsides, and breathtaking vistas overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. It captivates with its unparalleled beauty, cultural heritage, and laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle, making it an idyllic destination for a relaxing getaway, and it also exudes a more upscale lifestyle.
Be enchanted by iconic towns such as Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello, each offering unique cultural experiences. The region boasts gorgeous beaches, including the Marina Grande Beach and Fornillo Beach, inviting relaxation amidst crystalline waters and scenic coastal views. Beyond the coastal splendor, the Amalfi Coast is a haven for epicureans, showcasing exquisite local cuisine and famed limoncello, and history buffs can visit landmarks like the 9th-century Amalfi Cathedral. There is no lack of exceptional luxury hotels on the Amalfi Coast, from charming boutique hotels to clifftop palazzos, offering romantic views, idyllic infinity pools, Michelin-starred restaurants and serene spas.
Sardinia: Island Gem
With stunning wild landscapes surrounding pristine beaches with crystal-clear waters, a seaside holiday in Sardinia is always a great idea. In particular along the Costa Smeralda, hidden coves with turquoise waters and powdery white sand beaches are sheltered by rugged cliffs. Nature enthusiasts will find solace in the island's lush forests, dramatic mountain ranges like the Gennargentu, and the scenic beauty of the Supramonte limestone cliffs. Meanwhile, resort towns offer luxury living with a vibrant day and nightlife – the chic town of Porto Cervo in particular, is favorite playground of the rich and famous, with it's luxury yacht-filled marina.
Aside from the natural beauty, beaches and resort towns, discover quaint villages and a unique culture and rich heritage. For example, be sure to take time to visit the mysterious Nuragic ruins, Bronze Age stone structures scattered across the island. Meanwhile, food enthusiasts will enjoy the island's culinary delights, from fresh seafood to traditional Sardinian cuisine. From Cagliari to Olbia, passing through the Costa Smeralda and the Maddalena Archipelago, let yourself be carried away by the magic of Sardinia.
Puglia: The Wild South
Italy's enchanting southeastern region, also known as Apulia, is instantly recognisable as the "heel of Italy's boot". Very hot and dry, it is the least mountainous region of Italy, consisting primarily of broad plains and low-lying hills, and with Italy's longest coastline, bordered by the Adriatic Sea on one side and the Ionian Sea on the other. Puglia captivates visitors with its stunning landscapes, charming historic towns, and distinctive cultural and culinary heritage.
See the dramatic cliffs of the Gargano Peninsula, the 'Tavoliere delle Puglie' plain (one of the largest and most productive in Italy where a significant amount of wine and olive oil is produced), the iconic trulli houses in Alberobello, and historic Baroque architecture in Lecce (known as the "Florence of the South"). The Basilica di Santa Croce, is a masterpiece of intricate stone carvings, and the Piazza del Duomo along with its stunning Lecce Cathedral, are must-visit landmarks in the city. Indulge in delectable seafood, olive oil, freshly baked bread and traditional local dishes. Exploring local markets, and discover traditional local festivals. Wander through whitewashed seaside villages such as Polignano a Mare, and bask on pristine sandy beaches like Pescoluse. With a unique blend of natural beauty, sunny weather, history and culinary delights, Puglia offers a sun-soaked off-the-beaten-path Italian experience.
Sicily: A Cultural Crossroad
If you're aiming for a holiday in Southern Italy, then Sicily awaits! As the largest island in the Mediterranean, located at the crossroads of east, west, Europe and North Africa, it enjoys a particularly rich legacy, culture and heritage with many influences – even though it's Italian, Sicily has a culture of its own. In the historic city of Palermo, the islands capital, you'll find influences from the Arab occupation, while spectacular Greek ruins can be found in Syracuse, the Valley of the Temples in the hilltop town of Agrigento, or the ancient amphitheater in Taormina. Meanwhile the unique cuisine also reflects these many influences. Savour excellent fish and seafood specialities, along with some classic desserts made with almonds and candied citrus, alongside the famous cannolis (small cylindrical cream-filled puff pastry) and gelatos.
Sicily enchants visitors with its stunning volcanic landscapes, from the towering Mount Etna, Europe's most active volcano, to the idyllic beaches along the coastline. From pebble shores and smooth sands to hidden coves, resort towns and secluded spots there's a beach for every occasion here. Some of our favourites are the white sands of San Vito Lo Capo, the picturesque islet Isola Bella, and beach town of Cefalù.
Sicily's vibrant local markets, vibrant festivals, and warm hospitality create an immersive experience, inviting travelers to embrace its rich heritage and breathtaking scenery, ensuring an unforgettable journey into the heart of the Mediterranean.
Where to Stay in Italy?
So, now that you have the run-down on the major regions and cities in Italy, how should you go about choosing your accommodations? Italy offers a wide range of accommodations, each tailored to suit diverse tastes and preferences, ensuring a delightful stay for every traveller.
For those seeking cultural immersion and historic charm, Italy boasts a plethora of charming boutique hotels tucked into centuries-old buildings. Cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice provide an array of these unique stays, combining modern comforts with a dash of history. For lovers of luxury, lavish resorts all along Italy's stunning coastlines, particularly in destinations like the Amalfi Coast, Sardinia, and Sicily, offering panoramic views of the Mediterranean, plush amenities, and world-class service. Enjoy rejuvenation and pampering at some of Italy's exquisite spa hotels, in places such as Montecatini Terme. Or for a tranquil countryside escape, agriturismi in Tuscany, Umbria, or Puglia offer a genuine taste of rural Italian life with a luxury spin. Here are just a few of our VeryChic recommendations:
- The Hotel Home Florence, is a delightful four-star hotel, perfectly located near Florence, offering chic, spacious and intimate accommodations, an ideal place to enjoy some relaxation close to nature, blended with exploring the city of Florence.
- In the heart of the Italian Alps, the four-star Hotel Miramonti is set in a typical 19th-century building, offering breathtaking views of the glaciers of Grand Paradis. It also has a gourmet restaurant and a spa that will stimulate all your senses.
- For a luxurious holiday on the Italian Riviera, then book a stay at the charming Hotel San Remo. This Belle-Epoque style palace offers superb comfort in all of its spacious rooms and suites, with an ideal location facing the Mediterranean Sea.
- What hotels are there for golf enthusiasts? The Palazzo Arzaga Hotel Spa & Golf Resort is our pick. With its two courses, 18 and 9 holes, nestled in an absolutely delightful green surroundings, this star address has everything to charm you. And to make booking your stay even easier, they offer all-inclusive packages so you can travel care free!