1. Iconic routes
Italy boasts awe-inspiring landscapes and sights and is a playground for those who like to explore slowly and soak up the sights, sounds and scents of their holiday destination. As you walk or cycle amongst the stunning UNESCO Dolomites, history will engulf you. A string of castles along the Adige (Etsch) valley and U-shaped steel rungs and pathways of cables on the via ferrata (iron road) have fascinating stories to tell, as they have borne witness to the bloody battles of WW1. In Umbria, fondly known as the ‘Green Heart’ of Italy, you can walk in the footsteps of St Francis through peaceful woods, and discover quiet hilltop towns with exquisitely decorated buildings, such as churches, adorned with old paintings and frescos. Or perhaps stroll or pedal through the Veneto’s striking Euganean Hills, or the rolling hills and ancient forests, with their amazing array of beautiful wildflowers.
2. Heavenly Italian food
There are many foodie adventures to be had all over Italy. Food and wine are a defining part of the country’s culture; sitting around the table and sharing a good meal means more than just filling empty stomachs. It’s about family, tradition and experiencing something special.
Piedmont is famous for its Slow Food Movement; tucked away in the north-west of Italy, this region is characterised by rolling countryside and sweeping vineyards. Indulge in locally-caught game, melt-in-the-mouth cheeses like Gorgonzola and Toma delle Langhe and the much sought-after white truffle. Wine here is second to none; sip on sweet Moscato or sparkling Asti Spumante, or go for full-bodied reds like Barbera or the ‘king of wines’, Barolo. If traditional, hearty meals are more your thing then look no further than Tuscany, where the meat is locally-sourced from the undulating green hills and beans are a key ingredient in soups and many other dishes. Enjoy lightly toasted Tuscan bread rubbed with raw garlic and a drizzle of freshly-pressed olive oil, washed down with a glass of Chianti or Montepulciano wine, as a tasty snack. Whilst Umbria produces more than 40% of Italy’s pasta, their highly-prized black truffle and fine olive oils, Italian desserts are also special, like gelato, which is delicious!
3. Historic sites
In the Veneto marvel at the magnificent architecture including the region’s stunning villas. UNESCO-recognised Vicenza is nicknamed ‘Venice of the Terra Firma’ for its marvellous architecture. San Gimignano’s soaring mediaeval towers in Tuscany are an impressive sight and in Umbria, the picturesque walled town of Spello is one of Italy’s best preserved mediaeval towns.
From the turquoise seas and unspoilt sands of Sicily to the views of the Adriatic coast; from Puglia to the elegant Amalfi Coast, every stretch of beach or coast in Italy is awe-inspiring. And there are plenty of places to enjoy fresh seafood dishes and soak up the beauty of characterful old coastal villages along the way.
Italy is home to some major cities of art that are rich in monuments, churches, castles, museums and historic dwellings. Venice, Padua and Vicenza in the Veneto region, Tuscany’s Renaissance art cities of Florence, Siena and Pisa, and Umbria’s Perugia to name a few.