From trattoria kitchen to lakeside palace, from Tuscan countryside to Sicily’s seaside idyll and from Roman ruin to Renaissance cathedral, Italy has allure in abundance. With 51 UNESCO-listed treasures to its name, no country features more World Heritage Sites.
Indeed, when confronted with Italy’s sheer abundance of cultural delights, it’s often easiest to think of the country as a collection of 20 regions, each with its own distinct identity. Sicily is a case in point; Greek temples crouch in valleys, vineyards terrace green contours and playful Mediterranean cuisine is served up in seaside villages. It’s a world away from Rome’s architectural exuberance where you can trace the source of whole empires and religion between the crumbling colonnades of the Roman Forum and the Michelangelos of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. Then there’s the rural charm of Tuscany where medieval towns dot a rolling countryside broken only by wineries.
That’s they joy of Italy. One moment you could be relaxing in a Belle Époque palace on the Italian Lakes, and the next looking out over Amalfi's bright patchwork. Here, centuries-old houses spill down dramatic cliffs to the beach-fringed waters below. And our multi-stop itineraries will bring you between the country’s richly varied highlights in style, enjoying stays in luxury accommodation and the services of private drivers and guides throughout. But, there’s one thing that’s found throughout the country – an appreciation of la dolce vita, the good life. You’ll be well looked after whether you’re feasting on a Fiorentina steak, sipping prosecco in Venice or waking up to an espresso in a piazza-side café.
Western civilisation was founded in Rome, the Renaissance sprung from Florence and the marble palaces of Venice float unique. In short, Italy is host to some of the world’s most iconic cities, whether you’re looking up at the Colosseum's vaulted grandeur or Pisa’s leaning icon. But, if you read between the headlines, you’ll be treated to lesser-visited gems with equal charm, including the medieval treasure troves of Tuscany and the seaside beauty of Puglia.
This is where Italians come to holiday. Sicily is an obvious highlight, its pretty vineyards and quiet villages watched over by both Greek and Roman archaeology. Then there’s the cultural splendour of the Amalfi Coast where stunningly colourful seaside towns tumble down green-dappled cliff faces. However, wherever you choose, you can be sure of enjoying plenty of golden-sands relaxation.
An Italian holiday equates to Italian indulgence. From delicate risottos to hearty Neapolitan pizzas and from Michelin-starred fine dining to humble osteria eateries, expect to be fully looked after. The open-back fruit trucks that line Sicily's streets in the morning command your attention while, further north, ragùs made with wild boar, rabbit or porcini mushroom make for heartier affairs. It’s all washed down with full-bodied reds, light and characterful whites or perhaps a quintessential digestif: grappa or limoncello.
Sometimes it feels as if all of Europe’s historic greatness is condensed into Italy. Begin with ancient Rome’s wonders before moving on to the medieval severity of Florence and Tuscany’s hilltop towns. Then, you’ll come full circle with grand Baroque cathedrals and Renaissance flourishes, each recalling a certain classical excess. There’s also the small matter of such painting names as Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.
In the long, verdant breaths between city masterpieces there’s all of old-world Italy to explore. Of course Tuscany demands the most attention, with its rolling vineyards capped by historic walled towns and watched over by those iconic pencil cedar trees. However, there are also the quieter charms of Umbria – a Tuscany in miniature – and the Italian Lakes. Here, grand aristocratic hotels gaze out over shimmering waters dotted with historic monasteries and palaces alike.
Since the country’s first train line was built to connect Naples’ royal palace to the seaside, Italy fell hard for the romance of rail travel. Today, some 16,000km of track span the country, winding up into the Alps, skirting pretty coastlines and even hopping over the Venetian lagoon to meet that great floating city. And, although our Italy experts can organise seamless rail journeys throughout the country, it’s a trip aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express that truly stands out – arguably the world’s most luxurious rail journey.
Spas of Tuscany
13 days from £1,795 pp incl. flights
Staying at ducal palaces and country manors, you’ll be treated to a superb range of included hot-spring spa treatments. In between, you’ll be able to explore Tuscany’s vineyards and medieval towns on scenic country drives.
4 days from £2,955 pp incl. flights
Between indulgent fine dining, champagne receptions and private city tours, this elegant journey pairs the ultimate in luxury rail travel with a palace stay in the heart of ancient Venice.
Italian Coast to Culture
9 days from £1,695 pp incl. flights
Tuscany is famous for Renaissance art and architecture, with the city of Florence at its forefront. Less well known perhaps are the region’s beaches, each as lovely as the Botticelli Venus. This trip combines the beauty of both.
Capri and the Amalfi Coast
9 days from £1,580 pp incl. flights
Capri and the Amalfi coast are characterised by vertiginous cliffs and grand, salt-encrusted villas. Crescent beaches in secluded coves line an aquamarine sea, and there’s history at every turn.
Best of Sicily
8 days from £1,100 pp incl. flights
From glorious swathes of golden sand to millennia-old ruins framed by scented lemon groves and sun-soaked vineyards, Sicily’s highlights are as enchanting as they are varied. Take it all in with stays in iconic hotels and scenic country drives.