Whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned visitor, there’s always somewhere new to discover in Italy. And thanks to fantastic transport links, it’s as easy as uno, due, tre to explore more than one place in the same trip. From multi-city holidays that take in the classic three (Venice, Florence and Rome), to quirky itineraries showcasing the country’s untapped gems, we’ve rounded up our top 10 multi-centre holidays for the year ahead. Make 2018 the year you see more of Italy…
Island-hopping in Sicily
Destinations visited: Vulcano, Lipari & Salina
Think of Italy and island-hopping probably wouldn’t be the first holiday that springs to mind. But it’s the best way to explore the Aeolian archipelago, a cluster of volcanic isles just off the northern coast of Sicily (celebrity chef Gino D’Acampo tries it for himself in this week’s episode of Gino’s Italian Coastal Escape).
These islands line up everything from natural hot springs and mud baths, to boutique wineries and off-the-beaten-track hiking opportunities. Our island-hopping itinerary lets you stay on three of the islands, Vulcano, Lipari and Salina.
Staying on each island for two nights gives you plenty of time to explore, plus you’ll have the chance to day-trip to other islands, too, like chic Panarea and fiery Stromboli. Perfect if you’re looking to discover a lesser-known side of Italy.
A gourmet getaway to Emilia-Romagna
Destinations visited: Bologna, Modena, Parma
Taking in three gastronomic powerhouses, this is one of the best (if not the best) Italy itineraries for foodies. You’ll start in Bologna, the regional capital of Emilia-Romagna. With a nickname that translates as ‘the fat one’, you know you’re in for a gourmet treat here. Tortellini, mortadella, tagliatelle al ragu, lasagne – menus here are chock-full of tasty local dishes. Graze your way around the stalls of Quadrilatero Market, then work off the calories with a stroll around the portici (miles of arcaded buildings designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO).
Your next stop is the charming little city of Modena. Its claim to fame is balsamic vinegar – rich, syrupy and delicious. Pop in to a local producer for tasters and to learn a bit about the history, and don’t forget to pick up a bottle or two to take home with you (brace yourself, though – the good stuff will cost you a fair few euros!). For a real treat, book a table at three-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana.
The final port of call is Parma, home of Parma ham and Parmesan cheese. Together with a loaf of just-baked bread and some fresh fruit, they make the perfect picnic – take yours to the leafy surrounds of Ducale Park. Follow it up with an amble around the ancient streets of the city centre.
Authentic experiences on the Neapolitan Riviera
Destinations visited: Naples, Pompeii, Paestum, Amalfi Coast, Capri
Like the ease of an escorted tour but not the idea of being part of a huge group? Our exclusive group tour of the Neapolitan Riviera has a maximum of 18 guests, so you won’t be herded around with a big coachload of people.
Instead, you’ll travel to a mix of big-name sights (Pompeii, Paestum temples) and off-the-tourist-track gems, with authentically Italian experiences along the way (a cooking class here, a tasting of locally made limoncello there). Evening meals are included half the time, but we’ve left you the other half to go and try out a few local trattorias.
Verona Opera Festival and Lake Garda
Destinations visited: Verona, Lake Garda
This northern multi-centre adds a pop of city culture to a classic Lakes break. Whether you’re an opera fan or not, if you’re in Verona during the summer, a night at the opera festival is a must. Taking place under the stars in the city’s grand Roman amphitheatre, the atmosphere is just as electric as the performances. We can sort out tickets for you – just ask us which performances are on when you book and pick your favourite!
Once you’ve had a few days in Verona, it’s an easy (you’ll be there quicker than you can drink your takeaway cappuccino) train ride to the southern shores of Lake Garda. Stick to the south for vineyards and fairytale castles, or head further north for picture-pretty villages and dramatic mountain backdrops.
London to Sorrento by rail
Destinations visited: Zurich, Milan, Rome, Sorrento
One of the biggest trends we’re already seeing for 2018 is making the journey to Italy as much a part of the holiday as when you arrive. Let the train take the strain and you’ll meander through chocolate-box French countryside and dramatic Alpine scenery, plus there’s the option to stop off along the way in Paris and Zurich.
One of our favourite rail itineraries takes you right down to Sorrento, via three beautiful cities. You’ll have one night in Zurich, two in Milan and three in Rome, before arriving on the Neapolitan Riviera for five nights of la dolce vita.
Country & coast: Tuscany & Elba Island
Destinations visited: Tuscany Countryside, Elba Island
The Tuscan countryside will never go out of fashion – who could get tired of those vineyard-striped hills, cypress-lined lanes and sleepy, sun-soaked towns? Update your itinerary for 2018 by pairing a classic countryside stay with a few days on one of Tuscany’s hidden gems: Elba Island.
Although popular with holidaying Italians, the island is fairly undiscovered among British tourists. It’s a wildly beautiful spot, with a rugged coastline, forested mountains and some of the best beaches in Tuscany – all turquoise waters and hideaway coves.
Slow Food and fine wine in Piedmont
Destinations visited: Turin, Piedmont Countryside
Whether you’re a foodie, a wine lover or an architecture buff, this holiday has a little something to keep everyone happy. Your base for the trip is the region of Piedmont, home of the Slow Food movement – a concept that’s all about fresh ingredients, traditional recipes and good old-fashioned home cooking. The region’s capital, Turin, hosts one of the biggest Slow Food festivals in the world, so we’d suggest starting there. When you’re not Slow Food-ing, there’s Parisian-style architecture, artisan bakeries and chocolatiers to discover.
After spending time in the city, you’ll head for the hills. Piedmont’s countryside is home to truffle farms, hazelnut groves, Alpine dairy pastures and, of course, plenty of wine tasting opportunities. These two destinations are a bucket-list must for any foodie wanting to experience authentic Italian cuisine.
Road trip around Puglia
Destinations visited: Bari, Gargano, Matera, Ostuni, Lecce, Alberobello
We love a fly-and-flop as much as the next person (especially on Italy’s beaches), but 2018 is all about exploring and getting under the skin of wherever you’re visiting. Take on our Authentic Puglia fly drive and you’ll be teaming beach days with UNESCO World Heritage Site visits, National Park strolls and Apulian wine tastings (sometimes on the same day.)
Our itinerary gives you ideas for how you can best explore this stunning region, with detailed route maps, hotel stays along the way (plus the option to stay in traditional masseria farmhouses if you really fancy an authentic experience), and a heap of added extras like wine and olive oil tastings.
Destinations visited: Genoa, Portovenere, Cinque Terre
This multi-centre holiday in Liguria is a budding photographer’s dream, and perfect for anyone dreaming of seeing one of Italy’s prettiest and most unique stretches of coastline. Start your journey off in Genoa, which boasts an array of historic palaces, piazzas and a medieval lighthouse. It’s not all ancient buildings, though – we love Genoa’s lively shopping and dining scene, too.
From Genoa, journey south to explore the pastel-coloured villages of the Cinque Terre. Hop between each village by boat or train (or on foot – the hiking trails along the cliffs are thigh-burning but well worth it for the views), journeying back to your base in the rainbow-bright town of Portovenere – often described as the unofficial sixth Cinque Terre village.
Triple city break
Destinations visited: Venice, Florence, Rome
Italy does city breaks incredibly well. For 2018, don’t stop at just one – we suggest teaming three of the country’s most famous cities in one amazing journey.
On this Venice, Florence and Rome multi-centre, you can tick off world-famous sights, shop ’til you drop and indulge in aperitivi on a daily basis. Start in romantic Venice, experiencing the atmosphere of St. Mark’s Square and strolling around the maze of canals and cobbled streets. Jump on the train and you’ll soon be in Florence, Europe’s art and culture capital, where the Uffizi and iconic Duomo await. Last but not least, travel by train to ancient Rome to tour the Colosseum, Roman Forum and St. Peter’s Basilica.