Next time you visit Italy, make it a double. Twin-centres can show you two different sides to the country’s coin, and they’re easier to do than you may think. Many of the Italy’s best-known destinations are closely linked; with an affordable and efficient train network and beautiful scenery and coastal roads to drive, even the travelling can be a pleasure.
To inspire your 2017 travel, we’ve chosen the top Italian destinations that go together like wine and cheese…
The city and the coast
Like pizza margherita, Chianti and Monica Bellucci, this twin-centre never goes out of style. Begin with a few days in Rome, strolling through its atmospheric streets and spotting world-famous sites like the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps. To maximise your sightseeing, we can book you onto a guided tour of the Vatican Museums or Colosseum, or a fun extra like a Roman cooking lesson.
Reaching Sorrento is easy; it’s a straightforward two-hour train journey from Rome into Naples, and then a further hour (on a local train or via private transfer) into Sorrento. Adjust to the laid-back pace of the south with a stroll around the Marina Grande, and grab a photo op against the backdrop of the Bay of Naples. Spare a day for a walking tour of Pompeii or scale the brooding Mount Vesuvius.
The cultured break
Italy’s largest lake is a vast expanse of mirror-shine water, dominating one of the country’s most scenic regions. It’s a fabulous food and wine region (vineyard tours are a must), with plenty appealing to adventurous sorts, from gentle bike rides along picturesque waterfronts to hiking in the hills.
Pair the scenic lakes with a cultured city break to Shakespeare’s city, Verona, for a few days spent wandering its romantic gardens and Romanesque churches. Opera fans, time your visit with the world-famous Verona Opera Festival, held in the stunning Roman amphitheatre from 23 June to 27 August 2017.
Verona is around an hour’s drive from the town of Garda, or an hour on the train.
The undiscovered Italy
If you’re looking for somewhere new to visit in Italy, Calabria and Basilicata are two fresh additions to our books. These neighbouring regions in sun-baked southern Italy are ideal for a self-drive holiday, with fascinating little rural towns and rugged coastlines worth exploring on your own time.
Start in Basilicata, and head straight for former capital Matera, famously home to the UNESCO-honoured sassi di Matera. Clambering up and down Basilicata’s hillsides, these cave houses are thousands of years old and today are filling up with interesting hotels, cafes and galleries.
Head south-west into Calabria, the ‘toe’ of Italy’s ‘boot’, home to one of the country’s most beautiful – and undiscovered – coastlines. Stop off in the colourful seaside town of Tropea, home to a lovely waterfront and some of the best beaches around, and don’t miss Capo Vaticano, one of the region’s most incredible natural beauty spots.
The seaside escape
This summer, twin the Amalfi Coast with a trip to Ischia, a beautiful but relatively unknown Italian island. The Amalfi Coast is a glorious stretch of the Campania region, littered with colourful towns sitting on heart-stopping cliff edges, and picture-perfect waterfronts made for seafood suppers and sunset strolls.
To hop over to Ischia, enjoy the coastal drive over to Pozzuoli, near Naples. Catch the hydrofoil (around an hour) and arrive in the beautiful Porto Ischia, the island’s capital known for its vibrant seafront promenade and chic bars. Being a volcanic island, Ischia’s thermal spas and gardens have cemented it as a spa destination – a soak in the hot springs is the perfect way to finish a seaside escape.
Sicily is the largest island in the Med, nudging southernmost Italy with the volcanic Aeolian Islands drifting off its northern shore. To start your Sicilian experience, begin in Taormina. One of the island’s most charming towns, it sits mountainside with an incredibly scenic backdrop, a clutch of interesting historic buildings and a vibrant shopping and dining scene.
For a taster of the Aeolian Islands, catch a ferry over to unspoilt Vulcano – around 1 hour 30 minutes away. Named after the god Vulcan, this mysterious volcanic island features fantastic hiking trails, mud baths and a real off-the-beaten-track appeal.
The wine trail
Forming Italy’s green heart, these twin regions are characterised by waves of hilly green scenery and the country’s most prolific vineyards. If you fancy yourself a wine connoisseur, it’s well worth seeing them both; start off in Tuscany’s famous Chianti region, where we can book excursions for tasting, exploring and more tasting, with stops in the region’s charming baroque cities.
If you’re in Tuscany in September, don’t miss the Chianti Classico Expo – an annual event celebrating one of Italy’s most-loved wines. Visiting in June? Make it Vini nel Monda (Wines of the World) in Umbria, which hosts experts and wine-makers from across the country.
Tuscany and Umbria share a border, so it’s easy to catch a local train or drive yourself. In Umbria, don’t miss the medieval town of Perugia, and head to the vineyards to try well-known wines like Orvieto and Sagrantino straight from the source.