Must-See Italy: Travelzoo Deal Experts Share Their Secrets
According to our recent travel trends survey, Italy is the top European destination on Travelzoo members’ wish lists. With that in mind, we asked our deal experts to recommend their favorite destinations and experiences. Here’s a region-by-region guide to living “la dolce vita.”
Northeast: Venice & Verona
Best for: City breaks.
Best time to go: Whenever you can, frankly, but December-March, when it’s less busy and the temperatures are more bearable, is our favorite.
See: Venice draws the crowds, but little Verona (below) down the road shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and packs Roman ruins, waterside walkways and irresistible Italian food into its compact center. Plus, it has beautiful Lake Garda on its doorstep.
Alternatively: Go skiing. Executive producer Tracey spent last February in Cortina D’Ampezzo – known as the Queen of the Dolomites. She described the views of the snow-capped peaks as “breathtaking”.
Drink: Travelzoo’s HR advisor Christine recommends trying grappa at the Nardini Distillery on the Ponte degli Alpini in Bassano del Grappa.
Mid-north: Tuscany & Emilia-Romagna
Best for: Foodie breaks.
Best time to go: Spring and early summer when asparagus, crab and peaches are in season (or late autumn and early winter if you’re an olive and truffle fan).
See: Hire a car and get off the beaten track to find authentic foodie gems in Tuscany, says senior associate producer Victoria. Senior producer Amy recommends taking a gourmet tour of Emilia-Romagna: “It’s the home of prosciutto, Parmesan and the most delicious balsamic vinegar you’ll ever taste,” she says.
Alternatively: Renting a Tuscan farmhouse villa with a pool is a relatively inexpensive option for families. The area’s isolation means it’s perfect for relaxing, and there are numerous cities (Florence, Pisa and Siena for example) within easy driving distance of each other for day trips.
Eat: Try Dario Cecchini’s restaurant in Chianti. For 50€ you get a 6-course dinner that uses as many cuts of the cow as possible, plus seasonal vegetables, beans, olive oil, bread, wine, coffee, cake and liqueurs. Need we say more?
Mid-south: Lazio & Umbria
Best for: History holidays.
Best time to go: All year round.
See: Gorge yourself on history and culture in Rome. The Colosseum and Roman ruins should be your first port of call, or you can simply wander the streets and it won’t be long before you stumble on a classical statue, a Renaissance fresco or a Baroque church.
Alternatively: Get out of the city and explore the medieval hilltop towns of Umbria – copy editor Ross recommends Todi (below) and Corciano – which make up the Land of the Saints. Here you’ll find centuries-old churches and impressive town walls brimming with history and spiritual significance.
Eat: Lazio and Umbria are among the country’s top wine-growing regions and some of the most scenic. The area around Rome is known for its white, while Umbria is famous for Orvieto (white) and its (red) Torgiano.
South: Puglia, Campania & Calabria
Best for: Scenic beach breaks.
Best time to go: Shoulder season (April-June and September-October) when Italian holidaymakers are still at (or back to) work.
See: Southern Italy is famed for its picturesque seascapes, with long sandy beaches, craggy limestone cliffs, turquoise waters and comparatively fewer tourists than elsewhere. Publisher Stuart recommends renting a self-catered trullo (a traditional conical building) as a romantic retreat to relax in after a day spent baking in the sun.
Alternatively: This area is full of archaeological treasures, with the volcanic site of Pompeii just outside Naples being one of the biggest draws. However, the ancient town of Paestum (below) has some of the most well-preserved Greek temples in the world, while Lecce’s beautifully restored Roman amphitheatre shouldn’t be missed.
Eat: Sample one of the hundreds of flavours of gelato as you sunbathe, and be sure to try an authentic Neapolitan pizza (you are in mozzarella country after all) or Puglia’s legendary cucina povera (peasant cooking) for your fix of artichokes, beans and seafood.
Islands: Sicily & Sardinia
Best for: Rural relaxation.
Best time to go: September-December is the quietest time of the year and many of the restaurants and attractions are still open.
See: True, these islands are home to some fabulously glitzy resorts, but senior producer Amy recommends embracing a slower pace of life. Quaint fishing villages, like Cefalu (below) in Sicily – the setting for Giuseppe Tornatoro’s “Cinema Paradiso” – or the fiercely traditional Barbagia villages in central Sardinia are worth lingering over.
Alternatively: Both islands are great for outdoor adventures. Windsurfing and diving are both popular activities in Sardinia, as is visiting Molentargius Saline Park to hang out with flocks of pink flamingos. Or, for jaw-dropping views across Sicily, hike to Fossa di Vulcano’s steaming crater.
Eat: Sicily is famous for arancini – golf ball-sized packages of deep-fried risotto, cheese and ragu. And yes, they taste as good as they sound.
Type of holiday: Alpine adventures.
When: Spring and autumn are beautiful times to visit – it’s warm, quiet and still green.
See: Senior photo editor Jeremy stayed in a chalet in Cesana Torinese and rented a 4×4 to navigate the Italian Alps’ rugged terrain. While away an afternoon overlooking a deserted mountain valley with a picnic – you might even spot a few marmots as well.
Alternatively: Make Turin (below) your base and explore the city’s long colonnaded walkways. Associate producer Michelle recommends visiting the small Pietro Micca Museum to experience the 18th-century tunnels beneath the city, used during the Siege of Turin, for 3€ per person.
Drink: Be sure to try bicerin, a chocolate, coffee and milk drink invented in Turin.
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