News 10 reasons why Italy is (still) the best for a summer holiday

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10 reasons why Italy is (still) the best for a summer holiday

Why is Italy the best country in the world? Well, if we open that bottle of Barolo, we'll be here for a while. So let's just limit ourselves to why Italy's a great destination, even in this summer of coronavirus.

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Because Italy is taking Covid-19 very seriously

Is it safe to visit Italy? After coming out of lockdown, the country has taken every precaution possible to make sure the answer is “yes”.

Life from a distance: Thanks to the current guidelines, it’ll be like having your own travel bubble. Waiting for your gelato? 1m distance. At a restaurant? 1m between you and your fellow diners. On the beach? You’ll have a spacious 10 square meters to lay under a parasol and relaaaax.

Clean hands, clear mind: You’ll find a reassuring hand sanitiser dispenser pretty much everywhere you go – hotel reception, cafe, museum, boutique, terminal, spa, street market, you name it.

All-booked, cash-free: You can book a lot in advance, from restaurant to museum visit to gym sesh. Italy’s also ramped up electronic payments so you can go contactless. One less thing to worry about!

Al fresco is the besto: A key recommendation for travelers in the time of coronavirus is to spend more time outdoors. Not that you were planning to do otherwise in the country that pioneered the al fresco experience.

Tip: UK tourists can visit Italy starting from July 4. However, just to be sure, you should always keep an eye on the latest travel guidance.

Because it’s cheap to get there right now

A breathtaking view from high above Elba island

Now that Italy is ready to host UK tourists for the summer, you might be wondering where to go. Here are some deals to help you make a decision.

Northern Italy

Mountains, fashion and the marvels of Venice. These are just some of the treasures to be found in this region.

Tuscany

You’ve seen it in the movies. You’ve seen it in travel shows. Now take in its lush landscapes, timeless towns and wondrous wines in person.

Emilia-Romagna

A truly local Italian experience. Oh, and some of the best food in Italy.

Southern Italy

The best pizza in the world. The Italy you picture when you close your eyes. You know, sun, sea and rustic vibes.

Sicily and Sardinia

Volcanoes and explosive flavours on the one hand. Chilled out nature on the other. In any case, ideal for a turn-the-notifications-off getaway.

Rome

Famously where all roads lead to. The history (and the gelato) is what attracts people… but don’t sleep on its less-known attractions.

Tip: To get peace of mind about where you’re staying, check what precautions hotels are taking during your search by visiting their websites. Many may also offer more flexibility with cancellations.

Because the food is *chef’s kiss*

On a pizza pilgrimage? Head to Naples, the birthplace of the miracle circle. But if you want to dig deeper into the ridiculous richness that is Italian cuisine, here’s a little tasting menu spanning Italy’s most delicious regions.

Cheeses and wines

To find yourself in tannin and lactose induced heaven:

  • Tap into Tuscan bliss with a nutty block of Pecorino Toscano and a bright Chianti
  • Cut into the smoky flavours of Scamorza with a citrusy sip of Verdicchio
  • Complement the deep flavors of Taleggio with a delicate red Barbaresco

Traditional tastes

Depending on where you visit, keep an eye out for local favourites like:

Tagliatelle Bolognese: Balsamic vinegar. Parma ham. Parmegiano Reggiano. The Emilia-Romagna region is home to many culinary superstars. But this legendary duo of fresh pasta sheets wrapped around a rich pork-veal ragu rules supreme here.

Sarde a beccafico: Salty sardines stuffed with fragrant pine nuts, raisins and breadcrumbs. A perfect representative of Sicily’s out-of-the-ordinary, out-of-this-world cuisine.

Carciofi alla giudia: Crispy, fried artichoke hearts. Simple yet sublime. Just like another Roman classic, Pasta e Ceci, a hearty, humble chickpea-pasta stew.

Sweet treats

A hot summer’s day spent out and about calls for a cool treat, right?

Granita: Sicily’s response to gelato, this crunchy, icy wonder is perfect to fend off the island’s baking sun. Pair lemon or coffee granita with a brioche bun for a primo start to the day.

Semifreddo: Literally a “half-frozen” cake. With varieties ranging from strawberry to almond to chocolate, there’s something for every sweet tooth.

Affogato: Coffee or dessert, can’t decide? Why not both? A shot of espresso poured over ice cream makes for a refreshing, rejuvenating mix.

Tip: There’s one golden rule to coffee in Italy. Cappuccino before noon, espresso any time – including after midnight!

Dining as a form of art

Tradition is all good and well.

But if you want a once-in-a-lifetime experience, make a reservation (well in advance) at Il Pagliaccio in Rome, Le Calandre near Venice, or Osteria Francescana in Modena – which also featured on the hit Netflix show, Chef’s Table.

Because the landscapes will bring out your inner artist

A view of lakes and mountains near the Dolomites, Northern Italy

It’s no coincidence so many earth-shattering works of art came from Italy, given all the natural inspiration lying around. Here are some worth exploring.

Gran Paradiso National Park: The first national park in Italy, established in 1922, this Alpine oasis in Piedmont is also a refuge for the endangered, extra-long horned ibix goat.

Lakes in and around the Alps: Lake Como and Garda may get the spotlight, but there are plenty others where you might find even more tranquility just for yourself. For example, Lake Orta and Maggiore in Piedmont, or Lake Molveno in Trentino. You can even find a mountainous lagoon further south, a 1.5 hour drive from Rome, at Lake Fucine.

Gran Sasso d’Italia in Abruzzo: Green landscapes. The highest peaks of the Apennines. A perfect place for those who like to take their time and unwind.

The Archipelago National Park: After exploring mainland Tuscany, set off from Livorno to explore the islands off its coast. Breathe in the salty air as you make your way to Elba, where you can lounge on gorgeous beaches like Fetovaia and come to the conclusion that Napoleon had it pretty OK in exile. Don’t forget explore the smaller isles, like Capraia, Montecristo, Pianosa, Gorgona and Giannutri.

The Dolomites in South Tyrol: Sharp cliffs, emerald plains and rock formations that look like they were sculpted by the hand of an artist. All that, plus fresh mountain air. Yes, you DO need to be there right now.

Because gorgeous beaches

White sands and pale blue waters at Cala Goritze

The obvious choice for a beach holiday in Italy has to be Sicily or Sardinia.

Let’s start with Sicily, surrounded by pockets of turquoise on all sides. To the north, there’s Palermo’s Mondello Beach or Rio-esque San Vito Lo Copo. To the south, Scala dei Turchi with its stunning white limestone “steps”. And to be truly one with nature, there’s Torre Salsa, a WWF-protected reserve that’s home to wild orchids, loggerhead turtles and visiting peregrine falcons.

Now, on to Sardinia. Here you’ll find one of the highest sand dunes in Europe at Porto Pino – as well as some peace and quiet. Another plus? It’s just a 1.5 hour drive from the island’s capital (and historical treasure trove) Cagliari. Further up the coast is Cala Goritzè, which is worth a visit simply to see a massive, towering rock jut out of the earth like a dagger.

Of course, the mainland is full of all-star spots too. Here are a few:

  • Otranto in Puglia, where you’ll come to see the city and stay for the sea
  • Grado near Venice, a grand Adriatic resort that once hosted Austrian royals
  • Versilia in Tuscany, for those who prefer to bathe in balmy waters instead of red wine

Because you can truly get away from it all on an Italian island

The rocky island of Ponza, near Tuscany

By now it’s clear that Sicily, Sardinia and Capri offer enough world-class food, stunning nature and UNESCO-worthy history for a lifetime. So we’re going to shine a light on some lesser known ones where there are likely to be less people.

Isola d’Ischia: Capri’s calm and elegant neighbour island is just as sublime. In fact, with its thermal waters and therapeutic mud, it’ll make it you feel like a star.

Ponza: Tiny and highly local, this island will make you feel like a true Italian. Long hikes, calm beaches and Etruscan ruins await.

San Domino: Pine-scented air, rugged rock cliffs, refreshing waters. A 1.5 hour ferry ride from Termoli, the Adriatic island will make you think, “how does nobody know about this place?”

Because you’ll have cities like Rome, Venice and Florence to yourself

Whether gasping in wonder (under a mask, of course) at the St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, getting inspired by Renaissance art at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, or taking a tour to ancient Rome, you’ll notice something’s missing.

The need to jostle shoulders and dance around people. With less people around, you can see Italy’s UNESCO Heritage Site cities in blissful peace.

The same goes for the romantic Amalfi Coast, colorful (and normally packed) town of Cinque Terre in Liguria, or charming Assisi in Umbria.

Because the Italian zest for life is unmatched

Italians are passionate about enjoying life and having a good time – and perhaps even more passionate about making sure you are too. Especially after these last few months, they’re going to be even more glad to see you.

It may be partially hidden behind a facemask, but you can tell the famous Italian smile is still there from the twinkle in the eyes and the creases that can only come from years of hearty laughter.

Because you can feast on the finest of culture and history

Not to brag, but Italy has the most UN Heritage Sites in the world, with a total of 55. That’s almost double of the UK… not that this is a competition.

Here are a few worth putting on your radar, from all corners of Italy:

  • The magnificent display of Greek history at Valle dei Templi (Sicily)
  • The Leaning Tower of Pisa, which, well, needs no explanation
  • The historic whitewashed huts with cone roofs in Albero Bello (Bari)
  • The falls, fountains and grandeur of Tivoli and Villa d’Este (Lazio)
  • The famed ruins of Pompei and Herculaneum near Naples (Campania)
  • The 10,000 year old and still vibrant ancient city of Matera (Basilicata)
  • The remarkable Renaissance buildings of Ferrara (Emilia-Romagna)

For the whole list, go here.

Because despite its fame, Italy is still full of hidden gems

Medieval town of Urbino, Italy

The Umbria region is more under the radar than its neighbor Tuscany – but equally breathtaking. So lose yourself in its rolling green landscapes and pretty towns – especially the medieval heart of Urbino.

Or hop over to Sardinia in time to enjoy a decadent sunset over the parapets of Bastione Saint Remy in Cagliari. Next day, you can trek into Barbagia, the heart of the island, to explore blissfully people-free hills and forests. If it’s culture you’re after, Autumn in Barbagia – a 3-month festival starting in September – takes you to villages dotting the region to experience Sardinia’s rich local traditions.

If you’re in Palermo, you can shake off the shivers of a visit to the Capucin Catacombs by treating yourself to lunch at Vucciria, one of the top 5 street food spots in the world.

Into fast cars? You’ll go from 0 to 100% in love with the Motor Valley. Take the tour and you can visit legendary tracks and the birthplace of brands like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Pagani. You know, the makers of literally every car you’ve dreamed about since you were a child.

Finally, visit Abruzzo’s stunning Roccascalegna Fortress to feel like you’re standing atop a flying castle.

As you can see, with Italy, wonders never end. Best start exploring them now.

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