Italy is a large and complex destination and you can’t hope to savour it all on one visit; indeed, experiencing and appreciating the country properly, in all its aspects, is arguably a lifetime’s work. Nonetheless sooner or later you are going to need to decide on where to go; we’ve put together a few itineraries to help you out.
Think of Italy and you think of food, and with so many regional variations you can try something different everywhere you go. Here’s our rundown of the best places to stop off if you want to enjoy a foodie tour.
1 Truffles and wine in Alba
If you’re here at the right time of year you may be able to sample the town’s extraordinary white truffles; and at any time you can taste the excellent local wine.
2 Genoa, Liguria
The food of Liguria and in particular Genoa is among the country’s most distinctive and best, the home of pesto, foccaccia, farinata and everywhere great fish and seafood.
3 Bologna, Emilia-Romagna
Regarded as the culinary capital of Italy and much the best place to do a course in mastering Italian cuisine.
4 Norcia, Umbria
Famous nationwide for all kinds of pork products, from guanciale to pancetta, and – in season – superb black truffles too.
The “cucina povera” of Rome isn’t the country’s most well-known regional cuisine, but we think it’s maybe the best, with gutsy pasta dishes and a focus on offal and the poorer cuts of meat – perfect for the more adventurous foodie.
6 Naples, Campania
Perhaps one of the most fun and enduring experiences you can have in Italy is to learn how to make pizza and pasta in their true home just outside Naples.
Italy has a wonderful mix of high mountains, lakes and sea, making it the ideal country for an outdoors holiday that takes in a variety of activities.
1 Gran Paradiso, Valle d’Aosta
Some of the most beautiful and best-organized high-altitude trekking in the country.
2 Hiking the Alta Via, Liguria
This long-distance high-level trail takes you the length of Liguria, and offers a very different view of the region than the resorts on the coast.
3 Windsurfing, Riva del Garda, Lombardy
There’s no better place in the country for quality windsurfing and sailing.
4 Vie Ferrate, Trentino-Alto Adige
High-altitude climbing the Italian way, using the fixed ladders and pegs of the northern Dolomites.
5 Gran Sasso
The Gran Sasso national park holds the highest peaks of the Apennines, including the 3000m Corno Grande.
6 Kitesurfing, Porto Pollo, Sardinia
Sardinia’s northern Costa Smeralda is the home of all manner of waterborne activities, not least fab opportunities for kitesurfing.
No country in the world boasts the same volume of cultural artefacts, and you can stumble across great art displayed in fine historic buildings just about anywhere, but if that’s your interest you may want to follow the itinerary below.
Italy’s greatest maritime state, ossified in stone and oils.
2 Padua, Veneto
The amazingly preserved Giotto frescoes of Padua’s Scrovegni chapel, dating back to the fourteenth century, are one of the absolute highlights of western European art.
3 Mantua, Lombardy
Two palaces, plastered with the work of two very different artists – Mantegna’s beautiful refined frescoes in the Palazzo Ducale and Giulio Romano’s later Mannerist experiment in the Palazzo Te.
4 Arezzo, Tuscany
Home to a hugely famous fresco cycle by Piero della Francesca, and to other works by the fifteenth-century painter.
Birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, with Ghiberti’s famous bronze door, Brunelleschi’s dome, and, er, the Uffizi too.
One of the greatest works of art you can see in a church, Assisi’s basilica is covered top to toe with fourteenth-century frescoes.
Where to start, but one of the great things about Rome is the chance to see some of the world’s greatest paintings in the places they were meant for, best of all the many works of Caravaggio that remain in the city.