The beauty of Italy lies in the diversity of its landscapes: besides its well-known cities filled with historic monuments and artistic treasures, the aptly-named Bel Paese – beautiful country - boasts spectacular mountains, kilometers of coastline, tiny hamlets that make you step back in time and picturesque countryside where to experience la dolce vita at its best.
If you are traveling to Italy this summer, here are a few ideas for some top destinations to suit every taste.
Hiking with spectacular views of the Dolomites: South Tyrol’s Val di Funes
The small Funes Valley (24 km long) is relatively quiet in the summer compared to other, more popular valleys of South Tyrol, Italy’s northern region lying at the feet of the Dolomites. Framed by the spectacular Odle chain, considered one of the most beautiful of the Dolomites, in the heart of the Puez-Odle Natural Park, the Funes Valley is a paradise for hiking lovers. Do not miss the spectacular Adolf Munkel Trail, which develops at the foot of the Odle, granting spectacular views of the massif’s vertical walls, sheer cliffs and pointed peaks, among them the 3,025-meter-high Sass Rigais and Furchetta. Stop at a ‘malga’, mountain hut, for a (well-deserved) taste of the local specialties, such as canederli and strudel.
Enjoying classical music on the lakefront: Lago Maggiore
Shared by the northern regions of Piedmont and Lombardy, Lake Maggiore attracts visitors to its elegant shores thanks to its mild climate, panoramic position close to the Alps, late Renaissance villas and sumptuous gardens. In the summer, there is one added bonus: the “Musical Weeks of Stresa and Lago Maggiore”, also known as the Stresa Festival, a major classical music festival, which features internationally acclaimed artists and ensembles performing in churches and palaces across the lake. Among the featured locations is the Borromeo Palace on Isola Bella, part of the trio of the Isole Borromee, tiny islands with exquisite gardens and villas.
Living ‘la dolce vita’ in Tuscany’s Val D’Orcia
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Val d’Orcia extends from the hills south of Siena to Monte Amiata in southern Tuscany. Gentle, carefully cultivated hills dotted with picturesque villages, such as Pienza and Montalcino, make the Val d’Orcia the ideal destination to slow down and enjoy ‘the sweet life’ Italy is known for. Take a stroll through Pienza, the ‘ideal city’ of the Renaissance; visit a local cheese producer to taste the delicious Pecorino di Pienza; head to Montalcino for the world-famous Brunello wine; relax by the pool at one of the many agriturismi (farmhouses) of the area. And being in the Val d’Orcia means you are not far from Siena, where, in July and August, the city’s signature summer event takes place: the thrilling Palio horse race.
Taking a dip in emerald waters: Sardinia’s Maddalena Archipelago
The Maddalena archipelago, off the coast of Sardinia's Costa Smeralda, consists of seven larger islands and approximately 50 islets, set amid turquoise waters, some of the clearest and cleanest in Italy. To protect this fragile environment, the archipelago has been designated a national park. Twenty minutes by ferry from the Sardinian port of Palau is La Maddalena, the largest of the island, home to the archipelago’s main town, with restaurants, bars and shops. If you are looking for solitude, head to Cala dei Francesi and Bassa Trinità. On the Strait of Bonifacio, the island of Budelli is home to one of Italy’s most famous beaches: Spiaggia Rosa (Pink Beach), which takes its name from the pink hue of the sand.
Taking a break from cars on Sicily’s Marettimo island
Measuring seven kilometers, tiny Marettimo is the Aegadian archipelago’s westernmost island, off the western coast of Sicily, an hour’s ferry from Trapani. The island has no roads and no cars, which makes it ideal to explore on foot along its many trails boasting beautiful views of the sea and inebriating scents of Mediterranean plants. The island has been inhabited since ancient times: it was an important observation point during Roman times, as testified by the ruins of the Casa Romana settlement. The trails are dotted with remains of ancient monuments, such as the fort of Troia, and lead to lovely coves, such as Scalo Maestro, Cala Manione and Cala Nera. Other beaches are only accessible by boat. Marettimo is home to a number of plants and animals; only 300 people live on the island in the winter, with the number increasing to 700 in the summer (not counting tourists).
Traveling around Italy
Italy has a great transport infrastructure and getting around the country can be easily done by land transport. Omio is a useful website to help compare bus, train and air options for you all on one page to find the best way to travel to these top Italian destinations.