Italy is a great destination all year round, and Spring is the time when you can enjoy warm weather without having scorching temperatures and savor your stay without being surrounded by the scores of tourists who flock to the country every summer. In this post we will guide you through some unusual but nonetheless stunning locations, from the North to the South, from the lakes to the countryside and beautiful coast.
THE ITALIAN LAKES, BEYOND LAKE COMO
Italy has many lakes, mainly in the Northern part of the country not too far from the Alps. Of course, everyone knows Lake Como, with or without George Clooney. But there are other lakes that are as beautiful as Como’s and still relatively undiscovered by mass tourism.
LAKE GARDA, THE GARDEN OF ITALY
LAKE GARDA, not too far from Verona, is the largest lake in Italy, from the blooming South to the more mountainous North by the border with Austria. There are plenty of places to visit and stay while there. Sirmione and Salo’, both in the South, are two elegant towns with great shopping and restaurants. Sirmione in particular is famous for its sulfurean waters and Roman spas. As for Salo’, few would imagine that this stylish little town was in the past the capital of Mussolini’s second (failed) attempt to a Fascist state, the Republic of Salo’, the story of which is told all around the centre of town. To the North, Riva del Garda is a fascinating place surrounded by the Alps, an evocative setting that will stay with you long after you have gone. Famous among the high class and aristocracy throught the past, Lake Garda is going through a new period of fame, among Italians and not only, because of its beautiful and diverse landscape, the variety of possible outdoor activities, and great food and wine — this is the land of Franciacorta, after all, home to some of the most refined sparkling wines in Italy and in the world.
Where to stay…
Lake Garda offers some of the best hotels and resorts in Italy, so you will be spoilt with choice. With stunning views over the lake and an incredibly relaxing setting, LEFAY RESORT & SPA in Gargnano, in the heart of the renowned Riviera dei Limoni (the Lemon Riviera), was recently voted the world’s best Spa Hotel by Connoiseur Circle Hospitality and is the first 5-star superior establishment on Lake Garda. If you are looking for a place where to unwind and recharge in a stunning setting, this is the choice for you.
For a completely luxurious break, head to VILLA FELTRINELLI, always in Gargnano, where, according to the website, ‘the favorite pastime is daydreaming‘. A historic villa once the summer residence of the family of publishing tycoon Feltrinelli, it has been converted into a luxury hotel surrounded by lemon-houses, magnolias, cypress trees, olive groves and Italianate gardens.
LAKE MAGGIORE, THE HIDDEN PEARL
LAKE MAGGIORE is a smaller lake shared by Italy’s Piedmont and Lombardy regions and the Swiss Ticino Canton and set in a picturesque landscape amid luscious mountains. The lake is dotted with the 3 tiny yet stunning Borromean islands, belonging to the aristocratic Borromeo family and location in 2015 of one of the most high-profile weddings of the year, the one between Lavinia Borromeo and Pierre Casiraghi. The 3 islands, aptly called Isola Bella, Isola Madre and Isola dei Pescatori (literally, Beautiful Island, Mother Island and Fishermen’s Island) are still open to the public today and represent a fine example of how to perfectly preserve the nature of the island while combining it with stunning architecture. Among the little towns along the lake, Stresa, Arona and Pallanza are the best known among locals. Ideally located close to Milan and Turin, Lake Maggiore is perfect for a weekend or long weekend but also as a base from where to visit the sometimes overlooked North-West of Italy.
Where to stay…
Historically, the lake was the holiday destination of aristocratic families from Milan and Turin. With the change in times, many of the villas belonging to them have been transformed into luxury hotels retaining their classical elegance and style while offering all the mod cons of modern life in a truly stunning setting.
Noteworthy among them is the GRAND HOTEL DES ILES BORROMEES & SPA in Stresa, a palatial, Liberty-style hotel overlooking Lake Maggiore and set in lush gardens. The ideal getaway hotel, with wonderful service, great food and numerous amenities, this is also a popular wedding location.
Another historic hotel, always in Stresa is VILLA E PALAZZO AMINTA, today one of the most coveted hotels on the lake, and characterized by a refined and elegant atmoshpere and luxurious interiors celebrating the historic relationship between the area and the hostoric Republic of Venice.
THE ALTERNATIVE CITY BREAKS
The usual suspects — Florence, Rome, Venice and Naples are obviously always in demand and never disappoint. However, there are many other beautiful cities to visit in Italy, little unknown gems that will surprise and inspire you.
MATERA, THE HISTORIC STONE CITY
MATERA, in the Southern region of Basilicata, a memorable and unusual location, has experienced a true rebirth in the recent past. The Citta’ Sotterranea (the Subterranean City) is especially known for its ancient town, Sassi di Matera (meaning Stones of Matera), originated in a prehistoric settlement, among the first ever human settlements in Italy and since 1993 a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of many scattered throughout the country. Until the late 1980s this was considered an area of extreme poverty, but thanks to huge regeneration efforts led by the current administration with the support of the Italian government, UNESCO and even Hollywood, the city has been transformed into a luxury destination unlike any other. In 2014 Matera has been elected Italian host of European Capital of Culture for 2019. It’s a good idea then to visit before the masses start arriving.
Where to stay…
For a truly unique stay, we recommend booking one of the hotels located in the captivating rocky landscape of the Sassi of Matera. SANT’ANGELO LUXURY RESORT is the result of a great restoration process that involved cave-dwellings, buildings, stairs, narrow streets and courtyards thus creating a new concept of hotel, the scattered hotel or albergo diffuso.
PALAZZO GATTINI is another stunning hotel carved among the Sassi, a sophisticated and elegant hotel that wants to celebrate the uniqueness of its setting in honour of the Gattini family, the oldest noble family of Matera. Located at the highest point of town, the hotel offers arguably some of the best views of this amazing place.
PARMA, THE FINE TASTE OF ITALY
PARMA is another unusual destination for foreign turists, hiding a lot of beautiful places to visit. A city of aristocratic cultural tradition, full of famous monuments and precious artworks, Parma is also capital of music with many theaters — it was here that Verdi composed the unmistakable notes of the Four Seasons. This city is also source of inspiration for poets with its fantastic squares, gardens and monuments. Definitively a big natural and cultural stage.
But, first at all, Parma is a gastonomic center. The name of the city is linked to ancient and renowned culinary traditions, the taste of fine food and quality around important productions such as parmesan cheese, Parma ham and Culatello of Zibello.
Where to stay…
The GRAND HOTEL DE LA VILLE is in the heart of Parma, close to the historic center and in the elegant and exclusive Barilla Center, one of the most innovative experiences of industrial renovation, designed by the celebrated architect Renzo Piano. A reality of excellence of Made in Italy as the Academia Barilla (Barilla Academy) and the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma (Consortium of Parma Ham). The hotel is distinguished by the simple elegance of the atmosphere, the furnishings design and the attention to the wellbeing and comfort of its guests. The restaurant of the resort, aptly named Parmigianino Restaurant, serves dishes that are not only gastronomic experiences, but also a culinary journey through specialities of high national and international cuisine.
If you are looking for something more luxurious, the next place is the right one for you. PARK HOTEL PACCHIOSI rises in a beautiful park of the oldest district of Parma, the ideal place to live this city in complete relax and privacy. It’s a historic building of the last century in Neo-Renaissance style with floors in Carrara marble and handcrafted furniture made exclusively for the hotel. The restaurant at PHP has a sophisticated and elegant ambience that will take you across Italy with dishes prepared and cooked in the traditional Italian cuisine and accompanied by an extraordinary wine menu with the best Italian wines.
SPRING BREAK IN THE ITALIAN COUTRYSIDE
The countryside of Italy is where you can enjoy the Italian lifestyle at its best, surrounded by picturesque panoramas, delicious food and great wines.
LANGHE, THE LAND OF TRUFFLE, WINE AND AMAZING LANDSCAPES
LANGHE is the coutryside region in Piedmont famous all over the world for its food, especially truffles, cheeses and hazelnuts, wine, Barolo and Barbaresco among all, and wonderful landscapes that made the area part of the UNESCO Heritage Sites. UNESCO itself describes the area as ‘An exceptional living testimony to the historical tradition of grape growing and winemaking processes, of a social context, and a rural economy based on the culture of wine.’ A tour of the Langhe cannot go without a visit to Alba, a small and extremely elegant town famous for its white truffle and a wonderful place to explore. The small town of Bra (a name found highly enterntaining by international visitors), not too far from Alba, is the home to the world’s first University of Gastronomic Sciences and the place where the Slow Food movement was born. Nizza Monferrato is another stunning place, a wonderful example of medieval town and the ‘capital’ of Barbera. Finally, Canelli, where Italy’s most famous dessert wine, Moscato, is made. All in all, a trip to Langhe is a wonderful occasion to experience some of the best food, wine and panoramas in Italy, a still relatively undiscovered corner of Italy.
Where to stay…
To enjoy Langhe’s dramatic scenery at its best, we recommend booking a resort right in the middle of the hills, so you can enjoy and take in the surroundings at its fullest.
The RELAIS SAN MAURIZIO is definitely one of those places. Refined and romantic, the hotel is the perfect destination for a break in the sign of total relaxation and wellbeing. The hotel is also home to the Michelin-starred Guido da Costigliole restaurant and the exclusive Beauty and Wellness Spa del Monastero.
RELAIS VILLA D’AMELIA is a prime example of masterful restoration and conversion of a farmstead into a luxury resort a few minutes from Alba on the ridge of a hill between uscious woods and spectacular hazelnut groves, and a breathtaking view of the Alps. An elengant and warm hotel with carefully tailored customer service, Villa d’Amelia also includes a Michelin-starred restaurant on the premises, seemingly a must-have for many of the local establishments, another testimony of the area’s excellence in food and wine.
UMBRIA, THE NAVEL OF ITALY
Everyone knows Tuscany and its endless countryside, but few know UMBRIA, the green heart of Italy. It is truly jewel with wonderful landscape, excellent cuisine, artistic masterpieces and enchanting cities such as Perugia, Gubbio, Orvieto and Assisi. It is also known as the navel of Italy and is a region to discover. For lovers of fine cuisine we suggest Norcia, famous for its tipical Umbrian flavors with a unique taste like truffles.
If you are looking for an adventure experience, Umbria is the perfect place to visit with its Marmore Waterfalls where you can follow various paths. Some of theme are part of the Botanical Garden and allow you to admire the main species of wild flora and to arrive to the Balcony of Lovers. Since the beginning of the 17th century the Marmore falls played an important role in European culture, hitting the immagination of travelers, painters, designers and poets. Their rainbow is still considered one of the Italian wonders, a definite must see.
Where to stay…
The NUN ASSISI RELAIS & SPA is in a quiet area in the center of Assisi, surrounded by a tangle of narrow streets between the different squares of the city, telling its story. The Relais is located in the old monastery of Santa Caterina, renovated to accommodate guests in a warm and relaxing atmosphere. The beauty of this place comes from the fascinating contrast between the historic structure and the contemporary design that features the interiors. The Wellness center can be considered a small private museum, where the tub is surrounded by pillars of the first century A.D. An intimate space with a mysterious charm to regenerate the body and mind.
If you prefer a escape from the city and give your daily life a real break, your hotel is the EREMITO HOTELITO DEL ALMA. It is located in an isolated place, where the passage of time is marked by the sounds of nature. It is born in the restoration of an ancient monastery, an original structure built with innovative and traditional bio materials. It is a place to heal the soul, meditate and live a spiritual holiday where the real luxury is represented by silence, the essential and time itself. A unique place where to find harmony and wellbeing through a spiritual experience.
SEA, SUN & SAND
A tour of Italy wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the coast and seas, full of natural wonders, places of stunning beauty and immense charm. Here are just a couple of our favorites.
SARDINIA, A WORDERFUL NATURAL PLACE
SARDINIA offers countless beautiful places to visit, from Costa Smeralda with the amazing Maddalena’s archipelago to the medieval village of Castelsardo, included in the list of the best hamlets in Italy, and the Nettuno’s Caves in Alghero with spectacular views of the sea and the coast.
But if you want to go against the tide, we recommend Carloforte/ With almost 6.,400 inhabitants, it is the only village on San Pietro Island in the South-West of the Sardinian coast. A quiet place with small and pretty beaches and charming narrow alleys reflecting the history of Sardinia.
Where to stay…
For a unique throwback experience in a stunning location, POECYLIA RESORT CARLOFORTE is a timeless retreat where nature is still uncontaminated. This resort is not for everybody, it’s not for modern tourists addicted to technology, luxury and comforts. In Poecylia you’ll live a pure and essential luxury where you can rediscover yourself in a true oasis of meditation and relax.
The resort has 5 suites decorated according to the island’s ancient tradition and it doesn’t feature modern technology. This is a real Spring break for you and your family, immersed in boundless spaces, all you will need is to find your exclusive paradise from sunrise to night under a shining sun or a canopy of stars.
ISCHIA, ITALY’S GREEN ISLAND
We always hear about Amalfi Coast, UNESCO heritage, famous for its tradition and personality and Positano, a beautiful place with a charming ancient town. Capri is the Mediterranean pearl which has seen intellectuals, artists, and writers all enthralled by its magical beauty. But today we want to talk about its older sister, ISCHIA, the biggest island in Naples’ gulf. It is known as the Green Island, and even the coast is of a beautiful green that wonderfully alternates with the typical white architecture. The natural beauty makes this island one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Where to stay…
The MEZZATORRE RESORT & SPA is one of the best hotels of this magical island, a century-old tower that climbs up the small hill with the blue sea and sky in the background. It is the perfect place to rest and pamper yourself, with a Beauty & Health center with the famous thermal water and luxury restaurants where to enjoy gourmet dinners. There are 12 suites, all of them carefully finished in the smallest details. 7 suites are in the tower with an amazing view of the sea, the other 5 luxury rooms are immersed in the green protected by lush vegetation and with a private Jacuzzi.
Our second choice, last but not least, is the SAN MONTANO RESORT & SPA, 108 meters above the sea level and one of the best views in Ischia. This resort was the first to have a spa Spa on the island, called Ocean Blue, developed with the idea of giving a unique view of the infinity of the sea and the lush island vegetation as the setting for your wellbeing experience. The stunning Executive Suite is the newest room of the hotel, around 45mq with a large terrace overlooking the bay of San Montano. Outside there is a private Jacuzzi, sunbeds and a dining area, while inside you can admire Hermes’ curtains and the famous Vietri tiles hand-painted as in the best of Mediterranean traditions.