After the UK government eased quarantine rules, the dream of holidaying abroad became a reality. Although self-isolating after returning to the UK from certain countries is required, being able to finally enjoy a break away from home has got many people excited.
Topping the list of pre-covid travel destinations for Brits is, of course, the ever-popular Spain. Hot on its heels is Italy, where it’s now possible to move freely within the whole country. Do take note: if you’re holidaying in Sardinia, Sicily, Puglia and Calabria, you’ll need to register in advance.
If you’re feeling tempted to sample la dolce vita, Italian escapes offer sun, sea, sand, culture, history and of course, great food! With so many spectacular cities, picturesque towns, ancient ruins, fabulous museums, great beaches and breathtaking scenery, it’s really not surprising that Italy continually features on travel bucket lists.
Let’s be honest…there are unlimited reasons to visit Italy at any time of the year.
Italian escapes can be a romantic or gourmand experience – or both! With good planning, your holiday in Italy can easily become an unforgettable grand adventure. Hiring a car gives you the freedom to explore the stunning landscape, as you make your way from the north to the south at your own pace.
The metropolis of Milan is a great place to begin your Italian escapes journey, as it’s a global capital of fashion, design, art and culture. With so many interesting things to see and do in Milan, you’ll need to plan your itinerary like a pro.
Start at the Piazza del Duomo – Milan’s grandest square. The magnificent Gothic Cathedral boasts 135 spires and a fair number of statues. From its rooftop terrace, you can gaze in awe over the spectacular panorama.
When in Milan, it would be foolish not to shop. Connecting the piazzas of the Duomo and the Teatro alla Scala opera house is the glass-ceilinged arcade of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Upscale designer boutiques are lined from end to end.
Take a walk on the walls of the fortress-like 15th century Castello Sforzesco, and check out the works of Michelangelo and da Vinci on display in the complex’s museums. The artsy district of Brera is also worth exploring.
As Northern Italy is renowned for the best risottos in the land, make sure you order Risotto alla Milanese for lunch.
If you’re spending a day or two in the city you’ll want to relax in a centrally located hotel that is ever-so chic and comfortable. Speronari Suites perfectly fits the bill when it comes to offering traditional Italian hospitality and plenty of life’s little luxuries.
Take A Detour To Bolzano
Situated in the South Tyrol province, in the northeast of the country, Bolzano is the gateway to the majestic Italian Alps. A detour to the medieval city, that’s set in lush hilly vineyards, should definitely be on any Italian escapes itinerary.
The scenic landscape is best appreciated from the windows of the Renon cable car, as it soars 4541m up the mountain in 11 minutes, to Soprabolzano.
The South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology is packed with interesting displays, including the star attraction – Frozen Fritz (a 5,300-year-old corpse found in the Alps). Stop for a drink or an ice cream in Piazza Walther, the city’s main and most beautiful square.
If you have the energy for a hike, Puez-Geisler Nature Park is also worth a visit.
In the centre of the market town of San Candido, you’ll find the charming 9 bedroom Boutique Hotel Zenana. Get yourself comfy in a guest room that is individually designed and named after an inspirational female.
What To Eat In A Foodie Capital
As you continue on your journey south on Italian escapes, why not head off the beaten path and stop for a while in the Parmigiano Reggiano capital of Italy?
Reggio Emilia is well known for producing the popular cheese, and also balsamic vinegar. Their herbed pumpkin ravioli is also up to scratch. Challenge yourself to order all three when you stop for lunch! On your way to find a restaurant with a pretty outdoor terrace or courtyard, try not to be tempted by the countless bakeries in Piazza Fontanesi.
Once your belly is full, pay a visit to Tricolore’s Room in the City Hall, and learn how the distinctive Italian flag was chosen. The elaborate frescoes in Valli Municipal Theatre are worth checking out whether or not you’re a fan of live ballet or opera.
And if you’re wondering why there are so many cyclists in Reggio Emilia, it’s because it has the longest city bike trails in Italy.
Rolling pastures and organic vineyards surround the Venturini Baldini woodland estate where the stylish Roncolo 1888 B&B is located. Being in the heart of the foodie region, there’s no shortage of excellent places to eat within easy reach.
The Southern Finish Line
Italian escapes that venture far south to the stiletto heel of Italy’s boot-shaped country, can terminate in the quaint historic old town of Poggiardo. The agricultural centre is abundant in fruit, olive and nut trees, and the perfect place to relax in the sunshine.
The monumental Church of San Francesco is Poggiardo’s main attraction but is rarely open. If you’re lucky, step inside and view the traditional papier-mache statues on display. The Byzantine frescoes in the crypt of Santa Maria degli Angeli Church also attract many admiring glances.
The Palazzo Circolone offers travellers on Italian escapes a choice of 7 modern and spacious rooms and 1 suite in a luxurious property. There’s a garden, terrace and swimming pool, and a specially designated Relax room where you can chill out.
Dotted around Poggiardo are many fabulous restaurants, pizzerias, and cafes where you can tuck into traditional dishes that have stood the test of time. The peasant dish of friseddhe (rehydrated stale bread, olive oil, fresh tomatoes and olives) is a particular favourite with the locals and tourists alike. And don’t forget to try the local Salento wines when toasting your quarantine-free escape.