You admire the fountain, statues standing of kneeling on rocks, water flowing over their feet into the basin below. A beautiful fountain on a beautiful day. You turn your back and toss a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder. Then you pause.
What should you wish for? You’ve just had a wonderful luxury holiday in France and continued on an exquisitely planned side trip to Italy. All your wishes have already come true.Tailor my trip
5 things you don’t know
Pasta, pizza and risotto. High fashion in Milan. Leonardo da Vinci and the Last Supper. Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican. Audrey Hepburn zipping around Rome on a scooter in Roman Holiday. As you know, Italy is a wonderful place and the regions, so diverse in their cuisine and culture, are known world over for la Dolce Vita. What you might not know, however:
Italy, as a republic, is quite young. Previously a kingdom, then ruled by Benito Mussolini in 1922, Italians voted to become a republic on 2 June 1946.
Italy is home to 55 UNESCO World Heritage sites, making Italy and China a tie for the country with the most sites.
With a production of 54,800 hectoliters of wine in 2018, Italy is the world’s largest wine producer. Wine is so important here that there’s even a free wine fountain, in the Dora Sarchese vineyard in Caldari di Ortona.
Connecting Tirano in Italy to St. Moritz in Switzerland, the Rhaetian Railway is the highest, and perhaps the most beautiful, railway in Europe.
If Positano is so beautiful, it is because Neptune, madly in love with a nymph, created Positano for her. Or so the legend says.
Italy travel guide
Where to stay in Italy?
When in Rome, head to the Hotel Hassler, a legendary five-star hotel, privately owned for five generations. The Hotel Hassler prides itself on the highest quality of service, attention to detail and discretion. The 87 rooms and suites have all been decorated individually. The panoramic restaurant Imàgo offers breathtaking views of the city of seven hills. The Hassler is located at the top of the Spanish Steps, ideal for exploring the historic city center and for romantic getaways.
The Four Seasons Hotel in Florence feels like a country retreat, yet you can see the Duomo from the lawn. 11 acres of woods and lawns provide the ideal setting for a romantic stroll—or for the kids to run and play. The historic palazzo offers 37 guest rooms and suites, all with a sumptuous décor. The restaurant Il Palagio has a Michelin-star.
In Venice, the Belmond Hotel Cipriani captures the essence of La Serenissma. A five-minute ride from St Mark’s Square by private boat, the Belmond is located on Giudecca Island where you can stay in the luxury hotel or in the adjoining 15th century
Palazzo Vendramin. The rooms and suites combine Venetian elegance with modern glamour and comfort. All suites have private balconies or terraces so you can enjoy the fabulous views of the lagoon.
The Villa d’Este was a residence of the aristocracy for centuries before becoming an elegant, charming five-star resort in 1873. Overlooking the romantic Lake Como in the lake district, the Villa d’Este is surrounded by a wonderful private park. The rooms and suites overlook the lake or park. For even more luxury, select one of the four 19th century villas. The Villa Cima is on the lake shore, and the unforgettable Mosaic House in the park.
Enjoy the spectacular Amalfi Coast and picturesque Positano from Le Sireneuse, a family-owned hotel overlooking the bay of Positano. Beautifully decorated, almost all the rooms and suites have a private terrace or balcony with exquisite views of the bay. The 58-room resort retains the intimate, cultured atmosphere of a private home.
Best luxury experiences in Italy
Rome! The city of seven hills. The city of love. The city which is so marvelous that just one nickname isn’t enough. Visit the most iconic monuments of beautiful Rome with an AAV local guide who will give you an insider’s view of the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Sistine Chapel, among others.
A visit to Tuscany should start with Firenzi, Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, with the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, and the Campanile de Giotto, among others. Your private driver will take you from Florence through beautiful countryside to Siena and San Gimignano, whose historic center is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Venice is magical. The entire city seems to float, effortlessly, atop the beautiful blue and turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea. Visit St. Mark’s Square and Basilica, the Bridge of Sighs, the Rialto bridge, Doge’s Palace… accompanied by an AAV local guide or on your own. For romantic getaways, a gondola ride along the Grand Canal is a must.
The Lake District
Visit Lake Como and the many villas and palaces overlooking it, Lake Maggiore and the Borromean islands, Lake Orta which is perhaps the most romantic of the major lakes, the crystal-clear waters of Lake Garda, and Lake Iseo and its beautiful landscapes. A private car with a local guide will escort you and show you the best vistas for admiring this exquisite region.
Visit the Amalfi Coast, perhaps the most beautiful stretch of coastline anywhere in the world. See Positano, perched on the mountain side just over the sea. Visit the town of Amalfi then continue on to enjoy the breathtaking views from Ravello. AAV can arrange for a boat, so you can see the Amalfi Coast from the sea, as well as from land.
When is the best time to visit Italy?
Because Italy stretches over 750 miles from north to south, the climates vary, which means that every season is a good season to visit the Bel Paese.
Italy in winter:
Winter is a great time to visit Italy. There are very few tourists, which means that you can visit some of the greatest museums in the world, practically by yourself. For the fashionistas—winter sales often start in January. The Carnival in Venice takes place in February. The warmer climates of Rome, Naples and Palermo make for a great escape from the dreary weather elsewhere in Europe.
Italy in spring:
Spring is a favorite time anywhere, but especially in Italy. April is when the Veronia winemakers’ competition is held. It’s also a great time to hike in the Cinque Terre; you’ll see the country in full bloom yet escape the heat which can be unpleasant later in the year. In April, run the Rome marathon (or the 4 km fun run) which starts and ends near the Colosseum.
Italy in summer:
Summer is top tourist season in Italy, although August is not ideal — many businesses, museums, restaurants and other visitor attractions close down for the month of August. Because of the heat, most Italian cities come to life after dark in the summer. Consider visiting the Dolomites and Cortina, where the cool mountain air is balm to a summer-weary soul.
Italy in autumn:
For those who like the autumn colors, vising Italy now is a special treat. Ride the ‘Foliage Train’ 52 km across 83 bridges and 31 tunnels, amidst mountains, villages and spectacular fall colors. The trains runs mid October through mid November, when the foliage in the area is at its peak. Round-trip tickets are available for those who wish to stay in Italy.
Travel tips about Italy
One of the great things about Italy is there is something interesting to see, something new to taste, no matter where you go. There are hidden gems everywhere, for example Alberobello in Apulia with the surprising trulli. And the labyrinthian Matera, European Capital of Culture in 2019, with its troglodyte dwellings, artists and craftsmen. Each region, each town, has something special to offer. When you travel with AAV, our expert local guides to ensure you see all the highlights and also take you to places only the locals know.
Florence’s Sistine Chapel
Among all the overwhelming tourist sites in Florence is a little-known treasure, the Chapel of the Spaniards, located behind the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. The unrestored murals on the walls and ceiling of the chapel rival those in the Sistine Chapel.
Beware of your footwear
Although AAV will likely provide you with a private car and driver, it is important to know that many streets in small towns and the historic centers within major cities are cobblestone. Be sure to bring flat, comfortable shoes as heels can be dangerous.
Take a boat to dinner
On the only island in Lake Como, reachable only by boat, is a restaurant that has featured the same menu since 1947. The meals at Locanda Dell’isola Comancina are so good that the restaurant is featured in the best-selling book 1000 Places to See Before You Die. Now that’s a recommendation!
Churches and cathedrals
Italy is a religious country, which means that virtually all churches and religious sites are actively used for religious services throughout the day. Flash photography is not allowed. Keep a sweater or tunic in your bag because some churches and religious sites enforce rules against “provocative” clothing or logos.
Wherever you go in Italy, there will be top-notch gelato to discover. In Turin, head to
Alberto Marchetti, Mara dei Boschi and Ottimo! Buono non basta. In Chiavari, Cremeria Spinola in Chiavari, and in Genova, Profumo. After hitting the shops in fashion capital Milan, treat yourself at Paganelli, and Pavé – Gelati & Granite.
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