3 January 2017

Italy ideas for 2017

If it seems that 2016 been a year of ordeals and calamities, and you're wanting to get away from it all in 2017, this is a good time to start thinking about holidays. I'm always a bit surprised at this time of year to discover how many travellers are already planning trips as far ahead as November. But, of course, the further ahead you book, the longer you have to look forward to your holiday - and the best choice of accommodation will be open to you.

Here are some suggestions for destinations in Italy for an escapist idyll in the next twelve months. If you choose, you can switch off your internet connection and forget the rest of the world while enjoying sunshine, views, peace and - naturally - hearty Italian food. These are places I've visited in the last couple of years and loved, plus one or two highlights from past research trips.

The best time to visit Italy for a sunshine holiday without crowds is outside the peak Italian season, which runs from late July to the end of August. If you can get away in June, early July or September you'll find cheaper prices and quieter destinations.

Escape to an island

I always recommend escaping to islands. I love Italian islands; they're safe, charming, authentic and picturesque. Three lesser-known destinations are:

Panarea in the Aeolian islands, which is chic and idyllic.

Ustica, a ferry-ride from Palermo, which has a more down-to-earth charm and a lovely coastal footpath.

Capraia, off the coast of Tuscany, where you can explore empty countryside and the ruins of a prison colony.

Hole up by the sea

Italy has loads of lovely coastal destinations, some famous and others kept secret by their fans. For 2017, why not consider a resort which offers something a little different?

Marine del Cantone, which I visited last year, is a hidden shingle beach near Positano and Sorrento but completely different to either, with a few restaurants, a shabby-picturesque air, and some lovely footpaths nearby.

Marina del Cantone at Easter

Caorle, north of Venice, is a small, traditional beach resort (mostly Italian and German-speaking visitors) which offers a beach, access to the Veneto's art towns, plus unusual lagoon scenery and cycle rides.


Cefalรน in Sicily is my permanent top recommendation for a beach resort, with history and art as well as seaside  - a grand Norman cathedral with famous mosaics, a small museum, ruins - and the option of excursions by train to Palermo and by sea to the Aeolian islands.

History, art and sophistication

If you're interested in history, one fascinating holiday project would be to explore the archaeological sites in and around Naples. I've only started on this myself; there is a lot to see, from the famous Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum to the cave of the Cumaean Sybil and the underwater city at Baia. Naples also has one of the very best archaeological museums in the world.


The classic destinations for a sophisticated city break in Italy are Rome, Venice and Florence - all three of them everything you'd expect and more - while the more adventurous might choose try Naples or Palermo for foodie experiences and a more edgy vibe.

The Pantheon by night, Rome

Stay somewhere different

It's not just trying a new destination that can offer a fresh holiday experience - why not try a different kind of accommodation? If you normally stay in hotels, try out the local life in a city centre apartment or surround yourself with art in an eccentric B&B. Holiday flats I've enjoyed include the New Venice Apartments, Sorrento Apartments, Maison Giulia apartments in Rome and Casa Vittoria in Taormina. You can wake up when you want to, shop in markets, feel like a local, and relax in privacy.
Maison Giulia studio apartment, Rome

Alternatively, if you usually stay in self-catering or budget accommodation, you could consider splashing out on a seafront hotel for a change of pace. In 2016 I upgraded myself to five-star hotels a couple of times, for a few nights of my travels, finding good places to stay with special outdoor spaces and grand views which became part of my holiday experience in the way a budget room rarely can. These hotels would be lovely for a couple or family - but they're actually very good for solo travellers too. With plenty of attentive staff and public areas where you can sit unbothered to work or read, and elegant bars where you can relax in a comfortable and safe environment without heading out, these more expensive hotels have a lot to offer. Neither the Grand Hotel La Favorita in Sorrento, nor the Miramare e Castello in Ischia were cripplingly expensive (5-star hotels, but not the astronomically-expensive kind) and I'd recommend both of them, and especially their roof terraces.
Grand Hotel La Favorita, Sorrento

Hotel Miramare e Castello, Ischia

More ideas

You can find loads more holiday ideas on www.italyheaven.co.uk, including my list of the best seaside resorts in Italy. And you can follow Italy Heaven on Facebook, and Twitter for new ideas, 2017 Italy travel photos and website updates.

Happy travels in 2017!

31 December 2016

2016: Another year of Italy travels

As usual I spent as much time as possible this year in my once-home of Venice. I've always loved the city in winter when it feels like a proper local town - but inevitably a unique one. In January it was icy - but still sunny enough on one day that people were eating outdoors.

In March I climbed up Venice's famous spiral staircase, Scala Contarini del Bovolo, for the first time.

At Easter I spent a week in Sorrento, with misgivings. It turned out well and I found some lovely spots on the peninsula including hilltop villages, the beach at Marina del Cantone and a weird, haunted summer holiday 'village'.

I visited Herculaneum for the first time, and enjoyed a peaceful tour of the Villa Oplontis for a view of how the wealthy Roman elite lived.

Venice in spring is busier than in winter, but you do get to enjoy the bright colours and wisteria of the springtime city.

The island of Capri is usually my answer to the question "Where's your favourite place in Italy?" After a few years away I had forgotten just how glorious the scenery and history really are.

The weather was unseasonably cold for May, but I managed some walks, meals in scenic spots, a trip to watch bird conservationists at work, and an entirely unnecessary extra climb up the hill when I dropped my new swanky sunglasses on my final morning. I was also lucky enough to see the annual procession and celebrations of Capri's saint, San Costanzo.

After Capri I think I spent only one or two days in London before taking another flight, to Sicily this time. I had fancied a week getting away from it all on the Aeolian islands. Tiny, chic Panarea is the perfect place to relax ... or work. The staff of the Hotel Cincotta used ropes to haul a table onto my seafront terrace so I could work in comfort.

After a few nights on Panarea I travelled to the livelier Lipari where I was gratified to be remembered by a few locals, took a panoramic walk and worked on a rooftop

I made a summer trip to Venice where greenery peeps out from the buildings in unexpected places, and where I found surprising pleasure in pottering about in sunshine, sitting on ferries and doing nothing on the beach.

In early September I headed back to Campania for some late summer sun, this time returning to the islands of Ischia and Procida. I arrived on Ischia in time to see a re-enactment - with fireworks - of Saracen invasions and spent a few days getting to know the island. My favourite and most surprising excursion was to the island's highest point, Monte Epomeo which offers both attractive scenery for walking and an open-air restaurant.

I also tracked down a couple of the filming locations for the 1960 film Plein Soleil, starring Alain Delon.

I was pleased to find that little Procida still has the 1950s charm I was so impressed by when I first visited.

By December I was back in wintry Venice for my last trip of the year, in a rented flat with a glorious view over a campo, and enjoying a mixture of sunshine and fog.

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