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.
I always recommend escaping to islands. I love Italian islands; they're safe, charming, authentic and picturesque. Three lesser-known destinations are:
Escape to an island
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 seaItaly 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.
Cefalù 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 sophisticationIf 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 differentIt'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|
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!