5 Italian holidays you need in your life this summer

From Roman ruins to Renaissance masterpieces, Italy offers scenery of equal magnitude; mountains, volcanic islands, vineyards and beaches. Here are 5 Italian holidays not to miss this summer.
Ragusa Ibla cityscape at sunset in Val di Noto in Sicily
Ragusa Ibla cityscape at sunset in Val di Noto in Sicily

1. Explore Le Cinque Terre

‘Paradise on earth’ is how Lord Byron described the cluster of five little fishing villages that make up Le Cinque Terre. Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore cling perilously to the steep rocky coast north of La Spezia, and are best reached by train. This 16km (10-mile) -stretch of protected parkland is laced with cliffside walking trails, offering vertiginous views over terraced olive groves and jaunty villages. The best way to end a hike is over a plate of pesto-scented pasta and aromatic white wine. Rumours have been circulating about limiting the number of annual visitors to Le Cinque Terre in order to preserve the site, however there are no restrictions yet – but we recommend you visit while you can! Explore the stunning Cinque Terre coastline today as part of Insight Guides’ From Venice to Florence: A Grand Tour of Northern Italy.

Positano at dusk, on the Amalfi Coast.

Positano at dusk, on the Amalfi Coast. Photo: Shutterstock

2. Breathe Florence’s history

The magnificent view from the hilltop church of San Miniato, from where the belvedere looks out across the bridge-trellised Arno to Florence’s centro storico (historic centre), has changed little since the 16th century. It is a sea of terracotta rooftops interrupted only by the cupola (dome) of San Lorenzo, the medieval bell-tower of the Palazzo Vecchio and the focal point, the massive cupola of Florence's iconic Duomo. Renaissance Florence remains is alive and well today: its historic palaces, great churches, exquisite sculptures and countless masterpieces are not crumbling relics, but a vivid and functional part of everyday life – worked in, lived in, prayed in, prized, and open to all. Immerse yourself in historic Florence with Insight Guides' Florence: A Trip Back In Time trip.

View of Florence's iconic Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as the Duomo.

View of Florence's iconic Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, better known as the Duomo. Photo: Shutterstock

3. Island hop off Sicily

The Aeolians, seven volcanic specks off Sicily, offer sheer escapism, from barefoot luxury in boutique hotels to a back-to-nature experience.  Arching out from the north coast of Sicily lies an underwater volcanic ridge 200km (125 miles) long, from which rise the rocky islands of the Aeolian chain. But it is the exotic atmosphere and elemental majesty that make the Aeolians unique.

Lípari is the largest island and the gateway to the archipelago, while Panarea is the most polished, Salina the dreamiest, Vulcano the most smouldering (with Strómboli a close second), and Filicudi and Alicudi the least developed. For adventure lovers, the Aeolian Islands are arguably the most dramatic in Sicily, and the most brazenly beautiful, shaped by volcanic eruption and wind erosion. Start or end your trip with a tour of Sicily proper on Insight Guides’ Land and Legacy: a Tour of Sicily trip.   

Lipari Island, the largest of the Aeolian Islands.

Lipari Island, the largest of the Aeolian Islands. Photo: Shutterstock

4. Tour the Italian lakes

Set among the southern foothills of the Alps, the Italian lakes extend over four different regions of northwest Italy: Piedmont, Lombardy, Trentino and the Veneto. The famous trio are Maggiore, Como and Garda, but there are also a number of smaller, peaceful lakes scattered among the valleys. Each lake has its own character, whether it is the tiny, jewel-like Orta, with its perfectly preserved medieval village and islet; the beguiling Como where mountains plunge into the deep waters and picture-postcard villages cling to the slopes; the vast and varied Garda – fjord-like in the north, sea-like in the south; or the stately Maggiore, where snowcapped mountains form a dramatic backdrop to the enchanting Borromeo Islands. What they all have in common is a fertile shoreline, with a varied and exotic array of flora. Our Enchanting Italian Lakes trip takes in the picturesque lakes of Northern Italy, including Lake Garda, Como, Lugano and Maggiore.

Lake Como

Lake Como. Photo: Shutterstock

5. Walk in the Dolomites

Walk or cycle through the Dolomites, which are now a Unesco-declared World Heritage site. The majestic Dolomites tower over forests, pastures and vineyards, and the peaks inspirational enough to persuade those who don't love the great outdoors to lace up their hiking boots. In the vertiginous canyons of the Fassa and Fiemme valleys, walkers enjoy stunning views over glaciers and visions of craggy peaks soaring over meadows, forests and Alpine lakes. There are hikes to suit walkers of all abilities, with most allowing for easy access back to the valleys, either by cable car, bus or by pre-arranged pick-up. This allows hikers to stay in cosy, walker-friendly hotels rather than in basic Alpine huts. Going in summer means you can catch the Sounds of the Dolomites (www.isuonidelledolomiti.it), a series of open-air concerts staged in the peaks. Musicians perform classical or contemporary pieces to an audience gathered on the grassy banks beside a spectacular lake, inn or peak.

If you are planning a trip to Italy, Insight Guides can help with the planning, organising and booking of your trip. Simply contact us with details of the length of your trip, budget and places you would like to visit and we will put you in touch with a local expert who will plan a personalised itinerary for you. Alternatively, check out our existing Italy trips, all of which are fully customisable! 

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Best places to go in September, October, November

Get lost in a guidebook: Insight Guides: Italian lakes