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Italy Travel Guide

12 Best Italy Destinations to Vacation Like a Local

From windswept beaches to mountainside towns, there is much to see in Italy beyond Rome and Venice. Do as the Italians do and head to these hidden gems.

Just as it has in many countries, the pandemic has boosted domestic travel in Italy. This summer, expect to hobnob with local Italians as you follow in their footsteps down well-worn paths and head for unspoiled beaches and charming towns less frequented by the tourist crowds. With secluded seaside resorts, mountain getaways, tranquil lakeside luxury, and bustling cities—Italy’s varied destinations mean there is a place to meet everyone’s style and budget. From the snow-capped peaks of the Dolomites in the Sicilian islands in the south, take the Italians’ lead and explore just some of the many gems that Italy has to offer.

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Italian Lakes

For old-school glamour, visit Lake Como where opulent palazzi line the banks and luxury exudes from every corner. The new 5-star boutique hotel Musa Lago di Como combines an exclusive lakeside location and spectacular surroundings with contemporary amenities and comfort. Don’t miss the chance to take a boat trip to admire the beautiful scenery from the water, tour the historic villas and immaculately manicured waterfront gardens, or explore the elegant towns of Varenna, Como, and Bellagio. The outstanding natural beauty of Lake Garda is always a hit. The amazing position of the Lefay Resort Garda on the Riviera Dei Limoni ensures a birds-eye views across the water and world-class spa and treatments for total relaxation. Hike and horse ride through the forests, take a trip to the pretty town of Sirmione or head to the Italian and Swiss outlet stores for some retail therapy.

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Conca dei Marini

Away from the hustle and bustle of Amalfi and Positano, the attractive fishing village of Conca Dei Marini is a restful haven from which to discover some of the lesser-known corners of this world-renowned coastline. Borgo Santandrea is a luxurious hideaway perched on the cliff edge and boasts panoramic views over the ocean. With this sleek design showstopper as a base, explore the towns of Amalfi, Praiano, Ravello, Atrani, and Minori, where you will find buckets of charm and plenty of local experiences. Lovely Cetara is a great place for a fabulous seafood lunch at Ristorante Al Convento (Piazza S. Francesco, 16). Don’t leave without sampling the local delicacy, colatura di alici, a concentrated fish sauce of fermented anchovies served with spaghetti, garlic, and olive oil.

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Monte Argentario

Lying on the south coast of Tuscany, the dramatic promontory of Monte Argentario is almost entirely encircled by sea. The two main port towns of Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole are a summertime draw for well-heeled Italians in the warmer months. Hidden away in a secret cove is the exclusive Il Pellicano hotel, which oozes glamour and style. From here, explore the sights of the headland, rent a boat to visit secluded beaches, go scuba diving in the crystal-clear water, and take a trip to the unspoiled beauty of the nearby islands of Giglio and Giannutri. When it’s time to eat, dine at the hotel’s fabulous restaurant under the moonlight.

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Valle d’Itria

Puglia’s scenery and breathtaking beaches have always been popular with Italian holidaymakers, and the Valle d’Itria— sandwiched between the Ionian Adriatic seas—offers the best of both worlds. Inland you can visit the quaint towns of Ostuni, Locorotondo, Cisternino, and Martina Franca, as well as the UNESCO World Heritage site of Alberobello with its distinctive conical-roofed Trulli, while a trip to the fantastic beach town of Polignano a Mare should definitely not be missed. For pure luxury, stay at the sublime Masseria Torre Maizza, which is perfectly positioned to discover the area’s delights, or Borgo Canonica for the chance to sleep in your own Trullo. For a beachy sojourn, stay at the boutique Don Ferrante hotel in Monopoli.

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Ischia and Capri

Capri might attract the international jet-set, but there are plenty of tranquil corners, away from the crowds, where you can see a less frantic side of the island. A discreet luxury retreat, the peace of the Sina Flora hotel belies its prime location just steps from the main Piazzetta. For an authentic taste of Capri, the team at Michel’angelo can organize private dinners in their garden villa in Anacapri and offer cooking classes and gourmet picnics. Calmer and more chilled than its neighbor, Ischia gives you all you need for a restful vacation. With its cliff-edge pool, the stylish Mezzatorre Hotel and Therma Spa sits right above its own private bay, offering guests the perfect mix of luxury and Ischian charm. The Botania Relais and Spa has acres of gardens, and the San Montano Resort and Spa offers an infinity pool (some suites even have private ones). Don’t miss a trip to the island’s famed thermal pools at Poseidon or Negombo, or spend your days lounging on the beach at Giardino Eden.

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The Dolomites

Seek out the sanctuary of the Italian alps and head up to the Dolomites for a mountain escape. Stay close to nature at Forestis or Miramonti Boutique Hotel, or book a room at the amazing Lefay Resort and Spa Dolomiti. Nestled in the craggy mountain peaks, it aims to give guests a real sense of place with its floor-to-ceiling windows and decor reflecting the outside scenery. The hotel spa is a temple of wellness that uses the latest treatments and techniques to relax and rejuvenate. Once rested, there are plenty of activities on hand, from skiing, hiking, and biking to horse-riding and golf.

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Lazio Coast

The coastline of Lazio is largely undiscovered by foreigners who prefer to spend their time in Rome, but during the hot days of summer, the locals make a beeline to the beach for some fresh sea breeze. Less than an hour from Rome, La Posta Vecchia brings a slice of dolce vita glamour to the town of Ladispoli. A 17th-century palazzo situated right on the beach, it was restored in the 1960s by Jean-Paul Getty, and his private collection of art and antiques still adorn the beautifully decorated rooms. From here, it’s easy to visit the nearby beach towns of Fregene, Santa Severa, and Santa Marinella, or even head slightly inland to tour the incredible Etruscan tombs of Cerveteri. Seafront Fiumicino is also nearby, and here you can delight in Michelin star chef Lele Usai’s QuarantunoDodici. You won’t regret a lunch at the casual fine dine L’Osteria dell’Orologio, where chef Marco Claroni wows with his inventive seafood tasting menus.

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Tucked along the coast, about halfway between Rome and Naples, Gaeta is a seaside town and the perfect base to hop on a boat and explore the nearby Pontine islands, including Ponza, Ventotene, and Palmarola. Stay at the Hotel Mirasole International, which sits just steps from the main beach, Serapo, where you will find fine white sand, crystalline waters, and a relaxed local feel. For the full beach experience, lay down a towel at Palm Beach and devour a portion of spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams). When the sun sets, head for a seafront aperitivo at Bar Platani or the Yacht Club. Head into Gaeta’s old town for cocktails at Kasa Incanto or hang with the locals at Christian Bar. At Dolia Gaeta, Michelin star chef Francesco Apreda has created an innovative local specialty menu, and for something different, Casa Giò serves up Venezuelan-inspired cuisine and drinks to match. Add a VIP spin to your vacation with a beach day at the exclusive Aeneas Landing resort or on the sparkling beaches and whitewashed buildings of nearby Sperlonga.

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Sardinia has something for everyone, including a rugged natural landscape, some of Italy’s best beaches, and a history dating back to prehistoric times. Whether it’s the wild beauty of Villasimius in the south or the glitzy resorts in the north, the island suits every need. Stretching out from Porto Cervo in the northeast, the Costa Smeralda is the world-famous playground of the rich and famous who come to experience pristine white beaches, clear waters, and secluded bays. The refined glamour of the Hotel Cala di Volpe hugs the iconic coastline and provides a prime position from which to experience the exclusivity of the aptly named Emerald Coast. A little further south, the Baglioni Resort immerses guests right into the island’s natural beauty from its location in the Tavolara nature reserve and next to the paradisiacal Lu Impostu beach.

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For a vacation that combines great beaches, fascinating history, amazing landscapes, and delectable cuisine—Sicily ticks every box. Lively, colorful, and vibrant, the passion that Sicilians have for their island is evident, and the many and varied occupants over the centuries have left their mark with ancient Greek, Byzantine, Arab, and Norman influences in everything from the architecture to the food. Head to Palermo, Catania, Messina, and Siracusa for buzzing markets, or opt for total relaxation at the serene Verdura Resort near Agrigento. Verdura’s sister property, Villa Igiea, is a magnificent palazzo-turned luxury hotel in the heart of Palermo. Off the northern coast, the stunning Aeolian Islands are a great option. Stay at the dreamy Capofaro resort on Salina, where you can’t help but fall under the magical spell of Sicily.

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Riviera del Conero

As one of Italy’s most undiscovered regions, Le Marche boasts some truly hidden gems that are just begging to be explored. Interspersed by an appealing landscape of gently undulating hills are the lovely towns of Ascoli Piceno and Urbino and the famous pilgrimage destination of Loreto. However, one of the most celebrated parts of the region lies to the south of Ancona, where the Riviera del Conero can be found. Located in a protected natural park, this stretch of coastline boasts some of the best beaches of the Adriatic, set in an area of untamed wilderness and framed by the rocky promontory of Monte Conero. Further north from Ancona is the seaside town of Senigallia, best known for the restaurant Uliassi which put Le Marche on the map thanks to its creative seafood menu and three Michelin stars.

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From the Apennines in the west to the Adriatic in the east, Abruzzo boasts mountains, lakes, hill towns, heritage sites, and beaches in one alluring region. Stay and eat at the Casadonna residence, a 16th-century former monastery in the Abruzzo national park and home to the acclaimed three Michelin star restaurant, Reale. Alternatively, head to San Stefano di Sessanio where you can stay at Sextanio, an Albergo diffuso where the rooms are spread out in various properties of the medieval town. Visit the towns of Guardiagrele, Rocca San Giovanni, or Sulmona, known for its colorful sugared almonds. Take a refreshing dip in the lakes of Scanno or Barrea, or head to the sea and explore the trabocchi coast, where you can dine on one of the unique historic wooden fishing structures like Trabocco Punta Fornace or Gli Ostinati – Trabocco Mucchiola. In Pescara, enjoy the Italian family experience and spend the day Cooking with Rosy, where you’ll be welcomed into a home to try homestyle food.

fouDor May 17, 2022

so many photos... but no info on what actually they are showing...
In a travel oriented publication - I find this to be a jarring omission!
And to the Viewpoint poster - what happened to your taste buds?

Viewpoint007 May 17, 2022

Yeah, love Italy, the beautiful villages, towns and cities, magnificent architecture, stunning landscape, great language, wine choice.

Just the food there is rather...dull, mono-flavoured....