25 ways to enjoy la dolce vita

Sat, Aug 4, 2012, 01:00

GO ITALY:Italy has it all, from family fun, to sun, to walking in the footsteps of the Medici. We’ve rounded up 25 Italian jobs to suit all kinds of travellers.

Italy for families

1 For family fun you can’t beat a campsite holiday and Italy has one that puts the French to shame. The Norcenni Girasole Club in the Chianti region is a perfect base from which to visit such places as San Gimignano, Siena and Florence. Or stay put and enjoy great pools, leisure facilities and restaurants. Galway company KelAir Campotel has a week’s stay in a mobile sleeping five, arriving August 25th, for €630. See campotel.com.

2 Forget Disney. In Italy, it’s all about Gardaland. The theme park, which is close to Peschiera del Garda, is vast, well organised and great fun. In summer it stays open until 11pm and is particularly magical at night. Book your stay in the hotel before August 19th, for stays until August 31st, and you get free entrance to the park, plus free dinner for the kids. See gardaland.it.

3 For total rejuvenation, Club Med is hard to beat. Its resort in Napitia, Calabria, is a 20-hectare haven near the ankle of Italy’s boot, full of pine trees and bougainvillea. A week’s break based on a twin share basis, excluding flights, costs £880 (€1,124) per adult and £704 (€900) for kids, departing August 17th. See clubmedsunway.ie.

Italy for sunshine

4 For a good old-fashioned sun holiday, the Sicilian resort town of Giardini Naxos is perfect. It has great beaches, great bay views and an old fishing port at its heart. There’s no shortage of sunbeds either, laid out in perfectly symmetrical formation on the beach. Clickandgo.comhas a seven-night stay at Villa Linda Hotel, arriving September 19th, for two adults from €577pps, including BB. See clickandgo.com.

5 There’s still time to book a Tuscan villa, just. Castelmuzio is a tiny, hilltop hamlet in the south of Tuscany, close to the Umbrian border. The village has a small coffee shop, trattoria and grocery store, with Siena a 40-minute drive away. Stay at La Residenza, which sleeps eight and has its own pool, for seven days starting August 11th, for a villa-only price of €5,003. See jamesvillas.ie.

6 Sorrento is a buzzing holiday location, perfect for exploring villages along the Amalfi coast. The new four-star La Grand Hotel Favourita has a terrace offering terrific views over the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius. At the time of writing, Sunway has a week’s stay departing August 18th, from €1,074pps BB, including flights when booked online. See sunway.ie.

7 Explore the beautiful towns on the shores of Lake Garda, from historic Sirmione to bustling Riva, a haven for windsurfers. Take the ferry from place to place, or drive around its famous tunnels, James Bond-style. Just don’t end up in the lake like his Aston Martin did while filming Quantum of Solace. Crystal Summer has a web price for seven night’s BB at the two-star Hotel Miravelli in Garda, from €459pps, departing September 1st. See crystalsummer.ie.

Italy for activities

8 Walk your way around the Cinque Terre – the villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso – that hug the cliffs of the Italian Riviera. A Unesco Heritage site, each is connected by hiking trails offering stunning views. Topflight has week-long walking breaks here in September from €829pps, including flights. See topflight.ie.

9 Make like a Medici with a wander through their beloved Mugello Hills. Stroll through vineyards, olive groves and woodlands, following ancient drovers’ roads and mule tracks, finishing up in bustling Florence. Inn Travel has four-night self-guided walking breaks for £572 (€730), tour only, based on two sharing. See inntravel.co.uk.

10 It isn’t all sunshine and sunflowers in Italy. In wintertime it’s all about the snow. Sauze d’Oulx, is one of the five villages that make up the Milky Way ski resort straddling the border with France, and was host to part of the 2006 Winter Olympics. A week’s stay here at the four-star Hotel Relais des Alpes, departing 13thJanuary 13th, costs from €752 per adult based on two sharing with Cryrstal Ski. See cryrstalski.ie.

11 How about a real cycling challenge, riding the mighty Mortirolo Pass, a regular feature in the Giro d’Italia and a climb described by Lance Armstrong as the toughest in the world? UK specialist travel firm Saddle Skedaddle has a week-long, tour-only package from £1,350 that takes in the Museum of the Cyclist at Madonna del Ghisallo along the way. See skedaddle.co.uk.

12 Alternatively, take a guided cycle through the beautiful Emilia-Romagna region. The trip is run by Group Travel International with Doctor Bike, a bike shop. Guests will be based in a three-star hotel at the bustling beach resort of Riccione. The trip offers runs ranging from 50km to 105km daily. It departs September 6th and costs €989pps, including flights. See doctorbike.ie.

13 Get in touch with your inner Sophia Loren with a touring holiday in an open-top Alfa Romeo Spider, along the Amalfi coast. The package, from Delicious Italy, includes a walk along the stunning Path of the Gods high up in the Amalfi Hills. It costs €1,800 for a week for two. See deliciousitaly.com

Italy for heritage

14 It isn’t just Italy’s present that appeals to people, its past does too. For a break that focuses on ancient artefacts, archaeological specialist Andante Travels has a tour of Pompeii, Herculaneum and classical Campania, including special access to some of the best preserved buildings and private monuments. An eight-day tour, led by an expert, costs from £1,380 (€1,765) in early September, excluding flights. See andantetravels.com.

15 Or take a tour of classical Sicily, taking in Syracusa, the town that rivalled Corinth as the most important and most beautiful of the Greek world. See Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples, the old Phoenician island-town of Mozia and the Doric temple of Segesta. The eight-day tour is priced from £758 (€970) to £816 (€1,044) excluding flights, with a single supplement of £115 (€147). See responsibletravel.com.

Italy for foodies

16 It’s not all pizza and pasta. Dining with the Stars is series of gastronomic events hosted by 10 chefs that have, between them, 21 Michelin stars. At each your chef will prepare a degustation dinner, including one course that has been devised just for the event. The next one takes place at the end of September at the Grand Hotel Timeo and the Villa Sant’Andrea, both in Taormina, and features Swiss-born chef Pietro Leemann and multi-award-winning German Heinz Beck. A two-night package costs €2,360 per couple. See diningwiththestar.com.

17 Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted the GTI Irish Times reader offer of a four-day Italian cooking holiday in Tuscany in October. It offers you the opportunity to learn how to prepare local dishes using authentic recipes and ingredients, while staying in the 13th-century Villa Casagrande in Fignline Valdarno. Prices start from €775. See gti-ireland.com.

18 Among its many gifts, Italy has also given the world the Slow Food Movement. Specialist tour operator Arblaster and Clarke has a truffle-hunting break in the Piemontese countryside, which includes a visit to Slow Food’s flagship trattoria in Bra and the Slow Food Salone del Gusto food and wine festival in Turin. The October tour costs £1,595 (€2,039) per person with a single supplement of £310 (€396). See winetours.co.uk.

Italy for luxury

19 The tiny island of Capri is home to the remains of 12 imperial Roman villas, the most famous of which is Villa Jovis, from which owner Tiberius used to sling offending guests 1,000ft into the sea. Things are much more civilised at the Hotel Caesar Augustus, which is offering a three-night Best of Capri package available from September 17th to October 21st, including breakfast, dinner and a tour of the island by private boat, from €1,800 per room. See caesar-augustus.com.

20 The exclusive Sardinian resort of Porto Cervo, on the Costa Smerelda, was established in the 1960s by the Aga Khan, and it still retains its upmarket image. That said, these days you don’t have to break the bank to get there. At the time of writing, Ryanair had flights to Alghero (112km away) on September 2nd for €92, while Booking.comhas seven nights at the Hotel Valdiola, just outside the town, for €882, including breakfast. See booking.com.

21 For stunning gardens set amid splendid scenery, you won’t top Villa d’Este, a luxury hotel overlooking Lake Como. It has 500-year-old plane trees and a 16th-century mosaic. The hotel has a three-night romantic stay special offer from €1,225, available from August 27th to October 13th. See villadeste.com.

Italy for city breaks

22 Romans called their home the Eternal City because they thought, no matter what other empires might rise and fall, Rome would go on forever.

In tourist terms, they were right. For a city break there is no beating it and, if you can take the heat, August is the perfect time to go as the locals have fled to the mountains and the sea. Arrow Tours has Rome specials this month, including four nights for the price of three, staying at the Veneto Hotel, close to the Via Veneto. See arrowtours.ie.

23 In a country of gems, Venice is in a league of its own. La Serenissima is a tad less serene these days, but you can still catch a glimpse of its more stately past. Of course, the best view of Venice is not from Venice at all, but from across the laguna in Guidecca. The five-star Hotel Cipriani is offering four nights for the price of three on selected dates. See hotelcipriani.com.

24 Fancy a 14th-century palazzo for less than €100 a night? It’s yours if you’re happy to stay in a Franciscan convent in Florence, close to the Ponte Vecchio, Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. Singles cost €94 a night, including breakfast, for the week from August 18th, with family rooms sleeping five available for €219 a night. See monasterystays.com.

25 Or rev things up with a trip to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix, which takes place on September 7th-9th. The Travel Department has a three-night deal, staying at the three-star Hotel Ambasciatori in Brescia, on a BB basis and including transfers to the qualifying round on Saturday and the Grand Prix on Sunday. The package is priced from €629 including Milan flights. See thetraveldepartment.ie.

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