Next summer’s Italy itineraries are already in full swing here at Italy Beyond the Obvious (currently: Puglia, the Dolomites, Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast and Liguria) but this is the time of year when I crunch the numbers and take stock of where my clients went in 2013. This year’s Italy Top 10 list is, like last year’s list, based on hotel nights per trip.
From the famous cities of Pisa and Lucca and Siena to the gorgeous UNESCO countryside in the Val D’Orcia, I’m always thrilled when people want to dedicate a chunk of time to Tuscany. This year, I booked villas and farmhouses or agriturismi, had several travelers attend Siena’s Palio horse races, and organized many cooking classes, shopping trips, wine excursions, hikes and bike rides.
It seemed like more travelers than usual wanted to stay in the top hotels of the Amalfi Coast, but many also wanted to get off the beaten track, so I sent people further down the coast to visit places many travelers just don’t have time to visit. Itineraries that included the island of Capri were similar: people wanted high-end hotels but daily itineraries centered more around the town of Anacapri rather than the much busier town of Capri. I was excited that several trips spent a chunk of time in Naples, too. It’s not a city that everyone loves, but it’s one of my favorites.
This year seemed to be the year of Rome for families, which translated into kid-friendly Vatican and Colosseum tours, gelato stops, and suggestions for where to eat dinner early so the kids didn’t have to stay up until 10 pm. Rome is about sights but it’s also about having a strategy so the kids – and everyone – don’t get too tired. And it’s also, always, about food. While it’s easy to find a bad meal in Rome, it’s also easy, with a little planning, to have every bite be fantastic.
I guess it’s no surprise that Italy’s “big three” are all in my top 4. Venice is a place people usually spend 2-3 days, so it doesn’t get allocated the week-long stays that Tuscany or the Amalfi Coast do, but it’s always part of the conversation.
Liguria itineraries included the towns of Camogli, Portofino, Genova, La Spezia, Sestri Levante, Porto Venere, Palmaria island and of course the Cinque Terre. These travelers did quite a bit of hiking, took seaside walks, enjoyed gorgeous views, ate lots of great food, explored small coastal towns and took boat rides for a different view of the coast.
Family-friendly, and wonderful for hiking or biking or skiing just experiencing a culture completely different from anywhere else in Italy, the Dolomites is a winner every time. I always warn people that if they do fewer than about 4 days in the Dolomites, they will leave feeling like they didn’t have enough time.
Umbria plannng this year included day trips to Orvieto from Rome, hiking in the gorgeous Sibillini park, visits to Assisi, Perugia, Spoleto, Gubbio, Montefalco, and Lake Trasimeno. Lots of great food, wine, and scenery!
By “lakes”, I’m including Lakes Como and Maggiore and Lake Garda. In my experience people spend about 3 days at one of the lakes, or visit as a day trip from somewhere else like Milan. The Lakes, as you can imagine, include lake and mountain scenery, boat rides, and lots of small lakeside towns with promenades, like the town of Bardolino on the shores of Lake Garda.
In the “foodie” region of Italy, travelers toured parmesan cheese factories, tasted balsamic vinegar, spent time in the lovely towns of Parma, Bologna, and Modena, and even test drove Ferraris (one with the kids in the back!)
While I had one client who spent an entire week in Milan, in my experience people usually just fly in or out of Milan and spend a day exploring. One day is enough time to climb to the top of the Duomo, walk through the Galleria to Piazza La Scala, and visit the Last Supper, then head to the Navigli district for gelato or aperitivi or dinner.
Photos are property of Italy Beyond the Obvious or IBtO clients and may not be used without permission
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