With a network of well-maintained roads that weave through a landscape of snow-capped peaks, plunging coastlines, lakes and historic towns, Italy offers plenty of epic driving. And while some routes are undeniably challenging, they all make for unforgettable experiences. Here we highlight six classic road trips, ranging from gentle Tuscan jaunts to hair-raising mountain adventures. A taste of Tuscany Taking in two of Italy’s great medieval cities, the wine treasures of Chianti, and swathes of classic Tuscan scenery, this two-day route leads from Florence to Orvieto in the neighbouring region of Umbria. Whet your appetite for the road ahead by feasting on fine art and Renaissance architecture in Florence before striking south to Chianti wine country. Stop for a tasting at the Enoteca Falorni in Greve and to sample the region’s celebrated bistecca (steak) at L’Antica Macelleria Cecchini in Panzano. From here, follow the backroads to Siena, a stunning medieval city centred on an awe-inspiring Duomo and a 12th-century square,Piazza del Campo. Overnight at the Pensione Palazzo Ravizza. Next morning, head to Montalcino to stock up on Brunello di Montalcino, one of Italy’s revered red wines. A short drive to the east, the Val d’Orcia provides quintessential Tuscan landscapes with its … Continue reading Italy’s six best road trips

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Even in a country where gorgeous beaches are two a penny, the Italians admit that those in Sardinia are particularly bellissima. The island regularly tops polls of the world’s best beaches, withspiagge ranging from the rugged, cliff-backed coves of the east to the dune-flanked strands of the west. Sardinia’s snow-white beaches and bluer-than-blue seas are often likened to the Caribbean – but why, quite frankly, would you want to imagine yourself anywhere else? Best for escapists: Is Aruttas Spearing into the Golfo di Oristano, the beaches on the Sinis Peninsularank among the island’s loveliest, though ideally you need your own car to reach them. Fairest of all is Is Aruttas, an arc frosted with white sand and tiny pebbles that make the water appear a startling shade of aquamarine. For years its quartz sand was carted off for aquariums and beaches on the Costa Smeralda, but no more. Bored of flopping on the beach? The nearby holiday resort of Putzu Iduattracts surfers, windsurfers and kitesurfers. Or take a boat trip to bare, rocky Isola di Mal di Ventre (Stomach Ache Island), which owes its name to the sea-sickness that sailors often suffered whilst navigating its windy waters. Best for families: Chia … Continue reading Sardinia’s top 10 beaches: white sands and turquoise waters

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Arguably Europe’s most enticing country, Italy charms visitors with irresistible food, awesome architecture, diverse scenery and unparalleled art. In fact, it’s so packed with possibilities it can almost overwhelm. If you’ve not visited before you could well wonder what to see? Where to go? How to travel? Here’s everything you need to know to get the absolute utmost out of your first-time Italy trip. Italy’s greatest hits Short on time? Start with the big three: Rome, Florence and Venice. A week is (just) enough to enjoy the country’s headline acts. The glories of Rome A day: Rome wasn’t built in one, and you certainly can’t see it in one. Instead allow at least two, preferably three. That’s time to take in the spectacular Colosseum, the 2000-year-old Pantheon, the palace ruins of the Palatino, sacred St Peter’s and the art-filled Vatican Museums. Trot up the Spanish Steps, toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain, shop in narrow lanes and indulge in prime people watching. Florence and Tuscany: art and wine Two days in Florence sees you cherry-picking the incomparable art in the Uffizi gallery, delighting in the frescoes in the Duomo and pondering the anatomy of Michelangelo’s David. It also allows … Continue reading Planning your first trip to Italy

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Despite its enduring reputation as a playground for the world’s elite, some of Venice’s finest moments are surprisingly affordable. The beautiful Grand Canal can be cruised on a budget-friendly water bus, a glass of prosecco in a backstreet bar costs as little as €1.50 a glass, and many quintessential Venetian experiences are completely and blissfully free. Bargain basilicas Some of the city’s most celebrated sights don’t cost a thing. Admission to the shimmering interior of the Basilica di San Marco is free of charge. Built in AD 828 this architectural wonder is clad in precious marbles from Syria, Egypt and Palestine and over 8500-square metres of gold mosaic. Free guided tours run by the diocese between April and October explain the theological messages in the mosaics, while a bargain €2 gives you access to the Pala d’Oro, where you’ll find the bejewelled casket of St Mark. Likewise, across the Grand Canal, the architectural tour de force that is Longhena’s Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute is also free to visit. The unusual domed octagon structure bears similarities to Graeco-Roman goddess temples and is said to have mystical curative properties. The sacristy (admission €3) is a wonder within a wonder, containing … Continue reading Visiting Venice on a budget

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To get to know Venice from the inside out, first you have to see the lagoon city as the locals do. That means taking the leap beyond sightseeing and joining Venetians in their traditional pastimes, whether it be rowing like a gondolier, shopping for mantis shrimps in the Rialto Market or setting aside your digital devices for a crash course in paper marbling or glass working. Immersive language lessons Like millions of travellers before you, visiting Venice will induce a raft of fantasies as you imagine what life would be like if you lived behind palazzo doors. If only you knew the name of that strange looking vegetable and could shout out your drink order over the burly gondolieriat the Al Bottegon bar, surely then you’d pry open the secrets of this elusive city. If you’re itching for this deeper connection, sign up for language classes at Venice Italian School. Run by Diego and Lucia Cattaneo the school takes you from the classroom to the calli (alleys) with a series of immersive cultural experiences including wine tasting, cooking, rowing and even glass blowing. One- to two-week courses (€290/€530) can be tailored to individuals or groups; cultural lessons can be booked … Continue reading Eight great ways to immerse yourself in Venetian culture

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Venice’s 124 islands splinter off Italy’s northeastern coast like shards of glass; from this vantage, early Venetians looked out at the world and built a seafaring empire to rival that of Rome. But at heart they remained land lovers, building one of the world’s most beautiful cities out of pearly white marble. Now is a fantastic time to delve a little deeper into Venice’s history. In 2016, the city commemorates the 500-year history of the Venetian ghetto – an island at the heart of this island city. Like Venice itself, the ghetto turned its physical constraints into a virtue; in its cramped quarters Jewish culture and ideas thrived. Celebrate its extraordinary contribution to history at theDucal Palace, host to a major new exhibition; explore the newly restored synagogues and Jewish Museum; or catch a showing of Shakespeare’sMerchant of Venice staged for the first time in the ghetto.

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