What is a trip to Italy without exploring the arched passages of the Colosseum, jumping down the Spanish Steps and staring in wonderful ecstasy at the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel?
“Absolutely relaxing,” said Margherita Migliorini of Villa di Capannole, luxury accommodation in the Tuscan countryside. Her family has owned the villa – which used to be a working farm – for generations.
Italy is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. The country received more than 95 million tourist arrivals in 2019, the third highest in Europe after France and Spain and the sixth highest in the world after the US, China and Mexico, according to the World Bank.
With a total of 55, Italy is linked to China because it has the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites, although not all of them are haunted by tourists such as the rural landscape of Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia.
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Now Italy is letting in some international tourists. The European Union this week agreed to reopen its borders to travelers vaccinated with approved vaccines, as well as travelers from a list of countries with low Covid-19 infection rates. According to Reuters, the list could be finalized this week.
Italy had already announced that residents of the EU, the European Schengen Area, the United Kingdom and Israel can avoid quarantine if they test negative for Covid within 48 hours of their arrival.
Travelers from the USA, Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates can bypass the quarantine requirements if they come to Italy via “Covid-tested flights” to Rome, Milan, Venice or Naples. These flights require passengers to take a negative test before and after arriving in Italy.
These cities are some of the busiest tourist destinations in Italy, leaving lesser-known parts of the country calm and peaceful even in summer.
Driving through Sicily
In 2019, almost half (almost 42 million) of all travelers came to Italy on vacation, according to the Bank of Italy’s “2020 International Tourism Survey”. According to the report, more than 9 million of those comers have purchased package tours.
While the term “package tour” can mean a bus caravan of tourists under the guidance of a flag-waving guide, there are companies that plan accompanied or self-driving trips for vacationers looking for loneliness.
Mondello, a district of the Sicilian capital Palermo.
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Milan-based tour operator Find Your Italy specializes in tours off the beaten track in the country. Small-group tours to destinations such as Abruzzo and Puglia, as well as self-driving itineraries starting at € 645 (US $ 780) to places like Langhe, Piedmont and Sicily, are available.
“I think this year could be a good opportunity for individual travelers to visit the art cities as well, as they are not as crowded as usual due to the lack of large scheduled groups,” Roberta Leverone, a manager for the company, told CNBC.
From March to November, Find Your Italy organizes 11-day self-drive tours of Eastern Sicily, which, according to the company’s website, include excursions by archaeologists, art historians, chefs, and winemakers.
“We are proposing this tour [a] Self-drive option, but it is possible to have it with a private chauffeur, “said Leverone.
Sicily is very popular in July and August, so Leverone suggests a tour of Milan and Lake Cuomo to avoid the crowds, or a food, wine, and nature tour of Sardinia, which is calm year-round except August .
Immerse yourself in the sunken city of Baia
Aristocrats once flocked to the thermal baths of the ancient Roman spa town of Baia near the coast of Naples. The same volcanic activity that once drew wealthy Romans to the area is why part of the city is now 50 feet below the sea.
Baia was once a hedonistic retreat for the rich; Now most of it, including the parts of the nymphaeum shown here, lies on the ocean floor.
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Seven underwater archaeological sites with the remains of ancient mansions, overturned columns and colorful mosaics can be explored by divers and, to a lesser extent, snorkelers.
One of the most important submerged sites is Claudio’s nymphaeum, which was once part of an imperial palace. Although most of the site contains original Roman ruins, underwater statues have been reproduced. The originals were taken to the Museo Archeologico dei Campi Flegrei, a nearby museum that reopened in April.
Speleology in the Marche
In the Marche region – along the central “calf” of the Italian boot – lies the Grotte di Frasassi or the Frasassi Cave.
Guided tours take visitors along a path to landmarks like Crystallized Lake and Neverending Hall. Travelers can take a peek inside the caves by watching a video of a live acapella performance of Andrea Bocelli’s “Silent Night” last December.
Like the Grotte di Frasassi, the Valadier Temple is located near the small village of Genga, home to less than 1,700 people, in a remote part of the Marche province of Ancona.
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The cave can be explored in less than two hours. This leaves enough time to visit the Valadier Temple, an octagonal church built into the entrance of a nearby cave. The Grotte di Frasassi website has one to three day itineraries for visitors, including stops to see the 13th-century frescoes in the medieval town of Fabriano, the narrow streets of the ancient city of Jesi, and tastings of Verdicchio, the famous region to visit white wine and a spreadable salami called Ciausculo.
“Le Marche is one of the best regions for travelers looking for a more immersive and authentic experience in Italy,” said Juliana de Brito, founder of the Wonderful Marche website. “In Le Marche it is still possible to find the legacy of ancient crafts that have been passed on over time [which are] in danger of fading. “
This includes papermaking traditions from the 12th century and artisans who make shoes by hand. According to de Brito, these are in the south of the Marche, where some of the most famous Italian shoe factories are located.
She also recommends the region’s natural parks, which include the many coastal hiking trails of Monte Conero, which can be explored on foot, by bike or on horseback. She calls the brands “a paradise for food and wine”.
“It’s an incredible mosaic that combines geography, climate and history,” said de Brito.
Hike through Italy’s active volcanoes
Italy contains the only active volcanoes on mainland Europe. On a 15-day tour, travelers can hike all of them – Mount Vesuvius, Mount Etna, and Stromboli, as well as the volcano (which is dormant but not extinct).
The summit caldera of Vesuvius near the Bay of Naples.
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The “Volcanoes of Italy – the Grand Tour” by Volcano Discovery, a travel company specializing in volcano tourism, focus on nature, culture and archeology. It is a hiking and study trip, the latter describing a journey that combines learning with traveling.
The level of difficulty is described as “easy to difficult” and, according to the website, is carried out in small groups of six to twelve travelers.
The next tour is scheduled for October this year, but custom dates are available upon request.
Float above the colors of Castelluccio
Although the tiny Umbrian village of Castelluccio high in central Italy in the Apennines was badly damaged in an earthquake in 2016, people still come because of the region’s naturally socially distant outdoor activities such as rafting, cycling and “La Fioritura” or “La Fioritura”. . The bloom ”, which takes place every year from the end of May to the beginning of July.
The blooming of flowers below Castelluccio di Norcia before the 2016 earthquake that damaged much of the village.
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During this time, vibrant daffodils, poppies, violets and shamrocks fill the plateau on which the city is located. A remarkable sight in combination with hang gliding or paragliding. According to the website of Prodelta, a local gliding school, tandem flights for beginners are available from 100 euros.
Wellness retreat in Tuscany
Tuscany tops many travel lists, but those who can avoid the allure of Florence, Cinque Terre, and San Gimignano can find secluded solace in luxury villas like Villa di Capannole near the town of Bucine.
The villa is a typical Tuscan estate and has a pool, a separate cottage (for larger groups) and a wide view of the idyllic landscape. Guests can immerse themselves in the region’s small towns during the day and relax at night with sumptuous home-cooked Italian dinners prepared by the owners who live nearby.
The prices range from 3,500 to 5,920 euros per week.
Travelers who prefer hotels can consider Como’s premier European resort, Como Castello Del Nero, which will reopen on June 11 with a renovated wellness center. The hotel can organize outdoor activities like truffle hunting – the property is home to three types of black truffles – as well as the ultimate remote experience – hot air balloon rides at sunrise.
Those still planning this summer can check out the Monteverdi Tuscany, a luxury boutique hotel in the village of Castiglioncello del Trinoro. After an 18-month renovation, the hotel will reopen to guests in January 2022 with a regenerative clinic, newly designed wellness facilities and new hotel suites.
Like the Colosseum but without the crowds
Visitors who don’t want to skip the Colosseum in Rome this summer should know that they have other options.
TripAdvisor reviews are clearly one of the best reasons to visit Pozzuoli’s Flavian Amphitheater: “quiet”, “convenient to yourself” and “we were the only tourists there”.
The underground passages of the Flavian Amphitheater in Pozzuoli, Italy.
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The place outside of Naples is the third largest amphitheater in Italy and once had as many spectators as the Colosseum – around 50,000 people. It is known for the impressive preservation of its underground chambers, showing where gladiators and animals were kept and how trap doors and pulley systems were used to lift them into the arena.
Verona’s smaller arena draws more visitors, albeit still far fewer than the 7 million tourists who went to the Colosseum before the pandemic. Violent gladiatorial games were replaced by a more benevolent form of entertainment – opera performances.
The Verona Opera Festival has been taking place on the almost 2,000-year-old site since 1913. Tickets for this year’s festival, with shows scheduled throughout the summer, will go on sale on May 25th.