The best holiday destinations in Italy

What can you expect from the different regions of Italy? We pick a few of our favourite destinations to help you make the most of your holiday to Italy.

By Saga team

Published 15 May 2024

Italy is arguably the envy of the world; it has a long and fascinating history with some of the best-loved cuisines in the Mediterranean, a warm climate, stunning coastlines, snow-capped mountains for skiing, lakes for rowing, cities for romancing and islands to escape to.

With so much to recommend it, Italy deserves its reputation.

However, narrowing down what you want from your Italian holiday is important if you are going to make the most of your trip.

Each region of Italy varies quite distinctly, from the sparkling glamour of the Riviera to the earthy agriculture that permeates Tuscany.

So to aid you in your choice, we have cherry-picked a few of our favourite destinations, so that you will know what to expect from each of these different regions.

Often overlooked for the fairytale-like shores of Venice, the Adriatic Coast is lined with medieval villages, Roman ruins, and picturesque towns backed by postcard perfect landscapes.

The Italian side of the Riviera transformed into a holiday hotspot after the infamous Mussolini poured a lot of money into its construction.

As a result of this foresight, the area has become one of the most popular holiday destinations in the county and welcomes generations of Italians and tourists to its shores every year, to soak in the sun and the lively atmosphere.

Think of Tuscany and you picture gentle rolling hills, cypress-lined alleyways, beautiful morning mists, timeless mountain paths and glorious coast of soft sand dunes. The agricultural heart of Italy, you will find authentic and locally sourced Italian cuisine and wine, a countryside that is lush and hilly, and welcoming locals.

A list of favourite places in Italy would hardly be complete without Tuscany, the beautiful interior of the world’s most famous boot. But, of course, Tuscany is more than just its scenery – here you’ll find a host of fascinating cities such as Florence, Lucca, Pisa and Siena. Choose a holiday in Tuscany and you can enjoy the best of both worlds, as well as delicious authentic cuisine.

Lying 820 metres up in the mountains, Gavinana is ideal for both walking and discovering the nearby historic cities that Tuscany is justly famous for.

Gavinana is a small, typically Tuscan town nestled in the Pistoiese Apennine Mountains with terracotta-roofed houses, stone churches and refreshing mountain air.

The town also has the advantage of being set just north of Florence for those who want to take a spontaneous day trip, or spend a weekend exploring the museums of one of Italy’s most beautiful cities.

As Tuscany’s largest seaside town, Viareggio has a long sandy coast, attractive pine forests and grand art nouveau architecture.

It is most famous for its carnival, one of Italy’s most spectacular events, which takes place between February and March when impressive floats are paraded along the seafront.

The town has many places of interest such as Villa Paolina, a Liberty-style villa commissioned by Napoleon’s sister in 1822, and Piazza Shelley, named after the English poet who drowned just along the coast. Viareggio is an ideal destination if you want to get out and explore as there are easy public transport links to Pisa, Lucca and Florence.

Food tip:

Formed in 1986, the Slow Food movement is an alternative to fast food and celebrates local produce and authentic regional cuisine. In Tuscany, this movement is particularly strong and its manifesto is to preserve gastronomical rarities such as zeri lamb, biroldo della garfagnana sausage, testaroli pancakes, Obetello fish eggs, sorana bean dishes and marocca di casola bread.

Located in Northern Italy, Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. The lake is sandwiched between romantic Venice and the financial hub of Milan, making it a popular getaway destination for Italian nationals and travellers alike.

Lake Garda has a reputation for reasonable prices and – of course – the wonderful Italian culture and history seen in the stunning townships that dot the area.

Writers and artists have long found inspiration here and it’s not difficult to see why Lake Garda sparked their creative energy.

Try heading to Malcesine, a scenic town on the eastern shores, to visit the majestic castle or the striking Church of St Stefano.

Lake Molveno lies in the North of Italy, beside the Brenta region of the Dolomite mountains. With the Dolomites dominating the landscape around this lake, amazing scenery is not hard to come by in Molveno.

Lying a little to the north of Lake Garda, the area is made up in part of the Adamello-Brenta Nature Park, perfect for those looking to hit the trails for some hiking.

For others who want to soak up the laid-back Italian atmosphere, the Molveno old town offers much in the way of bars and restaurants where you can sip a glass of Italian red and admire the views.

On the Estruscan Coast, a narrow stretch of Tuscany's coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea, you can visit the popular seaside town of Marina di Bibbona, a pleasant Tuscan town which grew up around an 18th-century fort and has beautiful blue flag beaches, rolling sand dunes and pinewoods of juniper.

And from here, when you’re not relaxing on the beach and enjoying the sunshine, you can explore the medieval hamlets of Bolgheri and Castagneto. Both are utterly charming with castles, churches and winding cobbled streets. The region of Bolgheri and Castagneto is ringed by vineyards and it is famous for its award-winning wine which has been dubbed ‘Super Tuscan’.

The historic port of Piombino is also close by, which has a rich and fascinating history worth exploring, with a maze of streets leading up from the sea to the 13th-century castle. You can also take the ferry to the Island of Elba, Italy’s third largest island and famously the place to which Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled in 1814 after his forced abdication.

The Floating City of Venice is a must-visit destination for many travellers, and for good reason. The capital of the Veneto region is best known for its gondolas gliding through the canals, and its colourful annual carnival taking place in the run-up to the end of Lent.

The absence of vehicles within this city, thanks to the network of intertwining canals, makes travelling around Venice by foot an indisputable pleasure, as well as a necessity!

Venice hosts a plethora of secret passageways to discover and winding streets to explore. Fall in love with the unique homes, wander across the quaint footbridges and observe the Floating City in all its glory.

The Tharros columns are one of Sardinia's greatest attractions. Sardinia is a self-governing island, considered to be one of the wealthiest regions of Italy with an exclusive reputation.

You will find the odd celebrity and a landscape of yachts on its famous Costa Smeralda, but travelling further south will take you out of the glitz and onto beaches that are just as beautiful, far less expensive and much less touristy.

If you're seeking a slice of azure waters and white sand, you can’t go wrong with this destination, as Sardinia has long held the title for having the best beaches in all of Italy.

Commonly known as the 'Eternal City', Rome is a city escape that everyone has to experience once in their lifetime. Visit the iconic Colosseum, walk up the 138 steps of Scalinata di Spangna and appreciate the architectural beauty of the famous squares and fountains.

Foodies will love it here, too – there are plenty of fabulous eateries dotted across the city; you'll never think of Italian food in the same way again.

Visit Puglia - the heel of Italy's boot - for historic cities, a beautiful coastline and fields of olive trees.

One of the most iconic sights in Italy’s Puglia region is its trulli dwellings – small white-washed buildings with thick limestone walls and conical roofs topped with small spires.

The UNESCO-listed town of Alberollo has an entire district of trulli, making it look from a distance like a scene from a child’s storybook. Serene, unspoiled and beautifully picturesque, it’s like nowhere else on Earth.

Historic and with a beautiful heart, the enchanting city of Verona is rich in associations. This is where Romeo and Juliet loved and lost, and from where Shakespeare’s two gentlemen based their pursuit of love.

It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site where 2,000 years of history await you, Roman remains sitting happily alongside Renaissance and later buildings.

By day the city, by night over the summer the world-famous Verona Opera Festival – together they become inextricably linked for the visitor in search of beauty, history and music and where a dream can become a reality. Outside the blazing summer months, Verona's stunning Teatro Filarmonica takes the music indoors with programmes of classical concerts, ballet and opera.

Verona is the proud home to several of the most historically significant and ornate churches in Italy. Arguably the most loved - and certainly fascinating - among these treasured Veronese churches is Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore.

Named after the patron saint of Verona, San Zeno, alongside the basilica you will find a 14th century bell-tower which is name-checked in Dante's Divine Comedy. You're never far from Romeo & Juliet in Verona, and San Zeno's crypt is where the young lovers were married in Shakespeare's great romance.

San Zeno was founded on the site of a Romanesque basilica, and no visit would be complete without time to marvel at the church's vibrantly-restored Majesty of the Virgin altarpiece, which dates back to the mid-1400s. Plus, make sure you take in San Zeno's 13th- and 14th-century frescoes, and its large rose-shaped window known as the Wheel of Fortune, which was later to become a hallmark style of much Gothic architecture.

Famous for history and archaeology as well as sun, sea and sand, Sicily is a must-see Italian region. Another autonomous region of Italy, Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and tows the line between northern Italian sophistication and southern Italian fun and sun.

Find ancient Roman ruins in Tindari, a hilltop town, experience traditional Sicilian culture by exploring the villages in the interior, or relax on one of their many beaches.

Whether you’re a culture vulture or a foodie, if you want to keep active or stay relaxed, Sicily has enough to keep each visitor happy.

Find out more about our holidays to Italy and discover everything it has to offer, including a Grand Tour of Italy - from Venice to Sicily

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