6 Ways to Explore Italy This Summer and Beyond

April 25th, 2024

Once you’ve ticked off the sights in Rome and Milan, where to jet off to next? To make easy work of planning your ultimate Italian summer getaway, we’re rounding up the country’s “bests”—from show-stopping pools and breezy beach clubs to scenic train rides and cruises. Read on for our top picks…

Best Pool: In a country known for its dramatic pools, it’s hard to crown one winner — which is why our vote goes to not one but two legendary Italian piscinas. On the Amalfi Coast, the heated infinity pool at Caruso, A Belmond Hotel is situated at an astonishing 1,000 feet above sea level, appearing to drop off the cliffs and into the Tyrrhenian Sea below. You won’t find a more scenic spot for taking in Amalfi’s soaring coastline. Meanwhile, in Umbria, the family-owned Tenuta di Murlo estate encompasses 18,000 acres of countryside and a collection of historic villas, cottages, hotel suites; one of its most lavish pools is the private L-shaped piscina at Villa Penna, which blends so seamlessly with the surrounding landscapes that you might think it was a natural swimming hole (which coincidentally, the estate also has).

Best Beach Club: Set on a private beach on Sicily’s Bay of Mazarrò, Villa Sant’Andrea, A Belmond Hotel occupies the island’s most covetable coastal perches. Now that the resort has launched Lido Villeggiatura, A Villa Sant’Andrea Beach Club, guests have yet another vantage point for appreciating the hotel’s seaside scenery. Inspired by the hotel’s midcentury Mediterranean glamour (the property was famously a private villa until the 1950s), the new beach club offers white-and-blue stripes sun loungers, six tented cabanas with plush sofas, dedicated butler service, and plenty of locally-inspired design details — from colorful cushions with lace-inspired “merletto” detailing, lava stone tiles from Mount Etna, Sicilian terracotta vases, and sun sails swaying in the sea breeze. Daily programming ranges from sunrise yoga by the water’s edge to open-air cinema nights in partnership with the Taormina Film Festival, DJ sets and seafood barbecues, wellness treatments in private cabanas, and excursions in the beach club’s new private speed boat Apreamare Gozzo 35, constructed by master boat builders from Sorrento.

Best for Artisans: International art gallery Galleria Continua and Belmond are teaming up for the third year on their MITICO art series. While this year’s art initiative will pop up in six Belmond properties around the world (including Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town), art lovers won’t want to miss a site-specific work by French conceptual artist Daniel Buren at Villa San Michele, A Belmond Hotel, near Florence, where the artist has used the glass roof at Bar San Michele as his canvas. Consisting of panels of vividly colored glass in shades of red, green, blue and yellow, the retractable art piece transforms the bar into a kaleidoscopic installation of primary hues.

Best for Foodies: Umbria is ranking high on gourmands’ wish lists now that Tenuta di Murlo has launched a cooking school where guests can learn to make traditional Umbrian pizza and pasta and enroll in interactive group cooking classes. Also new for this year is a farm area that will function as a meeting place for culinary experiences like truffle hunting and apiary workshops. The hotel can organize picnics amid the property’s rolling hillsides, with estate-grown wine, olive oil, honey, biodynamic fruits and vegetables as gourmet picnic provisions. For guests wanting to get a broader taste of the region, culinary towns like Norcia (famous for its cured meats) and Castelluccio (Umbria’s lentil capital!) are just a drive away.

Best Train: What’s better than a road trip? A luxury train journey across Italy’s most breathtaking coastal landscapes. In June, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, A Belmond Train will travel to the Ligurian Coast for the very first time in its four-decade history, connecting Paris and the breezy seaside town of Portofino, Italy. The overnight journey will wind through the French countryside and along the Riviera, ending with a two-night stay at Splendido, A Belmond Hotel. As part of their stay, guests will enjoy a night of cinema under the stars at the town’s iconic Piazzetta; they’ll also be among the first to check out the hotel’s newly launched Splendido Grill, where classic Italian dishes are enjoyed on a breezy terrace overlooking the Ligurian Bay.

Best Cruise: Sicily isn’t a destination you can discover in one go — or is it? Next summer, PONANT, in alliance with Smithsonian Journeys, will circumnavigate the Italian island, bringing the destination’s ancient civilizations, cultural riches, and awe-inspiring landscapes into deep focus. Setting sail from Valletta, Malta on June 2-10, 2025, Le Bougainville will head towards the southwestern coast of Sicily, home to the seaside commune of Porto Empedocles and the UNESCO-recognized Temple Valley archaeological site. Next, the ship will journey to Tunisia’s alluring capital to visit the ruins of Ancient Carthage and the Bardo National Museum before arriving in Trapani to visit the San Lorenzo Cathedral and the medieval hilltop commune of Erice. From there, it’s on to Palermo, the capital of Sicily, where Byzantine mosaics and Baroque churches exist alongside chic artisan studios and trendy restaurants. After a loop around Lipari, the largest of the Aeolian islands, travelers will sail north to Stromboli, taking in panoramic vistas of the active volcano, before crossing through the Strait of Messina to arrive at Taormina. The final port of call is Syracuse, which Cicero called “the greatest and most beautiful of all Grecian cities,” where you’ll find the island’s greatest archaeological sites, Parco Archeologico della Neapoli.

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