Italy, a country rich in culture, design and fashion is blessed with a proportionately high number of sunshine hours, a wonderful cuisine and impressive wine production.
There is little not to love in Italy, an exceptional country, where there are arguably more luxury hotels, sumptuous villas and great restaurants than in any other country in Europe.
The rural regions of Tuscany and Umbria are outstanding for landscapes dotted with hillside towns steeped in history; the Salento region of Italy’s ‘heel’ oozes retro charm; the islands of Capri and Sardinia, which attract the summer glitterati, feature glamorous beach clubs, world-class hotels, up-market boutiques and perfect mooring locations for exclusive yachts.
Iconic resorts like Portofino and Porto Ercole encapsulate La Dolce Vita; cities such as Rome, Florence and Venice play host to beautiful churches and museums housing priceless artworks; stylish boutiques and contemporary art museums are everywhere; and the top hotels would earn places in the world’s best hotel lists.
Milan, the capital of the Lombardy region, is a city of great interest. Not immediately as arresting as the more obviously beautiful cities mentioned above, but look closer – especially in the Brera and Quadrilatero areas – behind those ornate gates and into ravishingly manicured hidden gardens. Or visit the Fondazione Prada for contemporary art, attend the glamorous opening of La Scala opera season in December, drive to Lake Como in forty minutes or to St Moritz in a little over two hours, browse the finest designer boutiques on Via Montenapoleone or Via della Spiga, and enjoy the luxury of one of the city’s several top hotels.
From the Alta Badia ski resort and the wineries of Alto Adige and Friuli in the north, to the UNESCO heritage town of Matera in the south; from the Langhe wine region in Piemonte in the west to the magic of Venice in the northeast, every corner of this exquisite country has something to offer the discerning traveller.
Our last visit to Italy took in the city of Naples, which is often overlooked in favour of better-known Rome and Florence, or bypassed en-route to the glamorous Costiera Amalfitana. Naples is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. An ancient metropolis by the sea where Arabic and Spanish influences abound. A city of friendly, characterful people, beautiful old buildings, a ravishing coastal area and, of special interest, MADRE, the Museum of Contemporary Art Donnaregina.
How could we ever tire of Italy? When we include the island of Sicily and its spectacular capital, Palermo; the beauty of the offshore Aeolian and Egadi isles; the island of Pantelleria, midway between Sicily and Tunisia; the historic towns of Puglia; the Palladian architecture in the Venetian region… it’s not hard to see why this is our favourite country in the world.