Destinations

The 12 best places to visit in Italy - and where to stay when there

Continentale, Florence
The Continentale occupies an enviable position overlooking the Ponte Vecchio in Florence

An insider's guide into the top places and cities to visit in Italy – and where to stay while you're there – including the best for couples and families, in locations including Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi Coast, Milan, the Italian Lakes, Sicily and Puglia.

Florence

The cradle of the Renaissance, Florence is one of Europe’s great art cities. There's so much exquisite art and architecture, it’s difficult to know where to start. But Florence is also a living city with a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene, and a lively cultural movida that goes beyond old masters to embrace opera, classical music and contemporary art. Handsome, historic, full of quirky shops and quality crafts, and close to the vine-covered hills of Chianti, it’s one of Europe’s most civilised long weekend destinations.

Where to stay

AdAstra

Florence, Tuscany, Italy

9 Telegraph expert rating

AdAstra is set in the largest private garden ‘intra moenia’ (between walls) in Europe. The owners have taken the period features (frescoes, vast chandeliers, fine stucco-work and creaky original parquet floors) and added a quirky yet convincing mix of vintage, up-cyled and reclaimed furniture. Read expert review
From £ 94 per night
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Firenze Number Nine

Florence, Tuscany, Italy

8 Telegraph expert rating

An affordable design hotel in a great central location. It’s popular with savvy web-surfing visitors due to its high aggregator review ratings, but would suit anyone looking for a good-value perch handy for the centro storico and the station, including single travellers. Read expert review
From £ 68 per night
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Venice

Venice never loses its capacity to enchant. There's a reason why it's popular: the sheer loveliness of an exquisite city that seems miraculously built on water. It's important to remember that, even at peak visitor times, you are never more than a bridge and an alley away from a more secluded city, full of secret campi (squares), handsome Gothic palazzi and lively neighbourhood wine bars. In any season, Venice's churches and museums offer antique glories aplenty, but there is also a vibrant contemporary art scene, even away from the Art Biennale.

Where to stay

The Gritti Palace

Venice, Veneto, Italy

10 Telegraph expert rating

This 15th-century palazzo occupies one of the loveliest spots on the Grand Canal, looking across to the magnificent Salute church, and has equally sumptuous interiors to match, with priceless antiques and frescoes, and a small but exquisite spa. Read expert review
From £ 592 per night
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Cima Rosa Boutique Bed & Breakfast

Venice, Veneto, Italy

9 Telegraph expert rating

A perfect mix of elegance and warmth, Cima Rosa offers five elegant classic-contemporary rooms – three of them overlooking the Grand Canal – and exceptional service from a welcoming female team, creating a home-from-home feel that draws guests back time after time. Read expert review
From £ 125 per night

 

Rome

In Rome, classical ruins and early Christian places of worship stand next to – or lie beneath – Renaissance palazzos and Baroque fountains. But there are also great neighbourhood trattorias, quirky shops and a buzzing aperitivo scene. The city’s mild Mediterranean climate is another persuasive draw for visitors from the cool north, but the main draw will always be the pulsating energy of a place which lives life as a form of theatre.

Where to stay

Gran Melia Rome

Rome, Italy

9 Telegraph expert rating

A former convent, built on the site of the suburban home of Emperor Nero's mother, this enviably located hotel in the heart of historic Rome is housed in a chic and sprawling villa, complete with panoramic cityscapes, verdant gardens and an outdoor pool. Read expert review
From £ 229 per night
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Mario de' Fiori 37

Rome, Italy

9 Telegraph expert rating

Extraordinarily well-placed location in the very centre of Piazza di Spagna’s buzzing shopping area, making it ideal for those looking to fill up their suitcases with Gucci, Prada, Battistoni and other Italian favourites , while its personalised concierge service anticipates all your needs. Read expert review
From £ 112 per night
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Milan

Italy’s fashion and design capital, Milan has an international cosmopolitan outlook, a vibrant food and drink scene and scores of hotels to suit all budgets. Historical edifices sit cheek-by-jowl with modern skyscrapers, while a number of the city’s buildings have spectacular interior courtyards that remain largely undiscovered. But what largely draws visitors is the city’s excellent shopping – designer stores line the Quadrilatero D’Oro district, while outlets, high street shops and boutiques are found in all corners of the city.

Where to stay

Mandarin Oriental, Milan

Milan, Lombardy, Italy

9 Telegraph expert rating

Located in Milan’s modish Montenapoleone district a stone’s throw away from La Scala Opera House, the hotel tastefully blends Italian design and furnishings with Oriental features. The contemporary interiors take inspiration from 1940s Milanese interior décor with soft wall tones and oak wood fittings. Read expert review
From £ 513 per night
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LaFavia Four Rooms

Milan, Lombardy, Italy

9 Telegraph expert rating

With only four rooms, this small and welcoming B&B has an intimate setting and plenty of character. The sophisticated décor is a tasteful hotchpotch of styles, where Art Deco marries retro with a pinch of ethnic and vintage Seventies. Read expert review
From £ 86 per night

 

Tuscany

In so many other parts of the world, culture is an optional extra, something you do in your spare time. In Tuscany, it’s at the root of everything – though not in an elitist way. A Piero della Francesca fresco exudes the spirit of a region that has long spent its money on beauty and quality. But so does a bowl of ribollita soup, made with seasonal cavolo nero and served with a spiral of just-pressed olive oil. Tuscany also combines fierce pride and care for detail with unpretentious, down-to-earth manners, and it has a collection of handsome art-filled, historic towns with more than enough to see, do, eat and drink to fill a long weekend.

Where to stay

Borgo Santo Pietro

Chiusdino, Tuscany, Italy

9 Telegraph expert rating

A romantic, out-of-the-way country house hotel, with a stunning pool and spa in a little-visited corner of Tuscany, near Chiusdino. It’s a sophisticated place, with tasteful, antique filled rooms that also manage to hit a hi-tech note: guests are presented with pre-loaded iPads on arrival. Read expert review
From £ 514 per night
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Locanda Rossa

Capalbio, Tuscany, Italy

9 Telegraph expert rating

Close to Capalbio, an underrated gem on the coast which has long been a preferred getaway for well-heeled Romans, this country villa is the perfect launch pad for Tuscany's pretty beaches, as well as the picturesque town itself, but one can just as easily just stay happily on the estate for the entire stay. Read expert review
From £ 130 per night
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Amalfi Coast

The fabulous coastline between Sorrento and Ravello, with its switchback road that hugs the cliff and curls around the deep bays that protect the towns and villages along the way remains as glamourous, compelling and historic as any summertime destination in Europe, with breathtaking views, jewel-like colours and hillsides spilling with citrus groves, olives and vines. Happily, the hotels along the way live up to their surroundings with ease. Many of them are family-run, sometimes for generations, and display an integrity and depth of service rarely seen in the United Kingdom.

Where to stay

Hotel Santa Caterina

Amalfi, Campania, Italy

9 Telegraph expert rating

A mix of familial warmth, glamour and professionalism makes Hotel Santa Caterina stand out from the competition. Now run by the fourth generation of the family that opened it as a hotel in 1904, it’s the sort of homely yet sophisticated place that you long to return to (repeat bookings amount to nearly 40 per cent). Read expert review
From £ 238 per night
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Casa Privata

Praiano, Campania, Italy

8 Telegraph expert rating

Stylish yet relaxed Casa Privata is hidden away in the back lanes of low-key Praiano, set in a dreamy, rambling garden. It is the sort of bucolic retreat that can be hard to come by on the tourist-frenzied Amalfi Coast. Read expert review
From £ 156 per night
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Italian Lakes

The Romans were first to see the potential of the Italian lakes as a holiday destination. They built their sumptuous villas in some of the prime positions around Como and Garda, where the southern foothills of the Alps sweep down towards the Mediterranean and the fertile plains of northern Italy, forming some of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe. Modern tourism has transformed the towns, but the lakes, mountains and views are as beautiful as they were 2,000 years ago, and the villages, Baroque gardens and lakeside hotels are still wonderful places to enjoy a holiday, especially during the long, warm autumn.

Where to stay

Grand Hotel Tremezzo

Lake Como, Italian Lakes, Italy

8 Telegraph expert rating

A stylish five-star property with Art Nouveau interiors a stone’s throw away from Villa Carlotta. Facilities include a floating swimming pool, lush grounds with fitness trail, tennis court and spa. Rooms have large bow windows or terraces with lake or garden views. Read expert review
From £ 332 per night
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Hotel Villa Arcadio

Salo, Lake Garda, Italy

9 Telegraph expert rating

Located in a former convent, this welcoming four-star hotel is set on a hillside amid olive groves and fruit orchards overlooking Lake Garda. The restored building features original fresco motifs and vaulted interiors with stone ceilings, while rooms are modern, with marble bathrooms and postmodernist paintings. Read expert review
From £ 104 per night
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Sicily

Sicily has long been a crossroads and crucible of Mediterranean culture, and the island today is a fascinating palimpsest in which Greek temples, Norman churches and Baroque palazzos emerge from the rich fabric. But it also has natural wonders aplenty, from the smoking craters of Mount Etna to the still relatively undiscovered beaches of the southern coast. With parts of the island on the same latitude as the North African coast, Sicily has a mild climate that makes it an attractive destination for much of the year.

Where to stay

Belmond Villa Sant'Andrea

Taormina, Sicily, Italy

9 Telegraph expert rating

Set among subtropical gardens on its own private stretch of beach on the Bay of Mazzarò, this luxurious hotel oozes understated elegance. Contemporary artworks give the sophisticated rooms a splash of colour, and marry well with classic Italian furnishings. Read expert review
From £ 314 per night
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Monaci delle Terre Nere

Zafferana Etnea, Sicily, Italy

9 Telegraph expert rating

With its sapient design mix, organic food, stellar wine list and verdant grounds, Monaci delle Terre Nere appeals most of all to stressed city-dwellers in need of some rural detox. Many guests go nowhere but spend their days lounging by the pool, a cool blue splash amidst citrus and olive groves. Read expert review
From £ 103 per night
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Puglia

With Puglia's ancient sites and unfussy charms, Italy’s most secluded coast makes a rewarding alternative to the tourist-laden north. From its olive trees, whitewashed, hilltop towns, scorched earth and unforgiving heat, Puglia can seem closer to the melting pot of Greece than the grandeur of Rome. It’s not that the Renaissance bypassed southern Italy, but it certainly left fewer calling cards. Don’t come looking for picture-perfect art towns, formal gardens or trophy villas: the draw of Apulia, as it is known in English, is in the unexpected.

Where to stay

Borgo Egnazia

Fasano, Puglia, Italy

9 Telegraph expert rating

A luxurious imitation citadel that has put Puglia on the map among celebrities, sybarites and affluent families, offering meticulous service, high contemporary design, a range of restaurants and an indulgent spa. Read expert review
From £ 166 per night
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Masseria Cimino

Savelletri, Puglia, Italy

8 Telegraph expert rating

An 18th-century farmhouse, near the coast, which was once an old resting stop for travellers along the Appian way. Come here for an authentic slice of Puglian rural living (with high-quality bedsheets). Read expert review
From £ 155 per night
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Umbria

A few years ago, Umbria was known, if at all, as Tuscany’s less alluring sister. Not any more: these days Italy’s 'green heart' is every bit as celebrated as its more famous neighbour. The reasons are simple: the region has all Tuscany’s attributes – and a few more. True, it doesn’t have the big set pieces of Florence and Siena, but it does has a coronet of far more intimate and easily visited hill-towns – Perugia, Assisi, Orvieto, Gubbio, Todi, Spoleto and Norcia. Each has enough to keep you busy for a day or more, and none is more than a few miles from the next, making Umbria manageable and straightforward to explore.

Where to stay

Locanda Palazzone

Orvieto, Umbria, Italy

8 Telegraph expert rating

A wonderfully converted 14th-century building with seven suites and modern loft-syle interiors, Locanda Palazzone sits amid pretty gardens at the heart of a wine-making estate in rolling hills west of Orvieto. Read expert review
From £ 179 per night
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Palazzo Seneca

Norcia, Umbria, Italy

10 Telegraph expert rating

A beautifully appointed palazzo at the heart of Norcia with an outstanding restaurant. The clientele tends towards travellers in the know who want to explore this lesser-known town, its celebrated food and its surrounding countryside from an unexpectedly sophisticated hotel. Read expert review
From £ 154 per night
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Liguria

Head to the balmy, maritime Liguria, but not necessarily to the Cinque Terre, five tiny villages on a spectacular cliff-edged coast. There’s also lesser known quaint coastal towns such as Portovenere and Sestri Levante. Or there’s Portofino, pretty as a paintbox with its tall pastel houses cradling a harbour lined with bars and restaurants, and presided over by a pine-shaded castle. Nestling into the bay where the Portofino promontory joins the main coastal sweep, Santa Margherita Ligure is one of Liguria’s most attractive resort towns, all Belle Epoque grand hotels and upmarket bathing establishments – but with a handsome old town that’s full of quirky little shops and tempting bars and restaurants.

Where to stay

Belmond Hotel Splendido

Portofino, Liguria, Italy

9 Telegraph expert rating

Housed in a protected Benedictine monastery dating from the 16th century, the Splendido first opened its doors to guests in 1902. Since then Winston Churchill, Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Marlon Brando have passed through. Expect genteel interiors, exceptional service, and sensational views of Portofino harbour. Read expert review
From £ 404 per night
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Hotel Argentina

Portofino, Liguria, Italy

8 Telegraph expert rating

Set back from romantic Paraggi Bay, Hotel Argentina makes for a quiet retreat for those seeking an authentic Ligurian experience. Just a short jaunt from historic Portofino, the hotel offers a simple interior design in a desirable location at a price that won’t break the bank. Read expert review
From £ 69 per night
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Sardinia

Sardinia has some of the Mediterranean’s most seductive beaches, yet within tootling distance of some great restaurants, agreeable bars and the soothing evening ritual of the passeggiata. When you’ve had your fill of beaches, there’s plenty more to divert you: the magnificent rugged landscape of the granite interior, the fabulous seafood and, for history buffs, the strange and evocative remnants of Sardinia’s ancient nuraghic culture, not to mention a scattering of Carthaginian and Roman ruins, Pisan churches and Spanish Baroque.

Where to stay

L’Agnata di De André

Sardinia, Italy

8 Telegraph expert rating

Arriving at this ivy-draped hotel buried within a thickly wooded valley is like stumbling on a precious secret. It was the Sardinian home of the late Fabrizio De André, one of Italy’s most loved troubadours, and today offers discreet luxury and total repose in a stunning setting. Read expert review
From £ 129 per night
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Villa Las Tronas Hotel & Spa

Alghero, Sardinia, Italy

8 Telegraph expert rating

An elegant Sardinian hotel in Alghero, with welcoming, old-fashioned (in a good way) rooms that give you the sense of being a guest in some old marchese’s manor house by the sea. There’s a spa, a gym, a luscious saltwater indoor pool, an outdoor pool, a billiards room, lovely gardens and fantastic breakfasts. Read expert review
From £ 98 per night
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