I’m a huge proponent of far-flung adventure with kids, but nowhere on earth tugs at my heart – or my passport – like Italy. La Dolce Vita is a cultural triumph, the fabulous architecture and superlative landscapes work in harmony to keep travellers in perpetual states of awe, while the familial, cheek-pinching, bosom-embracing open-heartedness of the Italians themselves means a family holiday will invariably result in a new raft of Aunties and Uncles whose houses are open to future visits. From the Ligurian coast to the Puglian countryside, the Umbrian hills to the Aeolian Islands – as Verdi so eloquently put it: ‘You may have the universe if I may have Italy’.
Italy’s legendary ‘Dolce Vita’ is more alive than ever, infusing its art-filled cities, wine-rich countryside and jet set resorts. A landscape of endless variety forms the backdrop to ‘Il Bel Paese’ and Italy’s colourful history; the rumbling volcano of Mount Etna in Sicily, the white-washed conical ‘trulli’ of Puglia, the breathtaking Amalfi Coast and the sun-dappled beaches of Sardinia. Tours of Italy can begin with sleek gondolas drifting ethereally along the Grand Canal and a labyrinth of narrow alleys and open squares characterise inimitable Venice. Its peace contrasts with the buzz of Rome; the exuberant rush of Vespas forms a chaotic soundtrack to the city’s wonders. Here history is preserved in the dramatic Colosseum, where mighty gladiators once sparred before immense crowds. Tuscany beckons with halcyon days filled with long, alfresco lunches and the exuberant flow of fine Chianti. Vineyards and patches of bright sunflowers skirt the lower slopes of the hills and inundate the mist-hazed valleys resting between breathtaking vistas. Renaissance opulence combine in Florence; its cobbled streets and animated piazzas dressed with unmistakeable Italian flair. Moving south, the sweeping Amalfi Coast seems to surge triumphantly from a shimmering blue sea. Positano clings to the vertiginous cliffside, speckled with lemon groves, a montage of pastel coloured buildings and mosaic-covered domes. The Mediterranean islands possess the reputation as a playground for the glitterati with their sophistication and style. A luxury Italy holiday of quintessential glamour – La Dolce Vita prevails.
Justine Picardie, Editor-in-chief at Harper's BAZAAR and Town & Country, recently visited the Amalfi Coast with Carrier - discover her journey.
Italy is a year round destination especially for city breaks, with a largely temperate climate with regional variations. Summers are hot especially from Rome southwards, whilst spring and autumn are mild. Winter in the south is warmer and drier than in the northern and central areas which can be much colder with snow fall in the mountainous regions.
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Carrier has been tailoring holidays worldwide for over 35 years and has firmly established its reputation as one of the leaders in the luxury holiday market. We have been voted ‘Favourite Tour Operator’ by the readers of Condé Nast Traveller magazine more times than any other company in the past decade, and have been featured in The Sunday Times Travel Magazine’s Top 10 Tour Operators for 2016. Carrier has also won several national travel industry accolades, including ‘Luxury Tour Operator of the Year’ from TTG Luxury and Advantage Travel Centres.
Why settle for ordinary when you can have extraordinary? The best suites in some of the world’s plushest hotels, the first choice of flight seats, attention to detail, no restrictions or limitations - how luxury holidays should be. Your holiday desires are well taken care of, whether you wish to learn new life skills while training with a Bodyism expert, or uncovering centuries-old bushmen secrets in Botswana with expert safari guides. Children can follow the life of a panda keeper one day and cook dinner with a Beijing housewife the next. Carrier can make it happen.
Rising mirage-like from the lagoon, labyrinthine Venice is a city of living art, from the glorious architecture of Piazza San Marco – climb the ninth century Campanile for heart-stopping views – to the gothic façade of St Marks Basilica and the imposing Doges Palace. Take a launch to the islands of Murano and Burano, famed for their glassware and laceware respectively; shop for carnival masks and drift on a gondola past evocative landmarks such as the Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs. Always alive with festivals, exhibitions and events, highlights to time your visit with are the Venice Carnival and Venice Film Festival.
Cradle of the Renaissance, Florence captivates with its magnificent architecture and world-renowned art – in the Uffizi alone stand Michelangelo’s David, Giotto frescoes and works by Da Vinci. Close to the Chianti vineyards and ancient Siena the city boasts unforgettable sights – the marbled Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, medieval Ponte Vecchio and the Piazza della Signoria to name but a few, the latter features an open-air sculpture exhibition in the lively square surrounded by cafés and restaurants. Open-air markets sell food, clothing and antiques while high-end boutiques present some of the finest leather goods in Europe.
Reflecting the glories of one of the greatest empires, the Eternal City mixes a proud history with a buzzing aperitivo scene. The astonishing sights are never ending – take a private tour of the famous Colosseum, admire the impressively preserved Pantheon or linger amongst the architectural remains of the arches and temples of the Roman Forum. The Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms of the Vatican are a must see, with the Basilica of St. Peter offering beguiling views from its dome. Soak up the atmosphere as you mingle by the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps before heading to the Via Borgognona for serious designer shopping.
With spellbinding vistas at every turn, the lakes of Northern Italy are simply unforgettable; perfect for a relaxing break exploring pretty villages with beautiful views or for enjoying an array of watersports, hiking and cycling possibilities. Around Lake Como ornate palazzos meld with picturesque villages - the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sacro Monte di Ossuccio comprises no fewer than fifteen chapels.The majestic Lake Maggiore has a number of enchanting islands, the Borromean Islands exuding a mystical air. The colourful town of Pallanza has panoramic island views from the lakeside promenade lined with terraces and cafés or visit elegant Stresa with its narrow cobbled streets and a variety of prestigious summer events and concerts. Lake Garda, Italys largest lake, has inspired artists since Roman times, its surrounding vineyards and olive groves backed by dramatic snow-capped peaks. Wallow in the thermal springs of Sirmione, marvel at the fairytale castle of Rocca Scaglieri and discover atmospheric Malcesine, from where a cable car runs to the summit of the Monte Baldo ridge.
The epitome of exclusivity, this fishing-village-turned-upmarket resort is famed for its restaurant-lined harbour, summer yachts and chic designer shops. For captivating views of the harbour head up to Castello Brown, a sixteenth century fortress now housing a museum; around the corner from the harbour lies the charming eleventh century church of St Martin. From Portofino day trip boat excursions visit the Cinque Terre, a UNESCO site comprising five picturesque villages known for their narrow streets and colourful old houses.
Few stretches of coastline compare with the rugged cliffs and terraced lemon groves of Amalfi, where the largely traffic-free resort of Ravello perches high above the sea. Relax in the Piazza del Vescovado, meander through the gardens and grottos of Villa Cimbrone and enjoy a concert in the castle-like Villa Rufolo. The town is also known for Mamma Agata’s cookery school, set in the kitchen of her family home. In Positano, all pastel colours and winding streets, savour world class cuisine, shop in chic boutiques and visit the black Madonna inside the domed Church of Santa Maria Assunta. Amalfi, too, offers a colourful welcome, with life centred around the marina while Capri is the very essence of romance with its upmarket hangouts, ancient churches, famous sea caves and the eight hundred Phoenician Steps which connect Anacapri to the sea.
Sun-soaked Sicily offers an exceptional mix of attractions, from the lava fields of brooding Mount Etna – the summit accessible by cable car and four wheel drive – to walking amongst the gods in Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples, spread over a vast area encompassing numerous complete and partly-reconstructed temples dating back to 510 BC. From scenic Toarmina with its winding shopping streets, medieval buildings and bars and restaurants, the volcano views are spectacular, as is the town’s Greek theatre where theatrical and musical performances are an unforgettable experience. A cable car ride takes visitors down to the beautiful rocky beach of Isola Bella, a small island close to the city of Toarmina and often referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Ionian Sea’ and where a diving school can be found.
This relatively unknown area offers an authentic taste of Italy, its hillsides dotted with olive groves and white-washed villages, its coastline hiding delightful resorts such as Monopoli. Explore ancient Greek sites and see the regions conical-roofed houses – Alberobello being the epicentre of Trulli architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Selva di Fasano overlooks the Itria Valley, and the enchanting hilltop town of Ostuni are well worth a visit; history buffs will appreciate a visit to the Museo Nazionale de Egnazia with its Bronze Age and Roman artifacts.
Europe’s glitterati flock to the beautiful resorts of the Costa Smeralda, - Porto Cervo buzzes with sophisticated cafes and opulent nightclubs, while the tranquil Maddalena Islands offer relaxation on immaculate white sand beaches such as Manto Della Madonna on Budelli. All along the coast a myriad of watersports beckon including motor yacht hire whilst the Thursday market at San Pantaleo is a craft hunter’s dream. Also worth a visit are the Bronze Age Nurhagi stone structures, providing a fascinating glimpse into the island’s ancient native people.