Postcards from Italy
THE BLOG OF CIU TRAVEL

Top Italy Recommendations for 2017

As the year draws to a close, you may be looking at your travel calendar for 2017 and beginning to think about your next trip. Winter is the perfect time to start planning a spring or summer visit to Italy, as later in the year the best hotels, guides, and cooking classes can start to book up, leaving you with limited options. If you're dreaming of visiting the Bel Paese over the next 12 months, we have a few suggestions for unforgettable itineraries, unique experiences, and once-in-a-lifetime trips that are perfect for a 2017 Italian vacation.

Taormina(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Sicily


One of the most fascinating regions of Italy is the island of Sicily, Italian in name but strikingly different in culture, cuisine, and history than mainland Italy. The island is large enough to merit a trip in itself, though a shorter visit of a few days can be included in a longer itinerary through southern Italy, with stops at just a few of Sicily's historic cities, family-run vineyards, or stunning archaeological sites.

Selinunte(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

A trip to Sicily can satisfy the tastes of virtually any traveler. History buffs will love visiting the spectacular archaeological sites dating from the Greek colonization of Sicily 800 years before Christ, including the Valley of the Temples near Agrigento, the temples in Segesta and Selinunte, and the breathtaking Greek Theater in Taormina, still used as an open-air concert venue today. Gourmands will be drawn to the local cuisine, which has been influenced by successive waves of conquerers and settlers from North Africa, Spain, and the Middle East over the millennia, and can stop at the cous cous festival, sample the excellent wine and seafood, and satisfy their sweet tooth with cool granita or artisanal pastries. Lovers of art and architecture can visit Caravaggio's masterpieces, see stunning Byzantine mosaics, and purchase traditional maiolica pieces.

During our most recent trip, we enjoyed visiting a number of beautiful vineyards, staying in welcoming countryside “baglio” farmstays, and exploring the pretty coastal town of Erice, the island of Mozia, and the frescoed Roman Villa del Casale.

Museums


Italy has some of the world's most famous museums, and any first trip to Rome or Florence almost certainly includes a visit to the Vatican and Uffizi. But there are countless smaller museums that are a pleasure to discover, are much less crowded, and are home to unique artistic and historic collections that rival their A-list counterparts. If you've checked the big names off your list on previous trips, consider dedicating a few hours this time around to discovering one of these understated gems.

museo-degli-innocenti-florence
(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Florence has seen the renovation and re-opening of a number of excellent smaller museums over the past year, so 2017 is the perfect time to explore a collection beyond the Uffizi...after you've taken a look at their newly restored Botticelli Rooms, of course. The Museo dell'Opera del Duomo recently re-opened after an extensive renovation, and now includes a scale model of the original unfinished façade of Florence's famous cathedral. The Museo degli Innocenti, which documents the history of Florence's home for abandoned and orphaned children designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, has also recently opened its doors again to the public after a long renovation.

In Rome, have a look at the Braccio Nuovo Galleries in the Vatican Museums, inaugurated after a seven-year restoration just this month, and then move on to one of the excellent palazzo museums around the city. These smaller yet outstanding collections are housed in sumptuous buildings, once private residences, which now form a uniquely beautiful backdrop to the art. The same can be said for the magnificent palazzo museums in Venice, which give visitors the chance see the ornate interiors of some of the city's most breathtaking palaces from close up.

Skiing in the Dolomites


If you can't wait until the spring to visit Italy, consider a trip this winter to ski the Dolomites! We absolutely love this magnificent mountain range on Italy's northeastern border with Austria, which is part of the Alps and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009. The Dolomites have a unique local history and culture - including the Tyrolean and the Ladin peoples - and their own language, distinct cuisine, and Alpine architecture. Most importantly, the area offers some of the best skiing in Europe and most luxurious resorts in the Alps, including Cortina d'Ampezzo just a few hours from Venice.

Cortina13(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

A ski holiday in the Dolomites is about the breathtaking scenery, including soaring stone peaks with vast expanses of forest below, and world-class runs. That said, the Italians lend their own style to skiing, setting a leisurely pace, spending time enjoying fantastic food, and cutting a fashionable figure on the slopes. There are well-tended runs for every skill level and expert ski instructors for beginners just starting out to advanced skiers who are looking to perfect their form.

Though the Christmas and New Year's holidays used to be a prime period to ski, higher temperatures and less precipitation have moved the season later in the winter to February and even March, so you still have time to plan a snow holiday for 2017.

Multigenerational Family Trips


Families today are more spread out geographically, and grandparents tend to be healthy, active travelers...two factors which make a vacation with relatives spanning three generations a great way to spend quality time with loved ones.

Untitled(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Italy is a perfect destination for families, with sights and activities that can be interesting for young children and grandparents alike, and accommodations and itineraries can be adjusted to fit any size group and travel style. If you would like to visit a number of cities, booking a group of rooms in a hotel is the best choice. If you would rather choose a main base and take day trips from there, opt for a villa with a kitchen and pool, which takes the stress out of working around young children's schedules. We always recommend hiring a private driver for day trips, so no one has to take on the hassle of self-driving a big group in a van, and we advise parents to include family-friendly activities like cooking lessons, custom kid-friendly museum and city tours, boat trips, or guided hikes or bike trips.

Keep in mind that logistics can get complicated with large groups, so if you are thinking of taking a vacation with extended family in 2017, start planning now!

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Contributor: Rebecca Winke

Concierge in Umbria
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