La Dolce Vita! 7 trips to enjoy Italy's landscapes, wildlife and lust for life

With great food, good wine and a landscape created by the Gods, Italy is the land of La Dolce Vita (The Good Life). These trips will help you positively revel in it....

8 mins

1: Eat, drink and breathe the Cinque Terre

Manarola village at sunset (Dreamstime)

Manarola village at sunset (Dreamstime)

With its colourful fishing villages, steep cultivated hillsides and fresh fish caught in the blue waters that surround it, Cinque Terre is the perfect, bite-sized destination. This is your opportunity to walk this magical part of Italy by day and tuck into traditional feasts, washed down with a glass or two of the local wine, at night.

This trip visits not only the world-renowned Cinque Terre region but also the Portofino Peninsula. You'll hike the area's most scenic trails, all under expert local guidance, and visit medieval gems such as the castle and churches of Levanto and the Abbey of San Fruttuoso. 

Finally, there's a tour of an organic winery, perched above the sea, where you will taste local wines and scoff traditional Ligurian specialties. 

Trip: The Cinque Terre Explored

Who: Peregrine

When: Departures May, Jun, Sep & Oct

How long: 8 days

How much: From £1,855 (exc. flights)

2: Discover Montalbano’s Sicily

Narrow street in Ragusa, Sicily (Dreamstime)

Narrow street in Ragusa, Sicily (Dreamstime)

Anyone who has watched the Inspector Montalbano television series can't help but be inspired by the extraordinary baroque towns and cities in this much overlooked region of south eastern Sicily. They are as much a character in the show as the bumbling Catarella.

On this holiday, you'll experience the imposing architecture, world class archaeology, hillside villages, dramatic coastlines and eclectic local cuisine that form such an integral part of the series. 

Private guides are on hand in three of the Baroque cities to explain how numerous cultures influenced the region throughout the ages.

Trip: Montalbano's Sicily

Who: Adagio

When: Departures May, Sep, Oct & Dec

How long: 7 nights

How much: From £1,495 (exc. flights)

3: Cycle the hills of Tuscany

Early morning in Tuscany (Dreamstime)

Early morning in Tuscany (Dreamstime)

This cycling tour will take you into the heart of the Tuscany of your imagination: the cyprus lined roads, olive groves, vineyards and ancient hilltop towns. It is regarded as one of the most evocative and romantic regions in Europe and cycling is the best way to experience it without feeling rushed. Of course, the odd half hour watching the world go by with a glass of Chianti in your hand helps too.

During the week, you will ride through diverse areas of Tuscany, such as the hills of Chianti and past the vineyards that surround Montepulciano. Riding north, you'll then enter Le Crete, a wonderfully scenic region that’s home to some of Tuscany’s most picturesque towns and villages.

Finally, you'll drop by Siena’s magnificent Campo before biking past the towers of San Gimignano and onto your final destination: Florence.

Trip: Tuscany Cycle Siena & Chianti

Who: Exodus

When: Departures May-Sep

How long: 8 days

How much: From £999 (exc. flights)

4: Hiking the Dolomites

Val di Funes in the Dolomites (Dreamstime)

Val di Funes in the Dolomites (Dreamstime)

Nothing prepares you for the sheer scale and majesty of the Dolomites. The vast limestone cliffs here have long drawn walkers and climbers to the hidden paths twisting within. 

Located close to the border between Italy and Austria, you'll spend a week exploring the area, hiking past lakes, along ridges, across passes and to the top of some peaks, all in an area that UNESCO recently designated as a World Heritage Site thanks to its outstanding natural beauty.

You'll hike along of the quieter trails, making two excellent ridge walks above 2000m and traverse in front of the Tre Cime, arguably the most famous landmark in the Dolomites.

You'll stay in charming, traditional Alpine hotels and have the opportunity to visit the 5000 year-old ice man at Bolzano, or head to Lienz, a medieval town in Austria that's full of beautiful architecture and museums.

Trip: Hiking in the Dolomites

Who: Explore

When: Departures Jun-Sep

How long: 8 days

How much: From £1,225 (exc. flights)

5: Get a taste for real food adventure in Italy

A grocery shop in Florence (Dreamstime)

A grocery shop in Florence (Dreamstime)

Italian food is deceptively simple, but with fine ingredients across the country, it zings with flavour. It's always fresh and seasonal, hearty and satisfying, and made with passion. Most meals are inspired by the kitchens of Italy's mammas and nonnas, but the cuisine remains both authentic and surprising.  Even simple dishes like pizza and pasta are likely to be the best you've ever tasted.

Travelling from Rome to Venice, you'll seek out hole-in-the-wall eateries in the Italian capital with a local guide, stay in a family-run vineyard outside San Gimignano and learn to make famous regional dishes in a cooking class in Bologna, not to mention learning the traditional secrets of aged balsamic vinegar in Modena and experiencing Venice’s local cicchetti culture. This is a truly satisfying holiday.

Trip: Italy Real Food Adventure

Who: Intrepid

When: Departures May-Sep

How long: 8 days

How much: £1,480 (exc. flights)

6: Immerse yourself in wild Tuscany

Barga in Garfagnana (Dreamstime)

Barga in Garfagnana (Dreamstime)

Based in a beautiful Tuscan villa with breathtaking views and a swimming pool, you will spend a week walking in the wild Garfagnana region of Tuscany, soaking up its distinct culture and enjoying its equally distinct cuisine.

You'll enjoy five days of guided walks through an incredible variety of terrain, including ridges, summits, meadows, woods and olive groves, as well as an ascent of Monte Giovo.

There's plenty of culture on offer too, with the sophisticated Tuscan city of Lucca and its more lively cousin, Pisa, just a short hop away.

Trip: Walking Wild Tuscany

Who: KE Adventure Travel

When: Departures May-Sep

How long: 8 days

How much: £995 (exc. flights)

7: Cruise the Amalfi coast

Cetara fishing village on the Amalfi Coast (Dreamstime)

Cetara fishing village on the Amalfi Coast (Dreamstime)

This unique gulet cruise visits some of the greatest archaeological and cultural jewels of the Amalfi coast. While most holidays around the Bay of Naples are by land, this trip allows you to experience this beautiful stretch of coast from the decks of a traditional wooden boat.

As well as visiting the areas best known attractions, like Capri, Pompeii and Amalfi, the boat allows you to explore lesser known sites such as Baia and the outstanding Roman frescoes of the Villa Oplontis. 

Each day, you will have ample opportunity to swim in the Mediterranean Sea, read a book, enjoy a glass of wine, or discuss the sights and sounds with the expert historian and archaeologist who accompanies every tour. 

It is perfect combination of magnificent sites, breathtaking vistas, glorious swims and mouthwatering local food, exactly how this Italian slice of paradise was meant to be explored.

Trip: Cruising the Amalfi Coast

Who: Peter Sommer Travels

When: Departures in Sep

How long: 8 days

How much: From £3,650 (exc. flights)

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