In 2013 it would appear that Italy continues to be an attractive destination for foreign tourists who are looking for luxury tours at historical venues. For this reason, I have chosen five very different places where you can enjoy a fulfilling tour experience that combines tradition, elegance and exclusiveness.
Venice is the town of the Lagoon, the St. Mark’s Basilica and the Grand Canal. Is also renowned for the Biennale and the Venice Film Festival and, at the same time, is considered as Italy’s fashion capital.
In fact, Venice is home to the Fortuny Museum, that in the past was the studio and showroom of the Spanish designer Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, where the Delphos gown (a finely pleated silk dress) was invented and where they experimented with new ways of printing on fabrics. Now the museum includes all the Fortuny artworks, from the paintings to the photographs, from the objects designed for furnishing to the clothes – a must for all the fashion lovers.
Book a guided tour with a special experience included: a lesson from a Fortuny Master that enables you to create a personalized item from a piece of Fortuny fabric. A whole day dedicated to the laboratory is an exclusive experience that ends with your unique object (selected from a range of options) and the certificate of guarantee and authenticity that marks your creation. If you wish to discover the stylish side of Venice, the Fortuny guided tour is a great choice because you’ll come away with an original handmade souvenir.
Stunning views of the Amalfi Coast and the Island of Capri
The Amalfi Coast is a very popular destination, so the best way to avoid stress and be sure to see the hidden gems of this area is to book a personal tour guide who can show you the most romantic glimpses, help you to choose restaurants and suggest where to do shopping.
The first thing to do is decide where to stay: Sorrento, for example, is a pleasant town that overlooks the Bay of Naples. Its sea cliffs are one of the main attractions and it is well connected to Amalfi town via the narrow Amalfi Drive; this route gives you amazing views down to the Tyrrhenian Sea.
A tour to Amalfi should include the Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, which rises in Piazza del Duomo; this church features an Arab-Norman Romanesque architectural style with the addition of Gothic, Baroque and Byzantine elements.
Another historical tradition of Amalfi is papermaking; the town was one of the first places in Europe for paper manufacture. The Museum of Handmade Paper, founded in 1969, allows you to admire machines and instruments used in the papermills, documents, incisions and a library.
The best way to visit the island of Capri is by boat as this will enable you to discover the caves Grotta Bianca, L’Arco Naturale and Faraglioni, at the western coast of Capri. Afterwards go on to explore the centre of Capri, the small “Piazzetta” – a landmark for VIPs and demanding tourists.
In Capri there is a traditional restaurant, La Capannina, which matches menus based on local cuisine with great care – a favourite of Dustin Hoffman, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Douglas and many more.
Capri and the Amalfi Coast are the gems of Southern Italy, and one of the first destinations to include in a luxury Italian tour.
Rome by night
Everyone who visits Rome wants to come back to explore one of the hundred faces of the Eternal City, and a tour by night is a good alternative to the standard itineraries.
Probably you already know the Tiber river, called “Blonde Tiber” because of the yellowish colour of its water; an original way to spend an evening in Rome centre is to join a tour aboard a boat on the Tiber, with dinner included. It’s a great suggestion if you wish to surprise your partner and feel the genuine mood of Rome; alternatively, a night tour by car is available for those who want to see the main monuments of the city in a couple of hours.
The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Castel Sant’Angelo, Piazza Venezia and Piazza del Campidoglio are just some of the venues that become more enchanting and attractive at night.
Florence in the morning
Rome changes its look at night, while the Capital of Renaissance turns to exclusiveness early in the morning. The latest trend, in fact, is to have a private tour of Florence that begins at breakfast. The setting is a terrace with a 360° view of the city; the menu includes coffee, cappuccino, croissants, jams, honey, etc. – a delicious way to love Florence.
The personal guide will explain, during the breakfast, the history of the city, with tips and oddities not included in the travel guides that you can buy in a bookshop. The tour will continue with a walk in the centre, visiting the Duomo, Basilica of Santa Croce and Ponte Vecchio. In just 4 hours you can have a thorough sample of Florence, which is a perfect choice if you have only 1 or 2 days available.
Umbria, the green jewel
Those who like extreme relaxation and love nature cannot miss Umbria, a small region in the centre of Italy. The suggested itinerary of 2 days includes Assisi, Deruta and Orvieto.
Assisi is a town to visit on foot; here the first stage is the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi (St. Francis) that is listed as a World Heritage Site and dates back to the XIII Century. The lower church hosts frescos by Cimabue and Giotto, and in the upper church there are frescos previously ascribed to Giotto and now considered to be by artists of the circle of Pietro Cavallini of Rome.
Assisi is known as a spiritual retreat and the advice is to book a private tour to join a genuine travel experience surrounded by peacefulness and silence.
Deruta is a hill town renowned worldwide for majolica manufacturing and for ceramics, so is a suitable location if you are looking for unique souvenirs. An example of the peculiar style of Deruta ceramics are the “Bella Donna” plates, a series of beauty portraits, and the “Rafaellesque” ware, whose name derives from Raphael, the painter who usually adorned his works with symbolic decorations that inspired the Deruta potters.
Some antique shops in Deruta offer you the chance to learn the art of decoration: a brief workshop about hand-crafting, one of the Umbrian excellences.
Orvieto rises in south-western Umbria and is located midway between Florence and Rome, an ideal last stage of an amazing journey through Italy. You can reach the centre of the city by a funicular from the lower city and, once you arrive, you’ll notice that the highest part of Orvieto is on a 1000 meters high tuff cliff and its defensive
walls are built of the same stone, this is the reason why Orvieto is different from other towns in Umbria.
A thorough tour should include a visit to the Duomo, a Gothic cathedral built between 1290 and 1591 – an impressive building that dominates the city. The Saint Patrick’s well is also considered a masterpiece for its architectural style; it has two spiral ramps in a double helix that run along the sides of the well, accessed by two doors. The name of the well derives from the legend that St.Patrick’s Purgatory in Ireland gave access to Purgatory because it is very deep – in fact, it is 53 metres deep.
Through an exclusive guided tour you can visit the Orvieto underground and marvel at a labyrinth of caves and tunnels under the surface of the city. It’s incredible to discover that these galleries, cellars, wells, stairs and passageways have remained unaltered over centuries. These secret tunnels, dug into the tuff, were used by the noble families to escape during a siege.
There are many ways to explore the treasures of Italy, and these five suggestions can be the first step to fall in love with “Belpaese”.
Enrico Ferretti is PR Manager at Dragonfly Tours.