Cheap Holidays to Italy
Italy Holidays & Hotels
Hotels in Italy
Italian accommodation varies by city, countryside and sea. From megawatt luxury hotels, intimate boutique stays and for those looking for a cheaper alternative rustic villas. Hotels in cosmopolitan centres, such as Rome, Milan or Venice usually fall into two camps: the slick, colourful modern stays with buzzy bars, eateries and surrounds, or grand-dames with baroque facades and a Midas touch.
Further south, glamorous resorts line the seafront in Sicily, Sardinia’s shoreline and the slopeside villages of the Neapolitan Riviera. Here, you’ll find more sunbathing terraces, sizeable pools and lavish grounds. In historic spots, such as Siracuse and Olbia, there are decorous converted townhouses to call home during your holiday.
Where to stay
An island with a frenetic history of colonisation and Cosa Nostra connections, these days Sicily’s spectacular beaches, ancient ruins and unique regional cuisine (hello, cannoli) make it an extremely attractive holiday hotspot. Palermo’s Byzantine and Baroque fancies offset any less-pretty modern developments, and it’s close to blissful beaches. On the east coast of the island, Syracuse is a town of Greco-Roman decadence and delightful dining, with beaches and farmland to the south. And, Catania and Taormina each offer their own past-and-present treasures, under the shadow of volcano Mount Etna.
Rainbow-coloured villages cascading down hilly slopes to the sea, luminous aquamarine waters, winding coastal roads with on-high views: we heart the Neapolitan Riviera. Beloved by lovers, the birthplace of pizza is liberally topped with romantic trappings. The Amalfi drive is a cinematic scroll through Med scenery, Sorrento’s lemons punch up Limoncello and cheek-puckering sorbets, and Naples’ ‘see it and die’ legend isn’t wrong-footed. Walk through the past in Pompeii and Herculaneum, marvel at Mount Vesuvius and gaze out to jet-set Capri: the riviera is a heart-stealer.
The Eternal City’s enduring charms are well-documented: the Trevi Fountain’s coin-tossing and film cameos, the Colosseum’s bloody past, the Pantheon, Basilica, Forum, Spanish Steps and more. With patches of ancient masonry and grand churches and residences throughout, Rome won’t let you forget its heritage; but it’s wholly up-to-date, too, and extremely stylish. Via Condotti’s shops, Trastavere’s up-and-coming hipness, Maxxi and Modern art galleries, and a pervading glamour ensure Rome’s relevance for years to come.
What to see
Cities and coastal stops offer packed or pared-back itineraries depending on how much you want to see on your holiday. In Venice, ride down the Grand Canal in a Vaporetto or speedboat (gondolas are the more overpriced option). Survey Piazza San Marco from Harry’s Bar, Bellini in hand, drop into the Doge’s Palace and stroll over the Bridge of Sighs. Then, ride out to the island of Murano (for glassware) and Burano (for rainbow-hued streets). In Rome, skip up and down the Spanish steps, enjoying the buzz surrounding them. Hop from historic relic to historic relic, try your luck with the Bocca della Verità, see the wonders at the Borghese art gallery and the Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art. Finally, to ensure your return, toss a Euro over your shoulder into the Trevi Fountain.
Drink a teeth-jitteringly strong coffee by Milan’s fabulously domed cathedral, see Michelangelo’s The Last Supper and then shop, shop, shop… In Naples, stop by Pompeii to see the heartbreaking, petrified figures and surprisingly humourous – and well-preserved – brothel. Similarly, tour the Royal Palace and cruise the serpentine Amalfi coastal road, stopping for gelato in Sorrento. Sicily and Sardinia have historic sights, natural wonders and beaches to chill out on. In the former, enjoy a holiday hike on Mount Etna, tour archaeological site Ortygia, whisper into the Ear of Dionysius and sail out to Pantelleria and Stromboli islands. Bring your swimwear for a stay in Sardinia, for dips off beautiful beaches, Cala Luna and Cala Goloritzé.
What to eat
Italy invented carb-loading, and its moreish dishes change from region to region, with pasta, gelato and sluggable wine to be found throughout. In Rome, try simple cheesy pasta dish cacio e pepe, carbonara, veal saltimbocca and stuffed zucchini flowers. Venice is famed for its cicchetti – essentially, Italian tapas – risottos and bigoli (thick spaghetti). Amalfi and Sorrento’s fertile citrus groves have made their oranges and lemons world famous. Seafood is spectacular, too. Try dishes that originated in the region: parmigiana and sfogliatella pastries.
Sicily’s dishes are informed by its multicultural history, with honey from the Romans, Arabian spices, fruits and nuts, cocoa from Latin America and pâtisserie skills from France. And, fishermen contribute heavily. Favourites such as arancini rice balls, swordfish and aubergine-heavy caponata and pasta allla norma can all be found here. Make room for dessert – the bracingly sugary cannoli and marzipan-coated cakes are delizioso. Sardinia is also a seafood fan and its rustic terrain and plentiful goat farms give it packs-a-punch pecorino and cured meats – infamous, maggoty cheese, casu marzu, is native to here, too…
Going out in Rome requires on-trend threads (or, ahead of the trend in Milan) and a flexible, stay-till-late attitude. You’ll typically start with wines, cocktails or coffees in the city’s grand squares, before moving on to intimate cocktail bars, then finding somewhere to dance into the night. In Rome, hit Piazza Navona for pre-gaming and Trastavere or Testaccio for holiday clubbing.
In Venice, sip and sup in St Mark’s then find a wine bar by the canal to while away the evening. Milan’s youthful vigor informs its cocktail-bar scene – dress to impress, start with an aperitivo, then it’s disco a-go-go. Cities have a wide range of live-music venues and theatres, too. By the coast, and in the islands, nightlife is a little more laidback. Sicily, Sardinia and Naples have cosmopolitan bars, but you’re more likely to find a local taverna or boho beach bar and liberally try the local vino.
Italians set the style bar high; they’re synonymous with high-fashion and big-name labels, as well as quality leathers, glamorous furnishings and homegrown foodstuffs. Rome has stylish street, Via Condotti, and the offshoots around the Spanish Steps are where the most famous Italian and international designers mingle. Milan – the home of Italy’s textiles industry – is the seat of native fashion houses. Well-heeled residents dress to be seen, and get their wares in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (where Prada opened its flagship store) and the Quadrilatero d’Oro.
In Venice, pick up accessories: bags, sunglasses, hats. Shops sell touristy, holiday trinkets (and carnival masks), but you can find Murano glassware for reasonable prices. In Naples, wander Via Scarlatti and Galleria Umberto for high-end souvenirs. Along the coast, you’ll mostly find delis and indie boutiques. In Sicily, look out for handpainted tiles and curious ceramic heads; bag a box of cannolis, too. Sardinian shops will vacuum-pack meats and cheeses, and its ports, Cervo and Rotondo, have elegant shops for those deboarding cruises.
Fast Facts about Italy
- Direct flight time to Rome: 2.5 hours from London
- Direct flight time to Venice: 2.5 hours from London
- Direct flight time to Milan: 2 hours from London
- Direct flight time to Naples: 3 hours from London
- Direct flight time to Palermo in Sicily: 3 hours from London
- Direct flight time to Cagliari in Sardinia: 2.5 hours from London
- Time Zone: CET (+1 hour)
- Currency: Euro
- Language: Italian
- Average price of a domestic beer: €1–3
- Average price of a bottle of wine: €4–10
- Number of Brit tourists per year: around 3,000,000