What’s a trip to Italy without exploring the vaulted passages of the Colosseum, skipping the Spanish Steps, and gazing up in miraculous rapture at the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel?
“Absolutely relaxing,” said Margherita Migliorini of Villa of Capannole, a luxury accommodation in the Tuscan countryside. Her family has owned the villa for generations, which used to be a working farm.
Italy is one of the most popular destinations in the world to travel. The country received more than 95 million tourists in 2019, the third highest in Europe after France and Spain, and sixth in the world after the United States, China and Mexico, according to the World Bank.
Now Italy lets in some international tourists. The European Union this week agreed to reopen its borders travelers who have been vaccinated with approved vaccines, as well as those from a list of countries with low Covid-19 infection rates. According to Reuters, the list could be finalized as early as this week.
Italy had already announced that residents of the EU, the European Schengen Area, the United Kingdom and Israel can avoid quarantine if they test negative for Covid within 48 hours of arrival.
Travelers from the United States, Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates can bypass the quarantine requirements if they arrive in Italy via “Covid-tested flightsto Rome, Milan, Venice or Naples. Those flights require passengers to test negative before and after arriving in Italy.
These towns are some of the most visited tourist destinations in Italy, keeping lesser-known parts of the country quiet and peaceful even in summer.
In 2019, just under half (nearly 42 million) of all travelers to Italy arrived for vacations, according to the Bank of Italy’s 2020 “Survey on International Tourism,” according to the report, more than 9 million of those arrivals bought package holidays.
While the term “package tour” may refer to a bus caravan of tourists under the tutelage of a flag-waving guide, there are companies that design guided or self-drive tours for vacationers seeking solitude.
Milan-based tour operator Find Your Italy specializes in “off the beaten tracktraveling across the country. Small-group tours are available to destinations such as Abruzzo and Puglia, as well as self-drive itineraries, which start from 645 euros ($780) to places such as Langhe, Piemonte, and Sicily.
“I think this year could be a good opportunity for solo travelers to also visit the art cities, as they won’t be as crowded as usual, due to a lack of large scheduled groups,” Roberta Leverone, a business executive, told CNBC.
From March to November, Find Your Italy will host 11-day self-drive tours of eastern Sicily, including excursions led by archaeologists, art historians, chefs and wine producers, according to the company website.
“We propose this tour with [a] self-drive option, but it is possible to have it with a private driver,” said Leverone.
Sicily is popular in July and August, so Leverone suggests a tour of Milan and Lake Como to avoid the crowds food, wine and nature tour through Sardinia, which she said is quiet all year round, except in August.
Aristocrats once flocked to the thermal baths of the ancient Roman resort of Baia, near the coast of Naples. The same volcanic activity that once lured wealthy Romans to the area is why part of the city is now 20 feet under the sea.
Seven underwater archaeological sites with remains of ancient villas, fallen columns and colorful mosaics can be explored by divers and, to a lesser extent, snorkelers.
One of the most important sunken sites is Claudio’s Nymphaeum, which was once part of an Imperial palace. While most of the site contains original Roman ruins, underwater images have been reproduced, with the originals moved to the Museo Archeologico dei Campi Flegrei, a nearby museum that reopened in April.
In the Marche region – located along the central “calf” of the Italian boot – is the Grotte di Frasassi, or Frasassi caves.
Tours take visitors along a trail to see features such as Crystallized Lake and the Neverending Hall. Travelers can take a look inside the caves via cave a video of a live acapella performance of “Silent Night” by Andrea Bocelli last December.
The cave can be explored in less than two hours, leaving plenty of time to visit the Temple of Valadier, an octagonal church built into the entrance of a nearby cave. Features of the Grotte di Frasassi . website itineraries from one to three days for visitors, including stops to see the 13th-century frescoes in the medieval town of Fabriano, the narrow alleys of the ancient town of Jesi, and tastings of Verdicchio, the area’s famous white wine, and a spreadable salami called ciausculo.
“Le Marche is one of the best regions for travelers looking for a more immersive and authentic experience in Italy,” said Juliana de Brito, founder of the Beautiful Marche website. “In Le Marche it is still possible to find the heritage of old crafts transferred over time and [which are] threatens to disappear.”
That includes papermaking traditions dating back to the 12th century and artisans who make shoes by hand, which, according to de Brito, can be found in southern Marche, which is home to some of Italy’s most famous shoe factories.
She also recommends the natural parks in the area, including the many trails of the Monte Conero coast that can be explored on foot, by bike or on horseback. She calls the Marche ‘a paradise of food and wine’.
“It’s an incredible mosaic that combines geography, climate and history,” said de Brito.
Italy contains the only active volcanoes in mainland Europe, and a 15-day tour takes travelers to hike them all – Vesuvius, Etna and Stromboli, plus Vulcano (which is dormant, but not extinct).
the “Volcanoes of Italy – the Grand Tour” from Volcano Discovery, a tour company specializing in volcano tourism, focuses on nature, culture, and archaeology. It is a walking and study tour, with the latter describing a journey that combines learning with travel.
The difficulty is described as “easy to hard” and is conducted in small groups of six to 12 travelers, according to the website.
The next tour is scheduled for October of this year, although custom dates are available on request.
Although the small Umbrian village of Castelluccio is high in the Apennines in central ItalyIt was badly damaged in an earthquake in 2016, people still flock to the area’s naturally socially distancing outdoor pursuits, such as river rafting, cycling, and “La Fioritura” or “The Flowering,” which takes place every year from late May to early July.
During this time, vibrant daffodils, poppies, violets and clovers fill the plateau where the town lies, a remarkable sight when combined with hang gliding or paragliding. Tandem flights are available for beginners from 100 euros ($122), according to .’s website Prodelta, a local gliding school.
Tuscany is high on many travellers’ lists, but those who can avoid the allure of Florence, Cinque Terre and San Gimignano can find secluded solace in luxury villas, such as Villa of Capannole, near the town of Bucine.
The villa is a typical Tuscan estate and comes with a swimming pool, separate cottage (for larger groups) and extensive views of the rural landscape. Guests can visit the small towns of the region during the day and relax in the evening with sumptuous home-cooked Italian dinners prepared by the owners who live nearby.
Rates range from 3,500 to 5,920 euros ($4,285 to $7,250) per week.
Travelers who prefer hotels can consider Como’s flagship European resort, Como Castello Del Nero, which will reopen on June 11 with a renewed wellness center. The hotel can arrange outdoor activities such as truffle hunting – the estate is home to three varieties of black truffles – as well as the ultimate remote experience – sunrise balloon rides.
Those planning this summer can watch Monteverdi Tuscany, a luxury boutique hotel in the village of Castiglioncello del Trinoro. After an 18-month renovation, the hotel will reopen to guests in January 2022 with a regenerative clinic, upgraded spa facilities and new hotel suites.
Visitors who haven’t skipped the Colosseum in Rome this summer should know that they have other options.
TripAdvisor reviews are unequivocal about one of the top reasons to visit Pozzuoli’s Flavian Amphitheater: “quiet,” “practically to yourself,” and “we were the only tourists there.”
Located outside of Naples, the site is the third largest amphitheater in Italy and once had as many spectators as the Colosseum – about 50,000 people. It is known for the impressive preservation of its underground chambers showing where gladiators and animals were kept and how trapdoors and pulley systems were used to hoist them into the arena.
Verona’s smaller Arena attracts more visitors, but still far fewer than the 7 million tourists who went to the Colosseum before the pandemic. Violent gladiatorial contests have been replaced by a more benevolent form of entertainment: opera performances.
The nearly 2,000-year-old site has been home to the Verona Opera Festival since 1913, and tickets to this year’s festival featuring shows scheduled throughout the summer will go on sale on May 25.