10 Beautiful Italian Destinations to Bookmark for Summer

Escape the crowds by mixing up the standard Dolce Vita Itinerary this summer. Here are the untouched coastlines, slow-paced cities, historic gems and up-and-coming hotspots we can’t wait to visit

We're somewhat over crowded museum queues - and checklists to be completed for the sake of it in general. The good news is that, despite what Instagram and bookings sites may have you believe, Italy still has plenty of pockets that have not yet been "done". This summer, we're making tracks to the country's north-east to the expansive wild beauty of the Dolomites, and mile upon mile of white-sand beaches. Inland, where it's more about slow train journeys and niche provincial opera nights, we're exploring some of the less famous yet no less enchanting towns. From entire regions to up-and-coming neighbourhoods of the major cities, here are some starting points for your crowd-free Italian summer getaway.

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Calabria, Italy
Photo credit: mRGB / Shutterstock.com


Somewhat simplistically touted as "the new Puglia", Calabria has around 800km of pristine coastline, touching both the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas from its position as the "toe" of Italy. At the narrowest point, Sicily is only 2km away, and there's an extraordinary overnight train (which briefly boards a ferry) to transport you all the way to Catania overland. First-timers should consider the picturesque coastal town of Tropea, or one of the few luxury hotels such as Praia Art Resort, Villa Paola and Baia del Sole. Aside from postcard-perfect beaches, the main draw here is the vibrant cuisine: this is the home of 'nduja (spicy sausage paste), bergamot (the citrus fruit that flavours Earl Grey tea, and one that sneaks into many Calabrian dishes) and prickly pears, as well as excellent seafood, rustic home cooking and some of the spiciest dishes in Italy (thanks to the ubiquitous red chilli pepper).

Dolomites, Italy

The Dolomites

Gearing up for the 2026 Winter Olympics, all eyes are on Cortina d'Ampezzo and the surrounding area, which is paving the way for sustainable, year-round tourism in the Dolomite mountain range. With the focus being on wholesome outdoor pursuits, you can take your pick from mountain biking, paragliding, horse riding, wild swimming and hiking through miles of luscious green pastures and forests. A little too Heidi-esque for you? Don't worry; the region is also home to one of the highest densities of Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, plus a clutch of new wellness-first eco-spas (hello, Forestis and Hotel de Len).

Naples, Italy
Photo credit: Yulia Grigoryeva / Shutterstock.com



The southern Italian city of Napoli has never been more alive with potential. First up, there's a pizza renaissance going on, with Concettina ai Tre Santi bringing new visitors to the Sanità neighbourhood, and a smattering of other fine-dining spots reimagining the humble Neapolitan pie. Then, there are the cool art hotels - such as charming Atelier Ines, conveniently just over the road from Concettina ai Tre Santi, and maximalist Casa d'Anna - which add yet more reason to include Naples on your summer itinerary. My Brilliant Friend (available on Amazon Prime and HBO), the TV adaptation of Elena Ferrante's best-selling Neapolitan series, which paints a bleak yet intoxicating image of the city during the 50s and 60s, makes good background watching.

Bergamo, Lombardy, Italy

Bergamo and Brescia


In January, these two neighbouring cities in Lombardy took over the joint mantle of Italy's cities of culture. What this means for anyone planning a trip there this year is a jam-packed calendar of light shows, theatre performances, art exhibitions and more. Summer highlights include the annual 1000 Miglia vintage car race, from 13 to 17 June, and Bergamo's Donizetti Night, on 3 June. Brescia's Teatro Grande will open its new season with a high-budget performance of Madama Butterfly on 20 July.

Giudecca, Venice



Swerve Venice's tourist hotspots this summer and head to the island of Giudecca instead. The old industrial quarter of the floating city (and where most Venetians still live), Giudecca's warehouses and boatyards have been transformed into cool new hotels, restaurants and art spaces, which together make up the Giudecca Art District. Trendy factories-turned-art galleries include Galleria Michela Rizzo and Spazio Punch. Stay at the budget-but-boujie Generator Venice, or push the boat out (literally; you have to take a private launch to get there) with Belmond Hotel Cipriani. If you do stray over the Grand Canal, it's worth braving the crowds to visit the Edmondo Bacci exhibition at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which runs until 18 September.

Agropoli, Italy

Cilento Coast


Give the Amalfi Coast stomping grounds of Positano, Sorrento and Ravello a miss - at least during the peak summer season - and venture one coastline further south towards the Bay of Cilento. You'll know when you've arrived: fake plastic lemon bowers are replaced by great swathes of real citrus groves and gridlocked roads make way for sleepy hamlets and uncrowded beaches. It's a deeply mythological land - the setting for parts of Virgil's Aeneid - and the towns of Paestum, Agropoli and Velia still have Greek and Roman ruins to explore. Most of the bay has been a national park since the 1990s, which has protected it from sprawling towns and unregulated tourism.

Sardinia, Italy


It may be Italy, but Sardinia's rugged coastline, distinctive cuisine, regional dialect and ancient customs feel a world away from the mainland. It's been more than 50 years since the Aga Khan colonised the Costa Smerelda as an ultra-luxury yachting destination, and the manicured coastline is changing its tune a little, with the onus today being less on golf courses and shopping centres and more on secluded wellness retreats and rustic farm-to-fork guesthouses (we're looking at you, Domu Antiga). Away from the Emerald Coast, Sardinia's more remote areas are ripe for long coastal walk, days on the beach and mountain hikes. Venture to the less-crowded west coast, where the cobbled city of Alghero is filled with Catalan gothic buildings, while, slightly further north, the Costa Paradiso, as the name suggests, is magical. Further north still, visit the lunar landscape and nomadic hippie community of Cala Grande (aka Moon Valley), and the shallow turquoise waters of Spiaggia Rena Bianca.

Umbria, Italy


Umbria - the only landlocked Italian region not to border another country - is the slow, calming, pastoral antidote to Tuscany's glut of opulent Renaissance churches and frescoes. That said, the regional capital of Perugia is not lacking in cultural clout. A new Gustav Klimt exhibition in the city's Emotion Hall over the summer is this year's hot-ticket event, alongside the post-refurb reopening of Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, to coincide with the fifth centenary of early Renaissance master Pietro Perugino's death. Reschio Castle, a magnificent hotel and riding school, has brought a touch of luxury to an otherwise understated area.

Chioggia, Italy


Emilia Romagna

Wanting to swerve the overcrowded waterways of Venice? Head to Emilia Romagna's canal city, which locals call "Piccola Venezia" (Little Venice). Colourful, gritty and steeped in its own maritime heritage, Chioggia is only 25km south of Venice, and dates back to Byzantine times. Other offbeat reasons to visit Emilia Romagna include the epic 390km journey along the Road of Dante by vintage train and a Banksy exhibition in Bologna (until 6 August). Food lovers who've not yet explored the region should make a beeline for Parma, which was recently named a Creative city for Gastronomy by Unesco.

Hotel Signum, Aeolian Islands, Italy
Photo credit: Hotel Signum

Aeolian Islands

Days drift into weeks on the ultra-remote Aeolians, an archipelago of seven volcanic islands named after the mythical god of the winds. Unless you happen to possess a private helicopter or yacht, getting here requires a slow ferry ride from Palermo, or a slightly faster one from Milazzo. The upside? No day-trippers, and so few visitors that you'll still find magnificent pebbly beaches to yourself in the middle of August. Panarea is the most glamorous of the isles, while the little-developed Filicudi and Alicudi only got electricity within living memory. Two of the hottest hotels, Capofaro and Hotel Signum, are both found on Salina.

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