Once your winter vacation is over, you’d better start thinking of where to spend your summer one. It is never too early for a pleasant anticipation of some quality relax.
We can all be roughly divided into several vacation type fans. If you belong to those who cannot imagine their summer without ‘dolce-far-niente‘, or total relax, Italy is your perfect destination, for the concept of sweet-doing-nothing was born here.
But if it happens so that your travel companion is of a different vacation type – the one that might get tired of various seaside inactivities and be in urgent need of cultural recreation and active sightseeing – there’s no place like Italy to sign a peace treaty and put an end to your vacation planning hostilities.
The majority of Italian regions have access to the sea. This usually highly positive factor can complicate the choice, though, and create a kind of confusion even in those most decisive of us.
Let me make a timid attempt of clearing up several general features of some of Italy’s most tempting summer vacation destinations.
Sicily offers an infinite range of landscapes to discover: from the coastal area of Palermo to the golden sands of Trapani, from the explosive couple Catania – Etna to the magnificent temples of Agrigento, from the Greek charm of Siracusa to the Baroque heritage of Noto, from the breathtaking views of Taormina to the volcanic Aeolian islands.
If you have a chance to take a long vacation, go to Sicily. Rent a car and choose the ‘on-the-road’ way to discover this amazing island. In this manner the choice of Sicily could also reveal itself quite an economic option.
In summer this region is all about Naples, the island of Capri and the serpentine of Amalfi coast leading you to such marvels as Sorrento, Positano and Ravello. If you chose to stay on Capri, for example, you could take some boat trips to visit other coastal destinations, Pompei included. A summer vacation in Campania is not among the most affordable ones. But the experience is surely worth every penny.
Apulia offers you two coasts to choose from. The western one with the heart in the town of Gallipoli is for those who are fond of night life, discos on the beach and some famous DJs’ live performances during the season.
The eastern coast that faces Albanian shores offers a lot of sightseeing, including that in the cities of Bari, Ostuni, Lecce, Alberobello and Otranto. The sea at any point of Apulia is a miracle. If you are willing to see as many of such miracles as possible, take a car and go down the ‘heel’ till you reach Santa Maria di Leuca where the land comes to its end in the farthest of the peninsula.
Tuscany is a balanced mix of art, nature and food, a perfect place for everything. If you choose its northern part, you’d enjoy the seaside areas of Pisa, Viareggio and Livorno with their sandy beaches and dunes develpoing against the scenographic background of the Apuan Alps. The breathtaking sites of Pisa, Lucca, Volterra and Florence are easy to reach from here. To the south of Livorno, in the direction of Cecina, Rosignano, San Vincenzo and Follonica, the coastal area becomes ever more sophisticated and rocky, thus, reaching the south of Tuscany and its emblematic Maremma region. Maremma and its National Park occupy a vast plain facing the sea-side areas of Monte Argentario with the splendid jewels of Porto Ercole and Porto Stefano, Orbetello, Talamone, Punta Ala and Castiglione della Pescaia. Maremma’s closest neighbours are Val d’Orcia and Val d’Elsa with their wonders of Siena, San Gimignano, Montalcino e Montepulciano. And don’t forget about the island of Elba and other germs of the Tuscan archipelago that constitute one more proof of the fact that Tuscany is the epicenter of cultural and natural explosion. If you are thinking of a low-cost trip, keep in mind the advantage of this region having quite a number of camping areas located in the shadow of pine forests. For the luxury lovers, on the contrary, Tuscany has some golf resorts, famous Saturnia thermal baths and yacht shipyards to offer.
So, are you ready for this Italian summer? If yes, these tips might be helpful:
- The months of July and August are usually the hottest and the most crowded ones. Watch out for the 14th of August! It’s the day when literally the whole country celebrates the most awaited summer bank holiday of the year by going to the seaside.
- In some southern regions of continental Italy and its islands the summer season could start as early as in May and could finish as late as October, weather permitting.
- There are two types of beaches in Italy. A spiaggia libera is a free public beach that is usually a simple piece of land in front of the sea. You have to pay nothing to sunbathe there apart from eventual parking fees. A lido is a private beach. You can pay to use it on a daily basis or purchase a season entrance ticket. The latter option is usually convenient for those who plan to spend al least one month by the sea. Many hotels and resorts have their private beaches. Usually a private beach has a bar, hot and cold showers, rest rooms and provides its guests with beach chairs and umbrellas. The cost of a day at a lido for two could vary from place to place with the average of €20,00 per day.
- A touristic village is a particular kind of all-inclusive resort especially comfortable for those travelling with children or looking for a complete service. Be careful, though, it may happen you’d be the only foreigners there.
- Bring your bathing suit with you. During the high season a nice one could cost you up to €30,00. If you plan your vacation in August, though, there could be a chance to catch some sales.
- If you look for some relax not of a hotel type, you could try the option of an agritourism. It is usually a big country house or even a farm that includes rooms for rent, private parking, restaurant and a possibility to consume and purchase some local and home-made products.
- If you leave far from the sea, try to start your journey in its direction very early in the morning to avoid diabolic traffic and have a chance to find some room in a parking lot and on the beach.
- Some useful parking notions: blue stripes – you have to pay, white stripes – parking is free, yellow stripes – parking for disabled, authorized or residents, no stripes – no guarantees. When blue stripes of a public parking are concerned, you have to pay first and leave the payment receipt under the windshield so it is visible. In this case you have to calculate, more or less precisely, for how many hours you are going to leave your car in the lot. If your estimation is not exact, two things would happen: you overpay (as far as advanced payment is required), or you understand you underpaid and have to come back to the lot to integrate the difference and pay more before the original parking duration is over (it is not the most ‘comfortable’ option). So, count well or choose to overpay.
- If you travel by car, watch out for ZTL (zone of limited traffic) areas. They are usually indicated by specific traffic signes and have video cameras installed along their borders. If not a resident or without a special authorisation permit entering such an area even on a rented car will cost you a ‘salty’ fine, as they define it here in Italy.
This list of regions is not full, neither does it unveil the whole amazing beauty and numerous treasures of this amazing peninsula of ours. Nevertheless, I hope I managed to perform the inception of some valid ideas for arranging your summer vacation in Italy and convince you there’s no limit to the discovery of this magic land.
Photo credits: Machs Gut ©.