Italy: from the city to the sea

Combining city breaks with beach escapes

With ancient cities, soul-stirring landscapes and an unforgettable coastline, you could spend a lifetime visiting Italy and there would still be more to discover. To give you some inspiration, here are three of our favourite itineraries that pair must-visit cities with the stylish coastal and beach resorts Italy is famous for. 

#1 – Northern highlights: Milan to Portofino to Viareggio

From medieval splendour to fine art and cutting-edge fashion, Milan is a delight for anyone with a creative spirit. Famous for its early evening aperitivo rituals, it’s also the perfect place to ease into the Italian lifestyle. Not to mention pick up the latest designer swimwear before you make for exclusive Portofino. Rather than relax on a beach, this is somewhere to charter a yacht, drop anchor by a remote cove and dive straight into the sea.

After the rocky Portofino peninsular, Viareggio’s long, sandy beach is something of a surprise. Swim in the Mediterranean, relax on a shaded lounger or – if it’s carnival season – join the party.

Top tip: From Viareggio it’s just a short train journey to Florence- if you want to top off your trip with one last dose of city style.

Where to stay
• Milan – immerse yourself in Italian design at The Gray.
• Portofino – savour the peace of exclusive hillside retreat, Eight Hotel.
• Viareggio – experience art deco glamour beside the beach at Grand Hotel Principe di Viamonte.

Getting there
Rent a car for the three-hour drive from Milan to Portofino. Or sit back and enjoy the views from the train. Take one going to Livorno, get off at S. Margherita Ligure, then take a bus or hotel transfer to Portofino. For Viareggio, take the train through the beautiful villages of the Cinque Terre – with plenty of cliff-side views along the way.

#2 – The sultry south: Naples, Amalfi Coast and Capri

With its labyrinthine streets and touch of urban grit, Naples feels wilder than its northerly counterparts. Spend a day or two discovering archaeological treasures (such as nearby Pompeii) before making for the lush lemon groves of the Amalfi Coast.

Peaceful Praiano, set almost in the centre of this ravishing coastline, sees you well placed to explore. Relax on tiny, rocky beaches or set sail. If you’re visiting in spring or autumn, you could hike the Path of the Gods. Then finish your trip with a few days of utter luxury on Capri, where refined town centres give way to raw, natural beauty.

Where to stay
• Naples – Romeo Hotel, an über-modern retreat with a rooftop pool.
• Praiano – Soak up spellbinding views from Casa Angelina Lifestyle Hotel.
• Capri – J.K Place Capri is a clifftop mansion just outside Capri town.

Getting there
Hire a car in Naples and take to the Amalfi Coast’s cliff-clinging roads – but be warned, local drivers are fast and fearless. Or take a scenic train journey from Naples to Salerno – then either get a bus towards Amalfi, or request a transfer to your hotel. Ferries run from Amalfi and Sorrento to Capri multiple times a day from April to October.

#3 – Island hop: Rome to Sicily or Pantelleria

Spend a few days enjoying the energy of Rome. Tick world-famous sights such as the Colosseum and Pantheon off your list, and lose yourself in the Vatican Museums or Villa Borghese. Then make for the coast to discover the other side of Italy. Unwind on Taormina’s golden beaches, backed by dramatic views of Mt Etna in the distance. Or go even further off-the-beaten track to Pantelleria, an exclusive volcanic island where the likes of Giorgio Armani have their summer homes. Few contrasts could be sharper – or more seductive.

It’s worth noting that Pantelleria is not strictly a beach destination. The beautiful coves on its edge are rocky – and the only ‘beach’ is next to a legendary thermal pool and made of mineral-rich mud. But then, who needs sand when you have a natural spa that’s blissfully free from summer crowds?

Where to stay
• Rome – discover countless boutique hotels near top sights including the Forum and Spanish Steps.
• Taormina – stay in nineteenth-century aristocratic residence, Hotel Villa Carlotta 
• Pantelleria – escape to exclusive Sikelia, with its striking modernist architecture.

Getting there
Fly from Rome to Catania, then drive along the coast to nearby Taormina. For Pantelleria, fly direct from Rome or Palermo (perfect if you don’t want to miss out on Sicily).