From chic hotels in Sicily to houses in the Tuscan hills — the best trips for 2017.
Best for activities
1 Cycling in Puglia
Nothing spoils a cycling holiday like, well, other cyclists, so avoid the cluttered roads of Tuscany and head to the sun-drenched south for Headwater’s self-guided circular tour of Puglia. The trip begins on the stunning coastline that stretches out from Monopoli, before heading to Alberobello, with its characteristic trulli houses, and carrying on through lush olive groves and vineyards. There’s also time to explore picturesque Ostuni, Lecce and the fishing village of Savelletri.
Details A week’s B&B costs from £1,169pp including all equipment, transfers and some meals (01606 369193, headwater.com). Fly to Bari
2 The Cinque Terre by train
Train enthusiasts will love this new trip from Planet Rail, which explores the Italian Riviera, plus a night each in Turin and Milan. The itinerary includes five nights in Rapello, with time to see Portofino and the Cinque Terre towns, including Riomaggiore. The last night is in Milan, before the train to the UK.
Details A week’s B&B costs from £995pp, including rail travel on Eurostar (01347 825292, planetrail.co.uk)
3 Island hop in the Bay of Naples
Head off for daily walks on the picturesque islands of Ischia, Procida and Capri, taking boat trips between them; this new tour from Exodus adds a hint of glamour to a week on foot. The itinerary begins in Sorrento before heading to Capri’s unspoilt west coast. There’s time at the beach, and a day’s walking around the pastel-coloured houses of the island of Procida.
Details A week’s B&B costs from £1,299pp, including flights, transfers, some meals and the services of a guide (020 3811 3276, exodus.co.uk)
4 Sail La Maddalena Islands
Just off the northeastern coast of Sardinia, the La Maddalena archipelago, a national marine park, has beautiful beaches and is one of the best places to sail in Italy. It’s an area for experienced sailors, because there can be strong winds, but sailing in this region also offers the chance to visit Bonifacio, on the nearby island of Corsica. The departure port of Marina de Portisco is a short taxi ride from Olbia airport.
Details A week costs from £422pp, based on four sharing a Bavaria 33 Cruiser, including flights but not transfers (020 8438 1133, bareboatsailingholidays.com)
5 Pilates in Tuscany
New from Flavours Holidays, this trip combines the stretching and toning of Pilates with similarly gentle exercises for the mind. The structured week includes guidance on how to work towards mindfulness, plus meditation practice and group discussions. The course is held on a classic Tuscan estate, surrounded by grounds for sunlit post-exercise strolls, and a sizeable pool. The week also includes excursions to nearby Siena and Arezzo.
Details A week’s full board departing June 24 is from £1,599pp, including excursions, transfers and £100pp towards flights (0131 343 2500, flavoursholidays.co.uk). Fly to Pisa
6 Nordic walking in Trentino
If a normal walking holiday doesn’t offer enough of a challenge, nordic walking, using special poles that work the whole body, is a great way to get fit in a spectacular location. This new holiday from Chapters takes place in the Trento valley, close to the border with Austria, an ideal place to learn because the pre-Alpine terrain combines rolling hills with open pasture and pretty villages. The trip is based in the small town of Folgaria.
Details A week’s half-board costs from £999pp, including flights, transfers and equipment (01707 246666, chaptersholidays.co.uk)
7 Horse riding in Lazio
If you’re after a riding holiday that doesn’t involve moving from hotel to hotel, a week at I Due Laghi — a gorgeous estate an hour north of Rome — will hit the spot. The countryside offers fantastic riding along paved Roman roads, past medieval villages and grand Renaissance houses, while the estate itself offers instruction as well as showjumping, cross-country and hacks, according to stamina and experience.
Details A week’s half-board costs from £1,133pp, including all rides but not flights to Rome (01299 272997, inthesaddle.co.uk)
8 Walk wild Sardinia
Usually known as a beach destination, Sardinia is a walker’s dream, with trails across clifftops and through spectacular gorges. This new self-guided week from Exodus is based on the east coast, and combines walks into the foothills of the Supramonte — Sardinia’s highest peaks — with visits to Nuragic temples and hikes to unspoilt bays, where you can cool off with a swim. Accommodation is in simple, traditional hotels; a moderate level of fitness is required.
Details A week’s B&B costs from £749pp, including luggage transfers, some other meals and route maps (020 3131 7053, exodus.co.uk). Fly to Olbia
9 Trails to Tarquinia, Lazio
The chance to discover one of Italy’s least-known regions, this new week-long walking tour takes in Roman baths, ancient thermal springs and Etruscan sites, including Tarquinia, with its spectacular necropolis and frescoed tombs. Walking is a perfect way to soak up the atmosphere of the abandoned villages and ancient ruins, with accommodation ranging from cosy agriturismos to grand spa hotels, great for a restorative soak. Self-guided or escorted options are available.
Details A week’s B&B costs from £795pp, including some other meals, maps and luggage transfers (01865 315678, atg-oxford.co.uk). Fly to Rome
Best for art, culture and history
10 Vivaldi in Venice
An unmissable trip for lovers of Vivaldi, this new tour from Martin Randall Travel celebrates one of Venice’s best-loved musical sons. The week includes seven private concerts, ranging from small-scale concerti to an oratorio, all in churches and halls. There is also a programme of talks on Vivaldi’s music and Venice, and the opportunity to join guided walks with art historians.
Details Six days’ B&B costs from £2,870pp, including flights, some other meals and all performances (020 8742 3355, martinrandall.com)
11 Weekend in Pistoia
Italy’s Capital of Culture for 2017, little-known Pistoia is like a mini Florence, with medieval ramparts and a picturesque centro storico, with winding streets and a café-lined Piazza del Duomo. Make sure your break takes in a Wednesday or a Sunday, when there’s an excellent flea market, and don’t miss the modern art exhibitions at the Palazzo dal Borgo and the magnificent frieze at the Ospedale del Ceppo, restored for this year.
Details Three-night breaks cost from £780pp B&B, including flights and one day’s car hire (020 7359 3938, realholidays.co.uk)
12 Ancient Assisi
New from Voyages Jules Verne, this week-long tour based in Assisi traces Italy’s earliest past, from the prehistoric to the Etruscan and Roman periods. Visits to Assisi’s Roman sites are included, as is time at the Etruscan necropolis at Tarquinia, famous for its painted tombs. There are natural wonders too, including the two-million-year-old Dunarobba fossil forest and the enormous Grotte di Frasassi caves.
Details A week’s B&B with flights, some other meals and entry fees costs from £1,195pp (020 3533 3722, vjv.com)
12 Secret Lombardy
Beyond the glittering shores of Lake Garda, the region of Lombardia lies relatively undiscovered, not something this new tour from Prestige seeks to redress. Although the Unesco renaissance gem of Mantua is included, the focus is on lesser-known sights, including Salo, with its long, lakeside promenade, the Roman city of Cremona — home of the Stradivarius violin — and the elegant spa town of Merano. The tour is based at Desenzano del Garda.
Details A week’s B&B costs from £1,149pp, including flights, transfers, and some other meals (01425 480600, prestigeholidays.co.uk)
13 Culture in the south
This new self-drive holiday from Sunvil combines Puglia’s cultural highlights with the lesser-known region of Basilicata, its southern neighbour. The tour combines accommodation in a sasso (cave house) in Matera, a restored masseria and one of Puglia’s unique trulli houses. There’s time to discover the Unesco heritage site of Matera, the Roman remains at the seaside resort of Polignano a Mare, and the Baroque architecture and churches in Lecce.
Details A week’s B&B costs from £1,345pp, including flights and car hire (020 8758 4722, sunvil.co.uk)
14 Puccini in Tuscany
There is nowhere better to hear Puccini than in the lakeside village of Torre del Lago in Tuscany, where he composed his main operas. The Puccini Festival celebrates his work with alfresco performances on the shores of the lake, this year from July 14 to August 19 (puccinifestival.it), when the operas include Madama Butterfly, La Bohème and Tosca; in between performances there’s time to discover the nearby town of Lucca, Puccini’s birthplace.
Details Three nights’ B&B, with tickets to two performances, costs from £769pp, including flights and transfers (01242 220394, jmb-travel.co.uk)
15 Michelangelo and Sebastiano in Rome
Run in conjunction with the National Gallery, whose exhibition of the two artists’ works runs from March to May, this new trip aims to explore both painters’ genius. Highlights include a private view of the Sistine Chapel, a visit to Villa Farnesina — famous for Sebastiano’s frescoes — and after-hours visits to the Vatican Museums. The tour examines the impact of the Church’s patronage on Rome’s artists, with talks by the National Gallery’s Gayna Pelham.
Details A four-night break, departing on September 18, costs from £2,195pp B&B, including some other meals and all excursions (020 3504 8012, coxandkings.co.uk)
16 Discover Naples
Known more for its food than its history, Naples is rich in heritage, and this new week-long tour from Adagio takes in the highlights. Visits to the catacombs of San Gennaro and the Roman site of Herculaneum are combined with time at the Archaeology Museum, a night at the San Carlo opera house and visits to some of the city’s churches, including Santa Chiara and the ornate Capello Sansevero. Accommodation is at the Albergo san Francesco al Monte, a former monastery in the hills.
Details A week’s half-board costs from £1,175pp, including flights and transfers (01707 386700, adagio.co.uk)
17 Short break in Sicily
Sicily’s rich history is easy to discover independently if you stay in the beautiful Unesco World Heritage Site of Noto. The town’s streets are dotted with elegant 18th-century mansions, palazzos and baroque churches, and it’s well located for exploring nearby Modica and Syracuse, steeped in Greek history.
Details Three nights’ B&B at the Villa Favorita in Noto costs from £679pp, including flights and transfers (020 7593 2283, kirkerholidays.com)
Top tip: Giorgio Locatelli
In Sicily I always visit Da Vittorio, a family-run restaurant (www.ristorantevittorio.it) on a lovely beach at Porto Palo di Menfi. The food is the simplest and freshest imaginable — whatever is caught at sea that day is served to diners that night
18 Aida in Verona
A trip to Verona’s spectacular arena is a highlight for any opera lover, and 2017 offers the chance to see some of Verdi’s most-loved operas; Aida, Nabucco or Rigoletto. Long Travel has short-break packages that include a ticket in the Gold category (the best seats), and a Verona card to see city sights for free.
Details Three nights costs from £1,099pp, including flights, transfers, opera ticket and Verona card (01694 722193, long-travel.co.uk)
19 Painting in Tuscany
The rolling hills of Tuscany are the focus of five new painting courses based at the picturesque Watermill art and activities complex. In 2017 painters can choose to focus on watercolours, oils, acrylics and pastes, or pastels. Each course is led by highly regarded artists.
Details A week’s full board costs from £1,445pp, including all tuition, transfers and course materials (020 7193 6246, watermill.net). Fly to Florence or Pisa
Best for families
20 Airstream camping near Venice
Ca’Savio, just a half-hour hop by ferry from Venice, has been welcoming campers for 50 years, but in 2016 it added to its range of pitches, mobile homes and bungalows by installing five gleaming Airstreams. Each one comes with a bell tent that can accommodate two children. The beachside site also has pools, a restaurant and a market.
Details From £106 a night for four (casavio.com). Fly to Venice
21 Rome and the beach
This self-drive itinerary from Expert offers the chance to introduce the kids to Rome, before heading to Sorrento. Accommodation in Rome is in the historic district of Campo de’ Fiori, making sightseeing easy, while the Casa Villarena is on the coast near Sorrento.
Details Eleven nights’ B&B costs from £980pp, based on four, including transfers and car hire (020 3302 4424, expertoitaly.com). Fly to Rome
22 Verdura Resort, Sicily
Italy has a handful of family-friendly, full-service resorts, but few offer the value of the Verdura, on the southwest coast. There are kids’ clubs from crèche age up to 16, tennis, golf and water sports, along with a nightly children’s buffet and babysitting services. Parents are catered for too, with two golf courses, a world-class spa and a child-free pool area.
Details A week’s B&B costs from £779pp, including flights and transfers (020 3553 0433, westernoriental.com)
23 Gardaland, Lake Garda
Italy’s premier theme park, Gardaland is introducing virtual reality to its biggest rollercoaster in 2017, enabling passengers to have an immersive experience beyond the double loops and terrifying drops. Stay at the nearby Parc Hotel and you’re also within easy reach of Canevaworld, a spectacular aqua park and movie theme park. The hotel is ideal for families, with indoor and outdoor pools, sporting activities and evening entertainment included, with the pretty village of Peschiera just 2km away.
Details A week’s all-inclusive costs from £714pp, including flights and transfers (01483 345684, inghams.co.uk)
24 Agriturismo Ferdy, Lombardy
The Italian countryside is littered with agriturismos — working farms that offer simple accommodation, great food and plenty to keep the kids happy. Ferdy is one of the best; children can help with the animals and the whole family can try canoeing, donkey trekking or cycling along a converted railway line. The restaurant serves fresh farm produce.
Details B&B doubles cost from £102 a night (0034 0345 82235, agriturismoferdy.com). Fly to Bergamo
25 Cave city of Basilicata
Italy’s least-visited province, Basilicata offers a safe adventure that the kids will love, particularly the town of Matera, famous for its hillside cave houses. When they tire of exploring the unique ancient dwellings known as the Sassi, it’s an easy drive to some great beaches.
Details A week’s B&B costs from £1,281pp, including flights, car hire and accommodation in a cave hotel (01293 765066, citalia.com)
26 Family cycling in Tuscany
Cycling holidays aren’t just for adults; this self-guided tour from Hooked on Cycling is designed for families. The week begins with two nights in Pisa, before the 15-mile ride to the walled city of Lucca (luggage transfers included). There’s a day trip to Florence included (by rail) and time to explore the palaces and gardens of the Lucchese foothills. No route is more than 32km.
Details A week’s B&B for a family of four sharing a room costs from £2,075, including transfers (01506 635399, hookedoncycling.co.uk). Fly to Pisa
27 Italian lakes adventure
A treat for kids who love water sports, this group activity week, based on Lake Garda, includes the chance to try windsurfing, kayaking and sailing. Mountain biking and via ferrata, Italy’s take on mountain climbing. can also be arranged. There’s time to explore the pretty Riva del Garda.
Details A week’s B&B costs from £1,295pp, including most other meals and activities (01768 773966, keadventure.com). Fly to Verona
28 Water park and Venice
A great choice for a beach holiday with a difference, the Lido di Jesolo is a new resort for Citalia in 2017, combining classic bucket-and-spade days with time exploring Venice, just over an hour away by ferry. The Lido is also home to the Aqualandia water park, Italy’s largest, and there is a huge range of water sports available on the beach. For a really Italian experience, join the evening passeggiata on Via Bafile — with plenty of gelati possibilities for the children.
Details A week’s B&B costs from £925pp, including flights and car hire (01293 765066, citalia.com)
Top tip: Angela Hartnett
I think the location of Eolo (eoloamalfi.it) is enough to merit a visit and the cuisine focuses on a contemporary twist on Amalfi and Mediterranean classic recipes
29 Families on the Amalfi coast
One of the most family-friendly hotels on the Amalfi coast, Santa Caterina is introducing a new “Active Families” package for 2017, which includes guided trips to Pompeii and Paestum, along with pizza-making classes and the chance to try paper-making at one of Amalfi’s paper mills. The hotel is right by the water, with restaurant and pool terraces stepped down the side of the cliff.
Details A week’s B&B costs from €1,665 for adults, €880 for children, including transfers and excursions (00 39 089 871 1012, hotelsantacaterina.it). Fly to Naples
30 Florence for families
Give the kids a dose of culture in Florence’s honey-pot centre of galleries, museums and churches, then relax by the swimming pool at the opulent Villa Cora hotel. Set overlooking the Boboli Gardens, the hotel — with its manicured private gardens — is a tranquil retreat away from the city. Inside, the rooms have a splendour that harks back to a bygone era, with four-poster beds, Italian artwork and plush furnishings.
Details Three nights in a family room is from £1,275 (00 39 05522 8790, villacora.it)
Top tip: Liz Simpson
Editor of i-escape
In Florence, I love the AdAstra hotel. A great-value guesthouse, it’s a ten-minute walk from the tourist madness of the Ponte Vecchio, but feels a world away in the arty Oltrarno district, a real locals’ neighbourhood (adastraflorence.com)
Best new places to stay
31 Il Sereno, Lake Como
Opened at the end of last year, Il Sereno reinvents Italian glamour with an infusion of contemporary minimalism; glass, walnut and stone create a stark-looking building that belies the luxury inside. All 30 suites have glorious lake views, while the decked area and pool spill right on to the waterfront. There’s a fleet of vintage-inspired boats for cruises, and the Michelin-starred chef Andrea Berton oversees the restaurant.
Details Three-night breaks cost from £1,595pp B&B, including flights and transfers (0161 492 1357, carrier.co.uk)
32 Villa Fiorella Art Hotel, Naples
The Villa Fiorella reopened its doors in the summer after a big refurbishment, bringing fresh, contemporary glamour to the quieter end of the Sorrento Peninsula. Surrounded by olive groves and close to the pretty village of Massa Lubrense, the hotel has 23 crisp, stylish rooms and a restaurant that serves classic Neapolitan dishes. The views from the rooftop Sky Bar are marvellous.
Details B&B doubles are from £151 a night (00 39 081 878 9832, arthotelvillafiorella.com). Fly to Naples
33 Don Totu, Salento, Puglia
A slice of boutique luxury in the sun-drenched Salento hills, Don Totu — which first opened its doors in 2014 — is upping the ante when it reopens in April with a new pool house with rooftop outdoor cinema. Built to re-create a classical loggia, the new space will offer a covered lounge area for lunches and cocktails. Don Totu has six elegant rooms and a hammam. Guests have the use of Vespa scooters to explore the surrounding area.
Details B&B doubles cost from £147 a night (00 39 83 699 2374, dontotu.it). Fly to Brindisi
34 Castel Porrona Relais, Tuscany
Kirker has introduced the Castel Porrona to its 2017 programme, a gorgeous, 24-room rural hotel that opened its doors last year. Surrounded by the lush vineyards of Montecucco, the former village dates from the 12th century and has been carefully converted into a luxury resort. Its top-flight Agua Spa has wine therapy baths and a Moroccan hammam. The restaurant serves traditional Tuscan dishes, with ingredients sourced locally.
Details Three nights’ B&B costs from £866pp, including flights and car hire (020 7593 2283, kirkerholidays.com)
35 Hotel Eden, Rome
Due to reopen in April after a six-month refurbishment, the Hotel Eden’s 98 rooms have each been given a chic gold-and-cream facelift. Innovations include the library bar with gilt-panelled ceiling and two rooftop restaurants, including Il Giardino, which will operate as an all-day brasserie. The big story is the new “urban spa”, which will have four individual spa suites and a “blow-dry bar”.
Details Doubles costs from £617 a night (00 39 06 47 8121, dorchestercollection.com)
36 Villa Idda, Acireale, Sicily
New to the rental market, Villa Idda has been carefully restored to offer a house that oozes pared-down style, with vast picture windows in the double-height lounge and cool, neutral hues throughout. This is Sicily at its most stylish: a sunken bath in the master bedroom, a free-standing staircase sweeping up to the two bedrooms in the main house. The other double and single rooms are in the second building, linked by a dining terrace, making it ideal for two families. The villa sleeps seven.
Details A week for seven costs from £4,388 (020 7193 7302, wishsicily.co.uk). Fly to Catania
37 Sensimar Matta Village, Sardinia
The Matta Village will reopen its doors in 2017 as one of Thomson’s new, adults-only Sensimar properties, which aim to bring a boutique style to existing hotels. Bedrooms are white with statement wallpaper and contemporary furniture, and the outdoor area has been extended to include a yoga space, with a wooden boardwalk that links the pool to the beach.
Details A week’s B&B costs from £538pp, including flights and transfers (0871 231 4691, TUI)
Best for foodies
38 Gourmet Emilia-Romagna
This self-drive itinerary is new to Inntravel and explores the little-known region of Emilia-Romagna. There is the chance to cook pasta in Bologna, visit a parmesan factory near Parma, and taste wine at a vineyard in the Predappio hills. For petrolheads the high point is test-driving a Ferrari in the hills around Maranello; for foodies it’s pretty much everything else.
Details Ten days’ B&B costs from £965pp, including car hire and some meals (01653 617000, inntravel.co.uk). Fly to Parma
39 E-biking in Tuscany and Umbria
It might call itself a cycling tour, but this new holiday from Cycling for Softies is more about gliding effortlessly between indulgent meals rather than pedalling frantically. The tour is with E-Bikes, which offers electric as well as leg-power, and the itinerary includes daily recommendations for the best restaurants in towns such as Montone and Gubbio, as well as for the rest day in Assisi. The tour can be done as a group or self-guided.
Details A five-night, self-guided trip, including bed and breakfast accommodation, bikes, equipment and luggage transfers, costs from £1,055pp. A guided full-board break costs from £1,925pp (020 7471 7760, cycling-for-softies.co.uk). Fly to Perugia or Florence
40 Chocoholics spa and cookery, south Tyrol
Try this indulgent new short break at the Rosa Alpina hotel in the spectacular Dolomites, which includes chocolate tastings, cocoa-themed spa treatments and a cookery class where you can create your own chocolate treats. The break is led by the chef Andrea Tortora, voted Italy’s Pastry Chef of the Year in 2017.
Details Three nights’ B&B costs from £956pp, including one five-course dinner, cookery course, tastings and spa treatments (00 39 047 184 9500, rosalpina.it). Fly to Bolzano
41 Behind-the-scenes Venice
There is no better way to explore Venice — or taste its food — than in the company of a local, and three new personalised, gastronomic tours from the Luxury Travel Book offer exactly that. Guests staying in the company’s self-catering properties can choose from a bacari tour, which focuses on the Venetian tradition of cicchetti (bar snacks), take a two-hour tour of the Rialto market or join a wine-tasting afternoon, all in the company of the sommelier and native Venetian Giorgia.
Details A week’s self catering at Apartment San Samuele, sleeping up to six, costs from £1,767 (0207 586 5342, theluxurytravelbook.com)
Top tip: Rick Stein
In Venice, there’s a great place just across the Grand Canal in Giudecca, near the shipyard, called the Food and Art Café. They do a three-course lunch for £8.50. It’s an interesting off-piste place to visit, where students and shipyard workers flock every lunchtime
42 Foodie theme park in Bologna
Although there is no set opening date beyond “mid-2017”, when the foodie theme park Eataly does open its doors it will be quite an event; there will be 20 restaurants in its 80,000 sq m, plus oil mills, greenhouses and the chance for visitors to cook as well as taste. Nearby Bologna has long been the jewel in Italy’s foodie crown, with 25 miles of colonnaded walkways.
Details Three nights at Al Cappello Rosso in Bologna costs from £370pp B&B, including flights and transfers (020 7359 3938, realholidays.co.uk)
43 Wines of Sicily
One of a range of new “story” tours from the wine specialist Arblaster & Clarke, the Story of Sicily combines wine tastings at some of the island’s best producers with visits to historic towns and ancient sites. In the company of the wine guide Monica Murphy, the itinerary includes tastings on the slopes of Mount Etna, time at the beautiful Villa Communale gardens, and sumptuous lunches on wine estates and in traditional Sicilian restaurants.
Details Six days, departing on April 3, costs £2,245pp, including most meals, excursions, flights and transfers (01730 263111, arblasterandclarke.com)
44 Skye Gyngell in Sicily
This is a unique opportunity to join the celebrated chef Skye Gyngell for a week’s cooking in a gorgeous Sicilian villa with views of Mount Etna and the Ionian Sea. The culinary week includes hands-on lessons in the purpose-built kitchens, cookery demos and guided tours of wine and food producers — plus cooking tips from Gyngell.
Details A week’s full board, including tuition, excursions and transfers, but not flights to Catania, costs from £3,888pp, departing on March 25 or April 22 (020 7377 8518, thethinkingtraveller.com)
45 Cooking in the Veneto
Casagrande is an elegant 15th-century classic villa an hour north of Venice dedicated to all things foodie and run by a team of world-class chefs. This year, they will include Jake Simpson, the chef de cuisine at the award-winning Bocca di Lupo. The courses at Casagrande are for serious cooks, with daily tuition on classic Italian dishes, along with visits to local markets and vineyards.
Details Six nights’ full board costs from £2,695pp, including tuition, trips and tastings (01347 868659, stirredtravel.com). Fly to Venice
Best of the rest
46 Venice to Sicily by train
Great news for fans of top-end rail travel. This year Golden Eagle Luxury Trains is introducing a cultural train tour from Venice to Sicily. The Sicilian Odyssey begins with two nights in Venice, before boarding the Golden Eagle for the trip down Italy’s eastern seaboard. It takes in Bologna, San Marino and Bari before heading to Pompeii. You reach Sicily by train ferry.
Details The 12-day, all-inclusive Sicilian Odyssey, departing on September 14 (southbound) or September 22 (northbound) costs from £8,595pp, including transfers and excursions (0161 928 9410, goldeneagleluxurytrains.com)
47 Gardens of Tuscany
The Royal Horticultural Society has employed an Italian member of its curatorial team at Wisley, Sabatino Urzo, to create a new tour of Tuscan gardens. The itinerary includes visits to Florence’s 16th-century Giardino Corsini and the Boboli Gardens, as well as a chianti vineyard. The trips coincide with the Iris Festival in May and the Murabilia Garden Festival in September.
Details Six nights’ B&B costs from £1,795pp, including flights, transfers, and all excursions (020 3735 1855, rhsgardenholidays.com)
48 Trains of the Dolomites
A great new trip for train lovers, this group holiday from Diamond Rail covers the dramatic peaks of the Dolomites on narrow gauge and funicular railways. There’s a chance to explore Lake Garda and go on the cable car up Monte Baldo.
Details Ten days’ B&B costs from £1,049pp, including rail travel from St Pancras, London, some other meals and all excursions (0844 5443808, diamondrailholidays.co.uk)
49 Learn Italian in Tuscany
Mix mornings learning to speak Italian with afternoons in the lush Tuscan countryside on this new trip from ATG Oxford. The week is at Pieve a Castello, a gorgeous 8th-century estate. It includes a visit to San Gimignano, and to Siena, with a private guided tour (in Italian) of the Duomo.
Details A week from April 1 or November 4 costs from £2,195pp full-board, including transfers and excursions (atg-oxford.co.uk)
Top tip: Olga Polizzi
Director of design at Rocco Forte Hotels
The hotel I love is Il Pellicano Hotel in Porto Ercole, Tuscany (pellicanohotels.com). It’s a people-watching place and I enjoy eating mozzarella and tomatoes by the pool
50 Spa break in Tuscany
Revitalising weeks don’t come more focused than the new Equilibrium programme at the Fonteverde spa resort. Equilibrium targets internal inflammation with nutritional coaching, cookery and fitness classes, physical therapy and relaxation techniques.
Details A week’s full board with all treatments and therapies costs from £2,283pp (00 39 0578 57241, fonteverdespa.com)