The Complete Guide To: Italy in style

Whether it's posing in Capri, swanning about Lake Como, or stocking up on Prada in Milan, just do as the Italians do, says Harriet O'Brien


STYLE IN ITALY?

But, of course, where else would you find such a wonderful mix of high art, high fashion and high-class accommodation in such a glorious setting? And here's how to seek it out: the most luxurious places to stay, the chic areas to visit, the most glamorous things to do.

I'D LIKE A CLASSIC CITY BREAK

From the elegance of the Pantheon and the opulence of St Peter's, to the chichi shops of the Via Condotti, Rome is a wonderful mix that will inspire and exhaust in equal measures. All the more reason to book into a central hotel, and preferably one that captures the Eternal City's sense of style. An impossible combination? Not at all. Set right in the heart of the city, between Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps, Hotel de Russie (00 39 06 32 88 81; www.hotelderussie.it) is a chic retreat with an extensive terraced garden - a rare treat in Rome. The 94-room haven was relaunched in 2000 by Rocco Forte, its bar discreetly attracting Prada-clad locals. The short-break specialist Kirker Holidays (0870 112 3333; www.kirkerholidays.com) can arrange three nights there from £972 per person (based on two sharing, with breakfast) including flights from Heathrow or Gatwick and private transfers.

In Venice, the city's most celebrated hotels combine unhurried luxury, glorious views and slick service. The Luna Hotel Baglioni (00 39 041 289840; www.baglionihotels.com - rooms from €330/£235 excluding breakfast) has frescoed ceilings and Murano-glass chandeliers, while the fabulous Hotel Gritti Palace (00 39 041 794611; gritti.hotelinvenice.com - doubles from €315/£225 excluding breakfast) was built in 1525 as the residence of the Doge Gritti. The main part of Venice's legendary Hotel Cipriani, across the lagoon from St Mark's Square, is closed until 7 April for its annual refurbishment, thus ensuring that its sumptuous rooms are in peak condition. When it reopens, Carrier (0161-491 7650; www.carrier.co.uk), which specialises in luxurious travel, can take you there from £1,195 per person, covering a three-night stay with breakfast, flights from Gatwick and private boat transfers.

Winter and spring are also good times to visit Florence. Without peak-season crowds, you'll be able to stand back and admire the Renaissance flourishes of the city of Giotto, Dante, Michelangelo and more - and you may even be able to get into the Uffizi without too much queuing (or pay extra to book ahead on www.yourwaytoflorence.com/uffizi; the gallery is open Tuesday-Sunday 8.15am-6.50pm, entrance €9.50/£6.80 plus €5.70/£4 if using the booking service). What's more, the luxury-travel operator ITC Classics (01244 355 527; www.itcclassics.co.uk) is offering three nights including breakfast at the exquisite Hotel Lungarno (owned by the Ferragamo family, how's that for style credentials?) close to the Ponte Vecchio, from £585 per person. The price includes flights from Gatwick to Pisa and transfers.

HOW ABOUT SCENIC STYLE?

For glamour and visual drama, the Italian Lakes are in a league of their own. Perhaps nowhere more so than Lake Como, where the fortunate stay at the Villa d'Este, at Cernobbio. Built in the 16th century as the Cardinal of Como's residence, and transformed into a hotel in 1873, it is set in beautifully landscaped grounds, and is still the epitome of gracious living, with silk furnishings, frescoed ceilings and marble columns. Abercrombie & Kent (0845 0700 612; www.abercrombiekent.co.uk) can arrange a package of three nights there from £865 per person, with breakfast, flights from Heathrow to Milan Malpensa and private transfers.

Of course, northern Italy is also the setting of many idyllic rural retreats. The best villas to rent in Tuscany and Umbria are the traditional properties that are off the beaten track, with great views and stylish interiors. The Italian portfolio of Real Holidays (020-7359 3938; www.realholidays.co.uk), for example, includes a stunning villa in northern Umbria, close to Perugia and Assisi. Casale de Lanci e Mezzatore sits on a hillside amid 70 acres of forested land. It has been lovingly renovated in authentic Umbrian style, with stone or terracotta-tiled floors, and much of its furniture is from the nearby town of Citta di Castello, known for its craftsmen and -women. It sleeps 10 comfortably and its facilities range from an enormous swimming pool with a Jacuzzi section, to a tennis court and a large dining terrace. The property costs £5,200 per week (villa only) and can be rented from May to the end of October. Other companies offering good villa choices include Wimco (0870 850 1144; www.wimco.com); Vintage Travel (0845 344 0460; www.vintagetravel.co.uk); and Ilios Travel (08700 600 607; www.iliostravel.com).

AND THE SEASIDE?

Of all the pretty villages dotted along Italy's northern coast, Portofino is undoubtedly the most glamorous. There, the Hotel Splendido has acquired near-iconic status as a sophisticated retreat. But you don't quite hide away here, since half the idea of staying at this former monastery is to be seen gazing over the bay from the terrace. There are 65 pretty bedrooms, tennis courts, large gardens, a saltwater swimming pool and speedboats for excursions. The hotel closes annually for winter refurbishment, and opens again this year on 24 March. Seasons in Style (01244 202 000; www.seasonsinstyle.co.uk) offers one-week packages at the Splendido from an eye-watering £2,725 per person, including flights from Gatwick to Pisa, breakfast and private transfers.

Down on southern Italy's Amalfi Coast, the vertical little town of Positano oozes appeal. Set high on the cliffs, the discreetly fashionable Il San Pietro di Positano hotel offers stunning views and serene service. The 62 rooms have private terraces and sea views; the restaurant, spilling outdoors, has a Michelin star; and the private beach and tennis court are dramatically accessed from the lobby via a lift whose shaft was carved through the rock. Elegant Resorts (01244 897 515; www.elegantresorts.co.uk) offers three nights with breakfast from £745 per person, including flights from Gatwick to Naples and private transfers.

Further up the coast, just outside Sorrento, Maison la Minervetta is a glorious new boutique hotel. It is owned and run by the Cacace family, and feels more like a private villa than a hotel. The 12 rooms are furnished in strong colours, and each has floor-to-ceiling windows with jaw-dropping views over the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius. A week's stay costs from £935 per person including breakfast through Sunvil Discovery (020-8758 4722; www.sunvil.co.uk). This also covers flights from Gatwick to Naples and private transfers.

ISLAND CHIC?

Three miles off the Sorrento peninsula, the tiny island of Capri combines natural drama, gracious villas, beautiful gardens and more. With the ebb and flow of fashion, its sheen of glamour has become a little tarnished of late, but the venerable Grand Hotel Quisisana is beyond such vagaries. Dating from 1845, this supremely elegant establishment in Capri town is the place to stay, with its chandeliers, piano bar, fabulous views, and 150 dreamy, creamy rooms. Aspire (0845 345 9096; www.aspireholidays.co.uk) offers a week here from £1,190 per person, including flights from Gatwick to Naples, transfers by private car and hydrofoil, and breakfast.

Sicily, meanwhile, has been enjoying a boost in popularity, in part fuelled by its increased accessibility. British Airways and Air Malta offer flights from Gatwick and Stansted respectively to Catania, on the island's east coast, while Ryanair has a service from Stansted to the capital, Palermo.

The largest island in the Mediterranean also boasts stunning beauty, a rich array of architecture, superb sandy beaches and Europe's highest active volcano. The grandest hotel on Sicily is the San Domenico Palace, built as a monastery in the 15th century and still looking the part, from the outside that is. Situated in the little town of Taormina, it offers mesmerising views of Mount Etna. CV Travel (0870 606 0803; www.cvtravel.co.uk) offers a week there for £770 per person, including accommodation with breakfast and British Airways flights from Gatwick to Catania. The offer is valid until the second week in April. Exclusive holidays in Sicily can also be arranged by the Italy specialist Lanza & Baucina (020-7738 2222; www.lanzabaucina.com), including luxurious villa accommodation and private viewings of palaces, churches and art collections.

I'D LIKE TO SAIL AWAY...

Then head for the island of Sardinia, with its spectacular cliffs, wonderful beaches, tree-clad mountains and mysterious Nuraghic Age remains, including some strange cone towers. At Il Porto marina in Santa Teresa, on the northern tip, you can charter a yacht through Just Sardinia (01202 484858; www.justsardinia.co.uk). From there, you can sail around the chic Costa Smeralda, and then explore quieter, wilder reaches of the coastline. A week's bare-boat charter costs from £678 for a four-berth yacht (for which clients need to fax over a Yachtmaster certificate when booking). Those without the requisite yachting qualifications can hire a skipper for a week for an additional €1,000 (£700) plus board. The nearest airport to Santa Teresa is Olbia, served by easyJet from Gatwick.

Alternatively, in Venice there's a real treat in store: a luxury cruise on board a bragozzo, complete with brightly coloured sails. Traditionally, these flat-bottomed wooden boats were used for fishing in the lagoon, but the beautifully refitted Eolo (00 39 49 807 8032; www.cruisingvenice.com) now offers comfortable living quarters and superb cuisine. Itineraries range from day trips to the islands in the north of the lagoon (minimum six guests at €330/£236 each, including lunch or dinner) to three- and eight-day cruises, during which you eat on board and stay in hotels along the way (minimum six guests with all-inclusive fare of €2,000/£1,428 and €5,800/£4,142 respectively).

SHOP TILL YOU DROP

The first two weeks of January and July is when the sales are on in Milan, so a good time for hitting the Golden Quadrangle - the fashion heaven of Chanel, Prada, Versace, Armani and more, contained by vias Montenapoleone, Sant'Andrea, della Spiga and Manzoni. And, when you're laden with glossy bags, the city also has some extraordinary boutique hotels. Luxury goods house Bulgari opened one back in May 2004 (00 39 02 805 8051; www.bulgarihotels.com; doubles around €590/£421). As might be expected, the luxury here is expansive: the 52 bedrooms, in neutral shades, have oak flooring and teak balconies; the huge bathrooms have flamboyant flourishes such as black marble and granite tubs. Facilities include a restaurant attracting Milan's beautiful people and a spa with a gold and green mosaic swimming pool.

THE ULTIMATE ESCAPE

Down on the southern "heel" of Italy, Puglia was being heralded as the new Tuscany (or was it the new Umbria?) last year - although this sunny region is rather wilder. With British Airways now flying from Gatwick to Bari, and Ryanair from Stansted to Bari and Brindisi, accessibility is a big draw. As is accommodation: the area is dotted with trulli, traditional limestone dwellings with conical roofs, which have been converted for holiday use. Long Travel (01694 722367; www.long-travel.co.uk) has many such unusual properties, including the restored Trullo Noce, an hour from Brindisi and Bari, yet wonderfully rural. The one bedroom, kitchen and sitting/dining room are simply yet elegantly furnished, and there's a pretty terrace with superb views. A week's stay costs from £695 per person (based on two sharing) including car hire but without flights.

WHEN IN ROMAN ARENAS...

There's nothing quite like seeing grand opera in some of the world's most renowned venues - and taking in the other glorious aspects of Italy at the same time. In April, Travel for the Arts (020-8799 8350; www.travelforthearts.co.uk) offers a particularly appealing five-day trip to see Tosca at La Scala in Milan and The Magic Flute at La Fenice in Venice. The price, from £1,495 per person, includes flights from Heathrow to Milan and back from Venice; four nights' accommodation in four-star hotels; sightseeing tours; transfers; and top category tickets for the two performances.

One of the most majestic settings for opera is the Roman arena in Verona, whose ever-popular festival takes place this year between 24 June and 27 August. Wine specialist Arblaster and Clarke (01730 893344; www.winetours.co.uk) is organising a wine and opera tour to Verona from 4-7 August.

The cost of £999 per person includes three nights' accommodation at the four-star Giberti Hotel, three visits to wine estates (with lunch) and a night at the opera - you choose between Carmen, Madame Butterfly or Aida.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference