The top ten must-do must-see in Italy

Stay in a trullo in Puglia, cycle along the Sicilian coast, or just chill out in the Dolomites. Claudia Pritchard uncovers what's new for travellers to Italy


1 . The streets are paved with art

You do not have to be a believer to appreciate the devotion, skill and sheer beauty of the religious art that dominates the vast collection of the newly extended Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria housed, since 1878, in the Palazzo dei Priori on Perugia's main thoroughfare, the Corso Vannucci. The street itself is dedicated to one of the artists whose works are among highlights of the 40 rooms arranged over two floors, some of the space recently reclaimed from administrative offices so that more pieces than ever before are on view. The innovative work of Pietro Vannucci, better known as Perugino, is hung beside paintings by Arnolf di Cambio, the Pisanos (father Nicola and son Giovanni), Duccio di Buoninsegna, Gentile da Fabriano, Fra Angelico, Orazio Gentileschi and Piero della Francesca. Start on the fourth floor and work down to the third, where the stars of the show are in Rooms 22 to 26. Perugino's Madonna della Consolazione (1496-1498), is one of the prizes.

Contact: Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, Corso Vannucci, Perugia. Admission: 8.30am-7.30pm, Tues-Sun. Closed 1 May, Christmas, New Year's Day; adults €6.50 (£4.40), free for under-18s and over-65s (00 39 075 574 1410; gallerianazionaleumbria.it/info-generali.html).

2 . A dazzling new hotel

If the chandelier at the Hotel Wagner in Palermo looks familiar, that is because it is a dazzling feature of the great ballroom scene in the film of The Leopard, in which Burt Lancaster brought to screen the character of Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina, created by Lampedusa in his personal tale of fading nobility in a changing, newly democratic Sicily. Such lavish details are characteristic of this restored palazzo of the early 1900s, just opened as a hotel in its latest incarnation; it started life as a private family home and has passed from hand to hand. There are 50 rooms, 12 suites, a gym and a rooftop terrace. Named after the composer who stayed in Palermo to preside over opera seasons in 1881 and 1882, the hotel enjoys a close relationship with the nearby Teatro Massimo, with special offers for a ticket and overnight stay.

Contact: Grand Hotel Wagner, Via R Wagner2, 90139 Palermo (00 39 091 336572; grandhotelwagner.it). Double rooms start at €210 (£150) to €450 (£320) for a Senior Suite per night, based on two sharing, and including breakfast.

3 . Take a trulli round trip

The restoration of traditional trulli is a passion for Ray and Angie Long, whose travel company features several of these eye-catching conical clusters for self-catering in Puglia. New on the books this year are Trullo Mandorla and Trullo Zingaro, two "semi-detached" homes that can be taken individually, or that could be taken by friends or family travelling together. The circular buildings can only be restored in accordance with strict planning restrictions about dimensions and materials. Local trullisti specialise in recreating the intricately layered roofs, while walls up to a metre thick are reconstructed with a local limestone hand-cut to size. Mandorla has two double bedrooms, Zingaro, one double bedroom. Both overlook gardens studded with fruit trees and nut trees, and have views of open country. The trulli are two kilometres from the historic town of Cisternino, on a hill between the Adriatic coast and Itrai valley. Like the more famous Alberobello, the area surrounding Cisternino is dotted with dazzlingly white trulli, but is much less touristy. Sights include the Norma Porta Grande. Wood-burning stoves and mosquito nets are on standby, depending on the weather.

Contact: Prices at Trullo Mandorla and Trullo Zingaro start from £695 per property, per week, including car hire, through Long Travel (01694 722367; long-travel.co.uk). Nearest airports are Brindisi and Bari; Long Travel can arrange flights from £161.

4 . Take your seats in the garden

Palladio's neoclassical basilica presides over the waterfront on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, just across the water from St Mark's Square. But those who venture further inland on the Venetian island come across an unexpected moment of magic, an open-air theatre buried in the heart of a cypress garden. First built in 1954, the theatre comes back to life this summer with a programme of cultural events for the summer prefaced by seven performances a week of Strauss's three-act operetta, A Night in Venice. The womanising Duke of Urbino is bent on making some notable conquests during carnival, but the Venetian society he hopes to break into has other plans for him.

Contact: Teatro Verde, Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore. A Night in Venice: Tues-Sun at 9.30pm and also at 5pm on Sat and Sun. Tickets: €59-€99 (£40-£67), plus €79 (£53) for a VIP package which includes fizz and canapes, programme, CD, and access to an exclusive area.

5 . Get about the green way

A two-centre holiday does not have to involve double the flying. The greener option, and certainly the more relaxing, is to go by ferry from destination A to destination B. Among many new routes in an expanding travel market this year is a service from Barcelona to Rome launched by the Spanish line Acciona Trasmediterranea last month. The boat leaves six nights out of seven at 7pm and the crossing takes 20 hours, docking at Civitavecchia, where a minibus speeds passengers into the heart of Rome in around an hour. Also new to the water is the Venezia Lines high-speed ferry from Bari to Durres in Albania, which makes the crossing in three and a half hours, cutting the car ferry's time by at least half. Corsica and Sardinia Ferries has new routes from Savona to Calvi in Corsica, and Piombino to Golfo Aranci in Sardinia.

Contact: Visit ferrylines. com for new and existing routes throughout Europe and beyond.

6 . Breath five-star mountain air

Get maximum value from the pure mountain air at the new five-star Alpenpalace Hotel and Spa resort in San Giovanni di Valle Aurina, also known as St Johann in Arhntal, in the Alto Adige/South Tyrol. Bracing walks in the Dolomites come free; the many other outdoor activities on offer include paragliding, horse-riding, fishing and golf. The spa itself offers open-air and indoor swimming pools, children's pool and whirlpool, sauna, Tyrolean stube, Turkish bath, herb and salt-water bath, solarium and beauty treatments. Then you can undo all the good work with a five or seven-course blowout. All the comfortably appointed rooms have balconies with views.

Contact: Alpenpalace Hotel and Spa, 1-39030 St Johann in Arhntal (00 39 0474 670230; alpenpalace.com). Room and breakfast costs from €99 (£67) per person, based on two sharing, Wellness packages from €114 (£77).

7 . Slow down and taste the food

Eataly is the name of a culinary initiative in Turin designed to introduce local people and visitors alike to fine food at affordable prices and also, in collaboration with the Slow Food movement, to reintroduce some of the traditional methods lost in the fast pace of city life. Opened in February after four years of planning, Eataly is, appropriately, in the old Carpano vermouth factory, a listed building on Via Nizza. There is also a vermouth museum on the site. Masterclasses are given by chefs who will share professional tips on cooking with lamb, for example, or peppers, and there is a main gourmet restaurant and a number of specialist eateries dedicated to fish, meat, cold meats, ice cream, bread and pasta. Also on offer from small outlets are at least 14 types of bread, 200 cheeses, 50 types of coffee and wine from €1.80 a litre.

Contact: Eataly, Via Nizza 230, Turin (00 39 011 19 50 6811; eatalytorino.it), Tues-Sun.

8 . A tribute to Carlo Ponti

Sophia Loren honours her husband of 50 years, the film director Carlo Ponti, in the opening ceremony of the Tuscan Sun Festival in Cortona in a concert conducted by her son Carlo Ponti Jnr. The film actress scored a triumph for Italian women and older women everywhere posing for January in this year's Pirelli Calendar at the age of 72. Less well known is her work in therapy for young people through the arts, in association with the Russian National Orchestra. The orchestra is conducted by Carlo Ponti Jnr on Saturday 4 August in the Piazza Signorelli, with Nina Kotova, cello soloist, featuring in a programme to be announced. Full details come at the end of the month, when booking opens. Also appearing at the Tuscan Sun Festival are the pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, first as soloist with the Russian orchestra and then in recital with mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager, violinist Joshua Bell and the Takas Quartet at the Teatro Signorelli. Art, literature and the table are also celebrated in Cortona, where accommodation books up quickly during the festival fortnight. Early birds do best.

Contact: Tuscan Sun Festival, 4-19 August, Corona, Tuscany (00 39 338 6966 231; festivaldelsole.com).

9. Culture, and make it quick

Italy without opera would be as unthinkable as Italy without football, but productions can be a long drawn-out affair for the time-strapped tourist. Piccola Lirica addresses that with its pocket-sized productions that are all over in 90 minutes.Its Tosca is at the Teatro Flaiano until 27 May. Contact: Teatro Flaiano, Via San Stefano del Cacco 15, 00186 Rome (00 39 679 6496, Thursday to Sunday; piccolalirica.com).

10. Coast along on your bike

Work off Sicily's Arabian-influenced dishes between destinations by cycling along the west coast. Headwater has launched its new cycle holiday and you can set out most Saturdays in April, May and June, and again in September and October. Contact: Sicily Coastal Cycling with Headwater, (01606 720033; headwater.com). From £1,054 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights from Heathrow to Palermo via Milan and half-board.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Arts and Entertainment
Pink Floyd on stage at Live 8 in 2005. From left to right: David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright
music New album The Endless River set to overtake boyband for most pre-ordered of all-time
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
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

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right