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How to Plan a Romantic Italian Getaway
Whether you’re a newlywed, married for twenty years, or just casually dating, a trip to Italy will supply romance in spades. When planning your romantic getaway, consider going to ancient metropolises, such as Venice or Milan, touring the countryside of Tuscany or southern Italy, or soaking in the sun on the Amalfi or Cilento coasts. While most would say that these places are innately romantic, you can deepen the romance by booking boutique accommodations, frequenting intimate restaurants, and visiting historical landmarks and beautiful landscapes that are off the beaten track.
Enjoying Italy’s Ancient Cities
Schedule a trip in the tourist offseason.Italy’s ancient cities are invariably exciting, gorgeous, and mysterious, but they’re also perpetually besieged by flocks of tourists. Fortunately, you can limit the amount of camera-toting, street-clogging tourists disrupting your tete-a-tete time by booking your stay during the spring or late autumn.
- The peak tourist season is from June to September. Avoid August in particular, as native Italians join the hordes of international tourists on holiday, and temperatures linger consistently in the 90s.
Book a romantic, boutique hotel.Just because you’re going to the bright lights, big city, doesn’t mean you have to book a big, generic hotel. Popular Italian metropolises, such as Venice, Florence, Milan, and Rome, are overflowing with boutique hotels where you’ll feel all the charm of an Italian villa. For example, the 16th-century Ca Maria Adele in Venice boasts only twelve rooms and its own, private entrance to the Grand Canal.
- You can also check out alternate accommodation sites, such as Airbnb or vrbo. You and your partner will be all alone together, but you’ll also be responsible for such prosaic chores as buying groceries, cooking, and cleaning up after yourselves.
Inquire about special packages or bonuses for couples.Once you’ve selected a hotel for your getaway, contact guest services and ask about any exclusive, couples-specific rates or packages. Even if they don’t offer any discounts for romantic retreats, they might provide special extras, such as flowers or champagne delivered to the room, spa or massage services, or custom keepsakes from your stay.
Dine in off-the-beaten-path restaurants and cafes.You’ve probably heard of such legendary establishments as Harry’s Bar in Venice, the Camparino in Galleria in Milan, or the Antico Caffe Greco in Rome. While these historic dining and drinking venues are worth a glance, the packed, noisy atmosphere is less-than-conducive to an intimate evening, so plan instead on eating and drinking at local alternatives.
- For example, pop into Harry’s Dolci for a bellini in Venice, spend an evening at Fonderie Milanesie in Milan, or have a glass of wine at the Vintage Bistrot in Rome.
Stroll the shops on ancient, winding streets.Browsing quaint Italian shops and finding unique gifts for each other—be they vintage knickknacks, sumptuous jewelry, or Italian designer clothing—can be a great way to create memorable romance. In addition to the upscale shopping streets such as Via Monte Napeleone in Milan or Mercerie in Venice, you can check out quaint, bohemian boutiques in Milan’s Brera district, the San Polo neighborhood in Venice, or the Campo de Fiori neighborhood in Rome.
- Check exchange rates ahead of time so that you know exactly what that price tag—as part of the European Union, Italy uses the euro—means in your native currency.
Wait for late-night hours to visit busy tourist squares and bridges.Just because you’re looking for an intimate vibe to your urban wanderings, doesn’t mean that you have to skip the famous sights and landmarks entirely. Simply wait until nightfall—9 p.m. or after—to stroll notoriously crowded places such as St. Mark’s square or the Accademia Bridge in Venice. You’ll find these gorgeous spaces not only nearly empty, but also filled with romantic lighting and mysterious atmosphere.
- The same goes for any museums or galleries you’re hoping to visit. Many popular tourist attractions offer late-evening or nighttime hours on specific days during the week, so check out the late-night options before battling the throngs.
Find alternatives to tourist trap destinations.When thinking about famously romantic activities in Italy, you probably envision floating down Venetian canals in a gondola, sipping wine on a sidewalk café, or surveying the cityscape from La Pergola restaurant in Rome or Campanile di San Marco tower in Venice. Unfortunately, the long lines and steep prices of these attractions can drain the romance right out of your day.
- Avoid these popular pitfalls by planning to visit less-famous alternatives to these tourist traps. For example, check out the San Giorgio Maggiore bell tower in Venice rather than the Campanile di San Marco, or venture to the couples-friendly, local-favorite Gianicolo Hill vista rather than jostling for a table at La Pergola.
Discovering the Countryside of Italy
Plan a route through Tuscany or Umbria.If you’re more country mouse than city mouse, consider taking a tour through the rolling hills and small villages of the Italian countryside. Both Umbria and Tuscany offer the best and most romantic attractions that Italy has to offer—spectacular scenery, wine, and medieval landmarks—but there are some differences that can help you make your choice between them.
- If you’re looking for a more off-the-beaten-path experience and overall lower prices, head to Umbria. If you’re looking for some beach time and a wine-weighty experience, go for Tuscany.
Book a rental car.Many tourists take organized bus tours through Tuscany or Umbria, but for a romantic getaway, you’re better off renting a car for the two of you. This way your trip is full of tete-a-tete quality time, as well as easily customizable and flexible. Use a big rental company like Avis, Hertz, Europcar, or Maggiore/National and pick up your car from the airport when you arrive.
- Remember to account for fuel costs in your travel budget, as gasoline prices in Italy are among the highest in Europe at up to two euros a liter (around nine or ten dollars a gallon).
- Also take some time to educate yourself on the Italian road system before you arrive. You should know, for example, that the autostrade are toll roads, that city speed limits are 50 km/hr and 110 km/hr on the autostrade, and that all cars and motorcycles must use headlights at all times when outside of the city.
Make reservations for winery tastings.Most of the wineries in Tuscany and Umbria let you stop by for casual, impromptu tastings, but you should make reservations if you want a more in-depth experience. Pick a few wineries that seem particularly interesting and make arrangements before departing. Some must-see wineries in Tuscany include Biondi Santi, Casiglion del Bosco, and Castello di Ama, while Di Filippo Winery and Cantina Roccafiore wineries in Umbria offer delicious drinks and stunning scenery.
- Call ahead or visit the specific winery’s website in order to make reservations. Most wineries offer a range of tastings, from some basic options where you simply sample some varietals, to more deluxe excursions where you tour the estates and facilities and eat some house-provided cheese and cured meats.
- In order to avoid the perils of drinking and driving, arrange for a shuttle or taxi from and returning to your overnight accommodation.
Include world-famous olive groves in your itinerary.Wine vineyards aren’t the only picturesque farms and estates to visit on your tour of the Italian countryside. Olives and olive oil are one of Tuscany and Umbria’s most valuable exports, and you can get an inside peek at the gorgeous groves by stopping in and taking tours of the olive farms which dot the countryside. As an added bonus, many of these farms include intimate, gourmet restaurants on-site, so you can stay for a romantic dinner after your tour.
- For example, you can witness the process of olive oil production, as well as tour surrounding Etruscan pathways, at the Ilune farmhouse in Tuscany. In Umbria, you can visit the Pongelli Benedettoni estates, where 220 hectares hold 5,000 organically grown olive trees.
- Fall is harvest season for olive farmers, so this is the best time to visit Italy’s olive groves.
Stop overnight in quaint Italian villages.The Tuscan and Umbrian countryside offer a plethora of romantic, boutique hotels. Just be sure to plan your stay ahead of time, as these modestly sized getaways book up quickly and consistently. Some particularly romantic options to consider include the medieval villa of Borgo Santo Pietro in Tuscany, and the Torre di Moravola—housed in a restored medieval watchtower—in Umbria.
- You can also check out the wineries and olive farms you’re planning to visit, as many of these estates offer accommodations for travelers.
Relaxing on the Coast
Choose a gorgeous Italian seaside, such as the Amalfi or Cilento coast.Italy is chock-full of scenic beaches, so your biggest problem once you’ve decided to get away to the coast is figuring out which one to visit in particular. The Amalfi coast is arguably the most famous and luxurious Italian getaway of this kind, but your other options include Lake Como, or the less-known but equally gorgeous Cilento coast.
- When making your choice among Italy’s coastlines, consider factors such as budget, crowds, and activities. If you’re looking for a resort vibe with tons of foreign tourists, shopping, and sunbathing, as well as historical sites such as the ruins of Pompeii, go Amalfi. If you want a less crowded, budget-friendly escape, opt for Cilento.
Find cozy hotels with access to private beaches.No matter which coastline you visit, there will be plenty of beach and sun for even the most avid sunbather. Your romantic, sun-soaked experience can be easily ruined by ice cream-waving, screaming toddlers or rowdy teenagers, though, so book a small hotel with private pools and beaches. The Santa Caterina in Amalfi, for example, offers its own beach club and bar, and honeymoon suites contain private infinity pools.
- On the Cilento coast, the Palazzo Belmonte and Il Cannito offer private beaches for their guests.
Rent bikes to tour the surrounding landscape in private.Guided bike tours along the Amalfi and Cilento coasts are extremely popular, as they offer a budget-friendly, fun, and active way to explore the coast and take in the stunning, panoramic views of the coastline. For your romantic getaway experience, you can take in all the untouched sights and sounds without the distraction of a guided tour by renting bikes on a daily or weekly basis.
- Consult online cycling groups and forums for sample itineraries and must-see landmarks. On the Amalfi coast, you won’t want to miss the ruins of Pompeii on your cycling tour. In Cilento, be sure to stop by Paestum—one of the oldest Greek temple ruins in the world—and one of the many buffalo mozzarella farms dotting the coastline.
Picnic on the coast instead of eating at crowded cafes.Instead of paying top dollar to sit on crowded terrace overlooking the sea, you can make your own, intimate picnic for a fraction of the cost. Buy a bottle of wine, a baguette, cheese, and prosciutto, and pick a spot on the rocks with a view. Voila, you’ve got your own, private restaurant.
- In Italy, a decent bottle of wine should cost you no more than 5-10 euros, while bread, cheese, cured meats, and olives are priced equally reasonably.
Watch the sunset from mountaintop vistas or scenic boat rides.The Italian coasts boast some of the most jaw-dropping and romance-stirring sunsets in the world. Make sure you get first-row seats to this nightly spectacular by perching on a marina dock or beach, sitting on your hotel room’s balcony, or hiking to a cliff-side vista, such as the Villa Communale in Sorrento.You can also hire a private boat to take you for a sunset cruise.
- In September and October, the sun sets between 6 and 7:30 p.m., while summertime will have a later sunset.
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