What to do in the Italian hot summertime: from Amalfi to Venice
It’s the season to enjoy la dolce vita, whether driving the Amalfi Coast, watching the sunrise in Venice or sailing in Apulia. Here are the best 5 experiences under the Italian sun.
1. Drive along the Amalfi Coast
The Strada Statale 163, unofficially known as the Amalfi Coast drive is a sublime 35-mile route along the coast of the Sorrento Peninsula. On the way you’ll pass green hills rising from a balmy sea, fishing villages built at 45-degree angles and ancient monasteries high in the cliffs. Start in Salerno, stopping by at the 11th-century cathedral to pray for safe passage on the road ahead. Heading west, the windiest sections arrive after Amalfi – a small town once home to a medieval seafaring empire. Take a detour up the hill to Ravello, where Wagner once found inspiration for his pure, noble knight Parsifal. A spectacular stretch of road wiggles among olive groves and tiny bays to Positano, before heading across the peninsula to reach Sorrento.
2. See Venice at first light
Most visitors to Italy’s most beautiful city wake up only after its thoroughfares are clogged with tourists. Follow the example of the city’s bin men and you won’t fall into such a trap. Every day they cast off in their bin boats in the pre-dawn light, sailing through an empty city few others get to see – a place of silent and deserted piazzas, towers and spires illuminated in soft morning light. Begin with the busiest tourist bottleneck – St Mark’s Square – likely empty but for bin men and perhaps some pigeons, then proceed to the Rialto Bridge and potter through the ancient San Polo district, passing the Rialto market, where traders should soon be arriving for the day’s work.
3. Learn Bologna’s culinary rules
Bologna is both a culinary and academic capital – a home to boisterous cafés and the world’s oldest university. It’s the perfect place to understand the complex rules governing Italian eating and drinking. Begin the day with a robust coffee outside one of the cafés set off the grand square, Piazza Maggiore – the smart, minimalist Caffe Terzi is a good choice. Work up an appetite with a saunter around Bologna’s cobbled medieval core, scouting out a suitable spot for lunch. Try tagliatelle al ragù.
4. Walk the Roman passeggiata (walk)
In Rome, a popular route follows Via Del Corso north to the Piazza del Popolo – passing under the long shadow of the Egyptian obelisk at the centre of the square – before ascending stone steps to the Pincian Hill. At the top, public gardens are shaded by tall pines and swaying palms, with solemn classical statues and ponds full of paddling terrapins. More impressive than all this, however, is the view: a prospect over rooftops, domes and towers into the Roman sunset, with the silhouette of the Vatican rising in the distance. For a quieter but equally magnificent view, take a walk up leafy boulevards to the Janiculum Hill, south of the Vatican: standing at the top, you’ll see the city skyline framed by the leafy mass of Rome’s botanical gardens. From here, it’s an easy amble downhill to osterias and trattorias among the rambling streets of the Trastevere district, ending your passeggiata the time-honoured way: with a long, lazy, al-fresco dinner.
5. Sail the coast of Puglia
The Promontorio del Gargano is a landmass of chalky coloured precipices bulging out into the Adriatic, which was once connected to what is now Croatia. The town beaches can get rather busy in high summer, but the surrounding coastline (both north and south of town) stays quiet. To get there, make for the town’s port: Centro Ormeggi e Sub leases out boats of various shapes and sizes by the hour or by the day. Set a course south, and within a few minutes you’ll find yourself along the shores of the Parco Nazionale del Gargano, a reserve where the forests are home to roving deer and wild cats, and copses of Aleppo pine and oak reach right down to the coastal coves.