Italy — art, pizza, popes, fashion, and gangsters right? Well, up to a point. With its fabulous Renaissance heritage, inimitable sense of style, big Tuscan landscapes and brash cities, Italy does do flashiness rather well.
But there’s another side this most complex of countries — an Italy of quiet beauty, and relaxed ease. Metro pinpoints three of Italy’s best kept secrets.
Occupying most of the heel of Italy, Apulia offers pristine beaches, fascinating architecture, and some of the most productive and delicious vineyards in the country (which produces one in 10 of the glasses of wine drank in Europe). Blissfully free of Euro-hordes who head for Tuscany, for city stuff don’t miss the Graeco Roman beauty of Lecce (especially Santa Croce) and for beaches try Marina di Pescoluse known locally as Little Maldives.
Sort of the where the laces would be on the boot of Italy, this isolated and mountainous region south of Salerno has a coastline far more beautiful than that of the better-known Amalfi to the north. The vast Cilens and contains some of Europe’s most breathtaking landscapes. Ancient remains, medieval monasteries, Renaissance palaces, and Baroque churches can be found in abundance in this truly unspoiled region. Best beaches are tucked into the rugged terrain around Palinuro. Best Italy experience is at Maratea — a tiny cluster of houses with more churches than bars. It’s more Italian than a spaghetti bolognese served by an opera singer driving a Fiat.
Ponza and the Pontine Islands
Had enough of historical ruins? Then the Pontine Islands, the favoured chill-out zone of major fashionistas Fendi and Valentino, are for you. Visitors to these tiny islands just off the coast of Lazio are almost 100 per cent Italian and they make relaxation into an art form.
It’s basically a beach/scuba/ sailing deal but the scale (the largest island Ponza has only 300 residents) gives it a fabulously exclusive feel.
For beaches try Chiaia di Luna, connected to Ponza town by a 55 metre Roman tunnel through solid rock. Or hire a boat and find a private beach among the many that fringe the islands.