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Five fantastic reasons to visit Italy in 2019

With landmark celebrations, a new capital of culture and some exciting changes in the hotel world, make 2019 the year you visit Italy.

Italy – where the Bellini’s are peachy, the people are passionate, and the art is classical. Beyond the headline attractions lie countless charms just as likely to make you swoon. Spend time in the colourful cliff-side towns of the Amalfi Coast, or exploring the remains of ash-preserved Pompeii, or sampling the wonderful wine of Piedmont’s vineyards.

Although you’re spoilt for choice wherever and whatever time you go, 2019 promises to be special. Here are five reasons to visit Italy this year.

 

To visit Matera, Europe’s capital of culture

Declared the 2019 European Capital of Culture, Matera deserves a spot on your itinerary. This city of honey-hued stone cascades down a canyon in Basilicata, Southern Italy, and is a lovely place to get lost.

It’s perhaps most famous for its ancient cave dwellings, some of which have even been converted into accommodation. These caves and the city’s historic centre – together called Sassi di Matera – were deservingly awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1993.

Time your visit to Matera for the beginning of July to join the locals in celebrating Festa della Madonna Bruna. There’s a lively procession, fireworks and street parties to enjoy. 

 

To mark Leonardo da Vinci’s 500th anniversary

Florence, Italy, Europe

It’s 500 years since the death of Leonardo da Vinci – the epitome of the Renaissance master. So what better time and place to delve into this monumental figure’s life and work?

In Milan, stop by the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie where Da Vinci’s mural “The Last Supper” is still in pride of place. The famous piece depicting Jesus and his disciples was painted directly onto the refectory wall. Then head down the road to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, which holds 1,000 pages of Da Vinci’s “Codex Atlanticus”, brimming with inventions, sketches and philosophical musings. The Ambrosiana also houses his handsome oil painting, “Portrait of a Musician”.

If you’re in Florence, the Uffizi gallery showcases a handful of his paintings, including “Baptism of Christ” – painted with his mentor Verrochio. Or, if you’re in Venice, visit the Gallerie dell’Accademia to see Da Vinci’s iconic drawing “The Vetruvian Man”.

 

To join the carnival

 

On the subject of the City of Masks, the Venice Carnival 2019 takes place between 16 February and 5 March. Venetians adorned in dazzling costumes will take to the streets, stages and ballrooms of the city – just as they have done since the 12th century. To get you into the spirit of the event, we can arrange a Venetian mask-making workshop with a master mascareri. Or perhaps another of our Venice experiences takes your fancy? We can easily build them into your tailor-made itinerary.

In the Tuscan seaside city of Viareggio, the carnival is less about masks and more about floats – floats carrying enormous, elaborate caricatures. The annual event sees parades of costumed dancers and performers guiding these huge creations through the streets. Scheduled for 9 February - 5 March, Viareggio Carnival 2019 is sure to be a spectacle unlike any other.

 

To embrace slow tourism

Umbria, Italy

You may have heard about slow food, and slow TV, but what about slow tourism? It takes travel back to its simplest form – no rush, no stress, just the time and space to explore at your pace.

In 2016, the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities gave its support to the movement by mapping a network – or ‘atlas’ – of scenic walking paths stretching across Italy. More paths were added in 2017 and 2018. The routes cross 500 points of interest, from UNESCO World Heritage Sites to charming villages tucked away in the countryside. Why not make 2019 the year you explore Italy slowly? Pull on your walking boots, or hop on a bike, and follow a path to a more immersive travel experience.

 

To stay somewhere new

There are some luxurious properties new and refurbished to tempt you abroad this year, and Italy is no exception.

Lake Como’s Casta Diva Resort has been taken over by Mandarin Oriental, and is set to re-open in spring 2019 following a refurbishment. The property – renamed Mandarin Oriental, Lago di Como –  will feature 73 rooms spread between seven villas, as well as two private villas with views over Lake Como.

In Rome, just around the corner from the Spanish Steps and Villa Borghese, lies Hotel Eden Rome. The popular property just opened after a 17-month renovation, so even if you’ve stayed here before, you can expect a step up in luxury.

Likewise, Hotel Savoy in Florence has been refurbished with a large investment from owners Rocco Forte. Centrally located on the Piazza della Repubblica, stay here to be a short walk from many of Florence’s most famous buildings.