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La Dolce Vita: 10 Luxury Experiences in Italy

Leafy neighborhoods in Milan and Rome hide grand townhouses moments from Roman ruins and chic designer stores, ancient cities like Lecce and Florence boast unique characters, defined by thousands of years of culture while striking masked dancers waltz alongside picturesque canals en route to grand masquerades in Venice. Whether you want to luxuriate in a spa on one of Italy’s fabulous islands, watch sunsets drip over Tuscan hills, or simply find the best fashions in Milan, consider this your guide for the best luxury experiences in Italy.

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Imbibe the History and Cuisine of Rome

There are few cities on earth with such an enduring legacy as Rome. Like an open-air museum, its streets offer ornate palaces, 2000-year-old temples, and the magnificent colosseum, plus enigmatic ruins, ancient monuments, beautiful churches, and attractive neighborhoods filled with olive oil-scented trattorias. Some of Italy’s best hotels are in Rome, but then so are some of its best foods and wine, its best stories, and some of its most inspiring landmarks. Walk the sights of classical Rome and the Vatican City, eat Pasta alla Gricia with a vino rosso in a laidback Osteria in Trastevere, or journey just beyond the city walls to sample the local-loved delicacies of San Lorenzo.

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Luxuriate on White Sand Beaches in Sardinia

Sardinia’s white sand beaches are amongst the best you’ll find without leaving Europe but its attractive interiors are lush with forests, rendering it ideal for outdoor adventures across land and sea. In-land treks are fascinating, with ruins such as the Nuragic village of Tiscali dating back to the 15th and 8th centuries BC, while sublime hikes through the oak forests and Gola Su Gorropu canyon show off the country’s wildest side. But it’s the sea that calls for attention on Sardinia. And divers answer it at the Grotta di Nereo off the eastern coast, windsurfers along the wind-strewn northern shore, and sun worshipers …well, they can go almost anywhere. The beach at La Pelosa is stunning with its offshore castle rising from the middle of crystal clear waters, and its breathtaking white sands offer the gentlest, most inviting of slopes into the Mediterranean. 

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Small Town Charm in the Italian Riviera

A crescent strip of land separating the south of France from Tuscany, the Italian Riviera is one of Italy’s most iconic stretches of coast. The 5 small towns of the Cinque Terre are arguably some of the coast’s most recognizable, with houses painted in eye-catching shades of yellow, pink, and red sprouting from the cliffs, toppling towards rugged coves lapped by the aquamarine waters of the Ligurian Sea. But perhaps the Riviera’s finest luxury destination is Portofino, a tiny town built around an indented natural cove of tranquil cerulean waters, filled with world-class restaurants, luxury boutiques, and view-sprinkled walks over the cliffs. The largest city is Genoa, at its heart, a charming old town with a good selection of luxury hotels, useful if you’re looking for a base, and there’s a chic marina lined with super yachts year-round.

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Choose Milan for Luxury Shopping

While Milan’s Duomo is one of Italy’s prettiest, and the luxury hotels, restaurants, and bars are some of its most impressive, where Milan truly excels is in its shopping: especially if you’re seeking out high fashion and legendary Italian craftsmanship. Click your heels to the Quadrilatero d’Oro – or the Golden Quadrilateral, to shop for local stars Versace and Berluti, or French icons Dior. Head indoors to window shop in the Gallerie Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, with its stunning glass-roofed, 4-story arcade home to Prada and Gucci… amongst others. For antiques and trinkets interspersed with art galleries and independent boutiques, go north to bohemian Brera, or if you’re hoping to take back a bottle of wine to sip in your Milanese hotel, select something from historic Enoteca Cotti’s 1,000+ bottles.

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A Luxury Life on Capri

Just off the west coast of the Sorrento Peninsula, and filled with exquisite beaches, stately hotels, luxurious spas, and lush vegetation, Capri is one of Italy’s most enchanting luxury destinations. Sail Capri (or take a boat trip) and you’ll find idyllic coves cut into limestone cliffs rising from an unimaginable azure sea. Luxury villas draped with wisteria provide 5-star sanctums with sea views and al fresco fine dining scented by lemon trees, and a trove of yachts punctuate the horizon with ballooning sails, blowing into hidden beaches. Take a chairlift to the summit of Monte Solaro for vistas over the island, including views of the iconic Faraglioni rocks from above.

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Explore the Tuscan Countryside

Tuscany’s sublime countryside aesthetic is instantly recognizable: all rolling hills punctuated by cypress trees and a burning orange sunset, giving way to attractive villages like San Gimignano with its skyline of medieval towers, unchanged for centuries. But Tuscany’s cities are iconic, boasting some of Italy’s most beloved architecture, from Florence’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Siena’s breathtaking cathedral, to Lucca’s unique city walls and Pisa’s iconic leaning tower. Head west to the Tyrrhenian sea for an appealing collection of beaches stretching north towards Genoa and the French border and south towards Rome’s Fiumicino. 

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Drive or Sail along The Amalfi Coast

Stretching from Punta Campanella to Salerno, the Amalfi Coast is a stunning medley of soaring cliffs and mountains, appealing coastal towns, and idyllic lengths of natural beach. A popular driving destination for the curves and narrow roads of the Strada Statale 163, or the road of 1,000 bends, the Amalfi Coast can be experienced from the land or the sea. Hire a car or a yacht based on your preferences, or explore the lot by tour. Take in the ceramics at Vietri sul Mare, the coastal hub of Amalfi, and the remarkable Positano, an elegant hill town characterized by jumbles of colorful houses cascading down the cliffside, each with an awe-inspiring sea view.

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Luxuriate in the Italian Lake District

While there are over one thousand lakes in Italy, there are just 5 major lakes in the Italian Lake District…and each of them is a masterclass in beauty. Lake Como’s dramatic topography is a haven for walkers and luxury lovers, but the best way to get up high for those vast lake views is to take the funicular 1600 feet up to Brunate. Peaceful Lake Maggiore, Italy’s longest lake is lush with exotic gardens and luxury villas on the Borromean Islands, but follow it far enough north and you’ll be in Switzerland. And the largest of the lot — Lake Garda is a stunning slice of natural grandeur, accented by exquisite luxury hotels with unforgettable lake views, world-class spas, and exceptional restaurants serving up lake-fresh fish in opulent lakeside settings.

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Walk the Baroque streets of Lecce

Puglia’s (or Apulia’s) charms are many — picturesque beaches, limestone cliffs, and endless aquamarine waters, and its compelling history begins with the ancient Greeks, but pull away from the coast and into the city of Lecce, and you’ll find a destination as striking as Florence, renowned for its breathtaking architecture — a style known locally as Barocco Leccesse — a more elaborate, Venetian esque take on Baroque. Walk from one of the 500-year-old gates and into Lecce’s narrow streets, passing Roman ruins as you turn into alleys to peer upwards at flowery cast iron balconies, and the Venetian influences are clear, with the Lion of St Mark, the symbol of Venice, still visible on the pretty Chiesa di San Marco. 

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Join the Masquerades in Venice

Equal amounts romantic and luxurious, Venice’s credentials are as iconic as they are eclectic. Walk the cobbles at St Mark’s Square to see the cathedral and the towering campanile, board a gondola and tour those legendary Venetian canals as your gondolier rows beneath Rialto Bridge, and stay in one of Venice’s impressive luxury hotels, preferably in a balcony room with swoon-inducing views of the Grand Canal. To elevate the experience visit the Venice Carnivale, masked and gowned to mingle with the elite during a masquerade ball, or take a more relaxed approach, sampling la dolce vita on one of Venice’s charming islands.

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