|Cinque Terre area on the Italian Riviera is becoming increasing popular with visitors to Italy.|
With a destination as varied and popular as Italy, tour operators always have to look for ways to bring visitors back for more. We reached out to several tour operators to find out where people are going in Italy, what they’re doing and what’s new this year.
What’s New in the Brochures?
Abercrombie & Kent has introduced four “Tailor Made Elements” in Italy: four-day, single-destination itineraries that showcase the most popular regions, including the Amalfi Coast; Chianti and Tuscany; Lake Como and Milan; and Portofino and the Cinque Terre.
Austin-Lehman Adventures’ newest Italian destination is South Tyrol, and incorporates bordering Trentino. “This is the region of Italy where they still speak German,” says Ron van Dijk, director of European operations at Austin-Lehman Adventures. “It used to be part of Tyrol in Austria, but after WWI it was awarded to Italy, hoping the high mountains would deter the Austrians from ever attacking Italy again. During Mussolini’s rule, many Italians were attracted to South Tyrol by economic programs. Today, German- and Italian-speaking people live together peacefully, ensuring an interesting mix of both cultures.” The 10-day trip begins in Austria (Innsbruck), and as they travel south, guests can see how the culture and way of life slowly changes from Austrian to Italian.
Insight Vacations has added two new tours of Italy to their brochure this year, bringing the total number of Italian tours to 11. Among these is the “Treasures of Italy” tour, a 12-day package that features Capri, Venice, the Italian lakes, Portofino (with a visit to Cinque Terre) and two nights in Rome. “This is a great tour for someone who has not been to Italy [before],” says president Marc Kazlauskas, “in that you get historical cities, idyllic fishing villages, islands, lakes, canals and fabulous food.”
Trafalgar will be organizing a 10-day Northern Italy tour that visits Milan’s Gothic cathedral—Duomo di Milano—and La Scala before exploring Baveno where guests can try a signature Be My Guest dinner in the Italian lakes area. The trip has visits to Parma and the town of Langhirano to visit the Museum of Prosciutto di Parma. There will be a visit to Soragna to visit the Museo del Parmigiano-Reggiano. Trafalgar will also have outlet shopping in the Fidenza Village, where guests can purchase top brands such as Armani and Dolce & Gabbana.
Where to Go
There are always two kinds of travelers to a destination: Those who have been there before and those who are going for the first time. The former are often looking to expand their horizons. “Requests for Sicily are coming on strong, especially from clients who have travelled to Italy before,” says Kerstin Sowden, region manager for Europe at Kensington Tours. “Sicily is awe-striking for so many reasons—archaeological treasures (e.g., the UNESCO sites of the Baroques cities), interesting Greek and Arabic influences, regional gastronomic specialties (try gelato biscotti), wine and olive oil tasting, exploring Mount Etna, exploring the Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve (especially for bird lovers), the stunning and well-preserved mosaics.”
Jon Bennett, general manager of Abercrombie & Kent Italy, says that Umbria has been an “up-and-coming” destination for some time. “Two of the newest and most exquisite luxury properties to be discovered here include the Palazzo Seneca in the heart of a medieval village, or the Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum. The Relais in Assisi blends supermodern in ancient buildings with evidence all around from Roman times.” Umbria is a good pick for travelers interested in history, wildlife, sports, soft activity, fine dining, wines, religion, architecture and the arts, he adds. “All this just two hours away from the heart of Rome.”
Steve Born, VP of marketing for the Globus family of brands, agrees, noting that the Cinque Terre region and Umbria have “really caught on. And we’re also seeing Northern Italy [lakes region] as a true up-and-comer from our market, as well as increasing interest in Sorrento and Southern Italy.”
What to Do
“First-time visitors to Italy are still attracted to the classic Italian destinations of the Amalfi Coast, Rome, Tuscany and Venice,” says A&K’s Bennett. “Milan is now getting back on the map for U.S. visitors with the reopening of many direct air links. Milan has also reasserted its status as the most cosmopolitan and forward-thinking city in the country with the recent opening of the uberstylish Armani Hotel, alongside its equally cool neighbors, the Missoni Hotel and the Bulgari. New for 2012, on select dates (and for deep enough pockets) A&K guests have the unique opportunity to view Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece The Last Supper in total privacy during an evening viewing.”
Repeat visitors sometimes pick a specific region and visit it from north to south, or east to west, says Kimberly K. Daley, vice president and managing director of Journese, a sister company of Pleasant Holidays. “Lately, younger vacationers tend to stay away from the crowds, looking for more exclusive, genuine places such as Casa Angelina and Villa Spalletti Trivelli. The areas most visited are the archaeological regions such as Puglia, Assisi, Siena and Lake Como. Sicily has become very popular, as well as Capri—where guests can take a hydrofoil to the mainland and shop the charming towns up and down the Amalfi Coast.”
Kazlauskas of Insight Vacations says, “Food is definitely more important as are areas you would not have seen on itineraries five or 10 years ago such as Cinque Terre and the northern part of Italy and Southern Italy (or traveling the foot of the boot) visiting Matera and Alberobello on the Adriatic coast.”
Kensington Tours’ Kerstin Sowden says that experiential Italy—including culinary and active experiences like biking and walking—is also very popular. “We do find, though, that most clients are looking for a variety of these different experiences mixed in across their itinerary rather than, for example, a complete biking tour from start to finish,” she adds.