A recently released survey from Travel Leaders Group found that among luxury travel agents, Italy leads the way in top destinations for affluent travelers in 2018, followed by European river cruises, Mediterranean cruises, the United States, and Ireland. Additionally, 92.6 percent of the agents surveyed state that their luxury travel bookings are higher than or equal to those at the same time last year, a notable increase from the 84 percent of agents in 2017.
Following the recent report, Travel Agent spoke with several tour operators about the latest Italy itineraries scheduled to debut in 2018 and received some additional insight and tips for travelers interested in a luxury getaway to Italy in the New Year.
“Italy is the perfect destination for luxury travel, and we have seen a tremendous rise in bookings of five-star accommodations and private tours/transfers in Italy, as well as the overall value of bookings to Italy over the past few years”, said Harry Dalgaard, president and CEO of Avanti Destinations.
The company began selling travel to Italy 36 years ago and specializes in creating customized itineraries for independent travelers and small groups of family and friends.
“Increasingly, independent travelers are booking private drivers who will take them throughout a region, or to multiple regions, where we can arrange private tours of picturesque towns, vineyards, markets, pastry shops – and cooking classes and dinners at the home of locals. The quality and diversity of these private experiences and this level of customization ensure that luxury clients get the most out of their vacation experiences and their time in Italy,” Dalgaard added.
The company’s newest customizable itinerary, ideal for luxury travelers, is the 10-day, nine-night “Splendors of Southern Italy” itinerary, which takes travelers to both Rome and Sorrento, as well as the towns of Matera, in the region of Basilicata, and two in Puglia on the eastern side of the Italy: Lecce and Fasano. Clients will view scenery, caves, markets, historic architecture, beaches and dine on local cuisine. Private transfers are available and five-star accommodations can be selected.
In addition, Avanti has just launched several new experiences that can be added to any Italian luxury itinerary, including a private full day tour to Positano and the Marisa Cuomo winery from Sorrento that includes lunch and wine tasting. There are also new private tours on offer by boat off the Amalfi Coast, with either a private candlelight dinner onboard or sunset tour with Prosecco.
Avanti also offers private villa rentals at more than 50 five-star hotels in every region of Italy, and reports seeing a steady rise in villa bookings. Dalgaard advises agents to book villas early, noting that many of the luxury hotels are small boutique properties and include:
- Tuscany countryside (close to Siena and Montalcino) – Relais Borgo Santo Pietro – a restored 13th century villa with 20 rooms, organic farm and gardens.
- Viareggio (close to Riviera, Pisa, Lucca) – Prinicipe di Piemonte – Rooftop restaurant, Art Deco design and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
- Taormina (Sicily) – Ashebee – historic former villa with gardens, a pool and a rooftop terrace
- Florence – Palazzo Vecchietti – 14 rooms, unique décor.
Travel Agent also spoke with Amelia Sugerman, public relations manager at Collette, who shared some of the latest Italy experiences on offer.
“We’re seeing such a trend in the three I’s right now: Ireland, Iceland and Italy,” Sugerman says. “Travelers on our Italian Vistas tour are wowed by the architecture and food that Italy offers and will enjoy luxurious accommodations while also experiencing life as a local during a visit to a Tuscan winery and farm for lunch.”
Collette’s classic Italy itinerary, “Italian Vistas 13 Day Tour”, is now on special offer and takes guests on an in-depth tour of the Colosseum, makes a stop at the Academy Museum in Florence to see Michelangelo's famous statue of David and guides visitors on an exploration of the ruins of Pompeii. Experiences also include a scenic boat ride to the Isle of Capri, a boat trip to Murano Island for a glass-blowing demonstration and a visit the Doge's Palace and the well-known Bridge of Sighs. More adventurous travelers can choose to go 'off the beaten path' and experience the Castello Sestiere district with a walk by canals through the narrow streets of the city, while those with an interest in literature can take a stroll along the streets of Verona, the backdrop of Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet.
Prices for Collette’s “Italian Vistas 13 Day Tour” begin at $2,899 per person, with dates available through December 2, 2018.
Also expanding on its luxury itineraries and experiences to Italy is Tauck, particularly the “A Week in Puglia” tour. Tom Armstrong, corporate communications manager at Tauck, told Travel Agent that the company has made some major enhancements to the Italy itinerary, noting that although it has been marketed and offered under the same name since 2015, the trip is essentially “new” for 2018.
“A Week in Puglia” is designed for smaller groups averaging about 24 guests per itinerary, during which travelers will explore the long heel of Italy’s boot. Stops will include visits to Matera, also known as the ‘Subterranean City,’ and Castel del Monte, a 13th-century citadel with a unique design and history. Visitors will also have the opportunity to discover Renaissance frescoes in Galatina, taste wine and olive oil at multiple vineyards which are still mostly undiscovered by tourists, and stay multiple nights in “Masserias,” fortified 16th-century farmhouses that have been transformed into hotels. Also included in in the tour is a two-night stay in the Baroque city of Lecce, known as the “Florence of the South”, as well as visit to Alberobello’s famous limestone Trulli houses.
Other highlights during the tour include a visit inside the Baroque Chiesa di San Paolo and a guided walking tour of the fortified seaside town of Otranto with a stop at its famous medieval cathedral, home to a unique floor mosaic and macabre crypts. Later guests will dine on authentic masseria cuisine with a family-style farm-to-table menu while enjoying “Officina Zoe” pizzica folk music and dances.
The eight-day “A Week in Puglia” itinerary is priced from $3,990 with dates running through 2018.