Italy has become our most requested European destination, as seasoned travellers realize that la dolce vita isn't just a '60s film (though you'll still find moments worthy of Fellini in every village square).
The Amalfi Coast, with picturesque towns like Positano and Ravello, has been a centre of luxury since the time of the emperors. But lest you lose sight of life's simpler pleasures, it's also perfectly suited to sailing and seaside walks. Or how about speeding across the sparkling Mediterranean in a Riva launch – or riding a Vespa over the isle of Capri?
The Dolomites and Piedmont, home to the Slow Food movement, offer the ideal backdrop for combining active exploration with gastronomic adventures. One group of Brown + Hudson clients devoted an entire Italian sojourn to the Slow Food philosophy, travelling from north to south. These are also great regions for family vacations: la famiglia is central to Italian life, and yours will be welcomed everywhere. The younger ones can expect to be fussed over during the villagers' evening passeggiata – while their elder siblings sit at a café and coolly take in the passing scene.
The landscapes of Tuscany and its southern neighbour Umbria are such stuff as dreams and romantic films are made of – whether you're biking or cruising in a vintage Ferrari. In Tuscany, cypress-lined roads criss-cross hillsides overlooked by weathered villas as you journey from Siena and Florence to hilltop villages like Volterra, Cortona, Pienza, Montepulciano and Montalcino. In landlocked Umbria, where sweeping hills are offset by beautiful woodlands, peaceful villages offer a more understated culture and a heartier culinary tradition.
We've saved the best for last: Puglia, at the heel of the Italian boot, is a Mediterranean crossroads with a mix of cultural influences – Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Gothic and Lombard, to name a few. Indeed, as you explore whitewashed hillside villages, you can find yourself wondering where you are. Then you arrive at an ancient masserie or fortified farmhouse that's been transformed into a luxury hotel, or a former convent that's now a wonderful B&B, and it all begins to make sense.
Another attraction in Puglia is the food – specifically antipasti, the sampling of which can be a physical activity in its own right. And if that doesn't suffice, we've uncovered an incredible network of quiet secondary roads that make biking and walking a pleasure.