We just love Italy with its vast, jagged mountains, glassy lakes, soft, rolling hills combed by vineyards and silent truffle woodland, Italy’s countryside, while remarkably varied and achingly beautiful, is governed by centuries-old traditions and a soul-nourishing approach to good living. This beautiful country really does have it all!
We have put together some Dolce Vita inspiration as Italy slips into its cooler (but no less alluring) season. Whether easing into a piping hot jacuzzi after a long day on the piste or stretching out aperitivo hour from a hilltop perch, the Italians honour their evocative surroundings with a considered and coveted lifestyle.
For the Foodies
A glorious simplicity lies at the heart of Italian cooking. Recipes are passed down like heirlooms through generations and all take their cue from slow, seasonal produce. And with autumn offering up fresh bounty, it’s the perfect time for epicureans to head for the hills. Tuscany has already thrown on its gold and russet coat. Italians tuck under white tablecloths for Pappardelle al Cinghiale washed down with Chianti, bakeries serve sweet Schiacciata all’Uva from the grape harvests and markets show off the countryside’s autumnal treasure: truffles and porcini mushrooms.
Hunker down at Oasy hotel, an eco-escape surrounded by rewilded forests and meadows where wolves still roam, and where a farm-to-fork restaurant makes the most of the organic produce and surrounding vineyards. Hotel Castello di Reschio on the Tuscan-Umbrian border lures in the aesthetes with impeccably styled rooms (where a contemporary classicism is at play), and lords over acres of romantic undulating landscape, most of which grows organic produce for the kitchens to work their magic on.
Treat yourself at the Spa
As well as skiing and cockle-warming food, Europe’s beau monde make a beeline for the Dolomites as temperatures drop for their stellar spas. The commanding, snow-capped peaks are a rather resplendent backdrop for stewing in an outdoor jacuzzi, and nothing rounds off a hard day’s skiing quite like a deep tissue massage or a facial using mineral-infused creams.
Lefay Resort & Spa Dolomiti – a mere two-hour drive from fair Verona – is enveloped by sloping pine forests and commands hair-raising views over the mighty peaks. As does its spa, which is considered one of Europe’s best, with no less than nine saunas, an indoor and outdoor pool and a salt-water lake, whose steam seems to converge with the snowy peaks and clouds. Robed guests float between heated whirlpools and treatment rooms for Eastern-inspired massages and facials. With a Nordic sensibility that pervades the architecture, the design, the food, and really everything, FORESTIS is Alpine minimalism at its best, where simplicity sits front and centre. From its Finnish sauna to the photogenic indoor/outdoor swimming pool, the spa is a veritable wellness sanctuary with unpolluted air to inhale and unrelenting Dolomiti views to absorb any cortisol.
Escape to the Mountains
It’s taken the British a while to fully appreciate the multi-faceted nature of the Dolomites. Where skiing was once its calling card, we have slowly learned from the Italians just how magical a high-altitude escape can be (and that said magic is not exclusively found on the piste). From hiking and skiing to spa breaks and epicurean adventures, the Dolomites cater to all travel tribes, and crucially, have plenty to do for the non-skiers.
We love Alpina Dolomites, with its contemporary, glass-fronted facade that cleverly blends into the splendid surroundings atop the Alpe di Suisi. This storied, family-run hotel cooks up a Tyrolean storm (Stuben style) and keeps guests busy with yoga sessions, hiking and mountain biking, wine tasting, paragliding and golf – though you’ll be excused for flunking the lot for the indoor/outdoor pool with its jutting peak backdrop. Rosa Alpina is another Dolomiti legend. Aman has brought its design fairy dust to this third-generation-run family hotel (see the slick modern rooms and traditional Tyrolean exterior), as well as their spa prowess. Foodies make their annual pilgrimage here to St Hubertus, for a wildly imaginative menu of foraged and plucked ingredients with the peaks moving through various shades of pink as they dine.
Visit the Lakes
The Italian lakes are arguably at their most beautiful on those crisp, autumnal mornings, where the light is sporadic and sharp and the surrounding summer circus has disappeared. Landscaped gardens, tracing the lake like a coral necklace, are ablaze with ochre and russet hues, as are the surrounding chestnut forests and woodland walks that snake up mountains to pretty time-warp villages. But ultimately, visiting Isola Bella’s 18th-century Palazzo Borromeo on Lake Maggiore, Lake Como’s Bellagio or Riva del Garda without wading through hordes of tourists is reason enough to visit out of season.
Grand Hotel Tremezzo, is the wistful, Wes Anderson take on lake Como – of perfectly symmetrical lemon facades with orange awning slicing through the morning silence and its calm water. For a more condensed (but no less splendid) take on the frescoes, the marble and the baroque oomph, head to Como’s new hot ticket, Passalacqua. From the team behind the beloved Grand Hotel Tremezzo, this hotel is all about detail, from the green scalloped parasols to the stunning room dividers. There is a lovely dialogue here between a gilded era and our slightly kitsch one.
Tranquility in the Countryside
The Italian countryside is romance personified in autumn, when an eerie morning mist slowly lifts to the deep clang of church bells and burgundy leaves scatter like confetti on cars rasping up the snaking lanes. A warm, convivial spirit soon fills the restaurants as locals edge inside by the fire for warming ragu and large glasses of Brunello. And quite abruptly in one Brother’s Grimm breath, winter coats the landscape in snow and frost and traditional rhythms come to the fore, with carnivals and Christmas markets.
Villa Il Campanile – a stylishly reimagined ancient church on a privately owned estate in Umbria – is the perfect rural launchpad for exploring the region’s fairytale towns, though with 5.5 hectares of red and white grapes, truffle wood and olive groves, there are plenty of adventures to be had without needing a car. Villa Tombolino’s far-reaching views of the undulating Tuscan countryside from the pool or terrace, and its magazine-ready old-meets-new interiors make it the ultimate off-season bolthole for large groups. Horse riding, wine tasting and tennis are available for those willing to tear themselves away from the heated outdoor pool and hot tub.
To plan your Italian getaway, call and speak to our friendly experts, Gemma or Jo
on +44 (0)1306 264005 or email [email protected]