Dreaming of La Dolce Vita

The tourism industry will be key to getting Italy back on its feet after the coronavirus, so when it does eventually reopen for business, these are the 5 places we’d love to visit and what to pack for them, including lots of lightweight linen shirting and separates for smart evenings, together with plenty of casual options for day-tripping or doing sweet FA on some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. Enjoy!

 

Aeolian Islands

This group of volcanic islands situated in the Tyrrhenian Sea, just north of Sicily, comprises of Lipari, Salina, Stromboli (an active volcano), Vulcano, Panarea, and the tiny Filicudi and Alicudi. What’s brilliant about them, apart from the ridiculous natural beauty, is that each one is discernibly different from the other. Panarea, as diminutive as it is, is something of a party island thanks to the very chi-chi Hotel Raya; Stromboli regularly pipes plumes of smoke into the air, which are best viewed from one of the other islands (UNESCO listed the islands as a World Heritage Site in 2000 as "an outstanding record of volcanic island-building and destruction, and ongoing volcanic phenomena”); Lipari is the largest of the islands and therefore the most populated and accessible; Vulcano, as the name might suggest, is a volcano (yep, still active) boasts black sand beaches and hot springs; and Salina is arguably the prettiest of the islands, carpeted on one side in a luscious green forest. The islands have been ruled by just about every marauding civilisation you can name, ensuring they are rich with fascinating historical points of interest too.

The island of Lipari, situated just north of Sicily.

What to wear: You’ll want a mixed bag to have every base covered here. Smart attire for evenings should include lightweight cotton or linen blazers which can be paired with judo pants or pleated trousers. Seersucker is an excellent choice of fabric to stay cool in during the heat of the day, too, and perhaps opt for sneakers rather than flip-flops or sandals, given the volcanic terrain.

 

Pietrasanta

The northern coastline of Tuscany is best known for the resort town of Forte Dei Marmi, which attracts the upmarket Milanese crowd looking to escape the heat of the city. While it provides no end of great people watching and excellent dining in many of the restaurants that line the long stretch of beach, in the evening we’d suggest you escape the crowds and head inland for 10 minutes to the town of Pietrasanta, a beautiful art-commune town tucked away in the foothills of the Apuan Alps (from which Michelangelo sourced the marble for his statue of David). Running off the Piazza Duomo you’ll get pleasantly lost down narrow cobbled streets dotted with intriguing galleries and small al fresco restaurants serving delicious Tuscan fare.

The main piazza in the Tuscan town of Pietrasanta.

What to wear: Style-wise, you’ll want to dress up for dinner, but nothing too formal as Tuscan nights can be really warm. A linen suit or separates works really well, as would a simple tee layered with an overshirt such as our Hockney jackets (very apt given Pietrasanta’s art heritage).

 

Favignana

There are easier Italian islands to get to but you’ll be thankful for the effort when you finally reach Favignana, a tiny speck of paradise just off the west coast of Sicily in the Egadi Archipelago (you’ll need to get to Palermo and/or Trapani on Sicily to then catch a ferry). “Favignana” is derived from the Latin word “favonius“, a Latin term used by Romans to indicate the hot wind coming in from the west. It boasts some of the most picturesque beaches in all of Italy and excellent snorkelling and scuba diving in some of the most crystal clear water you’ll ever see. Indeed, the best way to experience the island is by boat, provided you book well in advance. For foodies, the local lobster and sea urchin are a speciality.

The crystal blue waters of Favignana

What to wear: Casual is king on this paradisiacal outpost, so no skipping leg day from here on out. Shorts and polos or short-sleeved shirts will be your go-to, but as the name of the island suggests, it gets seriously hot, so long-sleeved lightweight linen shirts can provide stylish protection from the sun. A good bag is also a must-have as you’ll often need to carry refreshments and beach kit for a lot of the beaches and coves are without facilities.

 

Ostuni

You could easily be forgiven for thinking the Puglian village of Ostuni was actually somewhere in Greece, given that all the buildings are entirely whitewashed (it is only 45 miles away from the Greek coast). With a network of labyrinthine streets, it’s a stunning base from which to explore Puglia and the artistic centres of Lecce and Matera. Our GM Tom Bodaly spent some time there and can thoroughly recommend the stunning (but "terrifying") drive to Lo Scalo di Novaglie, a renowned restaurant carved into the rocky coastline at Marina di Novaglie.

What to wear: Puglian style is a more relaxed affair than on the Tuscan coast, so we’d recommend taking a variety of jerseys and polos for the day and linen shirts and trousers for the evenings. An unstructured jacket or overshirt is an easy way to instantly smarten up a shirt having to feel ‘smart’ or overdressed. A lightweight knit is also always handy for cooler evenings.

 

Porto Venere

Steeped in history, the picturesque town of Porto Venere nestled into the Ligurian coastline is perhaps best known for one Lord Byron, the English poet who famously swam across what is now known as the Bay of Poets in 1822 in order to visit friend and fellow scribe Percy Bysshe Shelley who was residing in San Terenzo. The grotto is named after Byron because he would apparently meditate there. These days, Porto Venere is the perfect place from which to explore the Cinque Terre towns dotted along the coastline, such as Riomaggiore, Corniglia, Vernazza or even further north to the millionaires’ playground of Portofino.

What to wear: With an abundance of day-trippers all along the coastline, in our experience, it pays to dress smarter if you want to stand out from the crowd (it’s amazing how a polished outfit can earn preferential treatment in restaurants!). Grandad collar shirts in cotton, linen or seersucker are a good option during the day with a pair of shorts but make sure you take a cotton blazer with you to whip on for a nice lunch. If you’re on the move, Quoddy’s Maliseet Oxfords are an excellent choice of footwear, being lightweight, sturdy, and perfect for hopping on and off boats.

 

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