From the Alps in the north to the tip of Italy’s toe – plus its assorted islands – there’s a bewildering range of places to stay in this utterly enchanting country. Not surprisingly, in a land with such a long and fascinating history, it’s not too difficult to find hotels in converted Renaissance palaces, medieval towers and rustic farmhouses. Add to the rich mix some profound regional differences from north to south – in everything from architecture to food, culture and things to do – and you’ve got a country that hugely rewards those willing (and wealthy enough) to do a 21st-century style grand tour of its glorious span. We’ve picked some of the most outstanding hotels and resorts to help you do just that, and experience the trip of a lifetime.
Best hotels in Italy
Lupaia is the sort of countryside hideaway that you won’t want to leave. Farm buildings dating from the 17th century have been converted into 11 wonderfully cosy and comfortable rooms and suites brimming with details such as exposed stone walls and beams. Some have little gardens attached, with views of nearby hilltop towns, including Montepulciano. The gardens, terraces and pool area are all exquisitely done, as is the open kitchen where top-notch Tuscan cuisine is served.
Among the glittering five-star palaces that cling to the Amalfi Coast, four-star Hotel Marincanto stands out for its immense charm and relative affordability. Not only do many of the 32 rooms have balconies with heavenly views of Positano and the coast, but there’s also an infinity pool and a private beach. A couple of rooms have their own private patios. Choose from several terraces where you can kick back and relax in front of the Mediterranean – not to mention the Terrazza Celè restaurant with its fabulous views.
There are holiday resorts, and then there’s Borgo Egnazia. This mini village between Bari and Brindisi on the Adriatic coast looks like such an authentic slice of historic Puglia that you wouldn’t think it’s only been around since 2010. Accommodation ranges from serene cream-coloured rooms to duplexes and larger villas – all made from local tufa stone. If you don’t book a villa with a private pool, you’ve still got three outdoor pools in the resort, plus two private beaches, a spa, an adjoining golf course and enough activities to keep you busy for weeks.
There’s wonderful whiff of old-style Italian glamour at the Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, which sits on its own private beach in Sicily’s chicest town. Many of the light, breezy rooms have balconies with views of the Bay of Mazzarò, and you can hop on the nearby cable car to reach central Taormina (or take the free shuttle). As well as the private beach there’s an infinity pool and a spa surrounded by luxuriant gardens, and the glamour quotient rises even further with the waterside Restaurant Oliviera. If you prefer to be in the heart of buzzy Taormina itself, the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is equally impressive.
With only nine rooms, La Palazzetta del Vescovo truly is a boutique hotel. Surrounded by open Umbrian countryside, this rural bolthole is decorated in warm Italian country style. You’ll find beamed ceilings, stone arches and terracotta floors, and some of the rooms have a little terrace. The views from the covered restaurant terrace and the infinity pool seem to go on for ever, and they enhance the feeling of being in the most peaceful place in Italy. To get into the Umbrian spirit, join one of the hotel’s regular cooking classes.
Summer and winter, the Rosa Alpina holds its own against the incomparable beauty of the Dolomites by offering intimate and understated luxury. The pink-tinged mountains add a dramatic backdrop to this 19th-century chalet-style hotel, where the 51 rooms and suites are decked out in an extremely tasteful alpine style – just enough pine to make it cosy. The spa has an indoor pool, and there’s also an adults-only spa area. Suitably for the food-obsessed area of Alta Badia, there’s a sublime restaurant with two Michelin stars.
At the Gran Meliá, it’s like taking a city break but with all the trappings of a rural retreat. Set amid lush gardens on the Giancolo Hill, the hotel is in a prime spot in Trastevere near the Vatican. Its 116 rooms and suites have a stylish contemporary look featuring Renaissance murals; some come with private terraces. Take in the views of the city from one of the two outdoor pools and the patio bar, and enjoy fine-dining at the Viva Voce restaurant.
A medieval castle and hamlet have been expertly converted into the tranquil Castello di Casole in the depths of central Tuscany, where 39 country-style rooms and suites occupy parts of the castle and the hamlet – you can also rent villas from among the estate’s restored farm buildings. Take in glorious views of vineyards, cypresses and olive groves from the infinity pool, and explore the enormous sprawling grounds on one of the hotel’s mountain bikes after trying the yoga sessions on offer.
If you’ve got deep pockets, it’s hard to fault the Gritti Palace. Everything is pretty much perfect in this 15th-century palazzo, from its location on the Grand Canal opposite the church of Santa Maria della Salute to its top-class restaurant – also on the Grand Canal. The 82 rooms and suites have classically Venetian decor – all swirling gilt, colourful stucco and luxurious fabrics – and eight overlook the Grand Canal. For a special treat, try one of the hotel’s cooking classes, which include a visit to the Rialto food market.
Get your fix of old-world lakeside elegance at the Hotel Villa & Palazzo Aminta, a stately grande dame of Lake Maggiore. The fact that one suite is called Liz Taylor gives a clue to its provenance. Its 67 rooms are suites have views either of the lake or the lavish gardens, with ornate interiors full of chandeliers and Murano glass. Relax in the outdoor pool, or make use of the hotel’s private beach, where you get superb views of the Borromean Islands.