Thinking of places to go on a short break can be a challenge. Sun, sea, sand and a city break rolled into one? With 4 or 5 days to play with, you can definitely squeeze a little bit of everything in if you plan wisely.
Somewhere like Italy is a great place to explore if you want to enjoy a few days away from it all, with a diverse mix of small towns and cities. With metropolitan hubs like Rome and Milan offering a slice of history, café culture and an unrivaled art scene, they are perfect for culture vultures. While somewhere like Sicily, the Mediterranean’s biggest island, offers a laidback seaside escape full of Italian charm.
Here’s our round-up of the best short breaks in Italy…
Rome – The Eternal City
Italy’s capital is the classic city break destination, home to the Vatican City, Roman Colosseum and Forum, and iconic St. Peter’s Basilica. Steeped in ancient history, elegant architecture, stylish café’s and art galleries, it’s no wonder it’s one of the most romantic city breaks in the world.
From your morning cappuccino to evening pasta, there’s plenty to see and do in between and some unmissable highlights. Spend your days wandering through the cobbled streets, admiring fountains, bridges and plazas. Sample fresh olives, wine and gelato among the many ristorante’s in the neighbourhoods. And when it comes to nightlife, Rome is full of everything from Irish bars to contemporary clubs, so you’ll have no trouble enjoying a night out with the locals.
Rome is best enjoyed on foot, so be prepared for lots of walking and photo opportunities at street markets, along the riverside and at famous landmarks. Although there is generally no off-season for city breaks in Rome, a quieter time to visit is during October to December when the weather is much cooler with less crowds.
Milan – The fashion capital
With glossy good looks, Milan is a true fashionistas paradise. With the annual Milan Fashion Week bringing the fashion elite to the city, it’s no wonder people travel far and wide to visit this stylish postcode. But visit here at any time of year and you’ll be spoilt for choice with the designer brands and boutiques on your doorstep at Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni, Via Sant’Andrea and Via Montenapoleone. And don’t forget Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Italy’s oldest shopping mall dating back to 1877.
As Italy’s financial and economic centre, Milan thrives with trade and tourism. Enjoy its Gothic architecture such as Milan Cathedral, the Renaissance-Baroque Church of Saint Maurice, and the opera house Teatro alla Scala. The food scene here is big too; especially risotto and polenta which are typically infused with saffron or strong cheese flavours. There are several Michelin-starred restaurants in Milan; the perfect treat for a special occasion.
Milan is busy during key events such as Fashion Week, the Italian Grand Prix, Milan Film Festival and Milan Jazz Festival between September and November. The summer months are crowded and hot, and many locals head to the lakes and mountains for their holidays. April to June is a great alternative for visitors wanting good weather and fewer crowds.
Venice – The City of Water
Known as the City of Water or Floating City, Venice sits in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. With no roads but around 400 bridges, the canal ways are the main method of transportation in and out of the city. From the world’s first ghetto in the Jewish District to royal address of Doge’s Palace, this unique city is perfect for a short break to discover a different side of Italy.
There are no beaches, but life on the water is just as tranquil and picturesque. Take a gondola ride to see how locals live and work, and walk through the tiny cobbled streets tightly packed with craft shops, bakeries and restaurants. For day out, head to Burano just over half an hour from Venice. The colourful fishing island is home to the old Church of San Martino and the Venice Lace Museum which showcases the intricate work that went into lace making in the 16th and 17th centuries.
In late spring and early summer, Venice enjoys great weather but wait times for museums and attractions can shoot up. September is ideal for enjoying events like Venice Film Festival, and during the winter months you can enjoy Venice’s festive programmes, tranquil canal rides and largely empty piazzas.
Sorrento – Gateway to the Amalfi Coast
Thanks to its clifftop location, Sorrento is famed for its scenic backdrop of the Gulf of Naples. This picturesque town is a sophisticated and romantic retreat where you can enjoy a slower pace of life, small local restaurants and wine bars, and evenings taking in some of the best sunsets along the Amalfi Coast. While there are no sandy beaches, raised bathing platforms line the coast with many hotels offering their own beach clubs and facilities.
The Old Town is a vibrant mix of churches, pizzerias and antique shops that spill out onto the central Piazza Tasso. And as you head out of town, lush green lemon and orange trees line every winding street filling the air with citrus perfume. Make sure you stock up on some local Limoncello and souvenirs! It’s worth taking a day trip over to Pompeii, about 40 minutes away from Sorrento by train or take an organised tour by coach.
During March to May, Sorrento enjoys beautiful sunshine just before the summer crowds descend. September is another great month offering mild temperatures for walking.
Sicily – God’s Kitchen
Soak up a slice of island life in laid-back Sicily, where the waters are transparent and the food is moreish. From traditional Arancini balls to frozen granite, Sicilian cuisine is a haven for foodies who enjoy fresh, seasonal produce. The triangle-shaped island at the foot of Italy’s boot is the largest in the Med and with standout scenery, Medieval villages and Roman ruins, Sicily is more than just a beach holiday destination. It’s also home to Mount Etna standing at a proud 10, 890 feet. Popular resorts include Taormina, Giardini Naxos and Cefalu.
Spend a day in Sicily’s multicultural capital, Palermo. Brimming with architecture nodding to its Greek, Roman and Arabic past, you’ll learn about its wonderful history. Visit the Ballarò street market and the Vucciria near the port, plus the 12th-century Palermo Cathedral which houses royal tombs.
Enjoy a short break at any time of year, although April to June and September to October are the best months for visiting when temperatures are mild and you can enjoy quitter hotels and attractions.