This article explores central Italy and is the second addition to our series of “Rossano’s favourite places to visit in Italy.” Here, we invite you to the hub of our beautiful country, a utopia of quaint towns, historical landmarks, original art, good food, and good people. Straying from famous, touristy towns, Rosanno’s list of favourite Italian summer hideaways focuses on hidden gems and getaways that are often exclusively enjoyed by our locals. This list is curated by our hair maestro himself and provides first-hand insight into what you can expect from each destination.
Your Italian summer holiday starts now…
Orvieto perches peacefully on a huge slate of volcanic stone in Umbria and offers breath-taking views of the green, healing Umbrian plain. But it’s not just the scenery that makes this hill town one for the itinerary. Etruscan ruins, enchanting churches, and delicious food nurture the soul, whisking you back to a simpler time.
It’s the ideal spot for exploring, unwinding, and learning. It also offers something Rossano thinks is excitingly unique. Orvieto has two significant parts: the historic town on the hilltop, and a newer town below. All visitors start their journey at the bottom. Then, they can either drive to the top or take an elevator or escalator to the medieval town.
Places to visit include the Orvieto Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Well, Museo Claudio Faina, and the ruins of an Etruscan necropolis. Don’t forget to take a tour of the ancient underground caves and try Piccione, a pigeon dish (a truly local meal).
More than just a port town, Ancona welcomes tourists, entertaining them with lively culture, a natural park, several theatres, museums, and art galleries. While the harbour creates a noticeable hustle and bustle, there’s more to this historic city than ferries and transport connections. Linger long enough, and the lively boulevards and cafe-rimmed piazzas will draw you into Le Marche’s seafront capital.
Rossano is a great fan of the region’s history, which dates all the way back to 387 BC under the rulership of the Greeks of Syracuse. The Grecians had a huge influence on the city’s architecture, filling it with iconic structures like the ancient Arch of Trajan and the Lazzaretto, a pentagonal quarantine station set on an island. The beaches, such as Passetto Beach, are also not to be missed, especially in the summer when the water glimmers and offers relief from the port town’s humidity.
The humble town of Lucca can be toured in a day, but we suggest it as a base so that you can head out and explore more of central or North Tuscany. The quaint setting is hospitable, and you’ll enjoy the friendliness of the locals as you navigate several churches, the awe-inspiring and intact circuit of ancient walls, and the most notable of all, the Roman amphitheatre (now a piazza dell’Anfiteatro).
The Lucchese cuisine also makes this destination worth the trip. You can savour tordelli, a stuffed pasta, and snack on befanini biscuits, torta co’ becchi, and soft sweet bread like buccellato. In Lucca they like to say, “Chi viene a Lucca e non mangia il buccellato è come non ci fosse mai stato,” which translates to “anyone who comes to Lucca and doesn’t eat buccellato might as well not have come at all.” It’s that good.
Another of Rosanno’s favourite summer staycations in Italy is Bolgheri, a humble Castagneto Carducci, Tuscany hamlet. It may not have the excessive history or artwork that neighbouring cities and towns house, but it has one quality that remains unmatched, namely: wine. Bolgheri is wine country and is the perfect summer getaway for those who appreciate deeply coloured, tantalising wines crafted from flavourful Bordeaux grape varieties.
Relax and unwind as you meander through vineyards and draw inspiration from the contrasting colours of the deep blue Tuscan Archipelago and lush, green Tuscan landscape. Pair wines with traditional Italian cuisine and take a summer break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
San Gimignano nestles in the province of Siena and tucks its intrigue behind magnificent 13th-century walls. It also boasts a skyline of medieval towers and houses, offering a treasure trove of discoveries for historians and artists. Places to visit include the Piazza della Cisterna, Piazza della Cisterna, and the city’s tallest tower found at the new City Hall (this is where you get a bird’s eye view of the hill town and rolling landscape).
No matter where you wander, eating dinner at one of San Gimignano’s restaurants is a must. You’ll get to sample typical Tuscan home cooking and enjoy traditional local meals like Cinghiale (wild boar), which is made into soups, stews, and the most divine salami. Rossano Ferretti also suggests purchasing spices from the shops and endorses the saffron as the best in Italy.
Art lovers and culturists will fall instantly in love with Cortona. The charming town is situated in the province of Arezzo and is commonly known as the setting for the book and movie “Under the Tuscan Sun.” It is dotted with fascinating museums, including the Diocesan Museum and the MAEC (The Etruscan Academy Museum of the City of Cortona), and various small shops selling local handmade items. Speaking of shopping, one of Cortona’s summertime attractions is the Tuscan Sun Festival. This festival is enough to provide all the entertainment you need during your summer break and showcases several international stars and artists.
If you have time to spare, meander out the walls of Cortona to explore the Franciscan hermitage Le Celle. This enchanting monastery was built by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1211 and still houses an intimate community of friars today.
Rossano speaks fondly of this seaside town, highlighting the picturesque scenery of rugged green hills and yachts bobbing on ethereal water. According to him, it’s one of the best hideaway beaches found in central Italy. He delights in the hidden coves, citrus trees, and the plethora of wildflowers that blossom from spring through to summer.
The history of Porto Ercole is also intriguing and dates to the Phoenicians, the Etruscans, and the Romans. However, it’s nature that draws most locals to this location, and many hikers head this way to follow trails leading to stunning flora and fauna-rimmed beaches and tranquil viewpoints.
And then, if you find yourself visiting the port town in August, you’ll be treated to the Sagra della Ficamaschia Dorata – a fish festival. Here, you can dine on mouth-watering seafood and taste local dishes such as fried anchovies, risotto alla pescatora, and cuttelfish alla Luciana. Porto Ercole culminates true Italian coastal summers; that’s why our locals love it.
And on that note…
Remember to look after your hair while you enjoy your summer vacation in Italy. The sun, sea, and summer fun can take a toll on tresses, leaving them depleted and tired. The good news is that our travel-sized line of luxury hair products can easily cater to your hair needs while you’re on the go, offering a hassle-free approach to gorgeous, Italian-approved hair.