Top five: Italian landscapes off the beaten track

Italy's varied and beautiful landscapes make it the perfect destination to head out into nature. Here are five adventures to try

By Cosmos
Published 15 Jan 2019, 11:16 GMT
Mount Etna
Mount Etna
Photograph by Getty Images

When it comes to retreating from city life, this country has more than just a few tricks up its sleeve. Three Italian Cosmos experts Luisa, Clarissa and Elisa reveal their top bucolic escapes:

Climb Mount Etna
Sicily's Mount Etna towers over the Parco dell'Etna like a smouldering beast, with sporadic rumbles from its depths. Monitored by satellites, this active volcano is occasionally shut to visitors for safety reasons; but if you get the chance, an adventure to its summit is a thrilling experience.
Why now?
The experience of ascending this volcano is unique. Anybody can reach the heights of this mountain, and the simplest way is to drive to the cable-car at Rifugio Sapienza, which then rises to 9,515ft. Often you can witness the smoking craters and snaking lava flows.

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Sit back and soak up the views in Puglia
Down in the heel of Italy you'll find characterful ancient towns, sloping curves of sand, fields of olive trees and a well-deserved reputation as a first-rate foodie hotspot. Whether it's urban adventure you're after — Lecce's baroque architecture is so distinctive it has its own moniker, barocco leccese  — or quieter, earthier charms in its countryside, this region won't disappoint.

Why now?
From sipping local Primitivo (red wine) to trying one of the regional specialities, such as orecchiette con cime di rapa (pasta with broccoli), or discovering the inner cities of Lecce and Ostuni, Puglia packs a serious punch.

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Lake Maggiore

Wander around Lake Maggiore
This is the place to decamp for a weekend hideaway, to revel in the belle epoque vibe, and to dip in and out of palaces dripping in gold and marble. For high-rolling waterside antics and intriguing islands this side of the Alps, Lake Maggiore delivers.

Why now?
Stresa is the gem on the left bank, known for its art deco bars and hotels where local nobility would gather years ago. Follow in their footsteps and walk on the riverbank or hop in a boat to visit the beautiful Borromean Islands; one of Ernest Hemingway's best-loved haunts and, more recently, a firm favourite with the Royal Family. 

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Go wine tasting in Greve
This unassuming town has scores of affable cellar doors for wine tasting. And this being Chianti, you're guaranteed a good glass of wine wherever you are — be it at a local farmhouse or in the buzzy piazza.

Why now?
Wedged between Florence and Siena in the heart of the Chianti Valley, Greve is a town renowned for its famous wines. If you're here in September, don't miss the Chianti Wine Festival to taste amazing wine, cheese, olive oil and local products, with concerts and exhibitions also on the bill.

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Assisi, Umbria

Explore the Umbrian hills
It's impossible not to fall for Umbria's easy-going charm. There are a handful of fascinating hill towns to nosy around (Perugia, Assisi, Orvieto) and miles of green hillsides, topped with cypress trees and striped with vineyards and olive groves. The gastronomic good times abound here, too: think excellent ham, cheese, truffles and of course olive oil. No visit to Tuscany would be complete without a tasting at an authentic mill like the one in in Frantoio di Spello.

Why now?
Italy's only landlocked region is also known as the green heart of the country. Follow pilgrim trails, once walked by St Francis (the Franciscan Way), and see remains of Etruscan settlements, plus Orvieto's beautifully carved cave system. Natural high points include the Apennine mountains and the Monte Cucco National Park, but you'll also find Italy's largest lake, Lake Trasimeno, and waterfalls at Cascate delle Marmore near Terni.

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