Over on the other side of Puglia’s heel of Italy, the waters of the Ionian Sea are crystal clear, especially off the beaches either side of the ancient island port of Gallipoli, linked to the mainland by a 16th-century stone bridge. In summer, the town is usually a popular LGBT party destination, but a couple of kilometres inland is an idyllic hideaway, Tenuta Uva Rosa. Guests are made to feel part of the family by Emanuele Tricarico, who has built three elegant self-catering villas around lush gardens and ornamental ponds. Bikes are provided for reaching the beach or exploring the countryside. Uva Rosa is the name of a rare local grape Emanuele cultivates alongside olive oil, figs, strawberries and loquats.
Villa for two a partire dal €420 a week, tenutauvarosa.com
In a tiny piazzetta off Cesenatico’s famous, boat-lined Porto Canale promenade, this tastefully renovated fisherman’s cottage is a peaceful hideaway with five romantic, beamed rooms decorated in soft pastel colours with natural linen and cotton fabrics. Outside the secluded garden is the daily farmers’ market, while the colourful canal is bordered by gourmet trattorias and lively osterias serving delicious fritto misto seafood. The friendly owners, Silvia and Luana, provide free bikes – cycling fans should visit the Marco Pantani museum – and the beach is just five minutes away. Further down the coast are the Adriatic party resorts of Rimini and Riccione.
Doubles from €118 B&B, casinaleconserve.com
Down the coast from the port and ancient hilltop town centre of Maratea, Hotel Martino’s fantastic-value balconied rooms all have superb sunset views of the Gulf of Policastro, plus there’s a garden, indoor pool and sauna. The remarkable black-sand Santa Teresa beach is within walking distance, but the whole coast is dotted with cute coves perfect for snorkelling, kayaking (book excursions through flymaratea.it) and swimming in warm, clear water. The hotel’s on-site restaurant, La Locanda di Nettuno, has a short but excellent seafood menu – try the grilled octopus with caponata and honey.
Doubles from €42 room-only, hotelmartino.net
This 12th-century fortress tower, converted three years ago into a seven-room lodging, dominates the medieval fishing port of Ortona. Thick stone walls encircle a maze of courtyards, gardens, shady arcades and sea-view terraces built almost 1,000 anni fa. The comfortable rooms are minimalist and modern, functional rather than luxurious. The tower looks out over a 14km stretch of beach, with hiking and bike paths nearby – part of the Costa dei Trabocchi, named after Abruzzo’s distinctive fishing cabins that sit on raised stilts above the water. Head to Cantina di Ortona vineyard to discover the local Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines.
Doubles from €75 B&B, torredellaloggia.it
On the drive up into Friuli’s rugged Carnic Alps, the village of Sauris is famous for a cured ham that rivals prosciuttos from Parma and San Daniele. But as the road climbs to Sauris di Sopra (upper Sauris), you enter a once-abandoned hamlet that today has been converted into an albergo diffuso, a “scattered hotel” sustainable tourism destination. Nearly all the village’s ancient wooden houses have been transformed into 40 snug guest chalets, and there is a salumeria, trattoria, il Zahrebeer artisan brewery, un wellness centre hewn into the rock face, and outdoor activities like horse riding, canoeing and a hair-raising zipline.
Studio for two from €72 a night, albergodiffusosauris.com
Among the towering peaks of the South Tirolean Alps, a narrow mountain road zigzags up from the verdant Passirio valley to the foot of the Jaufen Pass, where – at an elevation of 2,000 metres – this old-time guesthouse looks out over a stunning panorama. Rooms are simple but comfortable, and there is a pool and Finnish sauna. Evenings spent over a dinner of Tirolean cuisine, with excellent Alto Adige wines or foaming mugs of locally brewed craft beers, can get quite raucous, as the Schlossberg is a favourite stop-off for a cosmopolitan mix of vintage car aficionados, cyclists reliving the mythic climbs of the Giro d’Italia and passionate bikers who roar up on gleaming Harleys. The owner, Monika, prepares a buffet breakfast of farm-cured ham, fresh eggs and homemade strudel, perfect before you set off on a nature trek through the surrounding valleys.
Doubles from €72 B&B, pension-schlossberg.it
In the heart of the Veneto belt of the Dolomites, this rustic lodge sits on the Cibiana Pass entrance to the Cadore valley. In one direction lies the glamorous ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo, which will co-host the 2026 Winter Olympics with Milan, while in the other is medieval Pieve di Cadore, birthplace of Renaissance painter Titian. The Baita’s genial cuoca, Paola, cooks up a storm: porcini mushroom risotto, melted mountain cheese over grilled polenta, wild boar stew. And the Baita offers spectacular vistas either from the four comfortable guest rooms or two huge panoramic terraces, encircled by a natural amphitheatre of towering peaks and dense forests. The nearest village, Cibiana, è 10 minutes’ drive away, and worth visiting for the 50 contemporary murals that decorate its ancient walls.
Doubles from €70 B&B, baitadeona.it
This rambling, 400-year-old farm is in verdant Val Gardena, part of the Dolomites Unesco world heritage site, just outside Ortisei, a picture-postcard ski resort dominated by the jagged stone peaks of the Dolomites. Claudia Insam and her husband are committed organic farmers, with cows, chickens and splendid vegetable gardens. Guests are welcome to help out with farm work, and can lodge in three cosy Alpine-style apartments, with a fabulous sauna made by Claudia’s carpenter son. Prices are a bargain compared with the classic hotels in town. As with all of Italy’s South Tirol, expect to hear people speaking either German or the unusual local Ladin language, and check out the many carving workshops in Ortisei, which are famous for their wooden statues and toys.
Studio for two a partire dal €749 a week, agriturismo.it
The tiny Lago d’Orta, 85km north-west of Milan, is the smallest of Italy’s famous lakes, alittle-known natural hideaway encircled by affordable, family-run B&Bs, another world from the exclusive villas and celebrity hotels that draw the likes of George Clooney to Lakes Como and Maggiore. Atop a lakeside hill, Monte Camosino is a 1726 manor house with shady arcades and stone balconies, and decorated with antique furniture. Owner Fabia lets out three rooms on a bed and generous breakfast basis – try her delicious homemade cakes. Apart from exploring the lake and taking the ferry over to its tiny, medieval San Giulio island, take a walk in the surrounding chestnut and beech forests, and reserve a table at neighbouring village ristorante La Zucca, which specialises in seasonal products like pumpkin gnocchi or ricotta and wild herb ravioli.
Doubles from €65 B&B, beb.it/montecamosino
It is difficult to imagine a more peaceful holiday escape than Tuscany’s idyllicVal d’Orcia. Arriving at this rustic agriturismo is a challenge, as you need to negotiate a winding, 7km dirt track – and remember that wild boars don’t stop for cars. (Don’t even think about using a GPS.) The reward is a relaxing wine and foodie stay with genial hosts Andrea and Elena, who walked away from a successful big city osteria to turn this ancient farmhouse into a six-room eco B&B and passionately inventive restaurant. They planted organic vines, olive trees and vegetables, producing most of the ingredients served at table, and a distinctive natural wine that’s sold as far away as Japan.
Doubles from €85 B&B, agriturismopiandimetavecchia.com
The Dal Cero family founded their world renowned Cà dei Frati winery 80 anni fa, with vineyards surrounding the waters of Lake Garda. Of all the Italian lakes, Garda is the one that offers something to all travellers, from opulent villas to agriturismo stays, or family friendly camping sites. The Dal Ceros’ renovated Aquila d’Oro is a modern hotel with 21 rooms at the southern point of the lake, just by the narrow peninsula that juts out to Sirmione, an ancient medieval fortress port with Roman ruins. After swimming or boating in the lake, try their crisp white Lugana wine at the sunset lounge bar. A tour of the family cantina is a must, and for sightseeing don’t miss the astonishing Vittoria le degli Italiani, home of poet and revolutionary Gabriele d’Annunzio.
Doubles from €110 B&B, aquiladorodesenzano.it
When Emanuela gave up a successful career as a lawyer to launch Italy’s first glamping site 12 anni fa, it was one safari tent pitched in the back garden of her house, hidden away in the sleepy countryside just outside Venice. Quindi, seven years ago, the Canonici transferred nearby to a magnificent 17th-century barchessa, the traditional colonnaded barn of a villa veneta, with lush grounds perfect for glamping. Today there are four spacious tents hidden away in the gardens, raised up on stilts, with four-poster bed, antique Murano glass chandeliers, a hip decor of flea market finds – luxurious but eco-friendly. Inside the barchessa there are two lavish suites, a dining room and wine bar. While the Canonici is perfectly located for a day trip to Venice, 15 minutes away by train, the excess tourism of La Serenissima means that guests are increasingly exploring quieter local attractions, like Palladio’s villas on the Brenta river, Giotto’s frescoes in Padua, or prosecco tasting in the Valdobiaddene hills.
Doubles from €150 B&B, glampingcanonici.com
Wine and food lovers visiting the adjoining regions of Langhe and Roero are spoiled for choice when it comes to friendly farmhouse stays and winemaker B&Bs, as this area is home not only to the renowned wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, but aromatic white truffles and exquisite hazelnuts. Just outside the foodie destination of Alba, Casa Scaparone is a unique address, a 500-year-old manor house surrounded by a rambling assortment of outhouses, courtyards, arcades and barns that have been converted into a poetic, bohemian retreat. The accommodation is funky, there’s a brilliant osteria with vegetarian and vegan options, Piedmont specialities and their own wines, and an organic farmsupplies the kitchen and cooking school. The long and lazy outdoor weekend brunchesusually end up with local musicians performing.
Doubles from €120 room-only, casascaparone.it
The bare stone houses of the tiny medieval hamlet of Scheggino cluster on the slope of Umbria’s rolling Apennine foothills. Torre del Nera is another albergo diffuso, with renovated abandoned houses keeping local village life alive. Ci sono 16 independent structures, some transformed into apartments, the others spacious doubles with wooden beams, fireplaces, traditional furniture and modern bathrooms, plus a relaxing indoor pool and spa. For outdoor activities head to the Nera river for rafting, kayaking, no-kill fishing and canyoning. Just 15 minutes’ drive away is the beautiful ancient town of Spoleto.
Doubles from €88 room-only, torredelnera.it
Sardinia is famed for its clear turquoise waters, but accommodation on its famous Costa Smeralda can be luxurious and expensive, especially in July and August. Domus de Janas sul Mare is very much the exception. Located on the eastern side of the island, midwaybetween Olbia and Cagliari, the Amaduzzi family’s down-to-earth property looks out over the long, sandy Torre di Bari beach, marked by a 16th-century watchtower, fringed with pine trees and Mediterranean shrubs. This is the beginning of the Ogliastra coastline, where you can canoe, paddleboard, sail, scuba dive or snorkel. The hotel has a pool, gym and spa, while the rooms are simple but spacious, with wooden balconies. There is an outdoor pizzeria and restaurant, but self-catering apartments come with a kitchenette.
Doubles from €60 B&B, domusdejanas.com
Nanni and Lina are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their agriturismo, a genuine working farm with goats and sheep for cheese and yoghurt, an organic vegetable garden, beehives and olive grove, all ingredients for the traditional island cuisine served in the cantina-style restaurant. Sardinia is the perfect mix of sea and mountain, and Canales is high in the mountains of the Gulf of Orosei e del Gennargentu national park, which stretches from the deep green Lake Cedrino and towering Supramonte peak down to the coast, where dramatic coves andbeaches like Cala Luna e Cala Gonone are accessible by boat. While Lake Cedrino is close to Canales and can easily be explored by kayak, for the rest of the park’s attractions, use a local tour guide cooperative, which works closely with the agriturismo.
Doubles from €70 B&B, canales.it
Although the origins of this farm and private hamlet date back to the 16th century, the present villa is 200 years old and surrounded by 20 hectares of vines and olive trees that run right down to the sea, with views over Portoferraio gulf to the mainland. Ci sono 10 self-catering apartments, and guests are very much left alone, as there are just the peaceful flower gardens and private beach, no pool or restaurant. This year, in the bicentenary of his death, it will be difficult to ignore the presence of Napoléon Bonaparte on Elba, the place where he spent the first of his exiles from France. He actually stayed right here in La Chiusa, on his initial arrival, and a day’s bike trip can take in his two official residences, now museums, Villa dei Mulini e Villa di San Martino.
Apartment for two from €115 a night, minimum four nights, tenutalachiusa.com
Elena and Moreno call their hideaway “holiday in the olive grove”. It’s a two-bedroom house with a traditional millstone, once used for pressing grapes and olives, surrounded by olive and fruit trees, prickly pears and vine-clad hills. There is a swimming pool and fully equipped kitchen, and part of the fun of staying here is mixing with local life: sipping an espresso in the famous Caffe Sicilia in nearby Noto, buying freshly caught tuna from the pescheria, or ricotta straight from the farm. A 25-minute drive away is the wild Calamosche beach, a tiny inlet in the protected Vendicari nature reserve.
sleeps 6, €120 a night, four-night minumum, availability in October, oliomavaria.com
Although Ischia may seem like the slightly kitsch, unfashionable neighbour of chic Capri, for a summer stay it is much more affordable. Villa Maria is a small, modest hotel just above the bustling port where the ferry from Naples arrives, e 10 minutes’ walk from the popular San Pietro beach, where the hotel has a small, private strip. Ischia is famed for its spa hotels, which use the island’s volcanic muds, and guests at Villa Maria can choose massages, mud baths and cosmetic treatments at discount prices as walk-in guests of two nearby spas. A huge buffet dinner is laid out each night, right next to the sundowner balcony bar.
Doubles from €100 half-board, en.villamariasantangelo.it