Going remote in Italy: How to get out of the cities and into the countryside

What’s a trip to Italy without exploring the vaulted passages of the Colosseum, skipping down the Spanish Steps and staring up in wonderous rapture at the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel?

“Absolutely relaxing,” said Margherita Migliorini of Villa di Capannole, a luxury accommodation in the Tuscan countryside. Her family has owned the villa — which used to be a working farm — for generations.

Italy is one of the most popular places to travel in the world. The country received more than 95 million tourist arrivals in 2019, the third highest in Europe after France and Spain, and the sixth highest in the world after the United States, China and Mexico, according to The World Bank.

Now, Italy is letting in some international tourists. The European Union this week agreed to reopen its borders to travelers who have been immunized with approved vaccines, as well as those coming from a list of countries with low Covid-19 infection rates. The list may be finalized as early as this week, according to Reuters.

Italy had already announced that residents of the E.U., Europe’s Schengen Area, the United Kingdom and Israel can avoid quarantining if they test negative for Covid within 48 hours of arriving.

Travelers from the United States, Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates can bypass quarantine requirements if they arrive in Italy via “Covid-tested flights” into Rome, Milan, Venice or Naples. Those flights require passengers to test negative before and after arriving in Italy.

Those cities are some of the most heavily trodden tourist destinations in Italy, which leave lesser-known parts of the country quiet and peaceful, even during the summer.

Driving trips through Sicily
In 2019, just under half (nearly 42 million) of all travelers to Italy arrived for vacations, according to the Bank of Italy’s 2020 “Survey on International Tourism.” More than 9 million of those arrivals purchased package trips, according to the report.

While the term “package trip” may connote a bus caravan of tourists under the tutelage of a flag-waving guide, there are companies that design escorted or self-driving trips for solitude-seeking holidaymakers.

Milan-based tour operator Find Your Italy specializes in “off-the-beaten-track” tours of the country. Small group tours are available to destinations like Abruzzo and Puglia, as are self-driving itineraries, which start from 645 euros ($780) to places such as Langhe, Piedmont and Sicily.

“I think this year could be a good chance for individual travelers to visit also the art cities as they won’t be as crowded as usual, due to lack of big scheduled groups,” Roberta Leverone, a company manager, told CNBC.

From March to November, Find Your Italy arranges 11-day self-driving tours through eastern Sicily, which includes excursions led by archaeologists, art historians, chefs and wine producers, according to the company’s website.

“We propose this tour with [a] self-drive option, but it’s possible to have it with a private chauffeur,” said Leverone.

Sicily is popular in July and August, so Leverone suggests a Milan and Lake Cuomo tour to avoid crowds or a food, wine and nature tour through Sardinia, which she said is quiet year-round, except for August.

Scuba dive to the sunken city of Baia
Aristocrats once flocked to the thermal baths of the ancient Roman resort city of Baia, near the coast of Naples. The same volcanic activity that once attracted wealthy Romans to the area is why a part of the city now lies 50 feet under the sea.

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