From the pomp and ceremony of Vatican City to the sleepy atmosphere of a medieval town or the romance of a hillside olive grove, Italy is packed with things that tourists love. Visitors can get up close to world-renowned sites like the Sistine Chapel and the Roman Forum, trawl the vineyards of the Prosecco hills or lose themselves among the streets of a Cinque Terre village with a gelato in hand. Try the boot on for size with a guided tour — we’ve hand-picked a few of the very best.
Main photo: Torbole on Lake Garda (Getty Images)
This article contains affiliate links, which may earn us revenue
1. Amalfi coast walking tour, Exodus
££ | Group size 4-16
This eight-day tour encompasses one of Italy’s most handsome stretches: the Amalfi coast. Come to be charmed by its medieval towns and villages, cutesy coves and rugged cliffs — and aim to see it all on foot. Tick off those postcard regulars: Positano, Ravello and Amalfi, wander the famous ruins of Pompeii, embark on the “Walk of the Gods” past shepherds’ huts and ancient stone houses, and soak up those coast-curving panoramic views along the way. Price includes flights and transfers, accommodation, most meals (including packed lunches) and the services of a tour leader.
2. Undiscovered Italy, Riviera Travel
££ | Group size maximum of 25
This is your chance to see one of Italy’s less-visited spots: Puglia, deep in the south of the country. This pretty region has been coveted by rulers throughout history and has a fascinating range of cultural influences, from Spanish castles to Norman churches and Romanesque cathedrals. See the best of them on this seven-day holiday, during which you’ll soak up plenty of culture with escorted tours of Lecce’s medieval streets and the Unesco-listed troglodyte cave dwellings at Matera. There’s also time to stroll around the town of Alberobello, with its intriguing cone-roofed huts, and stop at the pilgrimage site of Monte Sant’Angelo; tucking into top-quality food — and wine comes as a given. The price includes flights, four-star accommodation and some meals. There are multiple departures between August and October.
3. Gastronomic tour of Sicily, Peter Sommer Travels
£££ | Group size maximum 10
For a tastebud-tickler of a trip, head to eastern Sicily, where you’ll find the dishes reflect the flavours of the island’s history — featuring culinary influences of the Byzantines, Arabs, Normans and Spanish who once ruled here. This week-long adult-only tour (typically running in September or October) includes visits to olive, dairy and herb farms, a pasta-making class, a demonstration of chocolate making, and wine-tasting galore — including a stop at a winery on the slopes of Mount Etna. But it’s not only about eating and drinking. Your expert local guide will also take you to some of the region’s prettiest and most historic spots such as the Syracuse Archaeological Park and the lovely baroque town of Noto. Price includes accommodation and most meals, but not flights.
4. Florence and Tuscany tour, Riviera Travel
££ | Group size maximum of 25
Tuscany is Italy’s heart-throb region, and this tour takes in some of its most soul-stirring spots — as well as smaller, more rustic corners. Start in Florence, with its fabulous cathedral and Uffizi gallery, holding masterpieces by Michelangelo, Raphael and many more. Next, it’s squinting at the Leaning Tower of Pisa before moving to Siena, whose central square hosts world-renowned horse races, and swinging by San Gimignano, a gorgeous medieval village. String all this together with some classic Italian dishes and you’re sure to have a hard-to-forget holiday. Prices for this eight-day tour include return flights, some meals and all excursions and tours.
5. Walk the Amalfi coast, Explore
££ | Group size 10-16 (average 12)
This week-long, laid-back walking holiday is your chance to trace the trails of the Amalfi coast, surely Italy’s most memorable stretch. The walks are graded from easy to moderate and include the classic “Walk of the Gods”. You can wander around the tumbling towns of Amalfi and Positano, explore the sleek island of Capri, and join optional excursions to Pompeii and Ravello. Each night you’ll bed down at a local family-run farm overlooking the sea, and fill up on homemade food and wine. The trip runs between April and November and includes accommodation, some meals, and the services of a tour leader and driver. The price excludes flights.
6. Turin and Piedmont tour, Kirker Holidays
£££ | Group size maximum of 22
Boasting the world’s best-known shroud doesn’t guarantee tourist crowds — Turin tends to fly under the radar as far as Italian cities go. But it well rewards a visit, with Renaissance palaces, fascinating museums and some evocative, historic restaurants. This six-night tour with cultural specialists Kirker Holidays — led by an Oxford scholar with a passion for the region’s history, art and music — takes in not only the city itself but the Piedmontese countryside beyond, sitting in the shadow of the Alps. You’ll ride a funicular railway, enjoy tastings of white truffles and Barolo wine, and admire some sumptuous collections of paintings and sculpture. Tours typically run in May and October, and include flights, accommodation and some meals.
7. Lake Como, St Moritz and the Bernina Express, Riviera Travel
£ | Group size maximum of 25
Incorporating some of the choicest parts of northern Italy and Switzerland, this eight-day holiday pairs stop-in-your-tracks mountain scenery with charming old-world towns. This is classic territory that appeared on the itinerary of those young aristocrats taking the Grand Tour in the 18th century — and it’s still as captivating today. You’ll be based in a luxury hotel on the shore of Lake Como, the perfect spot for boat trips to lakeside towns such as Bellagio. Daily excursions will whisk you to sophisticated St Moritz, the Bergamo, Lake Maggiore, and to unforgettable landscapes along the Bernina Express railway route. The price includes flights, four-star accommodation, and breakfast and dinner daily.
8. Rome, Ninfa and Castel Gandolfo, Brightwater Holidays
££ | Group size 6-25
There are plenty of gardens you’d love to peek in, but those at Ninfa and Castel Gandolfo, the pope’s summer residence, are surely towards the top of your list. Just south of Rome, the medieval ruins at Ninfa are festooned with curtains of flowers and allow for wonderfully scented walks beside the river. Castel Gandolfo, whose gardens Pope Francis has declared should be open to the public, is a sight you’ll want to snap a photo or three at — particularly the Giardino del Belvedere, with its cypresses and umbrella pines. The itinerary also features 16th-century Villa Lante and Villa D’Este, the walled town of Viterbo, and a tour of Rome itself, including highlights such as the Colosseum, St Peter’s Square and the Trevi Fountain. This four-day tour runs in May and September. The price includes flights, accommodation, coach travel, tours and some meals.
9. Treasures of Sicily, Esplora Travel
£££ | Group size 5-12
Yes, this luxurious 12-day tour of Sicily features the main sites and cities, but what makes it sing are the visits to those off-the-beaten-track corners. Expect to see the Palatine Chapel in Palermo, Monreale Cathedral, the ruined temples of Agrigento, and Taormina with its ancient Greco-Roman theatre, as well as a winery visit and cookery class — all in the company of a local guide. The tour departs at various dates in spring and autumn, and the price includes all accommodation, most meals (including wine and beer), entrance costs and guides. Flights are excluded.
10. Prosecco Hills tour, Ramble Worldwide
££ | Group size maximum 18
How can you possibly improve a walk through the Italian landscape? With glasses of prosecco, of course! This brand-new seven-night tour with Ramble Worldwide focuses on the Prosecco hills in the province of Treviso, a Unesco-listed region of medieval villages and terraced vineyards. Your base will be Conegliano, a hillside town with a 12th-century castle and a long tradition of prosecco production. Start with a guided tour of its historic centre — and a wine tasting at a local vineyard — before striking out along the Prosecco Road, which was Italy’s very first wine road. Other highlights include time spent exploring the romantic squares and alleys of Treviso, enjoying lip-smacking views from the ancient town of Asolo, and visiting the 16th-century watermill of Molinetto della Croda. Tours run in April, June, September and October, and price includes flights, four-star accommodation and most meals.
11. The Apennines tour to Italy’s Abruzzo National Park, Naturetrek
££ | Group size 4-16
This tour is your ticket to explore the magical national park of Abruzzo in the central Apennines. You’ll join natural history guides on scenic walks and take in the region’s alpine and Mediterranean plants, birds, butterflies and mammals. Up on the mountain slopes you’ll spot red deer, chamois, golden eagles, wolves, choughs — and, best of all, endangered Marsican brown bears. Walks will be broken for long lunches filled with local produce — think stuffed mussels and straight-out-the-oven bruschetta. The eight-day trip runs in May, which is prime time to view the bears, and the price includes flights, accommodation in a rural family-run hotel, guides and all meals.
12. Northern Sardinia windsurfing, Planet Windsurf
££ | Group size private tour
The pin-up island of Sardinia has much to impress you with, not least incredible trekking opportunities, Bronze Age archaeological sites and some of the world’s best water sports. Book a seven-day trip with specialist Planet Windsurf, which will happily organise an itinerary based around the bay of Porto Pollo on the island’s north coast. It’s the perfect spot for kitesurfing and windsurfing — whether you’re an expert or beginner — and doubles up as a great base for exploring the goosebump-inducing La Maddalena archipelago. Tours are tailor-made, and can include flights, accommodation, equipment hire and lessons.
Video: What’s it like on an escorted tour? We joined one to Tenerife to find out
13. Calabria & Basilicata tour, Esplora Travel
££ | Group size 5-12
Calabria, tucked in the heel of southern Italy, tends to be overlooked by most. Don’t be so foolish: this itinerary includes visits to the Bronzes of Riace, the hilltop towns of the Aspromonte mountains, the castles of the Sila and the fascinating Greek temples at Paestum. You’ll learn all about the region with a fully licensed local guide, and the price includes accommodation — in boutique hotels and agriturismi — plus all meals (with wine and beer) and entrance fees. Flights aren’t included and there are annual departures, usually in September.
14. Treasures of Florence tour, Jules Verne
£ | Group size 8-18
This five-night small-group tour takes in some of the leading art and architecture of fabulous Florence. You’ll get priority entrance to the Uffizi, Accademia and more, and see its standout attractions: the Basilica di San Lorenzo; Rucellai Palace; Palazzo Strozzi; Santa Croce church; the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli; Palazzo Vecchio; Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. Tours depart from February to May, and from September to November. The tour is aimed at mature travellers and the price includes four-star accommodation in the centre of the city, flights, transfers, excursions and guides. There’s no single supplement to pay on some tour dates.
15. Trulli and Sassi tour, Jules Verne
££ | Group size 8-22
Get to know the regions of Puglia and Basilicata on a seven-night small-group tour. You’ll make tracks for its historic ports, snap photos of its baroque architecture and explore Norman castles as well as visit the quirky trulli of Puglia — mysterious ancient dwellings with conical roofs — and Sassi of Basilicata, built into the rock. You’ll even venture to the splendid Lecce Palazzo and speak to a member of the family about the palazzo’s history before strolling around the gardens and rounding things off with appetisers and an aperitif. This trip is aimed at mature adult travellers, and the price includes flights, four and five-star accommodation in Bari, Lecce, Matera and Alberobello, transfers, excursions and guides. Tours depart between May and October.
16. Flowers of Italy’s Gargano Peninsula, Naturetrek
££ | Group size 5-16
Lace up your boots for a series of relaxing walks in the flower-filled Gargano Peninsula in southeast Italy, where the orchids are among the most striking in Europe. On the itinerary is the medieval town of Monte Sant’Angelo, its terraces dotted with asphodels and rockrose. After that it’s off to Peschici, a traditional fishing village that’s a great base for discovering the botany of the peninsula’s north coast. Each walk is broken with lunchtime picnics, so you can get a taste of the lip-smacking local produce. Price includes flights, accommodation in family-run hotels, all meals and the services of expert guides.
17. Explore Lake Garda tour, TD active Holidays
££ | Group size 16
It’s hard not to fall head over heels for Lake Garda, but you can try your hardest on this tour. What will make things tricky is a stay in the soul-stirring lakeside town of Torbole — your base for a full day’s tour around the lake by bike. Two wheels aside, you’ll also hike Monte Baldo in the Italian Alps and re-energise with lunch at a mountain hut restaurant and trek through pungent vineyards, followed by the chance to toast the day and taste the wine itself. Happily, between the excursions, you’ll have time to laze by the lake and stroll around the local towns. The price of this five-day tour includes hotel accommodation, some meals, excursions and the services of a local guide, but not flights.
Take me there
Times Travel has partnered with Tourhub to bring our readers a wide selection of escorted tours from trusted travel partners. For more of the very best tours that showcase Italy, visit Tourhub.