Q&A: Italy

AUSTRALIANS have an ongoing love affair with Italy. With plenty of coffee, pizza and pasta, plus the incredible diversity of landscapes that the boot of the Mediterranean offers, it’s not hard to see why. We asked Giulia Gentiluomo, who is part of TravelManagers, to give us her top tips on selling Italy.

Which areas are in Italy are most popular?

Puglia, Sicily and the Lakes District, like Sirmione on Lake Garda.

What are the must-see highlights for first time travellers?

Venice, Florence and Rome are always, without a doubt the best starting point. But spend longer than two nights in each city.

Milan is a city that often gets overlooked. Climb the top of the Duomo or visit the Last Supper, even if you are not an art enthusiast — being in this space with a masterpiece will take your breath away.

When in Rome, wake up early (5am) and walk down to the Trevi Fountains. Grab a fresh panino, sit and enjoy the fountains before the tourists roll in. Check out Caravaggio’s paintings which hang in the lesser known Church San Luigi dei Francesi. Visit the Palazzo Altemps, which houses Greek and Roman sculptures as well as a major collection or Egyptian art. While there take time to reflect in the beautiful small chapel of Sant’Ancieto located within the building.

While in Venice catch a water taxi at sunrise and sunset — a great way to truly appreciate the beauty of Venice.

What sort of travellers are visiting Italy?

Multi-generational families. The once VFR market who are now returning and want to explore Italy beyond their hometown.

Is there any particular time of year that is best or most popular to travel to Italy?

The European summer is always popular however travelling during May and late September is becoming increasingly in favour to beat the summer crowds and heat.

For repeat travellers to Italy who have seen the main highlights, what hidden gems would you suggest?

It’s nice to take Italy at a slower pace instead or jumping from one town to another. I’d strongly encourage repeat travellers to hire a car and explore regions at their own pace in particular Sicily, it’s beautiful. I couldn’t help but fall in love with Palermo, it’s raw, rustic, flamboyant and feisty. From discovering local cuisine at the markets or viewing the phenomenal mosaics at the Cappella Palatina (the Palatine Chapel) there is something to cater for all types of travellers.

The island of Ortigia also took my breath away. Best way to explore this magical place is on foot. You can get lost for hours strolling through the narrow streets absorbing all the beautiful architecture.

Other hidden gems include the Naples Underground Tour or summer concerts in Tuscany like the Umbria Jazz festival.

Are independent travel or tour groups more popular?

Independent travel is more popular, especially for those travellers who are wanting to slow the pace down, spend longer in a city and have free time to do things at a leisurely pace.

What advice do you have for other agents selling Italy?

Italy is not just a European summer destination. It is beautiful during the cooler months, especially in the south!

Agents should encourage their clients to spend enough time in cities so they can immerse themselves in the destination and experience the “dolce vita” Italians live.

Clients tend to want to cram a lot into an itinerary but sometimes less is more.