Head here in summer and you’ll get to enjoy the heat, eat divinely and experience Italy’s most breathtaking cities, lakes and beaches.
See & be seen
Fashion, design and sophistication: Milan has it all in buckets (stylish ones, from Prada). This is Italy's most style-conscious place to wine, dine and live, but there’s also beauteous art such as Leonardo's Last Supper and the incredible gothic Duomo cathedral.
To feast on food and wine, try Peck (Via Spadari 9), a deli dating from the 19th century that nowadays also encompasses a restaurant and wine bar. For high-fashion gastronomy, there’s the Michelin-starred restaurant Cracco (Via Victor Hugo 4). Milan was also the birthplace of the aperitivo, a bountiful selection of snacks – as good as dinner – to munch alongside your early evening drink. Radetzky Café (Corso Garibaldi 105) has been supplying a delicious spread for over 20 years, but is still one of the hippest places to graze and people-watch.
For shopping, there’s the city’s fabled Quadrilatero d’Oro (Gold Quarter), which is lined by big-name designer boutiques, while you can buy or covet an entire lifestyle at 10 Corso Como (Corso Como 10), which has an eclectic collection of beautiful objects, clothes by off-the-radar designers and other things you never realised you needed, until now.
You can fly from London City Airport to Milan. Book flights here.
From Milan it’s just a short hop to some of Italy's most beguiling and luxurious locations: the glittering expanses of lakes Maggiore, Garda and Como. The lakes reflect the storybook medieval towns that perch picturesquely on their banks. In the heat of summer, there's nowhere better to be than lakeside, a glass of local Prosecco to hand. The Borromean Islands float in Lago Maggiore like a beguiling fleet of boats – Isola Bella is topped by an enormous villa and lush gardens, and looks like it’s sprung from a storybook.
Lago di Garda is the largest of the Italian lakes, surrounded by sloping hills, vineyards and olive and citrus groves. Most bewitching of all its towns is traffic-free, red-roofed Sirmione, on the southern bank. Here you can experience the Terme di Sirmione (Piazza Don Angelo Piatti), a lavish thermal spa.
Lago di Como is less visited than the other lakes but has an Alpine beauty – visit its sunny western shore to bask in beautiful towns such as Cernobbio and Tremezzo.
You can fly from London City Airport to Milan. To book a flight click here.
The floating city
Almost too beautiful to be true, Venice sits majestically on its banks, a surreal architectural symphony clinging to a warren of waterways. Unmissable experiences include gondola trips, the Grand Canal, San Marco, the wonderful Accademia art gallery, and the modernist Guggenheim collection. But in the heat of summer you may feel the need for a beach, surrounded by all this water, in which case you only have to take a boat trip over to the Lido, Venice’s historic bathing resort.
Thus refreshed, choose a restaurant back in town. If you steer clear from tourist traps, you can eat splendidly well here, at places such as characterful, wood-panelled La Zucca (Santa Croce 1762). For sublimely inventive cooking, but which comes at a price, push the boat out at Gran Caffe & Ristorante Quadri (Piazza San Marco 121), which also has an amazing setting on the edge of Venice’s most important piazza.
You can fly from London City Airport to Venice. To book a flight click here.
Land in Florence and you’re in for a treat. This great, yet diminutive medieval and Renaissance city unfurls before you, a patchwork of ochre, orange and pink. This is the art gallery of Italy's most splendid artistic era, with sculpture and paintings by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and many more. But this is also the Tuscan capital, and as such is a wonderful place to eat and drink. Choices range from earthy places such as Trattoria Mario (Via Rosina 2), packed with locals and serving up the famous Florentine bistecca (steak) to creative takes on tradition at places like Il Santo Bevitore (Via Santo Spirito 66).
Student city Florence also gets lively after dark, with music clubs such as the Jazz Club (Via Nuova de Caccini 3) and the Be Bop (Via dei Servi 76).
Florence is also known for its artisanship, producing beautifully decorated writing paper and leather goods. But Italians travel for kilometres to come to the city’s famous out-of-town outlets, in search of designer bargains, such as The Mall (Via Europa 8), outside Florence.
Beyond Florence, you’ll want to dive into the lush green countryside of Tuscany to explore its hilltop towns – most accessible from here are Fiesole and Greve in Chianti.
You can fly from London City Airport to Florence. To book a flight click here.
It may no longer be the capital of the world, but Rome remains an epic city, unlike anywhere else on earth. Here the vestiges of the ancient Roman world dominate the centre of the city. There are baroque piazzas and churches, and beautiful medieval districts with a character all of their own. To enjoy one of the city’s fastest emerging and charming districts, go to Monti, close to the Colosseum, which is filled with small wine bars, such as Ai Tre Scalini (Via Panisperna 251), and boutiques, including 101 (Via Urbana) for women’s clothes and King Size Vintage (Via del Boschetto 94) for, well, vintage. Monti also harbours one of Rome’s best and best value restaurants, L’Asino d’Oro (Via del Boschetto 73).
On summer nights, Trastevere on the Tevere’s left bank is the place to be. Its picturesque ochre and red, ivy-draped streets, are full of locals and tourists spilling out of its restaurants and bars – for a superlative meal here, try the Glass Hostaria (Vicolo del Cinque 58), or La Gensola (Piazza della Gensola 15). If you’d like to carry on your evening even later, and maybe catch a gig, Circolo degli Artisti (Via Casilina Vecchia 42), in the northeast of Rome, hosts many big-name alternative acts. Or simply finish off your day with a gourmet ice cream: try Gelateria I Carusi (Via Collina 13-15) or Fatamorgana (Piazza degli Zingari 5).
You can fly from London City Airport to Rome. To book a flight click here.