By Arielle Grinshpan, Tom Provine, and Adrien Glover
Whether Italy is already on your travel wish list for 2016 or not, there are plenty of reasons to visit one of Europe's—and the world's—most beloved destinations this coming year. In the popular Mediterranean country, new wine regions are emerging, jetset playgrounds are popping up, and buzzy pilgrimage-worthy restaurants appearing on the map. And, we cannot forget the Pope's Jubilee Year; Rome—and the Vatican—has a full calendar of religious and cultural events for the devout and the curious. Even the once-seedy port city of Genoa is experiencing a renaissance. Read on for the top 10 places to visit in Italy this year. Buon viaggio!
This scenic area of Umbria is fast becoming known as Italy’s “best new wine region.” Follow its official wine trail and sip on wines made with the area’s signature varietal, Sagrantino, which produces a bold, earthy red. Stay at the stylish new Palazzo Bontadosi hotel, and make a dinner reservation at the new wine-focused Locanda del Teatro. Lovebirds will want to check out the impressive new castle hotel, Borgi dei Conti resort, perfect for dream weddings, which recently opened in the nearby town of Monepetriolo.
Train from Rome: 2 hours; from $12. Book your rail ticket here.
Italy’s capital city of Rome is always on the must-visit list, and 2016 is a big one for the Eternal City: Pope Francis I has declared a Jubilee Year, seen by the Church as a period for universal pardon, when pilgrims can make the rounds of Rome's great basilicas and "cleanse their souls of sin." Whether for religious or cultural reasons, don’t miss the special Jubilee tours (from city packages to guided walks) created in honor of this historic event. Heathens take note: The recently uncovered pagan basilica—an underground place of worship for a mysterious cult 2,000 years ago—is now open to the public. And, everyone should see the newly restored (scaffolding-free!) Trevi fountain.
Don’t Miss: Essential for anyone visiting Rome, the ItaliaPass entitles members to hundreds in savings—tours, restaurants, shopping, and even airfare and VIP access to the ItaliaPass Lounge, a modern oasis at Termini train station. Join here.
It’s no secret that the Dolomites, the Alps of Italy, are a skier’s dream, and several new chalets have opened in South Tyrol. Chalet Zeno in San Cassiano is a new three-suite apartment, part of the Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa and one of the area’s best properties (and a fave of George Clooney). Its terrace has an outdoor tub and guests have access to the award-winning spa and surrounding scenic Alta Badia slopes. Or, stay nearby at the new Naturhotel Miraval, a family-run hotel filled with chic leather armchairs and firepits, and natural, simple wood accents. It’s the nicest log cabin you’ve ever seen!
Train from Milan: 3.5 hours; from $36. Book your rail ticket here.
Chef Massimo Bottura is synonymous with high-end Italian cuisine. In fact, his three Michelin starred reknowned restaurant, Osteria Francescana in Modena, was named Number 2 on the 50 Best Restaurants in the World list this year. If the line-up for Bottura’s 42-month-aged prosciutto-like cullatello is too long, consider a food pilgrimage to nearby Verona. Chef Giancarlo Perbellini’s Ristorante Perbellini was awarded two Michelin stars in 2015 for its delicacies, like Bigoli chestnut flour pasta and smoked beef belly from the spit. Delizioso!
Train from Milan: 1 hour 45 minutes; $11. Book your rail ticket here.
Smaller and quieter than Lake Como, Lago Iseo is having its moment as the new playground for the in-the-know Italy jetset. Stay at the new four-star Hotel Rivalago, right on the glimmering lake. After you're settled, do a tasting tour of the sparklers in the adjacent Franciacorta wine region, where regulations on producing sparkling wines are more stringent than in Champagne, France. For dinner, go for the tasting menu at Enrico Cherra’s lauded new restaurant, Da Vittorio.
Train from Milan: Under 1 hour to Bergamo; from $7. Book your rail ticket here.
Long known as a seedy seaport, Genoa is undergoing a renaissance. The labyrinthine Old Town has returned to being a charming maze of old homes; new-wave delicatessens and hipster record stores dot the seaside landscape; and the city is already host to Europe’s largest boat show. If you’re looking for good eats, make a beeline to Nonna Leonilda; the 96-year-old grandmother opened her doors in 2016 to live her life-long dream of cooking for the public. She is now on record as the oldest restaurant owner in the world.
Train from Rome: 1.5 hours; from $15. Book your rail ticket here.
Along with recently being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palermo—and Sicily as a whole—will amaze in 2016. Most importantly is its burgeoning wine scene, fueled by the island’s rich volcanic soil and upstart vinters. Don’t miss a visit to Tennuta di Fessinia; the palatial, all-woman-run winery will also be opening a boutique hotel on its property Summer 2016. When in Palermo, make a stop at the revitalized Contemporary Museum of Art and Teatro Massimo opera house.
Train from Rome: 11 hours; from $45 (includes Connection to Island). Book your rail ticket here.
Italy’s coffee capital has been picking up a lot of buzz. Beyond its rich literary history (it was a second home to writers Sir Richard Francis Burton and James Joyce, and where he wrote his best works), the recent archaeological find of the oldest ancient Roman fort and expansion of coffee dynasty Illy is making Trieste a must-visit town in Italy in 2016. The port city is the perfect spot to sip Italy’s aromatic coffee, explore hushed alleyways, and enjoy fresh seafood. Don’t miss a stay at the majestic Grand Hotel Duchy d’Aosta and trips to the historic cafe Caffè San Marco and the Teatro Verdi theatre.
Train from Milan: 4.5 hours; from $22. Book your rail ticket here.
Beloved for its slow pace, the scenic southerly region of Puglia has new draws in 2016, like access to the private lives of the Guarinis, one of the region’s most important families, who are opening their revitalized centuries-owned family palace and estate in the town of Scorrano to the public. Don’t forget a visit to Santo, to the east, where the Zinzulusa Grotto lures swimmers to its breathtaking caves. After, take the train to Otranato, a charming walled town and host to one of Italy’s top jazz festivals, which takes place every July.
Train from Rome: 8 hours to Lecce; from $35. Book your rail ticket here.
Milan on the heels of the Expo is having its moment again, and no area is getting more notice than the Porta Nuova neighborhood. Home to the stunning high-rise forest, Bosco Verticale; the Batali-Bastianich-owned Italian market Eataly; and other trendy waterside spots, Porta Nuova is ensuring Milan stays in the millennial spotlight. Nearby Mercato Metropolitano, one of the newest and largest food markets in Italy, is also a go-to destination that doubles as a seen-and-be-seen nightclub.