When choosing a location abroad where to celebrate a summer special occasion for family and friends, perhaps followed by a vacation in the chosen destination, many groups often sacrifice their spirit of adventure and end up in typical family resorts and areas with mass tourism. It is easy to see why: these places are commonly regarded as safe options for groups with children, providing a bit of everything for everyone. In the case of summer in Italy, the hotspots are the coastlines of Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Sardinia and Apulia, because of the equipped beach clubs, amazing sea and simply beautiful regions.
But why not leave the flocks of tourists behind and choose beautiful locations that are off the beaten track, that offer a learning and rewarding experience, and that still inject excitement in your family’s get-together? Away from the big art cities and holiday coastline, Italy rarely fails to surprise and please the eyes!
We have chosen three regions, respectively in the north, center and south of the boot, for you to consider for your next summer in Italy along with your family and friends.
Trentino Alto Adige: Entertainment and Nature
Sunny mornings on the lakeshores, active afternoons in the heart of the Dolomites, relaxing evenings under the starry mountain sky: this is summer in Trentino Alto Adige. The region is famous for its sports activities, both in winter and in summer, when you can enjoy mountain biking, swimming, rafting, horseback riding, golfing, climbing, and trekking – just to name a few.
But the region offers a lot more for groups of families and friends in search of different, authentic activities to enjoy. For a splash in the past and to learn about history in a fun way, make sure not to miss the Medieval Games in Sluderno. Every year, in August, the beautiful landscape of Val Venosta hosts three days of re-enactments of Roman times and the Middle Ages: you can witness legionaries building the Via Augusta, costume parades, knight battles and jousting tournaments, night concerts and fireworks.
If you want to immerge yourself in the world of laughter and joy, in June the town of Merano hosts Asfaltart – the International Festival of Street Art. Jugglers, fire-eaters, acrobats, clowns, mono-cyclists, comics and dancers, music and entertainment: for one whole weekend, Merano becomes a huge stage. Some performances are staged at the natural pond of Gargazzone, a unique natural bathing complex that makes no use of chemicals in the water purification process, using plants throughout the cleansing process instead. If you would like to present your entertainment or comedian skills to the public, there is also an open stage waiting for you… good luck!
Finally, if you love nature and wonder how some of the most beautiful mountains in the world developed – the stunning Dolomites – pay a visit to Geoparc Bletterbach, also known as “Rio delle Foglie”. It is South Tyrol’s largest gorge and lies at the bottom of the Corno Bianco mountain. The stone eroded over millions of years, and nowadays you can see the singular layers: the lowest layer is porphyry, in the middle you find sandstone, and at the top is the Dolomite limestone. Explore the itinerary and gaze at the precious findings such as carbonized plants and woods, primeval sea animals, or the imprints of dinosaurs.
Marche: Opera and Handcrafts
The region of Le Marche is home to one of the most striking open-air opera houses anywhere! The Sferisterio in Macerata was initially planned in 1823 as a stadium for an ancient Italian national sport called Pallone col bracciale, a game that dated back to the 15th century. It became an established opera house in the 1970s, and has been hosting the annual Opera Festival ever since. Witnessing this summer music festival is extremely special, because the Sferisterio of Macerata stands out as one of the most prominent architectural structures of the late European Neoclassical Style.
The Macerata Opera Festival generally takes place between July and August, while the region also hosts another amazing summer event in August, the Rossini Opera Festival. Pesaro is the hometown of Gioachino Rossini, one of the most popular opera composers in history, having written 39 operas as well as sacred music, songs, and some instrumental pieces. Attending these music festivals and listening to the sound of history is an emotional and enriching experience for both grownups and little ones alike!
Sound apart, you can experience Le Marche with all of your senses. Touch is one sense that is often ignored. This is the region with century-old traditions and know-how in the creation of handmade items, from fashion to pottery to music instruments. Castelfidardo, for example, is known for its instruments factories, such as accordions, keyboards and organs. When exploring it, you should not miss the Accordion International Museum, where you will find 350 unique specimens coming from twenty-two different countries. Another amazing place is the Paper and Watermark Museum in Fabriano, the town where watermarked paper was developed. Fabriano’s paper is still used the world over for bank notes and quality art paper!
Want to get your hands “dirty” and become a master artisan too? Join pottery workshops for families and friends in Pesaro, which has been known as the city of ceramics since the late Middle Ages. Other fun, hands-on experiences are: leatherwork in Tolentino, lacework in Offida, period furniture restoration in Ostra, and jewelry-making in Jesi.
Basilicata: Beach and Adventure
This region is little known abroad, and even Italians often do not consider it as a beach destination. Yet, if summer to you is not complete without a refreshing dip in the sea and you want to avoid huge crowds in favor of somewhere new and surprising, try Basilicata’s two fantastic coastlines.
The Ionian Coast is ideal for a summer family holiday, featuring the calm beaches and shallow seas of Metaponto and Policoro. Lido di Metaponto is full of traditional seaside activities for all the family, while Porto Degli Argonauti is great for joining a sailing course with your loved ones.
The Tyrrhenian Coast surprises you with the dramatic landscape of Maratea, where plunging cliffs hide beautiful coves. Hop on board of a fishing boat to witness how locals go about their daily livelihood, and to explore caves and secluded beaches.
Looking for an adrenaline rush? Basilicata offers two exciting zip-wire adventures: the Flight of the Eagle is a family friendly experience for up to four people to fly over the Pollino National Park; while the Flight of the Angel offers unparalleled views as you fly between the mountain villages of Pietrapertosa and Castelmezzano… you travel at speeds of up to 120 km/h and heights of up to 1020m.. it’s only for groups of friends that are not faint-hearted!
For families with children, Basilicata offers special places such as Rivello Adventure Park. Activities include canopy tours, tree-climbing, archery and zip-wire adventure. For younger children aged 2-4 years, there is a specially designed tour which includes ropes and wooden bridges that are set only 50cm from the ground and allow parents to follow their child around the course for safety.
It doesn’t matter what season of the year you choose to travel in: Italy is full of hidden and surprising destinations for an unforgettable time with your family and friends. If you want to be a creative visitor who embraces the seasons, at Italian Special Occasions DMC we recommend that you choose the best season-region combination for an off-the-beaten-track, authentic experience.
If you need any help in planning your summer in Italy, or in identifying the best period of the year and destination, as well as venues for a special event, you can put Italian Special Occasions DMC to the test: we will be delighted to assist you, inspire you and show you the different side of Italy!