When planning incentive travel for the summer months, companies face an age-old dilemma: is it better to choose popular destinations, but share the space with a crowd of tourists, or to go for less known spots, but risk having to settle for sub-par infrastructure and accommodation, and realising there was a reason for those destinations not being popular in the first place? If you choose Italy as your next incentive travel destination, you can have the best of both worlds – provided that you know exactly where to go, and when. Check out our top choices for summer incentive travel in Italy.
5 unusual summer incentive destinations in Italy: hidden gems from north to south
1. Monte Isola – Lombardy
This tiny hamlet (population just under 2000) ranked among the top five most beautiful Italian villages in 2018. In order to reach it, you will have to take a boat and reach the small island set in the middle of Lake Iseo. One of the main characteristics of this island is that cars are banned: the only allowed means of transportation are bicycles and busses. Residents are also allowed mopeds (but not motorbikes), but non-residents do not have that option. This is the ideal incentive travel destination, if you are aiming for a relaxing break, long hikes and stunning photo-ops. Perfect for creative retreats, workshops and seminars that might benefit from mindfulness and heightened concentration, such as can be achieved by communing with nature, contemplating beautiful landscapes and eating healthy, locally-sourced food. This destination is particularly handy for business travellers to Milan, as it provides respite from the metropolitan frenzy of the big city, at an affordable price and without the need to travel far.
2. Ravello – Campania
Most tourists and business travellers visiting the beautiful region of Campania will spend a few days on the Amalfi Coast, particularly in the summer months. Positano and Amalfi will be the preferred destinations and sometimes the only ones to be considered at all. Ravello is a less known destination, on the nearby hill, that has just as much to offer in terms of landscapes and hospitality as the other two, but it is far less crowded and more affordable. There is plenty to see in Ravello. From the stunning cathedral – a medieval building with Renaissance additions, home to two museums and a number of ancient relics – to the famous Villa Rufolo. The latter is a magnificent historic mansion, famous for its rich and sophisticated architectural style (be sure to visit the tower and the cloisters). Composer Richard Wagner was fascinated by it, as he was visiting the region, and, when he wrote his celebrated Parsifal, he modelled the magic garden of Klingsor on the well in the garden of Villa Rufolo. The local chapel is no longer used as a place of worship, and it now plays host to cultural events and art exhibitions throughout the year. Ravello also offers one of the most stunning panoramic spots in the world: a spectacular terrace, with a unique view of the gulf (400 meters below) and the mountain, on the opposite side. Come here to get inspired, to relax and to indulge in the pleasures of good food, art, music and the contemplation of nature. By all means travel to the coast for a quick dip in the sea and explore Sorrento, Amalfi and Naples, but then enjoy a slower pace and a more laid back atmosphere in beautiful Ravello.
3. Porto Selvaggio – Apulia
This is not so much a destination as an attraction around which you might want to plan your holiday. Porto Selvaggio is a small but magnificent natural reserve, located on the Ionian coast of Apulia, in the subregion known as Salento. A lush wood of maritime pines surrounds a small rocky bay, with crystal-clear water and small pebbled beaches. The whole area is protected and it belongs to the nearby town of Nardò – which is where you are likely to look for accommodation if you are hoping to visit Porto Selvaggio. This is the ideal destination for swimming, diving, windsurfing, scuba diving or just relaxing and communing with nature. There are no fancy resorts in or around Porto Selvaggio: its natural reserve status means that nothing can be built on it. There are no bars or facilities of any kind in the immediate vicinity of the bay. This is not a luxury spot for rich tourists, this is a place in which nature is respected, and it gives back to those who can appreciate it. There is only one caveat: this is not a hidden gem. This is a very popular gem. If you come here in July or August, you will be fighting for a tiny patch of rock on which to lay your towel. You don’t want to do that. Visit either from May to June or from September to October and enjoy your own, virtually deserted “blue lagoon”.
4. Mantua – Lombardy
If you are fascinated by Renaissance Italy’s art, history and architecture, you should spend at least a weekend in Mantua. Often overlooked both by business travellers on their way to Milan and by tourists on their way to the lakes, Mantua contains several masterpieces of renaissance architecture and boasts a rich and complex history. Palazzo Ducale and Palazzo Te are the most notable buildings in the city. They were both commissioned by the powerful Gonzaga family, that used to rule over this part of the region. If you are looking for a unique photo-op and a panoramic spot, you should also visit the Clock Tower and The San Giorgio Bridge, that overlooks the whole city. Go there at sunset and watch the beautiful dome of St. Andrew’s turn black against the red sky. While you are there, don’t miss out on the delicious local cuisine, which is still strongly influenced by ancient rustic traditions and famous for its rich cakes and pumpkin-based Christmas recipes.
5. San Martino di Castrozza – Trentino-Alto Adige
If you are unsure whether to make your incentive travel about nature, sports or culture, you’ll be pleased to know that this lovely destination on the Dolomites has all three. The “Sound of the Dolomites” festival, that takes place here every summer, is a unique event that doesn’t look or sound like anything you have experienced before. World-famous musicians will make their way on foot, carrying their own instruments, alongside the public, to the natural amphitheatres where the concerts take place. Enjoy spectacular concerts on hillsides, in valleys and by mountain lakes, from dusk to dawn. There is something unique about enjoying art while surrounded by nature. And, of course, you’ll get to hike to every concert, which makes this a healthy holiday as much as a cultural one. Between concerts, you will still be in one of the most beautiful locations in the Italian Alps: ideal for trekking, mountain-biking and climbing. If your incentive travel plan also has team-building goals, you can also book your team on an adventure trail at one of the many facilities that provide this service, and treat your employees to the thrill of ziplining, tibetan-bridge crossing and orienteering.Book your incentive gifts today!