Incentive travel has been growing steadily over the past 5 years and an increasing number of companies is choosing to reward their top performers with holidays. Recently, a trend within the trend has emerged: many are avoiding popular tourist spots in favour of less known destinations. Small towns, ancient villages, secret beaches and alternative itineraries are becoming hotter and hipper than capital cities, with throves of discerning tourists determined to visit them all before it becomes cool. As you may know, if you have been following our hidden treasures column, we love to give you tips on little known corners of Italy. If follows naturally that our top 10 incentive destinations for the season should not be the kind that is featured on your average guide.
Top 10 incentive travel destinations in Italy – spring 2017
1. Chioggia – Veneto
Were thinking of visiting Venice? Try Chioggia. Known as “little Venice”, this charming little town offers the beauty of an insular city, with canals serving as roads, without the drawbacks of mass tourism and outrageous prices. Granted, you will not have access to half the artistic history of Europe and Asia, but you will get to discover the charming local history, see the cathedral and the medieval fortifications, lounge on the beach, go swimming (which you would be ill-advised to try in Venice) and sample the delicious, seafood-based local cuisine.
2. Ravenna – Emilia Romagna
To be fair, there’s nothing “minor” oR obscure about Ravenna. As is often the case in Italy, however, the proximity with a more popular tourist destination such as Bologna seems to deflect some of the attention that this beautiful city commands. The most notable of the many attractions in Ravenna is the paleo-Christian basilica of S. Apollinare in Classe, known for its beautifully preserved byzantine mosaics. A favourite destination of lovers of history and archeology, Ravenna is also a delightful destination for an incentive gift, as it offers as much in the way of hospitality and entertainment as it does in the way of art and culture.
3. Cagliari – Sardinia
Cagliari is a popular domestic destination, whereas most international tourists travelling to Sardinia opt for the fashionable, glamourous and dangerously expensive Emerald Coast. Cagliari itself is often overlooked, as tourist pass through it on their way to popular beaches such as Quartu Sant’Elena or Cala Cipolla. If you spend a few days in the city, however, you will discover a captivating and modern city and a proud, ancient culture. Strolling through the old town, you will notice that its architecture reveals layer upon layer of history, from the Roman amphitheatre to the medieval Cathedral of S. Maria.
4. San Miniato – Tuscany
There’s more to Tuscany than Florence. Which doesn’t mean you should not visit Florence, of course, but if you have been to Tuscany multiple times, maybe it’s time to explore it further. San Miniato is a medieval village that looks like an illustration from a children book. It is the picture that forms in your mind when you hear the words “Once upon a time…”. This is a perfect spot for rest and relaxation, leisurely strolls through the countryside or the ancient cobbled alleys and, obviously, for the culinary experience of a lifetime. Don’t bother looking at online ratings: just sit down at any of the local restaurants and inns, drink local wine and order anything that contains the world-renowned local white truffles.
5. Narni – Umbria
If you think it sounds a bit like Narnia, you are right: this beautiful old hamlet in Umbria gave C.S. Lewis the idea for its most famous creation. And while the actual town might be a little short on lions and witches, it is definitely worth a visit if history, archeology and excellent food appeal to you. Visiting the local archeological sites is a unique and exciting experience, as most of the findings are kept exactly where they were found originally: underground. From the Roman Empire to the Holy Inquisition, different ages have left traces in the complex archeology that rests below the actual city. And you won’t need to go through the back of a wardrobe to see them.
6. Montefiascone – Lazio
We realise this might be shocking news to many, but Lazio is a large region and there’s more to it than Rome. We recommend that you hire a car and explore the beautiful hills and the quaint little villages that dot most of the area around the Capital. Montefiascone, is a hidden gem on the Bolsena lake that not many tourists get to visit. This medieval town in the province of Viterbo has been ruled by the Etruscan and the Romans and, in the middle ages, it became a Vatican possession and an important Papal residence. Traces of its rich and complex history can still be found in the local architecture.
7. Maratea – Basilicata
Basilicata is a beautiful region, and yet it is often neglected by tourists, who tend to head south to the coasts of Campania, Apulia or Sicily. If you are driving southward to Naples, however, it is worth making a quick diversion and heading for the Policastro bay, a short section of coastline on the Tyrrhenian sea. On the wild shores of Basilicata, you will find crystal clear water and lush vegetation, just like in Apulia or Sicily, but considerably less crowded beaches (make sure you visit Macarro and Cala Jannita). Maratea is a charming little coast town and it will welcome you with the warmth that is typical of the southern regions. Maratea is home to a 70ft statue of Christ the Redeemer. This is the second tallest statue of its kind in the world after the iconic one in Rio de Janeiro.
8. Sorrento – Campania
According to a local legend, the small islands across from the Sorrento peninsula were home to the mythological creatures known as Sirens, that lured seamen with their song and killed them, the very same ones that Ulysses defied. If you visit Sorrento you will meet no such creatures, but you will find yourself captivated by the Mediterranean beauty of the town. Citrus fruit is the main product of this part of Campania, and you will come across several beautiful orchards and sunny terraces where the famous lemons are grown. Sorrento is a seaside town clinging to the side of a mountain: this is the perfect metaphor for the natural and cultural contrasts that make it so beautiful and lively.
9. Polignano a Mare – Apulia
Apulia is a magnificent region, rich in tradition, culture, art and natural beauty. Most tourists nowadays head for the beaches of Salento. If that’s your destination, we suggest you drive southwards at leisure, stopping by for a few days in the area of Bari and, once you are there, make a detour to Polignano a Mare. The town is almost Greek in appearance, as so many things in Apulia, with cluster of blindingly white buildings set against a clear blue sky and a clear turquoise sea. One of the most fascinating features of this part of the Adriatic coast is the unique conformation of the shore, with several grottos opening in the side of the rock on which the town is built.
10. Modica – Sicily
When you think about Modica, you should be thinking about chocolate. You might not be aware of it, but chocolate is the most famous local export. Chocolate from Modica is unmistakable: its powdery and raw texture, with sugar (and sometimes salt) adding a delightful touch of crunchiness, is extremely addictive. Assuming you want to spend at least some time doing something other than eating chocolate (not that we see any reason why you should), you might want to take the opportunity of visiting one of the 100 local churches and get acquainted with some of the most dazzling examples of baroque architecture in southern Italy.
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