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A trip in Spring is a great choice to enjoy a milder climate and see the beautiful Italian villages flourish

In Springtime there is an explosion of nature waking up changing the appearance of the landscapes. One of the simplest pleasures is to explore the environment and grasp the surrounding sights and sounds. When you choose where to go in spring in Italy, prepare to be amazed by incredible colours, scents and sceneries. You’ll experience the full reawakening of nature all around you.

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Art & Culture

Rose Garden

The Rose Garden in Florence When in Florence, it is definitely worth visiting the Rose Garden, a park in the Oltrarno neighbourhood that is full of surprises. Legend has it that at the time of the birth of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, if someone said the three code words “under the rose”, it meant they knew a big secret. And this secret code is as old as the subject, namely the rose. In fact, it seems that the earliest specimens date back 35 million years. This was certainly a topic dear to the heart of architect Giuseppe Poggi, who in 1865 was employed by the City of Florence to create the marvellous Rose Garden and adjoining Piazzale Michelangelo, when the city was about to replace Turin in being the capital of Italy. The oldest-known rose is over 450 years old The Rose Garden covers approximately one hectare of terraced land, offering extraordinary panoramic city views. The best time to visit is from April to June when the roses are in bloom. There are over 350 species to admire, the oldest dating back to 1550, as well as beautiful lemon trees and small artificial lakes home to dozens of carp. The garden has three entrances: at the junction between Via dei Bastioni and Via del Monte alle Croci, from Viale Poggi, or via the steps from San Niccolò. Jean-Michel Folon represented this city in art If you love flowers or you’re simply a huge romantic at heart, the Rose Garden is truly one of the most magical places in Florence, especially since the widowed wife of artist Jean-Michel Folon donated twelve sculptures created by her late husband. Among the most impressive is Partir, an enormous bronze frame positioned on one of the panoramic terraces. When looking through it, you can enjoy a truly unforgettable view of Florence. Then there is Je me souviens, featuring a gentleman reading intently, sat on one half of a bench – visitors are invited to sit next to him and admire the city, keeping him company. Other fascinating sculptures include Envol, a man who, with his hat tipped upwards, seems as though he is about to take flight into the sky, and Chat, a large cat who sleeps among the roses. Equally intriguing is the bronze 25ème Pensée, depicting a man with a vase on his head, a clear reference to the surrealist art of Magritte. The Japanese oasis, a homage to Kyoto Finally, the icing on the cake: since 1998, the garden has been home to a space created by Japanese architect Yasuo Kitayama. It is a real Shorai Oasis, donated to Florence by the city of Kyoto, which it has been twinned with for almost 100 years.
Art & Culture

Miramare Castle

Nature and history in the Miramare Castle Park Right outside Trieste you can enter the oasis of the Miramare Castle park, and spend pleasant hours surrounded by vegetation. It is an unmissable stop, just six kilometres from the capital of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. It is no coincidence that it is the most visited castle in the entire North East. What is particularly attractive is the park, which overlooks the sea from above, creating a meeting of green and deep blue. An out-of-town excursion where nature plunges into history. Love at first sight It was Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Habsburg, who fell madly in love with the spectacular location, commissioning the entire Miramare Castle complex in the mid-1800s. The park and historic residence stand on the promontory of Grignano, a rocky spur overlooking the bay, like a lookout. In Maximilian's time, it was a karstic territory, completely parched, but the Archduke was not daunted by the difficult task of transforming a barren heath into a lush garden. From 1856 onwards, he started the building work on the mansion and the complex task of reclaiming the land to make it suitable for planting. Maximilian moved into the newly completed residence in 1860. He lived here for a long time with his wife Carlotta, Princess of Belgium, choosing the name Miramare, from Spanish mira el mar, “look at the sea”. Another noblewoman was strongly fascinated by this place: his sister-in-law Elisabeth of Bavaria, the famous Princess Sissi, who was a frequent guest. English gardens and exotic species: the green area Twenty-two hectares of parkland surround Miramare Castle. Maximilian of Austria expressed his preference for non-European plants, supplied by nurserymen in Lombardy-Venetia, while soil was brought from the regions of Styria and Carinthia. When the nobleman found himself in Mexico, where he died in 1867, he personally sent some species to enrich the parterre. Besides the engineer Carl Junker, two personalities later took care of the botanical aspect: court gardeners Josef Laube and later Artur Jelinek, who also managed to plant exotic species, despite the adverse climate of Trieste, where night frosts and bora wind are not uncommon. Today, the park has two distinct zones. The first, to the east, is a grove of trees and delightful ponds, paths and gazebos, in the romantic style of English gardens. The second faces south-west, better protected from the wind; it houses an Italian-style garden and several flower beds, including the daffodil garden, which blooms exuberantly in spring. The Residence Open to the public like the entire park, Miramare Castle can be visited inside. On the ground floor are the private flats of the princes, on the upper floor the state rooms. The sumptuous Throne Room is currently used as a hall for concerts and exhibitions. The residence is furnished with furniture, precious objects, paintings and canvases. Set apart from the main building, the Stables, once used to house horses and carriages, were restored in 2018 and one wing now houses BIOdiversitario Marino (BioMa), the Immersive Museum of the Protected Marine Area of Miramare. A café is available to visitors, as well as a bookshop. Atmosphere Already on arrival, passing through Porta Bora and along Viale Miramare leading to the Castle, you breathe in a nostalgic atmosphere of times gone by. It is worth taking a slow walk along the winding paths and under the pergolas to the greenhouses with their original iron structures. Moving around the park, there are many encounters: Orante, a bronze male statue, then a copy of Venus of Capua and Apollino, an adolescent version of the god. The fountains provide coolness on hot days, as do the ponds and the larger Swan Lake. In the square with the cannons donated by Leopold I, King of the Belgians, you can breathe in all the power of the Austro-Hapsburg Empire, while in the halls of the castle, you can almost see the young Princess Sissi twirling at a ballroom party. The library has a thick scent of history. And under the oleanders, near the Serre Antiche, one's thoughts turn to the court gardener Anton Jelinek, because they were just recently planted following a precise wish of his that emerged in old correspondence. He did not succeed because the temperatures were too cold, but here they are today, in his honour.
Art & Culture

Forte di Bard - Parcheggio

The Fort of Bard, protecting the culture of the mountains This is a grandiose cultural hub dedicated to the Western Alps: the Fortress of Bard, in Valle d'Aosta, is an ancient fortress that defends the entire valley below. Today it is a museum, where tradition and technology go hand in hand, with very special effects. History, nature, architecture and geology combine in a multi-sensory journey through videos, 3D displays, sounds and projections. It's exciting for everyone: adults, students and children. All the way to the top on futuristic lifts The first emotion you will experience at the Fort of Bard is that of the futuristic, fully glazed lifts that will take you from the village to the top of the fortress. It feels like climbing a skyscraper, except that the view takes you back here, into the heart of exuberant nature. The panoramic cabin skirts the rock face, then touches the imposing structure of the fortress, arranged on several levels in a masterpiece of defensive architecture. And there is a clear view of the valley and the river that created it, the Dora Baltea, the villages around it and the peaks on the horizon. If the lift gives you vertigo, the walking route is just as spectacular. The slow pace will reveal the scenery in all its details. Climbing Mont Blanc, but virtually Have you ever climbed the extraordinary mountain that is Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps? If the answer is no, then this is your chance. Thanks to the interactive route offered by the Fort of Bard, you can experience the thrill of an exhilarating simulation: under the supervision of a guide, you find yourself in a roped climbing group, with harnesses, ropes and carabiners, just like a mountaineer. Before setting off, the weather is checked, backpacks are carefully prepared and the best route is studied. The climb begins, and the guide explains all about the natural environment, which differs from one altitude to the next. You will encounter obstacles, risks and surprises before finally reaching the summit. A yeti awaits you at the end of the experience, to congratulate you and accompany you to the exit. When Napoleon arrived here Through projections and authentic scenography, learn about the long history of the Fort of Bard, from the year 1000 to its complete reconstruction in 1830. Among the many characters you come across along the way is Napoleon Bonaparte, whose army took two weeks to defeat the Austrian enemy forces barricaded inside the fortress in 1800. There was such great displeasure over the long siege that it was decided that the building should be dismantled, only to be brought back to life by Charles Felix of Savoy in 1830. At the Fort of Bard, you will find yourself in a cell, since over the centuries it has also been a fearsome prison. Inside the 24 cells, a set design recreates the cramped atmosphere, while films and 3D reconstructions lead you into the Great History. In the 29 rooms of the Museum of the Alps, you will find yourself face to face with naturalists, geographers and anthropologists, who speak to you from video clips about the many aspects of Alpine civilisation, flora and fauna, revealing a world of absolute fascination. 5 things to do before leaving the fortress ● At the end of your visit to the Fort of Bard, take a break at the Caffetteria di Gola or at the La Polveriera Restaurant, inside the museum complex, where you can order charcuterie and cheese platters, crespelle alla valdostana (stuffed pancakes) and a walnut and honey dessert. ● If you're a Marvel fan, look inside the fort for replicas of Iron Man, Captain America and the Hulk, evidence of the set built right here for several scenes from the film Avengers: Age of Ultron. ● Explore the village below, perhaps with the same technological approach as during your visit to the museum spaces. Millibard is a project consisting of ten stations equipped with QR-codes on special panels. Using your smartphone, you can access all the information about the village, which is definitely worth a wander through the ancient streets full of craft workshops. ● The best place from which to admire the Fort of Bard from afar and take in all its grandeur, coupled with its strategic position perched on the cliff, is from the bridge over the Dorea Baltea. Take a short rest at this natural vantage point. ● Not far away, in the valley, the village of Arnad is famous for its gastronomic excellence: Arnad lard PDO. It’s wonderful enjoyed on traditional black bread, freshly warmed and drizzled with a little local honey. For more information

The Vesuvius National Park

The Vesuvius National Park, a land of fire and rebirth Vesuvius National Park protects the territory of the only active volcano in continental Europe, the symbol of the city of Naples. An ascent along its slopes, amidst the scent of broom and the smell of sulphur, offers the thrill of looking out over the crater of the Gran Cono, in a landscape marked by the geological formations shaped by the last eruption in 1944. This is a unique territory, rich in the archaeological treasures of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the fruits of an exceptionally fertile land. A spectacular caldera with an active volcanic cone Visiting the Vesuvius National Park allows you to take a stroll through at least two million years of history. The great caldera of Somma is what remains of an ancient volcano three hundred thousand years ago, and inside it is the Gran Cono del Vesuvio (1281 metres), with its typical truncated cone shape, a diameter of 450 metres and a depth of 300 metres. Inside it there are small fumaroles that reveal its state of 'active rest'. Along path number 5 traced on the ashes and lapilli of the last eruption, that of 1944, one can admire the inside of the crater. Having conquered the summit, visitors are rewarded by a magnificent view of the gulf and the city of Naples. There are 11 paths in all. Number 9 allows you to observe how the vegetation is regaining its hold on the 20th century lava flows of 1906, 1929 and 1944. How pioneer plants get the better of lava Despite the succession of eruptions, the slopes of Vesuvius are covered with dense vegetation that has reformed on the lava flows due to the phenomenon of 'ecological succession': when the lava cools, the first to colonise it are lichens and mosses, the so-called pioneer species. These are very hardy organisms that form an initial organic substrate on which more complex organisms such as ferns or some graminaceous plants can begin to develop, in turn creating a layer for plants with more complex root systems. Today, a grey, filamentous lichen (Stereocaulon vesuvianum) can be observed on the areas affected by the most recent eruptions, which prepares the ground for other plants, while older flows feature shrub species such as helichrysum, cistus, mugwort and red valerian. The next stage is that of broom, large expanses of which can be seen colouring Vesuvius yellow in the springtime. The different stages of the 'ecological succession' can be clearly observed along path number 3, where sections of still exposed lava are flanked by areas colonised by lichen, alternating with broom and holm oak woods. What to visit in the Vesuvius National Park After hiking to the crater, inside the Vesuvius National Park you can visit the Park Museum in the municipality of Boscoreale, where plastic models are on display that illustrate the evolution of the volcano, materials showing the special features of the soil and biodiversity, as well as the story of the complex interaction between human populations and the volcanic environment. In Boscoreale there is an archaeological museum, the Antiquarium, explaining the territory of Vesuvius before the eruption in 79 AD that affected Pompeii and Herculaneum. In the latter location is the world's first volcanological Observatory, created in the 19th century for the first research and measurements of seismic activity, with its original instruments. Among the municipalities on the slopes of Vesuvius, it may be interesting to visit Borgo Casamale in Somma Vesuviana, the only medieval quarter left in the area; Terzigno, an area where lava stone was worked, where a museum has been opened with the archaeological remains of several Roman villas; and in Torre del Greco, visit Villa le Ginestre, where the poet Giacomo Leopardi was hosted. The good products of a fertile land Lacryma Christi is a white and red DOC wine produced from various vines grown on the slopes of Vesuvius, whose palatability has been known since Roman times. There are also apricots, about 40 varieties of which are grown in the area; they are known to be sweet and tasty, and the secret always lies in the volcanic soils which are so rich in minerals, especially potassium. The same can be said of the Monte cherry, with its pinkish-yellow fruit and pale, firm flesh, and the Catalanesca grape, so called because it was imported from Catalonia by Alfonso of Aragon in the 15th century. It has the distinctive quality of remaining intact on the vine until Christmas. You cannot leave the park without having tasted (or bought) the Piennolo del Vesuvio DOP cherry tomatoes, harvested in clusters: hung in well-dried places, they can last for up to 7-8 months, from summer until the following spring, preserving their intense flavour that derives from a high concentration of sugars and a wealth of organic acids. What makes the area of the Vesuvius National Park one of the most fascinating and most visited places in the world is a mix of natural treasures, breath-taking landscapes, centuries-old cultivations, popular traditions and much more.
Art & Culture

Sessa Aurunca

Sessa Aurunca, a journey through time along the Southern Via Francigena The town Sessa Aurunca in the Campania region is in the province of Caserta near the Lazio border; it is a veritable treasure trove of monuments and naturalistic views to discover. As an obligatory stop for pilgrims travelling along Via Francigena in Campania, it is still a mystical and fascinating place. The cathedral of Sessa Aurunca, a jewel of Romanesque architecture in Campania Start right here from the heart of the town in Campania, namely its cathedral standing in the historic centre, along the Southern Via Francigena. Dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, the cathedral is one of the most important works of Campania's Romanesque architecture and has been a pilgrimage site for centuries. Built in 1103 on a sacred, likely pagan building, it has remained intact despite 18th-century renovations and numerous interventions to safeguard it from wear and tear and damage caused by a series of earthquakes. The building has recently been restored to its original layout. Beautiful mosaics from floor to pulpit The imposing façade is partially covered by a portico richly decorated with arcades supported by columns and pillars, where statues and bas-reliefs alternate mysterious and mythological figures, scenes recalling the life of St Peter and the Old and New Testaments. Divided into three naves, the interior deserves special attention for its striking mosaic floor covering the entire central nave with Moorish patterns. The pulpit is also decorated with a fine mosaic that alternates vivid depictions of animals with geometric motifs. The Roman theatre and the mysterious cryptoporticus Visiting Sessa Aurunca is like travelling back in time: hardly anything separates the Romanesque architecture of its cathedral from the spectacular coloured marble of the great Roman theatre that was only brought to light in 2003 and is extraordinarily well preserved. Erected in the 1st century A.D. and exploiting the natural slope of a hill, with a capacity of 7,000 spectators it is the second largest Roman theatre in Campania after that of Naples, which, however, lies almost completely hidden below the city's houses. There is a cryptoporticus next to the theatre, i.e., a covered corridor dating from a slightly later age. It is still unclear what its purpose was: perhaps actors used it to get from one place to another, although the numerous inscriptions in Greek and Latin on its walls, which also include some Virgilian verses, suggest that it was used as a school or gymnasium. The Ducal Castle: a “cheat sheet” of the city's history In its extraordinary stratification of eras and structures, the Ducal Castle of Sessa Aurunca narrates and synthesises the city’s history and dominations. To give you an idea, you can visit the library inside, but above all the rooms of the Civic Archaeological Museum that preserves many testimonies of the passage of dynasties that have succeeded one another over the centuries, from the Lombards to the Normans, from the Angevins to the Aragonese, together with some archaeological finds discovered on the seabed of the Gulf of Gaeta, including the famous statue of Matidia minor, a local ruler of prominence and power in Roman times. Borgo Valogno, from ghost town to open-air gallery Don't miss the small village of Valogno, 390 metres above sea level and just a few kilometres from Sessa Aurunca: this hamlet with just over 90 inhabitants was gradually losing its people until it averted its fate threatening to make it a ghost town by transforming into an open-air art gallery: for some years now, its streets, walls and courtyards have been hosting street art works and installations by artists, attracted here by the call to action of the Il Risveglio cultural association, which has promoted a veritable rebirth of the village and made it a continuous destination for tourists and enthusiasts. From the (dormant) volcano to the beaches of Baia Domizia Note that Valogno is located inside the Regional Park Volcanic Area of Roccamonfina and Foce Garigliano, 11,000 hectares of nature that reach as far as the border with lower Lazio. The park is looked down on by the massive dormant volcano of Roccamonfina, the oldest in the region, directly opposite Vesuvius. Amidst chestnut groves, vineyards, olive groves and streams flowing down to the sea, this area of mountains, hills and coastline hosts festivals and events throughout the year to promote local traditions and products, first and foremost the famous chestnut, while its roads are popular among trekking and cycling enthusiasts. Leaving the slopes of Roccamonfina behind, we suggest heading back to Baia Domizia: the coast of Sessa Aurunca is the best part of Campania in the Gulf of Gaeta for swimming, where you can recharge your batteries with a barefoot stroll along its kilometres of fine, golden beach, or perhaps indulge in a little relaxation while soaking in its ultra-blue waters.
Relax & Wellness

Terme di Telese

The thermal baths of Telese and the miracle of effervescent water There is no better place to schedule a stop than in Telese Terme to discover first-hand what wellness means. In the centre of the Telesina Valley (BN), on the right bank of the Calore River, the ancient village, once called Telesia, is an important stop on the Southern Via Francigena. Those who stop here will find a bell tower with a history stretching back thousands of years and thermal spas with redeeming powers. At the foot of Mount Pugliano, at whose slops the sulphurous mineral water springs feeding its thermal establishments flow, Telese Terme will amaze you with tailor-made pampering. The bell tower, the only one to have escaped the earthquake The tour of antiquities here in Telese is quickly over: one of the few remaining monuments of medieval Telesia, completely razed to the ground by the earthquake of 1349, is the bell tower, in Vescovado: it rests on a rectangular base, 17-metres high, among the rarest and most valuable Romanesque-Norman buildings in Campania. Built with materials from Roman Telesia, it is decorated with brickwork motifs and the opus reticulatum technique and all that remains of the ancient Cathedral of the Holy Cross, erected in the 10th century, later rebuilt under the name of Holy Mary of the Trinity. Thermal waters, a treasure from the depths The first reports of Telese’s sulphurous waters date back to the time of the violent 1349 earthquake, which devastated the Telese countryside, razing the town to the ground. The frequent and intense tremors, which lasted a long time, not only caused the springs to surface, but also caused episodes of sinking, disrupted the soil, giving rise to ponds, swamps, like the famous Lake Telese, and carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide exhalations that made the air unbreathable for a long time. However, the first studies on their therapeutic virtues date back to 1734, with the publication of De acidulis telesinis dissertatio, essay by Tommaso Bruni. Today's establishment of the Telese Spa Park, which still uses those waters for spa treatments, owes its fortune to the far-sighted intuition of the Minieri family, who, in the late 19th century, succeeded in obtaining a contract and giving life to what was then called the Great Bathing Establishments of Telese, whose departments are still immersed in a large park of centuries-old trees where you can stroll among the spring basins, pools and many recreational facilities. La belle époque of the ancient Jacobelli Spa For a picture of what the facilities must have been like then, visit the ancient Jacobelli Thermal Baths, at the junction of Castelvenere, Solopaca and Telese, which were transformed into a nature park in 2008 after extensive renovation. Founded by knight Achille Jacobelli of San Lupo and inaugurated in 1867, the Jacobelli Baths were, according to records and what remains of the bathing cabins, swimming pools and bouvette, a charming place, surrounded by greenery, with a beautiful portico to rest and two fountains for bathers. Hiking at the water's edge Still on the subject of water, and still between Telese and Solopaca, you will also find the small Telese Lake, not far from the banks of the Calore river. An enchanting body of water, some twenty metres deep, whose origins are to be found in the seismic nature of the soil and rocks on which the town stands. Used for recreational fishing, along its equipped banks, a scenic road more than a kilometre long winds its way through dense vegetation, passing restaurants, hotels and a swimming pool, offering, especially in summer, recreation and coolness. Would you like to continue your immersion in the landscape? Add to your destinations an excursion to the Grassano park, just a few kilometres from Telese, one of the most beautiful natural oases in Campania, equipped for a family outing in the open air and crossed, among linden, willow and poplar trees, by the Grassano torrent, in whose turquoise waters ducks, geese and otters swim. Mount Pugliano, between megalithic walls and dolines Behind the spa complex, Mount Pugliano watches over the city from above. Its name derives from the Latin road that connected Rome to Apulia. Along the itineraries that cross its approximately 54 hectares, you will see the remains of residential structures dating back to the Palaeolithic period and ruins of Samnite megalithic walls, but the most characteristic feature of its landscape is the presence of dolines, hollows or karstic cavities produced by the erosion of the limestone, some of which can be visited, unique in their form along the entire southern Apennine massif. Party time! Epicentre of entertainment, especially on summer evenings, Via Minieri, the heart of the spa town, is where the Telesine “struscio” can be enjoyed at every corner. It is here that most commercial activities are concentrated: boutiques, pubs, restaurants, wine bars. If you are looking for shows, live music and entertainment: this is where the party is!
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