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TRAVEL

REVEALED: The parts of Italy where Italians are going on holiday this summer

Tired of the same old tourist hotspots peddled by travel guidebooks? Here's where Italians are choosing to go on vacation this summer, according to new surveys.

REVEALED: The parts of Italy where Italians are going on holiday this summer
Montepulciano in Tuscany - a region that's a firm favourite with Italians and international tourists alike. Photo by Rowan Heuvel on Unsplash

Italians are known for being fans of the ‘staycation’, making the most of their own country’s world-famous sights and stunning coastlines on holiday – and this year is no exception, with Italy ranking as the main destination for Italians, according to recent findings by national statistics body Istat.

TRAVEL: Five lesser-known Italian summer destinations to visit this year

Among those living in the south of Italy, over half plan to stay in their own region, whereas six in 10 from the centre-north will leave their area for their Italian holiday.

And most will be heading to just a handful of popular regions this time.

Puglia, Tuscany and Sicily feature at the top of the list according to a study by research institute Demoskopika.

The south-eastern region of Puglia is expected to see a 13.6 percent increase in tourist arrivals to the region on last year, followed by Tuscany (13.4 percent), Sicily (13.2 percent), Emilia Romagna (12.9 percent) and Sardinia (12.8 percent).

These regions feature prominently on ‘Top places to visit in Italy’ lists, and you’ll find that the same towns, cities and beach resorts are recommended again and again to foreign visitors.

Instead, here are some of our picks within these areas that are popular with locals and less likely to be overrun with crowds.

Il Ciolo, Puglia

Puglia is increasingly a popular destination among both Italian residents and foreign tourists looking to relax and restore.

And no wonder, with its clear waters and beaches picturesque enough to rival tropical destinations.

But it’s not relaxing when the world and his dog descends on this corner of Italy, meaning people are fighting for space to lay their towel or tourists are jostling to take snaps of the region’s unique whitewashed stone huts, known as ‘Trulli‘, in Alberobello.

Il Ciolo is one example of a place where you could avoid the hordes. It’s a spectacular creek, right at the tip of the ‘heel’ of Italy’s boot.

It’s a little wilder and a bit more rugged than the beaches you’re likely to find in Puglia’s must-visit lists and, a bonus for scuba lovers, it’s known for its top diving spots.

Find a spot to enjoy Puglia – or you’ll see more humans than sand. Photo: Massimo Virgilio/Unsplash

Lido di Volano, Emilia Romagna

Good luck trying to find this one in any ‘Destinations not to miss in Italy’ articles.

The region of Emilia Romagna was found to be in the top five of Italy’s regions for Italians’ summer travel plans, according to the Demoskopika study, with an increase in tourists of 12.9 percent and a 26.3 percent increase of those staying in the region compared to last summer.

This coastline may not be a rival for those azure waters of Puglia, but Lido di Volano is not to be dismissed if you want to unwind by the sea.

Reader question: What are the rules on travel to Italy from EU countries right now?

Lido di Volano offers wildlife spotting, watersports and a quiet place on the beach. Photo by Aurelie Peche on Unsplash

The highest part of the Comacchio coast, it’s one of the quieter spots of Emilia Romagna’s riviera and is surrounded by nature rather than blocks of apartments or a multitude of shops.

Pine forests and nature reserves line the coast, making your walk or bike ride to the sandy beach a refreshing one.

According to the Emilia Romagna tourist board, this is the “most unspoiled of the seven lidi” and due to its more isolated position and being more open to wind and currents, it’s an ideal place for kite surfing and windsurfing.

The colours of Sassari’s waters amaze and delight. Photo: Branislav Knappek on Unsplash

Sassari, Sardinia

The region of Sardinia is also a destination Italians are heading to (or staying in) this summer, according to the survey’s findings.

And with Sassari reporting the cleanest air in Italy, what better place to reset and do your body and soul some good?

This is an ancient, historic city, known for its art and inspiring coastline. From fine sand to smooth pebbles, Sassari boasts a variety of beachscapes for you to kick back and enjoy some much-deserved time off.

Lodge like a local

If you’re really keen to holiday like the locals, you can follow their accommodation trends for this year too.

According to Istat, over a third (34 percent) of respondents are opting for accommodation in a hotel or guesthouse, followed closely by a house or apartment they own (32.4 percent).

If you’re not a holiday home owner, you could rent a house or apartment just like some 26 percent of Italians.

Or you could get back to nature and stay in a campsite, as almost 8 percent of Italians plan to.

The data also revealed that the Italians planning to go away on holiday this year are mainly those between 18 and 29 – some 75 percent said “certainly yes” or “probably yes”, followed those aged between 30 and 49 (58.5 percent).

The shares fall progressively with age, with older people more likely to skip a summer holiday. Just under a third of Italians in this category (32.4 percent) said they’re planning a summer break.

Those who do intend to take a holiday are taking the time to recharge, with most respondents saying they’ll spend two weeks away. And those who are staying in their own region plan to take even more time off, with some 31 percent of respondents planning to have longer than two weeks of a break.

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MONEY

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

If you're visiting Italy from outside the EU you risk running up a huge phone bill in roaming charges - but there are ways to keep your internet access while avoiding being hit by extra charges.

How to avoid huge ‘roaming’ phone bills while visiting Italy

Travelling without access to the internet is almost impossible these days. We use our phones for mapping applications, contacting the Airbnb, even scanning the QR code for the restaurant menu.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone registered in an EU country then you don’t need to worry, thanks to the EU’s cap on charges for people travelling, but people visiting from non-EU countries – which of course now includes the UK – need to be careful with their phone use abroad.

First things first, if you are looking to avoid roaming charges, be sure to go into your settings and turn off “data roaming.” Do it right before your plane lands or your train arrives – you don’t want to risk the phone company in your home country starting the clock on ‘one day of roaming fees’ without knowing it.

READ ALSO: Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

But these days travelling without internet access can be difficult and annoying, especially as a growing number of tourist attractions require booking in advance online, while restaurants often display their menus on a QR code.

So here are some techniques to keep the bills low.

Check your phone company’s roaming plan

Before leaving home, check to see what your phone plan offers for pre-paid roaming deals.

For Brits, if you have a phone plan with Three for example, you can ask about their “Go Roam” plan for add-on allowance. You can choose to pay monthly or as you go. Vodafone offers eight day and 15 day passes that are available for £1 a day.

For Americans, T-Mobile offers you to add an “international pass” which will charge you $5 per day. Verizon and AT&T’s roaming plans will charge you $10 per day. For AT&T, you are automatically opted into this as soon as your phone tries to access data abroad.

READ ALSO: Seven things to do in Italy in summer 2022

These all allow you to retain your normal phone number and plan.

Beware that these prices are only available if you sign up in advance, otherwise you will likely be facing a much bigger bill for using mobile data in Italy. 

Buy a pre-paid SIM card

However, if you are travelling for a longer period of time it might work out cheaper to turn off your phone data and buy a pre-paid SIM card in Italy.

In order to get a pre-paid SIM card, you will need your passport or proof of identity (drivers’ licences do not count).

READ ALSO: TRAVEL: Why now’s the best time to discover Italy’s secret lakes and mountains

Keep in mind that you will not be able to use your normal phone number with the new SIM card in, but will be able to access your internet enabled messaging services, like WhatsApp, Facebook and iMessage. Your phone will need to be ‘unlocked’ (ask your carrier about whether yours is) in order to put a new SIM card in.

Here are some of the plans you can choose from:

WindTre

WindTre, the result of a 2020 merger between the Italian company Wind and the UK network provider Three, currently offers a “Tourist Pass” SIM card for foreign nationals. For €24.99 (it’s sneakily marketed as €14.99, but read the small print and you’ll see you need to fork out an additional €10), you’ll have access to 20GB of data for up to 30 days.

The offer includes 100 minutes of calls within Italy plus an additional 100 minutes to 55 foreign countries listed on the WindTre website. Up to 13.7GB can be used for roaming within the EU. The card is automatically deactivated after 30 days, so there’s no need to worry about surprise charges after you return from your holiday. To get this SIM card, you can go into any WindTre store and request it.

A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.
A tourist protects herself from the sun with a paper umbrella as she walks at Piazza di Spagna near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Vodafone

Vodafone has had better deals in the past, but lately appears to have downgraded its plan for tourists, now called “Vodafone Holiday” (formerly “Dolce Vita”), to a paltry 2GB for €30. You get a total of 300 minutes of calls and 300 texts to Italian numbers or to your home country; EU roaming costs €3 per day.

Existing Vodafone customers can access the offer by paying €19 – the charge will be made to your Vodafone SIM within 72 hours of activating the deal. 

READ ALSO: MAP: The best Italian villages to visit this year

The Vodafone Holiday offer automatically renews every four weeks for €29 – in order to cancel you’ll need to call a toll-free number. The Vodafone website says that the €30 includes the first renewal, suggesting the payment will cover the first four weeks plus an additional four after that, but you’ll want to double check before buying. You’ll need to go to a store in person to get the card.

TIM

TIM is one of Italy’s longest-standing and most well-established network providers, having been founded in 1994 following a merger between several state-owned companies.

The “Tim Tourist” SIM card costs €20 for 15GB of data and 200 minutes of calls within Italy and to 58 foreign countries, and promises “no surprises” when it comes to charges.

You can use the full 15GB when roaming within the EU at no extra charge, and in the EU can use your minutes to call Italian numbers. The deal is non-renewable, so at the end of the 30 days you won’t be charged any additional fees.

READ ALSO: MAP: Which regions of Italy have the most Blue Flag beaches?

To access the offer, you can either buy it directly from a TIM store in Italy, or pre-order using an online form and pay with your bank card. Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive a PIN which you should be able to present at any TIM store on arrival in Italy (along with your ID) to collect your pre-paid card. The card won’t be activated until you pick it up.

Iliad

Iliad is the newest and one of the most competitive of the four major phone companies operating in Italy, and currently has an offer of 120GBP of €9.99 a month. For this reason, some travel blogs recommend Iliad as the best choice for foreigners – but unfortunately all of their plans appear to require an Italian tax ID, which rules it out as an option for tourists.

Contract

Though buying a pre-paid SIM card is a very useful option for visitors spending a decent amount of time in Italy, as mentioned above, there’s a significant different difference between buying a one-time pre-paid SIM versus a monthly plan that auto-renews.

Make sure you know which one you’re signing up for, and that if you choose a plan that will continue charging you after your vacation has ended, you remember to cancel it.

UK contracts

If you have a UK-registered mobile phone, check your plan carefully before travelling. Before Brexit, Brits benefited from the EU cap on roaming charges, but this no longer applies.

Some phone companies have announced the return of roaming charges, while others have not, or only apply roaming charges only on certain contracts.

In short, check before you set off and don’t assume that because you have never been charged extra before, you won’t be this time.

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