The Local, in partnership with McArthurGlen Designer Outlets, gives you four top tips for making the most of your Italian summer in 2021.
1. Refind your freedom in Italy’s ancient borghi
If you feel you’ve been missing out on fully exploring your adopted homeland, you’re hardly alone. But with all of Italy now in low restriction ‘white zones’, your opportunities for interesting ways to spend your free time are increasing.
If you’re longing for an authentic Italian experience away from the crowds, why not head to one of the huge number of ancient villages (or borghi) you can find in regions such as Veneto, Tuscany, Piedmont, Lazio and Campania?
In Monferrato, an area of hills, valleys and vineyards in Piedmont, you can truly escape, whether you prefer wine-tastings, truffle hunting or just a relaxing walk through a charming village such as Gavi or the small city of Novi Ligure, which Genoese nobles inhabited for centuries. In northern Tuscany, close to Florence, the Mugello is an enchanting region, crossed by the Sieve River, where you’ll find renaissance villas, castles and picturesque comunes ideal for exploring on foot.
Afterwards, you may feel ready to rejoin the 21st century with a visit to one of the five McArthurGlen Designer Outlets across Italy, including the Barberino Designer Outlet – through which the Sieve also passes.
2. Make the most of Italy’s outdoor food festivals
One of the greatest joys of living in Italy is the food – and another is a summer of festivals and cultural events. At this time of year, you can combine both by attending a sagra (or some sagre if you fancy more than one!)
Sagre are outdoor food festivals where you can delight in Italy’s varied culinary traditions by feasting on local, seasonal ingredients served up in delicious traditional recipes. They thrive in rural areas, including many villages and medieval hamlets.
Music festivals are also a vibrant part of the summer in much of Italy, as are giostre. These Medieval re-enactments really bring history to life through colourful costumes, flag wavers, drummers, and even jousting. Many festivals and events in regions such as Veneto, Tuscany, Piedmont, Lazio and Campania are beginning again as restrictions ease – watch out for announcements.
3. Enjoy a return to outdoor shopping (and a taste of luxury)
In Italy, it’s not only the buildings that wow you with their style; there’s also the effortless elegance of Italian fashion. The country is renowned for the excellence of its craftsmanship in many areas, none more so than tailoring.
If you’ve felt starved of opportunities to see and try on new clothes recently, now could be the time to indulge yourself a little. What’s more you can make a day of it in attractive open-air surroundings at any of the five McArthurGlen Designer Outlets in Italy.
You’ll find hundreds of leading Italian and international brands such as Ermenegildo Zegna, Armani, Salvatore Ferragamo, Fendi, Karl Lagerfeld, Michael Kors, and Dolce & Gabbana – along with plenty of opportunities to feel the luxurious touch of exclusive silks and cottons in your hands. Your surroundings may also remind you of some of the architectural highlights mentioned above. Each centre reflects the local architecture, so you can enjoy wide avenues, spacious squares, and bubbling fountains.
It’s a far cry from another drab mall – the environment invites you to stroll at your own pace, just as you might in one of those Italian borghi. You can also enjoy genuine Italian food packed with flavour and nutrition – and worthy of a street food festival – at numerous restaurants.
Serravalle, near Milan, is the largest designer outlet in Europe, while Castel Romano is the only designer outlet in Rome. Noventa is under 40 minutes from Venice, while Barberino and La Reggia are located less than 30 minutes from Florence and Naples respectively.
The summer sales are now on at each centre, meaning you can save even more than you would with usual outlet prices. You can also take advantage of extended opening hours during the sale period.
Each outlet is also served by regular shuttle buses from the nearest city (check for more details before travelling), as well as free wifi, free parking, and children’s play areas. All centres have received the Bureau Veritas SafeGuard Covid-19 certification as a result of the health and safety measures in place.
4. See some awe-inspiring architecture
Being stuck indoors due to the pandemic may have meant missing out on much more than the country’s natural beauty. What about Italy’s endless unique architectural gems? If you’re considering a day trip, a weekend away or even a longer break, you could factor in a visit to one of Italy’s many marvellous buildings and archaeological sites.
If you’re going anywhere near Rome, the sight of the Colosseum or a visit to the Vatican is still sure to stir your soul, no matter how many times you’ve seen either. Further north, go off the beaten track as you explore the region around Milan to see the utterly majestic Certosa di Pavia monastery, which dates back to 1396.
In the northeast, look beyond Venice to discover Aquileia. This ancient city and archaeological treasure was one of the richest and biggest Mediterranean cities within the Roman Empire. Destroyed by Attila the Hun in 452, it later became a major hub of the Christian world.
In the south, a short drive from Naples, you can feast your eyes on the spectacular Reggia di Caserta – a former royal palace, which is the largest royal residence in the world by volume.