Don't let the erratic traffic of Rome put you off driving in Italy! Book yourself a car from Europcar before you leave home and really see some of the country's beauty.
Start in Milan, head north along Lake Maggiore and you will be well rewarded. It is less glitzy than Como and less crowded than Garda.
Lake Maggiore is 65km long and is the most westerly of the three large pre-alpine lakes of Italy. Its jagged banks are surrounded by the pre-alps of Piedmont and Lombardy and the northernmost section crosses for 13km into Switzerland.
The wealthy travel to Maggiore to relax, and as you drive through small towns dotting its shore you can appreciate the Italian way of life.
The region enjoys a mild climate year-round, resulting in Mediterranean vegetation and gardens growing rare and exotic plants. Many of its gardens are internationally famous and are the subject of countless photographs and paintings.
You will see the world's second tallest bronze statue St Charles Borromeo which took 84 years to build. It's blueprint was used to build the Statue of Liberty. Ernest Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms at the Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees.
Stop for lunch in one of the little towns along the way chances are you will want to stay longer. Visit Arona, Meina, Lesa, Belgirate and Stresa they each have something different to offer.
Umbria lies in the shadow of its better-known neighbour, Tuscany and that has its advantages.
It is less crowded and just right for a cycling journey.
One of Italy's smallest regions, Umbria has mountains and hills and river valleys with silver rivers edged with chestnut groves and elm forests. The landlocked region has a distinct medieval character, tinted with mysteries of the dark ages. Rolling hills are dotted with castles, fortresses, watchtowers and well-preserved hill towns. Even the identity of its original inhabitants, the Umbrians, is clouded.
Halfway up the slopes of Monte Fumaiolo a trickle seeps from the ground and finds its way south until it becomes Rome's mighty Tiber River.
Locals create world-renowned ceramics and there are many monasteries founded by a host of local saints. Towns such as Assisi (birth place of St Francesco) Spoleto and Orvieto are the perfect excuse for a rest, lunch and a cool drink.
UTracks has many cycling trips around the globe and you can join one of their Umbria adventures. Known as the Green Heart of Italy, you will be escorted by one of their guides if you wish, or you can go it alone.
With so much beautiful water surrounding it, Italy just calls 'cruise' and there is surely no way better than aboard Windstar Line's Wind Surf
, a multimillion-dollar sailing vessel.
It carries just 312 passengers, who are provided with two pools, three restaurants, two bars and several lounges. It's all about comfort and aims to help passengers relax from the word go. There are 10 therapists on board and, for the more active, an entire sports team to keep you busy.
Unpack just once and visit half-a-dozen destinations.
Windstar's ships are officially motor-sail-yachts but the designation belies the vessels' rigging. Unfurling in two minutes at the push of a button, billowing white sails reach to the sky. Functions are operated from the bridge by computer microchips and navigational devices.
From Milan to Lake Maggiore, Umbria and Rome to Lisbon.
Europcar can arrange car rental in Italy from $46 a day.
UTracks, a division of World Expeditions, eight-day cycling trips start in Florence and finish in Rome. They include seven breakfasts, seven nights in three- or four-star twin share, accommodation, 21-speed bicycle with waterproof bags, daily luggage transfer, train tickets, information kit with maps and service hotline. Self-guided trips are $1690 per person and with a guide, $1990. They depart regularly between April and October.
Windstar 14-day Rome to Lisbon cruises start at $4799 per person twin share. All meals and activities are included. Other cruise options are available. Book through Travel the World.
- Perth $2795
- Melbourne $2823
- Brisbane $2833
- Sydney $2841
- Adelaide $3464
Prices correct at August 28, 2008.
For further information
Ph: 1300 13 68 86
Ph: 1300 303 368
Travel the World
Ph: 1300 766 566
Ph: 1300 303 777
Italian Government Tourist Office
Level 4, 46 Market Street
Ph: (02) 9262 1666
Fax: (02) 9262 1677
Check out our celebrity Getaway blog or our photo gallery for more Getaway adventure pics.