Italy seems to be a place on everyone's travel wish list. It's easy to see why. It's a country of great history and culture, stunning architecture, natural beauty, wonderful food, wine and fashion.
Every corner you turn presents something wonderful. The Colosseum, St Peter's Basilica, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Roman Forum, Vatican City and its museums and the beautiful Villa Borghese. The list is endless, and that's before you explore the food and fashion streets.
Getaway is very excited to bring you an entire program on this fabulous country and whether you've been before or planning your first visit, we will help with your itinerary by presenting three choices: budget, family and over-the-top luxury.
We begin our tour in Italy's capital and largest city, Rome, the Eternal City.
First of all, a well-priced place to stay: The Beehive was opened in 1999 by a Los Angelean couple who fell in love with Rome. It is cheerful and airy, clean and comfortable with six double rooms, one double/triple and one dormitory sleeping up to eight. It is close to the train station and a walk to the Colosseum. Their free booklet is full of their favourite restaurants, shops and sights. There is a small garden and a basement with cafe and communal kitchen.
Just grab your map, perch on the Spanish Steps and plan your day.
Italians love their coffee, and for a good drop and some history, you should visit Café Sant Eustachio. It has been roasting beans and making coffee since the 1930s and floor mosaics and furniture are the originals. Close to Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, the cafe's symbol is a stag's head, recalling the legend of the apparition and conversion to Christianity of the pagan, Eustachio.
Raw beans come from many countries and are toasted the way locals like it. One thing to remember, it will cost you less if you stand and drink your coffee. If you use one of their tables, you will be charged extra maybe triple!
Villa Spalletti Trivelli is in the historic and political heart of Rome. The grand 20th-century villa was converted to an exclusive 12-room hotel just four years ago. The private oasis is cosily elegant and furnished with antiques and paintings from the private collection of the Spalletti Trivelli family.
Buffet breakfast is served in Salad a Pranzo and is in the classical Italian style. There are lots of savoury foods accompanied by espresso or cappuccino.
The drawing room has an honesty bar and Sala del Camino is reserved for afternoon tea. An authentic Italian garden, complete with gazebo and fountains, completes the scene. All just a five-minute stroll to the Trevi Fountain.
Once outside, you can see the sights of centuries past in a very 21st-century way. Italy Segway Tours offer a fun way to get to see the highlights of the city. Circus Maximus is on the tour. Once upon a time, 300,000 spectators crowded the ancient hippodrome to be entertained. It is now a public park, but it's not hard to imagine the days of competition.
Touring can leave you hungry and Mirabelle Restaurant is on the seventh floor of Hotel Splendide on a hill dominating the historic centre of Rome. It overlooks the beautiful Villa Borghese with huge glass doors opening to a terrace. You can see the 19th century palaces of Pinciano, Villa Medici, Trinita dei Monti, all the way to St Peter's and the Gianicolo.
The Michelin-star restaurant is busy year-round, and to make your dining choice simple, they have set menus named after precious stones. It's so easy to say "please bring me the emerald, or ruby or diamond" than ponder the choices!
Mirabelle is open for lunch and dinner, and guests enjoy luxurious decor, soft lighting, fresh flowers, crystal and warm Italian hospitality. After lunch or before dinner, there are designer boutiques just a few steps away.
Adults and children are in awe of the size and history of the Colosseum. For Antipodeans who consider 200 years incredibly old for a building, it's amazing to see something still standing after 2000 years. Men dressed as gladiators strut outside the Colosseum and you can have your picture taken with them. Set the price before the picture is taken, though!
It's open between 9am and 7pm every day and if you buy a two- or seven-day archaeological pass in advance, you can skip the queues.
Feeding the brood can be fun and inexpensive. A trip to the morning markets for some of the best cheese, cured meats, bread and fruit is very rewarding and there are lots of interesting spots to stop and eat.
Just to the north of the centre of Rome is the large, heart-shaped park known as Villa Borghese. The 80-hectare park has bicycles and in-line skates for hire, train rides, a zoo and a puppet theatre. There are tables and benches under spreading shade trees, fountains and play equipment. Language is no barrier and children usually enter games with other children while adults practise the favourite pastime of people watching.
Renting an apartment is a great option for families. Some have it separate but adjoining rooms, you have your own living area and a kitchen so you can self-cater some of your meals. Staying in an apartment can give a better feel of what it's like to live in the city. It can be a more personal experience than staying in a hotel.
Appartamento Celio is in a quiet street in the heart of Rome, between the Colosseum and Villa Celimontana, a large park which has nightly concerts during summer. It has three bedrooms, large eat-in kitchen and large living-dining area, each with a queen-sized sofa bed. There are two bathrooms and two balconies and as the owners also stay there, it has every convenience you require. Restaurants, wine bars, gelatarias and a metro station are a stone's throw away.
Cross-Pollinate is an accommodation booking service and website that lists apartments and B&B's for rent in major cities in Italy. The service was started by Steve and Linda, an American couple who also own and run 'The Beehive', a popular budget hostel in Rome which we are featuring in Jules' Rome Budget Guide.
Beehive dormitory accommodation is around $40 per person a night. Double rooms are around $120.
Three-hour Segway tours are around $123 per person. They take in Rome's main sites with an English-speaking guide and run twice daily, year-round. You can book one before you leave home through Viator.com.
Archaeological passes can be purchased at the Roman Forum. They are around $19 and give entry to the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine. Seven-day passes are also available.
Villa Spalletti Trivelli rooms start at around $1490 a night and can be booked through Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
Appartamento Celio is around $240 a night for two to four people, $255 for five and around $50 for each person up to a group of eight. There is a minimum stay of three nights. It can be booked through Cross-Pollinate who has apartments for rent in major Italian cities, as well as Paris and Barcelona.
Europcar can arrange car rental in Italy from $46 a day.
- Perth $2795
- Melbourne $2823
- Brisbane $2833
- Sydney $2841
- Adelaide $3464
Prices correct at August 28, 2008.
For further information
8 Via Marghera,
Ph: +39 06 4470 4553
Café Sant Eustachio
Piazza Sant'Eustachio No 82
Ph: +39 06 6880 2048
Villa Spalletti Trivelli
Via Piacenza 4
Ph: +39 06 489 0734
Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Suite 83 Chatswood Village
47 Neridah Street
Ph: 1800 251 958
Ph: (02) 8219 5421
Via di Porta Pinciana, 14
Ph: +39 06 4216 8838
Fax +39 06 4216 8870
Ph: +39 06 9727 9432
48, Sqaq Nru 2
Pieta' MSD 08
Italian Government Tourist Office
Level 4, 46 Market Street
Ph: 02 9262 1666
Ph: 1300 131 390
Ph: 1300 303 777
Check out our celebrity Getaway blog or our photo gallery for more Getaway adventure pics.