Great Italian Escapes

The idyllic countryside of Montalcino, Tuscany. Hollenbeck Productions
If you venture beyond the tourist-dominated hubs of Rome, Venice and Florence, you'll uncover sophisticated cities, quaint villages, rugged coastlines, traditional towns, remote islands, and a slew of authentic Italian experiences. Veer off the tourist track with the help of one of these intimate tours. What are you waiting for?

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Beautiful pebble beach in Taormina, Sicily Onefivenin/Dreamstime.com
What: The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) has chosen the island of Sicily as the location of its annual heritage tour program. The "Heritage Tour of Sicily from West to East" is a nine-day trip that emphasizes Italian culture and history. You'll visit landmarks and beaches, as well as ancient cities and archaeological sites such as Catania, Erice, Marsala, Monreale, Mt. Etna, Palermo, Ragusa, Savoca, and Taormina.

Where: The tour departs from New York.

When: Regular group departures from now until the end of June and from September through November 2010

Price: From $1,899 to $2,299 depending on departure date. The price includes round-trip airfare from New York, airport transfers, seven nights' hotel (in Palermo and in Giardini Naxos), seven breakfasts, seven dinners, one lunch, four full-day tours and two half-day tours, an English-speaking tour director, and all entrance fees.

More Info: NIAF (tel. 888/846-NIAF #6423; www.niaf.org)

Photo Caption: Beautiful pebble beach in Taormina, Sicily
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<strong>What:</strong> Spend 10 days exploring the lesser-known regions of Italy's heel on Authentic Italy's "Apulia Tour." Led by a professional architect-turned-guide, the trip concentrates on architecture, art, culture and, of course, local cuisine.<br><br><strong>Where:</strong> Begin and end in Rome; stop in the Trulli District; Ostuni; Lecce; and the Ionian Sea coast along the way.<br><br><strong>When:</strong> May 10-19, 2010<br><br><strong>Price:</strong> €2,300 per person based on double occupancy with nine nights' hotel, sightseeing and entrance fees, breakfast daily, and most other meals. Airfare isn't included.<br><br><strong>More Info:</strong> Authentic Italy Tours (tel. <strong>+64/9-361-1113</strong>; <strong><a href="http://www.authenticitalytours.co.nz" target="_blank">www.authenticitalytours.co.nz</a></strong>)<br><br><em>Photo Caption: Typical dwellings in the Trulli District</em> Bob Buhowski
What: Spend 10 days exploring the lesser-known regions of Italy's heel on Authentic Italy's "Apulia Tour." Led by a professional architect-turned-guide, the trip concentrates on architecture, art, culture and, of course, local cuisine.

Where: Begin and end in Rome; stop in the Trulli District; Ostuni; Lecce; and the Ionian Sea coast along the way.

When: May 10-19, 2010

Price: €2,300 per person based on double occupancy with nine nights' hotel, sightseeing and entrance fees, breakfast daily, and most other meals. Airfare isn't included.

More Info: Authentic Italy Tours (tel. +64/9-361-1113; www.authenticitalytours.co.nz)

Photo Caption: Typical dwellings in the Trulli District
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One of the world's most prized wines, Brunello di Montalcino is produced in the vineyards outside this medieval hill town. Hollenbeck Productions
What: "The Tuscan Way Cooking and Wine One Week Vacation" is an affordable way to see and taste Tuscany. Spend a week at a 900-year-old B&B in the Medieval town of Arcidosso, learn how to cook genuine southern Tuscan dishes, sip local wines, and visit some of the region's most appealing villages.

Where: La Locanda del Prete is located in Arcidosso, in the province of Grosseto, Tuscany, about 45 minutes from Siena, 90 minutes from Florence, and two-and-a-half hours north of Rome.

When: Throughout the year. Courses start on Thursdays and end on Wednesdays.

Price: $2,320 per person based on double occupancy, with transfers from Grosseto train station; six nights' lodging; breakfast and dinner daily; wine tastings; excursions to Mount Amiata, Montalcino, Pienza and Montepulciano; cooking classes from Master Chef Carlo Innocenti; and a Tuscan recipe book with a souvenir apron.

More Info: Tuscan Way and La Locanda del Prete (tel. 800/7766-2390; www.lalocandadelprete.com)

Photo Caption: One of the world's most prized wines, Brunello di Montalcino, is produced in the vineyards outside the medieval Tuscan hill town of Montalcino.
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Milan, Italy Frommers.com Community
What: With so much attention given to the wines, Italy's beer culture often gets overlooked. Remedy that with Grapehops' weeklong "Microbreweries of Piedmont and Lombardy" tour. Highlights include sampling the beer and food scene in Torino, cheese tastings, and beer-paired lunches and dinners at several of the region's craft breweries.

Where: Start in Milan and end in Torino.

When: May 23-30 or July 1-8, 2010
Price: $2,995 per person with seven nights' lodging, local transportation, most meals, beer tastings, and entrance fees. Airfare isn't included.

More Info: Grapehops (tel. 866/335-3397; www.grapehops.com)

Photo Caption: Milan, Italy.

Photo by rocketmare/Frommers.com Community
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Alghero, Sardinia, Italy. Frommers.com Community
What: Dolcevita Bike Tours' eight-day "Forests and Old Mines of Sulcis Mountain Biking Tour of Sardinia" is an exhilarating way to explore the southwest region of the island. Ride along the ancient Roman trail that connects the settlements of Bithia and Nora, and cycle along the red waters of Rio Irvi. Stop at the Santadi winery, San Giovanni Cave, the Marganai Forest, the Roman temple of Antas, Scivu beach, and the Piscinas sand dunes.

Where: Begin in Pula and end in Montevecchio. Expect to bike about 34 miles per day.

When: Departures on May 15, June 19, September 11, and October 9, 2010

Price: €1,090 per person based on double occupancy. Add €120 if you're a solo traveler. This price includes seven nights' hotel, seven breakfasts, seven dinners, six picnic lunches, two English-speaking guides, baggage transportation, a support van, and entrance fees to museums and archaeological sites. If you need to rent a bike, add €130 to €160.

More Info: Dolcevita Bike Tours (tel. +39/709-209-885; www.dolcevitabiketours.com)

Photo Caption: Alghero, Sardinia, Italy.
Photo by Giles Longhurst/Frommers.com Community
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