It seems the romance of Italy has captured the heart of the nation, overtaking Spain and France as the UK's favourite European holiday destination.
In a survey commissioned by Saga Holidays*, it emerged that one in seven (14%) people are lured by the trappings of la dolce vita, making Italy the nation's top destination of choice among both men and women.
Spain was named the UK's second favourite holiday destination (13%), followed by France (11%). The Spanish islands also proved popular, with many voting for the Balearic and Canary Islands, while Greece confirmed its enduring appeal with neighbouring Turkey and nearby Cyprus also making the top ten.
The poll also dispelled the myth that Saga's over-50s customers have different destination tastes to younger generations of travellers. Along with the over-55s, respondents aged between 25 and 44 also named Italy as their favourite country. Spain, however, remains the most popular choice among the nation’s 18 to 24 year olds.
Meanwhile, the research found that it is no longer just the beaches and sunshine attracting us to European shores. More people seem eager to really immerse themselves in local culture and customs with over one in four now keen to learn another language when abroad. Meanwhile, one in five said they were interested in expanding their culinary knowledge by finding out about local food and cooking.
The good news for Saga customers is that language lessons and local food or wine demonstrations are on offer on most of Saga’s European resort holidays.
Andrew Goodsell, Chief Executive, Saga Group, commented: "It is good to see that traditional European destinations remain popular amongst people of all ages and interesting to note that Italy has now overtaken Spain at the top of the holiday charts. Whatever their age, it appears that more British holidaymakers than ever are travelling to Europe to do more than lie on a beach when they get there. With its fine food, stunning scenery and fantastic range of cultural experiences, Italy seems to have stolen a march on its competitors."
In light of our love affair with all things Italian, Saga Holidays has added several new Italian holidays to their 2008 Europe and the Mediterranean brochure.
Discover the beauty of Tuscany with seven nights at the Hotel Franceschi. Tucked away in Gavinana, a small Tuscan mountain village, this charming hotel provides an authentic taste of everyday life in one of Italy's most beautiful regions. Prices start from 399 per person, including half board, return scheduled flights, insurance and cancellation cover and much more. Details www.saga.co.uk/travelshop or call 0800 056 5880.
Spend a week touring the magnificent Italian lakes with Saga with prices starting from 599 per person. The Hidden Lakes of Italy, twin-centre holiday explores the unspoilt delights of some of Italy's lesser-known lakes such as Orta, Molveno, Varese and Iseo and also includes visits to the world famous Lake Garda and Lake Como. The seven-night trip includes all breakfasts and dinners, return scheduled flights, insurance and cancellation cover and much more. Details www.saga.co.uk/travelshop or call 0800 056 5880.
Further details are available at Saga Holidays 0800 056 5880 or www.saga.co.uk/travelshop.
The full top ten list of European holiday destinations is as follows:
5. Balearic Islands
6. Canary Islands
* Saga holidays are exclusively for people aged 50 and over, a travelling companion may be aged 40 or over.
* Saga holidays are only available direct and not through travel agents.
* Research conducted online by YouGov on behalf of Saga amongst 2,014 UK adults (aged 18 ) between 29-30 August 2007. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18 ).
For further press information please contact the Saga Press Office on: 01303 771118.