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'Good for the soul' - Ireland's Favourite Overseas Holiday revealed for 2020

Winner: Italy

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Positano

Positano

Ireland's Favourite Overseas Holiday: Italy. Sinead Ryan, Barry Kenny (Irish Rail), Flavio Zappacosta and Stefania Gatta, from The Italian National Tourist Board and Pól Ó Conghaile at The Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards 2020. Photograph: Fran Veale

Ireland's Favourite Overseas Holiday: Italy. Sinead Ryan, Barry Kenny (Irish Rail), Flavio Zappacosta and Stefania Gatta, from The Italian National Tourist Board and Pól Ó Conghaile at The Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards 2020. Photograph: Fran Veale

Photograph: ©Fran Veale

Tuscany

Tuscany

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Italy "just wraps itself around you", you told us.

"From the history of Rome to the style of Milan, the wonder of Venice to the beauty of Puglia and the islands that surround it. You can go on the cheap or spend a fortune."

In naming Ireland's Favourite Overseas Holiday in our Reader Travel Awards 2020, you sang the praises of Lake Como, the rolling hills of Tuscany, the art of Florence, "gritty and intriguing" Naples and sublimely beautiful Sorrento.

"And then come back to Ireland refreshed to plan another holiday to Italy."

Themes of diversity, beauty and romance infused your comments on a destination voted Ireland's top overseas trip for the second year running. "Plenty to do and plenty of opportunities to do nothing," as one reader put it. And that's not even starting on the weather.

Judges noted growing air access (Aer Lingus launches new routes to Puglia and Sardinia this year), and the country's unique combination of "authentic charm" and aspirational travel. Hubs like Venice and Sorrento may struggle with overtourism, but readers were also quick to share stories of lesser-explored places - like Bologna, or Minori and Majori on the Amalfi Coast.

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Rome

Rome

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Prices are keen ("when you use local transport and non-touristy restaurants"), and finding "the real Italy" is important to you - be it through character, culture, art, heritage or food.

And what food! Italy is "foodie heaven", you told us, from pizza, pasta and gelato to great wines and excellent gluten-free options ("a great country for coeliacs").

You also showed a real warmth towards Italians themselves - "stylish" folk that show "genuine hospitality" to visitors. "They're like us but happier," one of you noted.

Of the other finalists, Portugal (2) had a particularly strong showing among readers this year, Spain (3) remains the country most visited by Irish holidaymakers, and the Canary Islands (4) and France (5) were followed closely by Croatia, Turkey and Greece.

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Ireland's Favourite Overseas Holiday: Italy. Sinead Ryan, Barry Kenny (Irish Rail), Flavio Zappacosta and Stefania Gatta, from The Italian National Tourist Board and Pól Ó Conghaile at The Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards 2020. Photograph: Fran Veale

Ireland's Favourite Overseas Holiday: Italy. Sinead Ryan, Barry Kenny (Irish Rail), Flavio Zappacosta and Stefania Gatta, from The Italian National Tourist Board and Pól Ó Conghaile at The Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards 2020. Photograph: Fran Veale

Photograph: ©Fran Veale

But for now, Italy remains "good for the soul", as you describe it.

"After 23 holidays there over many years, mi piace molto l'Italia! It's the people, the architecture, the passiagata, the pasta, the vino and the daily 'opera' of life."

Buon viaggio!

NB: The Irish Independent Reader Travel Awards 2020 are sponsored by Iarnród Eireann. Read the full list of winners here, and share on social using the hashtag #indotravelawards.

Irish Independent