Every schoolchild can pinpoint Italy on the map. The readily identified “boot” is rooted in the European continent but is a peninsula, too, with more than 4,700 miles of coastline. While we tend to identify parts of Italy in broad terms (northern or southern), it is more accurate to do so by region, of which there are twenty, each with its own history, cuisine, pastas, wines, and sometimes specific rivalries: Roman, Venetian, Tuscan, Sicilian, Pulian… There is good reason to explore this fascinating country. It is a center of history, culture, religion, gastronomy, and romance. It is known for fashion, Renaissance art, opera, and cinema. It produces world-renowned cheeses, wines, olive oil, and pastas (with 310 shapes known by more than 1,300 different names according to the Encyclopedia of Pasta!). With the powerful majesty of the Colosseum, the ominous volcanoes of Mt. Vesuvius and Mt. Etna, the turquoise waters of the Tyrrhenian, the winding roads of the Amalfi Coast, the magnificent architecture of the classical world—and the list goes on—Italy must be at the top of every traveler’s wish list.
In a nutshell
- Glittering waters, towns spilling down a cliffside, ancient ruins, glorious cathedrals, great artworks by Renaissance masters, and gondolas gliding down mysterious canals. All these images live and breathe in Italy’s greatest cities. Naples, capital of southern Italy, with the nearby cliffside towns of the Amalfi Coast, the magical isle of Capri, and the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, sitting beneath mighty Mt. Vesuvius. Rome, once capital of the Roman Empire, now capital of Italy, and home to Vatican City. Milan, one of the world’s great fashion capitals, home to La Scala and Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Florence, capital of Tuscany and one of the greatest cities of the Renaissance, home to masterworks of art and modern-day fashion. Venice, once an independent Republic whose navy ruled the seas, now a mysterious and romantic outpost of islands and canals set in a lagoon shrouded in fog or bursting with light. Italy has a wonderful train system with a network of rail lines connecting these great cities; you can visit all by train.
- Because of Italy’s fractioned history, each region offers its own unique flavor, so you can easily focus in-depth on a small area, leisurely exploring not only the highlights, but also the unique sites not often visited by most travelers. Choose from the medieval hilltop towns of Tuscany, the back-road hamlets and rolling green hills of Umbria, the glittering waters and ancient ruins near the Amalfi Coast, the mountainous shores of Lake Como, the little visited baroque elegance of Puglia, and the melting pot of dozens of varied cultures over the millennia: Sicily. And so much more…
- Vatican City, an independent and sovereign nation, sits along the west bank of the Tiber River. Notwithstanding your religious views, the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s masterpiece ceiling and Last Judgment, and St. Peter’s Basilica are must see destinations. You may even be able to participate in an audience with the Pope.
- Colosseum and the Forum
- St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum
- Galleria Borghese and the Gardens
- St Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace in Venice
- Duomo and Uffizi in Florence
- Archaeological Sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum
- The National Archaeological Museum in Naples
- Basilica in Assisi
- Valley of the Temples in Agrigento
- The Archaeological Site/Museum and the island of Ortigia in Sircusa (Syracuse)
- The Amalfi Coast
- Ligurian Riviera with the Cinque Terre Villages
- Baroque City of Lecce
- Lake Maggiore and Lake Como
- Milan—A Capital of Fashion