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Italy Travel Guide

Updated on February 4, 2013
San Pietro Square, Rome
San Pietro Square, Rome

Tourism and Italy are synonyms, since Italy is the paradise of history lovers, with over 3000 museums, churches and archeological sites dating from the Roman and Greek periods. There are hundreds of assets and places protected by UNESCO and opened to tourism. The ItalianIslands like Capri, famous for its romanticism, or Ischia, with thermal springs, are visited and worshiped for hundreds of years. The Renaissance movement in art and culture has left behind a valuable heritage, which can be admired today in the small square and cities untouched by the passing of time.

A visit to Italy is a lesson about good living – from simple activities like meetings in the small squares and trivial discussion, to evening walks, icecream and the study of the rich artistic heritage, this country is a delight. Of course Italy doesn’t exist without food, wines and shopping, but all these exist in the background of a fascinating landscape and a culture that combines the ancient with the modern.

Italy means something different for every tourist. Pizza, ruins, wonderful works of art, hot beaches, beautiful youngsters, special wines… Few leave disappointed and if you are interested in one aspect of Italy, you will be surprised to receive a thousand times more.

Italy's Tourist Attractions

  • Be fascinated by the historical sites in Rome – The Colosseum, Forum and Pantheon. At Fontana di Trevi you can assure that you get back to Rome if you throw a penny in the water.

  • Enter the city of Vatican, an independent sovereign state, particularly known for the St. Peter Basilica. The specific features of the VaticanPalace (the Pope’s residence) include the Sixtine Chapel and the VaticanMuseum.
  • Explore the city of Venice, an art masterpiece itself. St Mark Basilica and the Doge’s Palace, with a view towards the St Mark Square, have earned their fame by appearing in Canaletto’s paintings. The Academy Gallery exhibits hundreds of Venetian paintings.
  • Discover the attractions in the city Turin. The EgyptianMuseum is the second in the world, after the one in Cairo. The city’s symbol is Mole Antonelliana (19th century), which houses the National Museum of Italian Cinematography. In the cathedral you can see a copy of the famous shroud from Turin.
  • In Milano you can appreciate Leonardo’s masterpiece, The Last Supper, which can be admired in the Santa Maria delle Grazie Monastery. La Scala is undisputedly the world’s opera capital.
  • In Geneva, the place where Cristofor Columbus was born, visit Galleria di Palazzo Bianco. Here you can find an exceptional collection of Genovese artists.
  • Visit the romantic city Verona, the place where Romeo and Juliet’s tragedy took place. Casa di Giulietta attracts thousands of visitors every year. The Roman Arena, which was built in 290, is the place where the annual opera festival takes place.
  • Discover the Byzantine and Christian monuments decorated with impressive mosaics, in Ravenna, including the splendid mausoleum Galla Placida, which is enlisted in UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Visit Florence to see the revolutionary architecture in the cathedral created by the architect Brunelleschi. Cross the medieval bridge and visit the Uffizi art galleries and the famous statue of David by Michelangelo, located in the academy’s galleries.
  • Admire the striped cathedral in Siena. The cathedral’s floor, which is covered most of the year, can be seen in September.
  • Visit the place where pizza was invented – Naples. The impressive NationalArcheologicalMuseum houses an excellent collection of Greek-Roman artifacts, including mosaics from Pompeii.
  • Discover the Roman life style from the first century, in Pompeii and Herculaneum, covered by massive volcanic eruptions in the year 79.
  • Visit San Francesco Basilica in Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francisc, the founder of the Franciscan monk order.
  • Go to Piazza del Campo in Siena. The best time of the day is early in the morning and at sunset.
  • Sail towards Sicily to see the remnants of the invading cultures. The most important Greek sites include the temples from Valle dei Templi in Agriegento, which is said to be better preserved than any other site from Greece. The catacombs from the Capucin Monastery contain thousands of mummified bodies.
  • In Rome you can walk through the Trastevere district, an alternative tourist center, with countless pubs, restaurants and nightclubs.
  • Go shopping in Milano, the most sophisticated city in Italy.
  • Learn new skills – Italian language and art courses are available all over the country. The Italian language courses are accompanied by cooking or architecture classes. Art classes are offered by Palazzo Spinelli and Universita Internazionale dell Arte in Florence.
  • The spa centers are famous since the Roman era. The most modern statues are Abano Terme and Montegrotto Terme (Veneto), Acqui Terme (Piemonte), L’Andana, Tombolo, Talasa, Terme di Saturnia, Chianciano Terme and Montecatini Terme (Tuscany), Fiuggi (Lazio), Porretta Terme and Salsomaggiore Terme (Emilia Romagna).
  • Don’t miss the opportunity to wear an elaborate mask and costume, during the Venetian Carnival.
  • Head to the coastline, where you will find many water sports. The popular places include the Italian Riviera in Liguria, the AdriaticCoast and the AmalfiCoast. Less crowded are the beaches in Sicily and Sardinia.
  • From Capri, the most visited island in Italy, you can take a boat to the BlueCave.
  • Go skiing in the Italian Alps. West of Turin, in the Piemonte region, you will find the resorts Bardonechia, Sauze dOulx and Sestriere. To the north, the resorts in Vale d’Aosta include Cervinia, Courmayeur and La Thuile. The most exquisite resort in Italy is Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites.
  • In Valle d’Aosta region you can go hiking in the GrandParadisoNational Park and MontAvicRegionalPark.
  • Look for truffles in Umbria, o region with a rare natural beauty, famous for its truffles. The black truffles are celebrated every year in the festival that takes place in the city Norcia. Between October and December you have the opportunity of finding rare white truffles.
  • Visit the wine cellars in Tuscany. The landscape in this region is characterized by vineyards, cypress forests, sunflower fields and remote villages. Chianti, the most renowned Italian wine, is produced in northern Siena, where several wine cellars are opened to the public.

Simply Delicious
Simply Delicious

Italian Cuisine

Most people think that the Italian cuisine is very familiar to them, but they don’t take account of the regional differences. Except the northern region, the pasta is the favorite dish for most Italians. The ingredients that are mostly found in the Italian dishes are the vegetables, not the meat. In the south the dark green olive oil is used, which is obtained after the first mill. In the north though, the much more refined oil is used, which has a golden color. And the quality of the olive oil depends on everyone’s personal preferences.

Even though focaccia (pizza) originates from Geneva, you will find a much thicker version, made out of potatoes, which originates from Apulia. The basic cuisine in Italy consists of a combination of vegetables, beans, fruits, fish, cheese and some meat. Except some rare occasions, an Italian meal doesn’t have a main dish, but several dishes that are served one after another. In an ideal meal you can try different sensations – crispy, soft, complex and simple flavors, pungent and sweet.

The aperitif can be prosciutto di Parma (ham, flitch) with mellon, crostini (roasted bread) Toscana with olive oil or vegetables garnished with olive oil. The first dish (primi or minestra) can be risotto (rice), soup or pasta with sauce. It’s always served in a bowl and precedes the fish or meat dish. After the first two dishes a salad is served and the dessert consists of fresh or preserved fruits.

The Colloseum
The Colloseum

Italy's History

Some say that the nation of Italy has brought civilization twice to the continent of Europe – once in ancient times and the second time after the Medieval Age. During the RomanRepublic and afterwards in the Roman Empire, Rome ruled over most of Europe, Northern Africa and Middle East, for almost a thousand years, until the Visigoths determined the empire’s fall, in the year 476. The Greek ideals and the Roman justice were spread to the Mediterranean regions by the empire’s legions. Today, the cultural, scientific and legal heritage of Rome survived in the entire world. Some of the most distinctive places, like Japan, Louisiana and Brazil, are all based on modern versions of the Roman laws and they used Latin languages (including French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish), and the Latin scientific terminology. In its golden age, Rome rule over territories from the IrelandSea to the Caspian Sea. The Roman ruins can be found everywhere, from Great Britain to Morocco, to Turkey and Jordan. During the Renaissance, Rome acquired again a major influence, by notable citizens like Galileo, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

Even though the Roman law system and the famous Roman roads offered cultural unity to Europe, Italy reached a political only in 1870. Before that, Italy consisted of small kingdoms, dukedom and city-states, that were often dominated by external forces. Even though in the present the country is being administrated by the government in Rome, the country is divided into 20 distinctive regions, each one having its own sights, history, dialect, artistic style, culinary dishes and architecture. For many visitors, Italy’s charm consists of this special diversity.

In the past 100 years Italy experience the passing from monarchy to parliamentary system, from fascism to an unending series of governmental coalitions – around one per year, starting with 1946. It seems that the politic situation reached some stability in the past few years. After five years under the leadership of the leftist coalition Ulivo, the country returned to the rightist leadership. In 2001 the country elected the controversial Silvio Berlusconi, the leader of the coalition Forza Italia. After some terrible defeats in the local elections, in 2005 he resigned and formed a new governmental coalition. In 2006 the right-center leader was elected, Romano Prodi, former president of the European Commission, but Berlusconi’s allies refused to accept their defeat.

What You Should Know

The social structures are strongly influenced by the Roman-CatholicChurch, and the family ties are generally stronger than in other countries in the Western Europe. Smoking is forbidden in public buildings, means of transport and cinemas. The local hour is GMT+1.


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