Whether in art, architecture, food, fashion or football, Italy's contribution to the cultural heritage of Europe and the world is unrivalled. The country’s triumvirate of UNESCO World Heritage cities are rightly recognized among the world’s most important and alluring destinations: the imperial pomp of Rome with its magisterial ancient monuments; Florence’s treasure trove of Renaissance art and architecture, and the unique watery splendour and matchless romance of Venice.
Yet what distinguishes Italy, perhaps, is the sheer number of other towns and cities with an almost equal claim on the visitor’s attention: Bologna, Milan, Naples, Pisa, Siena, Trieste, Turin and Verona all pack a head-spinning cultural punch, with museums, monuments, festivals and food to delight and distract.
Beyond the cities, Italy’s beautiful countryside encompasses rolling hills, mountains and lakes. Tuscany epitomises the quintessential Italian landscape of undulating vineyards and olive groves, punctuated by silhouetted cypress trees and perfectly preserved hill towns.
The Apennine Mountains form the spine of Italy, while the Alps define its northern borders. From Piedmont in the west, through lake-studded Lombardy to the dramatic peaks of the Dolomites in the east, the mountains provide an exhilarating adventure playground for skiers, bikers and hikers.
The Italian coastline stretches for more than 7000 km from the Adriatic in the east to the Ligurian Sea in the northwest, where the tiny seafront villages of the Cinque Terre are a particular highlight. Further south, the sweeping arc of the Bay of Naples is dominated by brooding Vesuvius, famous for the destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and reaches a picturesque climax at the stunning Sorrento Peninsula and the exhilarating Amalfi Coast. Offshore, Italy’s two largest islands, Sardinia and Sicily, have their own unique identities. Sardinia has a rich prehistoric heritage and areas of unspoilt wilderness, while Sicily boasts some of the most spectacular Greek and Roman sites in the Mediterranean and the largest, most active volcano in Europe.
Experiencing Italy has as much to do with the tastes of the country as with the sights, since eating and drinking are celebrated elements of Italian life. The country’s cooking has developed regionally, so that styles and quantities of pasta vary across the country and are ousted by the popularity of risotto and polenta in the north. Both Naples and Rome promise pizza nirvana, while Florence has a reputation for the finest gelato. Fish and seafood feature prominently on the coast, and the island of Sicily boasts its own celebrated cuisine, characterized by North African and Moorish flavours.
Places of interest in Italy
The past seems more recent in Rome. The one-time self-styled capital of the world is still defined by its ancient...
Activities in Italy
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