Italy is a destination for sophisticated travellers in search of the pleasures in life. Over the centuries, artists, poets and writers have been drawn to Italy by its rich cultural heritage and inspiring ambience.
Italy provides so many experiences for such a small country. Head to Rome to explore the Roman ruins at the Colosseum, the setting of the famous gladiator contests, and the Pantheon, built more than 1800 years ago and still standing as a memento of the great Roman Empire. Or visit some of the world's greatest works of art, created by Italian artists. Who hasn't heard of Raphael's Madonna paintings or Michelangelo's frescos in the Sistine Chapel?
For those wanting to leave the hustle and bustle of the city, try skiing in the Dolomite Mountains or take a romantic break in a medieval or traditional fishing village. You can't mention Italy and not talk about food. Italian cuisine is simple but so effective, from pasta and olive oil to seafood; and pizza and ice cream were invented here! Picturesque vineyards litter the countryside producing excellent regional wines and free tasting sessions. Of course, in a country so beautiful, there are a wide range of Italian hotels from which to base your explorations.
Accommodation in Italy is as diverse as the country. Visitors who are travelling on a budget will find that there are plenty of good value options in the cities and in the countryside, including hostels, bed and breakfasts and budget hotels. On the other hand, those who have the budget can find some truly unique and stunning properties with excellent service and facilities.
Top Things about Italy
Italy has more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country. The landscape varies from the golden coast of Sardinia to the alpine pistes of the Dolomites, and from the rolling hills of beautiful Tuscany to the volcanoes of Sicily.
The Gran Paradiso National Park in north-western Italy was the country’s first national park. Rich in flora and fauna it encompasses snow-capped mountains, wooded slopes, glacial lakes and vast flowering meadows. The fascinating ruins of Pompeii provide an insight into how the Romans lived centuries ago. Houses with colourful frescoes and a huge amphitheatre are just two of its attractions.
Sicily is a sun-kissed island, its Greek temples, Roman ruins, Byzantine domes and Norman castles bear testament to its frequent invasion. Golden beaches, historic ruins and buildings, Europe’s largest live volcano, Mount Etna, and excellent seafood all form part of the experience of Sicily.
Florence, set in the beautiful Tuscany countryside, is packed with attractions from the Santa Maria del Fiore, which dominates the centre of the city, to the world famous Uffizi Gallery and Michelangelo’s sublime David. Its medieval buildings and stunning artworks make it one of the many treasures of Italy.
Manarola, on the Italian Riviera, is a multicoloured vision that seems to sprout out of the mountains with breathtaking views of the Mediterranean.
Best Cities to Visit in Itlay
With over 150 canals stitched together by bridges, Venice is known as the City of Water. Venice charms the visitor with its grand Italian buildings that line the canals, its romantic gondolas, its labyrinthine alleyways and its famous St Mark’s Square. However, the city is no museum piece. Stroll around its alleyways and you will glimpse glass-blowers and other artisans, chefs and musicians all hard at work.
Florence was the jewel of Renaissance Italy. Home to the powerful Medici family they lavished money on the city, building impressive palaces and churches that can still be seen today. Added to this are some of the finest artworks in Italy by artists such as Michelangelo, Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as the stunning Santa Maria del Fiore designed by the architect Brunelleschi.
Other gems of Tuscany are Pisa, with its famous leaning tower, and Siena, with its magnificent tower and medieval square Piazza del Campo, the scene of the thrilling Palio di Siena horse races.
The eternal city Rome is home to some stunning Roman ruins including the huge Colosseum, which in its heyday could hold up to 500,000 spectators, and the Roman forum with its columns and arches. The Vatican contains some of the finest artworks in the world, including the stunning Sistine Chapel and works by Raphael. St Peter’s Cathedral contains many treasures including Michelangelo’s Pietà and The Holy Trinity by Pietro da Cortona.
The Palio in Siena is a thrilling horse race that takes place twice a year in Siena’s medieval square, the Piazza del Campo. The origins of the race are uncertain, but records indicate that it has been held since the sixth century. The city is divided up into seventeen contrade, or districts, each with their own area, emblems and colours. Visitors can easily tell which area they are in because the narrow streets are bedecked with the flags of their contrade. Dirt is laid in the square and the horses run three laps around a tight circuit. The Venice Carnival takes place every year between February and March. During the carnival people dress up in elaborate costumes and masks that are unique to Venice, and balls and other entertainments are staged.
Italian cuisine is famous across the world, and whilst it is true that certain Italian specialities such as pizza can be found across the country, each region will make dishes slightly differently and have their own specialities. Near the border with Austria the food tends to be richer and uses more cream tending to feature much more game such as rabbit or quail. The south tends to have more pasta and tomato dishes, and in some areas such as Naples meat is not common since the people were once too poor to afford meat. Areas close to rivers will feature more fish dishes whilst in coastal areas seafood dishes are common. Italy has 20 wine regions and produces many wines, some of which are known internationally such as Chianti Classico and Asti. Coffee is the other drink that Italy is well known for, and generally Italians drink strong espressos accompanied by a glass of water.
Music in Italy plays an important part in society. Opera and classical music form a major part of Italy’s musical culture, but more modern styles such as jazz, hip-hop and rock music also form a part of the music industry. Each region of Italy also has its own distinct folk music. Urban areas in northern and central Italy are known for their medieval sung poetry, whilst Sicily features a variety of religious music. Sicily is also the home of the puppet theatre, a traditional form of theatre that tells epic tales based on the history of the island. Many religious festivals are held across the country, each region having different traditions. The festivals are a mix of religious and pagan elements and may be accompanied by fireworks and processions in which the image of a saint or the Virgin Mary is carried through the streets.
Accommodation in Italy is varied and extensive. In urban areas the traveller will find cheap hostels and budget hotels as well as boutique and luxurious hotels, together with self-catering apartments. In the countryside visitors can rent villas, farmhouses or holiday apartments. There are also travel hotels, bed and breakfasts and campsites with various facilities across the country. In the Italian ski resorts visitors can choose from hotels or ski hotels that may be either self-catering or catered.