Italy is a breathtakingly beautiful country that will always be at the top of the list one of the highlights for anyone traveling to Europe. Italy has everything the traveller is looking for, from the impossibly blue Mediterranean Sea to the spectacular snowcapped Alps. There is fabulous food at every stop along the way, and while there, you can’t help but trip over history with every step you take. Here are a few things you must not miss when you travel to Italy:
Rome. The Eternal City, where life is about La Dolce Vita and Bella Figura. Romans will tell you that Rome is Caput Mundis – the capital of the world. Rome, the capitol of the Italian Republic, is a modern city, built on seven ancient hills. It has the highest number of archeological treasures in the world. It is in Rome you will find the Trevi Fountain, (make sure you throw in a coin to ensure your return!), ancient ruins, The Spanish Steps and some of the worlds best shopping.
The Roman Colosseum. Talk about the original home for extreme games. The two thousand year old Colosseum is both a spectacular and grim place. You can almost hear the ghosts of gladiators clashing their swords and signing multi-drachma contracts with their agents. In Ancient Roman times, the monument was known as the Flavian Amphitheater. The name Colosseum comes from a 37 meter statue of Nero that stood alongside, which was called the Colossas of Nero. considering the many senseless acts of violence that occurred here. Kind of like the beauty pageants are today.
The Vatican City. Did you know that Rome is the only city in the world to host an entire foreign state within its borders? Since 1929 the 0.2 square miles of Vatican City has been a separate sovereign state. Inside it’s borders you will find Saint Peter’s Basilica and The Vatican Museums. While the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo when he was only 32 years old and completed in only 4 years, is the showstopper, there are so many treasures in this over 9 miles of space that it is worth taking your time visiting the Raphael rooms, the Pinacoteca and a Tour Italy Now favorite, the Gallery of Maps. Keep in mind though, that it is said if you spent only one minute admiring each painting it would take you four years to see each piece! The art, architecture, history and sheer aura scale of this place will leave you speechless (Well except for breathless comments like, “magnificent”, “unbelievable”, and “where’s the bathroom.”).
Saint Peter’s Basilica stands on the site of the tomb of St Peter the Apostle with the first construction launched under the emperor Constantine in the 4th century. Now it is one of the largest religious building in the world, and is the work of centuries of the combined genius of Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini and Maderna.
Make sure you leave time to send a postcard from the Vatican Post office which is operated by the Swiss.
Florence. Florence is a Renaissance wonder and the center of Italian art. This breathtaking city is the highlight of a trip to Italy for culture lovers. Florence’s iconic site is its domed cathedral, the 13th century Santa Maria del Fiore (known as the Duomo), built by Filippo Brunelleschi. A magnificent birds eye view of the city is yours after climbing the steps of the nearby Campanile Tower (partially designed by Giotto) and the Baptistery with its golden bronze doors, dubbed the “Gates of Paradise” by Michelangelo himself.
Florence was home to some of the art worlds most famous names, including da Vinci, Machiavelli, Raphael, Donatello, and generous art patrons, the Medici Family. A visit to the Uffizi gallery and the Galleria dell’Academia are musts for art lovers. Are you looking for something more contemporary? Florence is also home to the modern well-known “artists” such as Gucci and Ferragamo. Take a stroll on the 14th century Ponte Vecchio bridge stretching along the Arno river where you can visit the many gold shops.
Tuscany (Siena, Montepulciano, Pisa, San Gimignano). The landscapes of Tuscany are where many Italian dreams are made. With its tall cyprus trees trees leading to country villas, charming medieval towns atop towering hills, home to some of the worlds best wine, cheese, cashmere producers you can understand why.
Tour Italy Now suggests visits to the grand, sweeping Campo in Siena, a day of wine tasting in the picturesque towns of Montepulciano and San Gimingnano. Of course, no visit to Tuscany is complete without a visit to Pisa and the city’s iconic tower
Umbria (Assisi). Often overlooked for the more famous Tuscany, Umbria is Italy’s “Green Heart” Tour Italy Now’s favorite Umbrian town is Assisi. The town of Assisi sits atop one of the many rolling hills in the region and is dominated by the massive structure of the Basilica di San Francesco (Basilica of St Francis). Built in memory of Italy’s favorite saint, St Francis, the Basilica Since the death of St Francis in 1225, Assisi has been an important spot for pilgrims wanting to visit the saint’s hometown. The highlight for art-loving tourists are the recently restored fresco’s by Giotto and paintings by Pietro Lorenzetti.
Amalfi Coast. Breathtaking views at every turn, lemon scented air, villas of ancient emperors and sandal shopping shopping are just some of what awaits the visitor to of the Amalfi coast.
Each town along the the protected UNESCO World Heritage Site has it’s own charm and flavor. In Amalfi you can visit a paper factory. In Sorrrento, explore the lemon groves and see how Limoncello is made. Capri is a island of beauty and glamor. For the history buff there are visits to the gardens of emperor Augustus and the Villa Jovis, the residence of Emperor Tiberius.
Naples and Pompeii. Many people skip Naples, rushing right past it after visiting the historic sites of Rome and on the way to the panoramic Amalfi Coast, but Naples is worth a stop. Visit Bourbon palaces filled with artistic masterpieces spanning centuries. The The National Archaeological Museum, the most important Italian archaeological museum, is filled with Greek, Egyptian and Roman antiquities. The Farnese Collection includes some of the most important examples of classical marbles. Of course you can not talk about Naples and not mention Pizza. Naples is the birthplace of this delicious staple and no visit to Italy is complete without trying at least one.
The Volcanic Mount Vesuvius is visible from just about any spot in the city of Naples. Pompeii is the Roman town destroyed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Let Tour Italy now plan a visit to these fascinating ancient ruins.
Venice. Venice is a city of charm and magic. Founded in the 5th century and spread over 118 small islands, the entire city is an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world’s greatest artists such as Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veroneseto just to name a few. This romantic, watery city is a itself a work of art, made for leisurely wandering in a labyrinth of tiny alleyways and people watching from famous cafes.
In mid-winter Venice celebrates a world famous Carnival and the streets and waterways are filled with costumed revelers and the grand palazzos host elegant masked balls. Every two years the Biennale is the toast of the contemporary art world.
Tour Italy Now’s Venetian don’t miss highlights include a moonlit gondola ride in the Grand canal, a visit to the historic Piazza San Marco to see history spanning from Byzantine times to modern day and shopping for a souvenir of island produced Murano glass.
Bologna. Situated between the Po River and the Apennines, the northern city of Bologna is home to the oldest university in the Western world (established in 1088) and is known throughout Italy for the excellent quality of life it provides its residents. The landscape of this city, one of the most developed in Italy, is enriched by elegant and extensive arcades (or porticos), an architectural element for which the city is famous. Have your camera ready as we explore Neptune Square and its beautiful fountain, and nearby Major Square, both located in the heart of the city. Home to companies such as Lamborghini and Masserati, Bologna is a pedestrian-friendly city where guests can feel free to explore on foot. Here, you will be fascinated by the opulent King Renzo Palace, the Podestà Palace, and the Basilica of San Petronio, one of the largest basilicas in the world.
Vineyards. Chianti, Prosecco, Barolo, Pino Grigio, are juts a few of Italy’s famous wines. There are vineyards in every single region if Italy. A visit to a wine producer is an easy side trip to any of Italy’s major cities. Take a tour and you will enjoy the tastings all the more after having seen the sheer craftsmanship and patience that goes into making fine italian wines.
The Italian Alps. You will probably catch yourself thinking, “these mountains cannot be real. I bet some Hollywood film company put together the ultimate background to impress the tourists.” But in actual fact, the Italian Alps are real, and they are beautiful beyond anything you have ever imagined before in your life. Do you know about the amazing tale of Hannibal surprising the Romans by bringing elephants through the Alps? Elephants were the ancient warfare equivalent of our modern tanks, so you can bet Hannibal had the Romans on the run as soon as they saw his army coming over those mountains.
I read somewhere that Italy is the home of more American expatriates than any other country. So you should be warned in advance that if you stay too long in Italy, you might never want to come back. With that in mind, proceed with caution.
Our Classic Italy Tour and Absolute Italy Tour both will show you wonderful selection of the most famous sights in Italy!