Holiday in Italy
Italy is largely a peninsula situated on the Mediterranean Sea, bordering France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia in the north. The country, which is boot-shaped, is surrounded by the Ligurian Sea, the Sardinian Sea, and the Tyrrhenian Sea in the west, the Sicilian and Ionian Sea in the South, and Adriatic Sea in the East. Italian is the official language spoken by the majority of the population, but as you travel throughout the country, you will find there are several distinct Italian dialects corresponding to the region you are in. Italy has a very diverse landscape, but can be primarily described as mountainous including the Alps and the Apennies mountain ranges that run through the vast majority of it. Italy has two major islands as part of its country: Sardinia, which is an island off the west coast of Italy, and Sicily, which is at the southern tip (the "toe") of the boot. Italy has a population of around 60 million. The capital is Rome.
The climate of Italy is that of typical Mediterranean countries. Italy has hot, dry summers, with July being the hottest month of the year. In the north, they experience cold winters often with snow, as compared to mild ones in the south. Some regions in the south of Italy can experience no rainfall for the whole summer season. The long mountain ranges in Italy impact the weather significantly, as you can experience very different weather going from town to town.
Northwest Italy (Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy and Valle d'Aosta)
Home of the Italian Riviera, including Portofino, and of Cinque Terre. World class cities like Turin, the manufacturing capital of Italy, Milan, the business capital, and the important port of Genoa share the region's visitors with beautiful landscapes like the Lake Como area.
Northeast Italy (Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto)
From the famous canals of Venice to impressive mountains such as the Dolomites in the Italian Alps and first-class ski resorts like Cortina d'Ampezzo these four regions offer much to see and do. The food and wine are great, too. Alto-Adige offers an Austrian-flair.
Central Italy (Lazio, Abruzzo, Marche, Tuscany and Umbria)
Breathes history and art. Rome boasts the remaining wonders of the Roman Empire and some of the world's best known landmarks such as the Colosseum. Florence, cradle of the Renaissance, is Tuscany's top attraction, whereas nearby cities like Siena, Pisa and Lucca have much to offer to those looking for the country's rich history and cultural heritage. Umbria's population is small but it has many important cities such as Perugia and Assisi
Southern Italy (Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania and Molise)
Bustling Naples, the dramatic ruins of Pompeii, the romantic Amalfi Coast and Ravello, laidback Apulia and stunning beaches of Calabria, as well as up-and-coming agritourism help making Italy's less visited region a great place to explore.
The beautiful island famous for archaeology, seascape and some of the best cuisine the Italian kitchen has to offer.
Large island some 250 kilometers west of the Italian coastline. Beautiful scenery, lovely seas and beaches: a major holiday destination for mainland Italians.
There are hundreds of Italian cities, here are nine of its most famous:
Rome (Roma) — the capital, both of Italy and, in the past, of the Roman Empire until 285 AD; home of the Roman Catholic Church (the Vatican).
Bologna — home of the first university in the western world. This city is filled with history, culture, and technology. Bologna is well known for its food. One of the world's great university cities.
Florence (Firenze) — the city of Renaissance. This city is known for its architecture and art and for the impact it has had throughout the world. Florence is also home to Michelangelo's famous statue of David. Home to many other well-known museums of art.
Genoa (Genova) — it was one of the most important medieval maritime republic. Very wealthy and diverse city. Its port brings in tourism and trade, along with art and architecture. Genoa is birthplace of Columbus and jeans.
Milan (Milano) — known as one of the main fashion cities of the world, it's also the most important centre of trade and business in all the country.
Naples (Napoli) — is one of the oldest cities of the western world, with a historic city centre that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Naples is also near the famous volcano Vesuvius and the ruins of the ancient Roman towns of Pompeii and Ercolano.
Pisa — one the medieval maritime republic, is home to the unmistakable image of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Very touristy city. Streets are filled with vendors who will try to sell you anything. Famous too for the University "La Normale".
Turin (Torino) — first capital of Italy, after being the capital of Kingdom of Sardinia (actually Piedmont-centred), what had promoted national reunification. Home of the FIAT, the most important industry in Italy,. Turin is a well known industrial city, based on the aerospace industry and, of course, automobile industry. Home of the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Venice (Venezia) — known for its history (the most important, beside Genoa and Pisa, of the medieval maritime republics), art, and world famous canals. One of the most beautiful cities in Italy; it is home to Island of Murano, which is famous for its hand-blown glass. St. Mark's Square is where most of the tourists are and can get very crowded in the summertime.
Amalfi Coast and Sorrento. Stunningly beautiful rocky coastline, so popular that private cars are banned in the summer months. Sorrento is a good base for ferries to Capri (see below).
Calabria and its pearl Praja a Mare - the italian best kept secret, with the stunning Dino Island, the Blu Grotto, and the Arcomagno bays
Capri and Ischia - the famed islands in the Bay of Naples
Cinque Terre - five tiny, scenic, towns strung along the steep vineyard-laced coast of Liguria
Courmayeur - offers the attractions of a large international resort for skiers and mountaineers
Elba - the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, and the third largest island in Italy after Sicily and Sardinia
Rimini and the Romagna Riviera, Italy's most famous and visited beach tourism locations.
Vatican City - the independent city-state and seat of the Pope, head of the Roman Catholic Church
Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) - A beautiful lake in Northern Italy
Italian Alps, including The Dolomites - Some of the most beautiful mountains include Mount Blanc/Bianco and Mount Rosa.
There is so much to see in Italy that it is difficult to know where to begin. Virtually every small city has an interesting church or two, plus a couple of other things to see.
Etruscan Italy. If you have limited time and no potential to travel outside the main cities, then don't miss the amazing collection at the Etruscan Museum at Villa Giulia in Rome. Hiring a car gives access to the painted tombs and museum of Tarquinia or the enormous burial complex at Cerveteri and those are just the sites within easy reach of Rome.
The Greek Influence. Well-preserved Greek temples at Agrigento in the southwest of Sicily and at Paestum, just south of Naples, give a good understanding of the extent of Greek influence on Italy.
Roman ruins. From the south, in Sicily, to the north of the country Italy is full of reminders of the Roman empire. In Taormina, Sicily check out the Roman theatre, with excellent views of Mt. Etna on a clear day. Also in Sicily, don't miss the well-preserved mosaics at Piazza Armerina. Moving north to just south of Naples, you find Pompeii and Herculaneum, covered in lava by Mt. Vesuvius and, as a result, amazingly well preserved. To Rome and every street in the center seems to have a few pieces of inscribed Roman stone built into more recent buildings. Don't miss the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Aqueducts, the Appian Way, and a dozen or so museums devoted to Roman ruins. Further north, the Roman amphitheatre at Verona is definitely not to be missed.
Christian Italy. The Vatican is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. Although inside Rome it has the status of a separate state. Don't miss St Peter's and the Vatican Museum. Rome, itself, has over 900 churches; a large number of these are worth a quick visit. Throughout Italy there is some truly amazing Christian architecture covering the Romanesque (700-1200); Gothic (1100-1450); Renaissance (1400-1600); and ornate Baroque (1600-1830) styles. Although theft of artwork has been a problem, major city churches and cathedrals retain an enormous number of paintings and sculptures and others have been moved to city and Church museums. Frescoes and mosaics are everywhere, and quite stunning. Don't just look for churches: in rural areas there are some fascinating monasteries to be discovered. When planning to visit churches, note that all but the largest are usually closed between 12.30 and 15.30.
The Byzantine Cities. The Byzantines controlled northern Italy until kicked out by the Lombards in 751. Venice is of course world famous and nearby Chioggia, also in the Lagoon, is a smaller version. Ravenna's churches have some incredible mosaics. Visiting Ravenna requires a bit of a detour, but it is well worth it.
The Renaissance.Start with a visit to Piazza Michelangelo in Florence to admire the famous view. Then set about exploring the many museums, both inside and outside Florence, that house Renaissance masterpieces. The Renaissance, or Rebirth, (Rinascimento in Italian) lasted between 14th and 16th centuries and is generally believed to have begun in Florence. The list of famous names is endless: in architecture Ghiberti (the cathedral's bronze doors), Brunelleschi (the dome), and Giotto (the bell tower). In literature: Dante, Petrarch and Machiavelli. In painting and sculpture: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello, Masaccio and Boticelli.
The Streets and squares. You could visit Italy's cities, never go in a church, museum or Roman ruin, and still have a great time. Just wander around, keeping your eyes open. Apart from in the northern Po and Adige valleys most of Italy (including the cities) is hilly or mountainous, giving some great views. Look up when walking around to see amazing roof gardens and classical bell towers. In cities such as Rome, note the continued juxtaposition of expensive stores with small workplaces for artisans. Search for interesting food shops and places to get a good ice cream (gelato). Above all, just enjoy the atmosphere.
Sicily, Sardinia, Capri, Ischia, Elba, Procida, Aeolian Islands, Tremiti, Ustica, Pantelleria, Aegadi Islands, Pelagie Islands Dino Island.
One of the great things about Italy is that its long thin shape means that when you get fed up with sightseeing you are but a relatively short distance from a beach. But when you get there you might be rather confused, especially if you come from a country where beach access is free to all.
In theory that is the case in Italy but as with a lot of things in this country the practice may be somewhat different to the law. Many stretches of beach, particularly those close to urban areas, are let out to private concessions. In the season they cover almost all the beach with rows and rows of sunbeds (lettini) and umbrellas (ombrelloni). In theory you should be able to pass through these establishments to get to the sea, and should be able to walk along the sea in front of them, but you may be prevented from doing so.
While renting lettini for the day is not particularly expensive the establishments can fill up very quickly. There are some free beaches everywhere and these may be your best bet. They are easily identifiable by the absence of regimented rows of lettini. They can get very crowded: on a Saturday or Sunday in the summer you won’t find an empty stretch of beach anywhere. Close to urban areas you will never be far from a fish restaurant on the beach or, at the very least, a bar. On the beach, topless women are more or less accepted everywhere but nudity is limited to certain beaches. These are unlikely to be announced as such, so you will have to be guided by what others are doing.
Visit the vineyards
Italy is famous for its wine. And its vineyards tend to be in the middle of some beautiful scenery. Taking an organized tour is probably your best bet. Day trips can usually be organized through your hotel if you are staying in a major wine area such as Chianti or through the local tourism office. There are several companies offering longer tours that include meals and accommodation. A simple web search for “Italian vineyard tours” or “wine tour Italy” will find them. Note that these longer tours tend to emphasise good food, great wine and a high standard of accommodation and are thus expensive.
English is widely spoken on the well-travelled path, especially in touristic areas where it is widely spoken by sellers and tourist operators. In the cities you can often speak English with younger people, aged between 14 and 35: almost everyone has had to take English in school since the 1980s. At least the most basic phrases usually stick, and normally there's at least one person in a group with a decent command of English. On the other hand, senior citizens rarely know English, but they'll try to help you anyway with gestures or similar words. If you are going to speak in English it is polite to ask "Do you speak English?" before starting a conversation. Speaking English (and, more than English, speaking French) while taking for granted it will be understood can be considered very arrogant and impolite.
Vacation Rentals Italy