Exciting but relaxing, sophisticated yet brash, Italy is a country that offers so much, with charming scenery, cities rich in history and a seductive way of life that will leave you wanting more. And the more Italy holidays you take, the more you’ll see how each region has a character and tradition that is all its own. You could easily spend a lifetime exploring them all.
Many of Italy’s star attractions come from the age of the Roman Empire, and Rome itself is a sightseer’s paradise, offering more to see than perhaps any city in the world. There’s the Colosseum, the Forum and the Pantheon, plus newer additions such as the Vatican, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, to name just a few. Outside of the capital, the best-known Roman ruins are near Naples at Pompeii, whose citizens were wiped out by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD79.
Italy has only existed as a nation since the late 19th century but many of its states grew powerful in the Middle Ages, as you will see from the grandeur of cities such as Florence and Siena. Head to these beautiful Renaissance centres to experience labyrinths of atmospheric alleyways, grand piazzas and stunning cathedrals. But in a land of spectacular cities, the most impressive of them all is perhaps Venice. While you may have seen a thousand photos, nothing can prepare you for this astonishing city built on water. Explore St Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace, and don’t even think of skipping a gondola ride through those famous canals. It’s an expensive treat but it simply has to be done.
Italians take style very seriously and even a trip to the shops can resemble a strut down the catwalk. As a result, Italy has one of the world’s fashion capitals in Milan, where the many designer stores offer a treat for those who love to shop. Other glamorous hotspots include the pretty port of Portofino and the island of Capri, both of which have been popular with Hollywood A-listers enjoying holidays in Italy over the years.
Italy also has a landscape to stir the senses. Think of Tuscany, with its rolling hills and distinctive stone pine trees; Sicily, a rustic paradise in the shadow of mighty Mount Etna; the sparkling lakes at Garda, Como and Maggiore; plus the snow-capped Dolomites mountain range in the north-east.
And just when you think you’ve seen everything Italy holidays have to offer, there’s the southern region of Apulia and its conical, whitewashed trulli houses. Historically, the south is poorer and more agricultural than the industrialised north, and it’s fascinating to see this other side of the country.
The difference between Italy’s regions is also reflected in the wonderful food and drink. At its best, Italian food is simple, using a few good ingredients with strong flavours. Pasta, pizza and risotto are well-known but there’s a vast range of vegetable, meat and fish dishes too. Eat al fresco to enjoy the experience even more, and wash it all down with wines such as pinot grigio, verdicchio and Barbera. Italians also make some of the very best coffee – the perfect way to round off your meal. Buon appetito!