Putting Italy on the Map

Think back a few years to your school geography lessons, and you’ll probably remember Italy as the first country you could pinpoint on a map. With the undeniable shape of a high-heeled boot kicking what turned out to be Sicily into touch, it’s an easy spot. Now you’re a few years older, and loads wiser, maybe it’s time you did your homework, and decided which parts of this unique country you’d like to discover.

 

CITIES

Let’s start with just a few of Italy’s iconic cities, with the most famous first, and that has to be Rome. The Eternal City is bursting with historic sights, with the Colosseum top of anyone’s sightseeing list. In a world where each new skyscraper is taller than the last, this vast monument to Roman power holds its own and is just as impressive.

Then there’s Florence. According to UNESCO, 60% of the world’s most important works of art are in Italy, and about half of these are in this city. Enough said?

The Leaning Tower of Pisa never fails to amaze anyone who sees it, teetering impressively in the Field of Miracles, and what about Venice! This city of canals was built on wooden stakes driven into sandy ground and submerged under water. Not being exposed to oxygen, the wood turned almost stone-like and that’s why you can walk around with confidence amongst streets and squares that are seemingly afloat.

Even Italy’s ‘destroyed’ cities are unbelievably impressive. Mount Vesuvius rained hot ash on Pompeii in 79AD smothering it, as well as everything and everyone in it. Yet, still today it is perfectly preserved. You can get a full understanding of the life of Pompeians as you walk down its streets and peer inside homes whose colourful frescoes look almost new.

LANDSCAPES

After all that sightseeing in the cities of Italy, the chance to take it easy on a scenic journey through its lovely landscapes will be very welcome.

The Tuscan countryside is dotted with cypress trees, vineyards and medieval hill towns, and astounding views come left, right and centre on a drive along the Amalfi Coast. As you go, peer down to the shimmering waters of the Mediterranean and look up to see multi-coloured houses tumbling down vertiginous hillsides. Head to the north of Italy where serene forested islands lie amid mirror-like lakes, and the brooding presence of Mount Etna is felt all over the island of Sicily.

CUISINE

With all that prime countryside it’s no wonder that Italy is also renowned for an abundance of locally farmed produce. Each region boasts its own specialities, and lemon and olive groves stretch for miles. Sun-drenched vineyards yield wines to complement every dish too, from seafood and pasta to game and pizza. Choose from around 400 types of cheese, enjoy a plate of antipasto, with Parma’s air-dried ham the undoubted star, or indulge in the ultimate treat of truffles. And that’s just for starters…