Italy is an incredibly beautiful country with diverse geography and a rich history; at one time or another in the Latin south (Campania, Basilicata and Calabria), the Spanish, the Greeks, Phoenicians, Arabs, Normans all made their mark. There is much to see and explore, and each region of Italy will give visitors a very different experience. The country’s long and picturesque Mediterranean coastline attracts visitors from all around the world, and of course it is also famous for delicious cuisine.
Most people opt to visit at least one or two of Italy’s fascinating cities during their trip. There is Rome, the capital, for its jaw-dropping architecture, ancient ruins and landmark art. Then there is Venice, for romantic, leisurely canal cruises; there is also Milan, where fashion lovers congregate, and the city of Florence is a popular choice for Renaissance art lovers; here you can see the famous Michelangelo’s David and Brunelleschi’s Duomo.
Where to go in Italy
Those who love the idea of leisure time spent poolside at an Italian villa are best off visiting Tuscany. In central Tuscany you can find the Chianti region, with its picture perfect vineyards and high quality local wines. It would be a real shame to overlook the city of Florence, which is dripping with culture; it is considered to be the ‘cradle of the Renaissance’, and is home to unbelievable architecture.
While in Florence, be sure to visit the town hall, cathedral and baptistery. There are so many breathtaking palaces, churches, chapels that you won’t forget in a hurry. It’s a photographer’s paradise. The museums hold some of the world’s finest art masterpieces from the Renaissance era; check out Uffizi Gallery and Accademia for a start.
Scenery-wise, there is a lot of dense woodland between Florence and Siena, which makes for great drives down sun-soaked country roads between historic centres. For epic landscapes, visit Val d’Orcia, south of Siena.
Visit Rome and the Vatican
Rome is the sprawling, cosmopolitan capital city of Italy, with a history comprising of almost 3,000 years of art, architecture and culture. Here you will find ancient ruins like the famous Colosseum and the Forum, from the days of the Roman Empire.
While in Rome it’s probably a necessity to visit Vatican City, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. This is the Pope’s home, and a place where you will see some world-class architecture such as St. Peter’s Basilica. Inside this, and the Vatican Museums, you can view art masterpieces like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes, and sculptures like ‘Laocoön and His Sons’.
Basque on the beaches of Puglia
If beaches are your thing, Puglia could be the place for you. Puglia has some of Italy’s finest beaches. Head down to the historic towns of Avetrana and Manduria for pristine golden and excellent Primitivo wine.
The somewhat oddly-named town of Punta Prosciutto (meaning ham point) can offer you shining white sands and crystalline waters, as well as lunches that really hit the spot in the local beach shacks. Serious sunbathers can rent sun loungers by the day here.
Another lovely beach town to visit is Porto Cesareo – this one is known for its quality hotels, like Le Dune Suite Hotel, which can offer you a relaxation in total luxury.
Immerse yourself in the history of Pompeii
Pompeii is a huge archaeological site located in the Campania region of southern Italy, close to the coast of the Bay of Naples. Pompeii was famously engulfed in volcanic ash and pumice after the disastrous eruption of Mount Vesuvius back in 79 A.D.
Although it is no longer the thriving Roman city that it once was, the site has been preserved to some degree and you can explore the excavated ruins of the once busy streets and homes of Pompeii’s ancient residents.
Further Reading: Visiting Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius
See the sights of Sicily
The island of Sicily is another spot for lovers of ancient sites. Here you can find sites such as Villa Romana del Casale, Syracuse, Segesta, and Selinunte, which will give you a similar experience to Pompeii. Sicily’s cultural heritage is practically unrivalled, and today it has a more developed infrastructure.
In terms of landscapes, look out for the Madonie and Nebrodi mountains, Mount Etna and the Egadi and Aeolian islands. There are also many pretty towns like Ragusa, Taormina, Enna, Erice, which are all worth visiting. These days Sicily has some excellent hotels to make your stay as comfortable and rewarding as possible.
Go on a picturesque hike
For those that want an adventure out in nature, consider some of the amazing hiking options in Italy. In the east you can find the Dolomites, which are considered to be the most spectacular mountains in Europe. The trails here are not too difficult to navigate, so you can walk them at leisurely pace. For a good starting point, head to the Brenta massif.
Hiking lovers should also consider visiting the beautiful island of Sardinia for its mountainous interior and many great hiking trails. Here you’ll find the fascinating ‘nuraghi’, mysterious stone ruins from the Stone Age that resemble beehives. Sardinia is also a good location for those who want to relax on sublime, golden beaches.
Getting around Italy
Getting around Italy is relatively easy, except for within the smaller, sleepy towns; visits to these can warrant a little patience, or your own mode of transport. You can travel between many Italian towns and cities by budget flight, so most regions are easily accessible. It’s also possible to rent a car, or to book trains through the country’s extensive rail network.
The best time to go to Italy
The best time to travel to most areas of Italy is between April and June, or between mid-September and October. During these months the temperatures are usually at their most comfortable. The landscapes are at their most colourful and there aren’t quite as many crowds. The busiest time for tourism in Italy is between July and September.
If there is one thing that can be said about Italy, it’s that the country is unlikely to disappoint. It is up there among Europe’s most beautiful countries, and the culture is something you won’t forget in a hurry. The more time you have to explore, the better – there is just too much to miss out on if you rush it.