Italy : Hotels , Flights & Travel Packages
Italy Travel Guide : Italy Tours & Travel Services : Hotels Best Deals & Discounts : Low Cost Flights : Affordable Travel & Holidays Packages
Italy , is a large country in Southern Europe. Together with Greece, it is acknowledged as the birthplace of Western culture. Not surprisingly, it is also home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. High art and monuments are to be found everywhere around the country. It is also famous worldwide for its delicious cuisine, its trendy fashions, luxury sports cars and motorcycles, diverse regional cultures and dialects, as well as for its many beautiful coasts, alpine lakes and mountains (the Alps and Apennines). No wonder it is often nicknamed the Bel paese (beautiful country). Two independent mini-states are surrounded entirely by Italy: San Marino and Vatican City. While technically not part of the European Union, both of these states are also part of the Schengen Region and the European Monetary Union, (EMU). The beaches : 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.
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. If you rent a car and want to organize your own trips, a helpful website is that of the Movimento Turismo del Vino. The Italian page has a link to itinerari which is not available in English. Even if you don’t read Italian you can still find addresses and opening hours of some interesting wine producers. Note that “su prenotazione” means By Appointment Only. Cycling tours : Several companies offer cycling tours of the Italian countryside. They provide cycles, a guide, and transportation for your suitcase, and for you if it all gets a bit too tiring. Tours vary to accommodate different interests. Normally you change city and hotel every day. If you like cycling this is an excellent way of seeing Italy off-the-beaten-track. Search Google, etc. for "Cycle Tours Italy" for companies. Sailing : Sailing is one of the best ways to see the Italian islands such as Sardinia and Sicily. Most charter companies offer many options from bareboat to crewed and cabin charter, with all types of the boats.
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.
Monuments : UNESCO World Heritage
Islands : Sicily, Sardinia, Capri, Ischia, Elba, Procida, Aeolian Islands, Tremiti, Ustica, Pantelleria, Aegadi Islands, Pelagie Islands . Dino Island
Museums : Every major city has a number of local museums, but some of them have national and international relevance. These are some of the most important permanent collections :
Uffizi Museum in Florence, is one of the greatest museums in the world and a must see. Given the great number of visitors, advance ticket reservation is a good idea, to avoid hour-long queues.
Brera art gallery in Milan is a prestigious museum held in a fine 17th-century palace, which boasts several paintings, including notable ones from the Renaissance era.
The Etruscan Academy Museum of the City of Cortona in Cortona, Tuscany.
Egyptian Museum in Turin, holds the second-largest Egyptian collection in the world, after Egypt's Cairo Museum collection.
The Aquarium [in Genoa, one of the largest and most beautiful in the world, is in the Porto Antico (ancient port) in an area completely renewed by architect Renzo Piano in 1992.
Science and Technology Museum in Milan, one of the largest in Europe, holds collections about boats, airplanes, trains, cars, motorcycles, radio and energy. Recently has also acquired the Toti submarine, which is open to visitors.
Roman Civilization Museum in Rome, hold the world's largest collection about ancient Rome and a marvellous reproduction (scale 1:250) of the entire Rome area in 325 A.D., the age of Constantine the Great.
National Cinema Museum in Turin, located inside the wonderful Mole Antonelliana, historical building and symbol of the city.
Automobile Museum in Turin, one of the largest in the world, with a 170 car collection covering the entire history of automobiles.
The Vatican Museum. Not, strictly speaking, in Italy as the Vatican is a separate territory. Visit the museum to see the Sistine Chapel, the rooms painted by Raphael, some amazing early maps and much, much more.
The Etruscan Museum at Villa Giulia, Rome. Amazing collection of Etruscan art.
Italy Main Cities & Attractions : 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.
Other destinations & Attractions :
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 and South Tyrol- Some of the most beautiful mountains in Europe include Mount Blanc/Monte Bianco and Mount Rosa.
Italy Flights & Airports : Italy has a national airline, Alitalia , as well as several smaller carriers, such as Meridiana or Air One. Intercontinental airlines mainly arrive in Milan and Rome. Most of mid-range international flights arrive to the following Italian cities:
Milan - with 2 airports: Malpensa (MXP) and Linate (LIN); in addition, Bergamo (BGY - Orio al Serio) is sometimes referred to as "Milan Bergamo" . Rome - with two airports: Fiumicino (FCO - Leonardo Da Vinci) and Ciampino (CIA) for budget airlines - Bologna (BLQ – Guglielmo Marconi) - Naples (NAP - Capodichino) - Pisa (PSA - Galileo Galilei) - Venice (VCE – Marco Polo) - Turin (TRN – Sandro Pertini) - Catania (CTA - Vincenzo Bellini) - Bari (BRI - Karol Wojtyla or Palese) - Genoa (GOA - Cristoforo Colombo) .