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It’s said that, once you visit Italy, a small part of her lives with you forever. Falling in love with Italia is a universal experience, one of those inevitabilities in travel. Her beauty is nothing short of mythological; her history is breathtaking. Italy boasts the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any country in the world, making the country a dream come true for those who would immerse themselves in culture. One could drown in the seemingly endless museums, churches, ruins, and galleries and die happy for having seen the best that the world has to offer. This is a country that is well-versed in the art of hospitality and that loves to show its best side to guests!

There are plenty of places to enjoy amazing food and drink in Europe, but Italy truly sets the bar. Gourmands need only travel in a north-south direction to experience a dazzling range of wines and dishes, all of which are regarded as world-class. Those who regard shopping as a sport have found their heaven here as well: a heady mix of trendy boutiques, haute couture, and exquisite historic malls ensure that you will never want for the perfect accessory or gift. Accommodations are plentiful and luxe. Whether you opt for a tiny jewelbox of a pensione or a large five-star penthouse, you are guaranteed a comfortable and well-appointed place to lay your head.

Travelers of all stripes will find something to cherish about Italy. Young lovers thrill to the beauty and romance to be found in this quintessential honeymoon destination. Businesspeople in Milan on work trips are often seduced by sheer loveliness. Even children can’t help but adore this place—many tours are advertised as family-friendly and cater to visitors of all ages. The country’s wide accessibility stems from the sheer variety of things to do. From hiking a volcano to sipping wine at a tiny cafe, from feeling breathless at the sight of famous art to gliding down a canal in a tiny pole-boat, there is no end to the experiences that Italy has in store for you.

Top Italy Sights

Rome

It’s almost impossible to succinctly sum up beautiful, historic Roma. This is the Eternal City; the home of the Seven Hills, three coins in the fountain, and la dolce vita; the seat of the great Roman Empire ... and that is only scratching the surface. Gorgeous, influential, historic, and proud, Rome has been a global power center for almost three thousand years. Today, it is one of the most-visited cities in Europe. Nobody visits Rome without a stop by the instantly-recognizable Trevi Fountain, of course. Throw a coin over your left shoulder here to ensure you will again visit Rome someday! The Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel are also on the can’t-miss list. The indescribably lovely, majestic ruins of the Colosseum remain astounding, as are the Roman Forum and the Pantheon. Its central location is a boon if you want to go sightseeing, as Pompeii, Florence, and many other Italian destinations are a reasonable train ride away!

Florence

The capital of Tuscany is known for being breathtakingly scenic and absolutely crammed with fantastic art. Michelangelo’s David makes his home here, for one. The awe-inspiring Duomo di Firenze, or Florence Cathedral, is a living testament to not only the beauty that faith inspires, but the city’s rich medieval and Renaissance history as home of the Medici and other moneyed, famous families. Constructing monuments to beauty was something of an arms race for the wealthy in Florence’s heyday, and modern visitors get to reap the rewards of their competitive spirit.Those who enjoy the finer things in life will fall madly in love here, as wine, food, and shopping simply don’t get any better than in the ancestral home of the Borgias, Leonardo, Donatello, and Botticelli. Florence is, by itself, usually toured over several days, but Rome is a brief train, car, or even bike ride away. Florence is, by itself, usually toured over several days, but Rome is a brief train, car, or even bike ride away.

Venice

Venice is, without question, one of the most interesting cities in the world. Populated more heavily by tourists than residents, it is slowly crumbling into the lagoon in which it sits. Don’t let that deter you—the beauty is in the breakdown, as they say, and Venice is a stunning example of elegant decay at work. The quintessential Venetian experience is boarding a vaporetto, or water bus, for a ride down the canals at sunset. Private gondolas are available for rent as well, and there is no more romantic way to explore the city. Any mention of Venice must, of course, include Carnival. Held before Lent every year, this celebration is best known for the distinctive masks worn by attendees. Venetian glass is also known the world over for its delicacy and beauty, and glass blowers ply their trade down many winding alleys here. Many visitors are content to seek a place away from the omnipresent crowds and simply soak up the atmosphere in Venice, which is renowned far and wide as one of the most beautiful cities anywhere.

Amalfi Coast

The southern stretch of coastline off the Sorrentine Peninsula has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural significance. The balmy Mediterranean weather and quaintness of the old fishing villages make this a popular stop. It’s possible to hike or bike the cliffs overlooking the sea, or explore the interior by tour bus or (for the daring!) scooter. Lemon trees are ubiquitous here, lending the air a sweet citrus-tinged scent. Accordingly, the Amalfi region is a leading exporter of limoncello liqueur. Nearby Mount Vesuvius is another popular attraction for those willing to hoof it to the top for a peek at the smoking craters. lending the air a sweet citrus-tinged scent. Accordingly, the Amalfi region is a leading exporter of limoncello liqueur. Nearby Mount Vesuvius is another popular attraction for those willing to hoof it to the top for a peek at the smoking craters.

Milan

Two words come to mind when one thinks of Milan: finance and fashion. This cosmopolitan business center is a paradise for the sophisticated traveler. One can shop the Golden Triangle, where houses of couture crowd each other out, or walk the roof of the Baroque-fashion Duomo, whose one hundred thirty-five spires appear to soar towards the heavens. As soon as possible after you decide to visit Milan, be sure to buy a ticket online to view “The Last Supper.” Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece covers a wall of the monastery attached to the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, and only one hundred people per hour are allowed to view it. Tickets sell out far in advance. Beauty and talent are in plenteous supply at La Scala, Milan’s famous opera house. Some of the greatest voices in the world have graced this stage. And football fans should not miss an opportunity to take in a match at San Siro Stadium, home to great rivals AC Milan and FC Internazionale—no trip to Milan is complete without yelling yourself hoarse for your team of choice!

Sicily

The island of Sicily, located in southern Italy, is yet another popular stop for visitors. Known for its beaches, volcanoes, and a blend of Greek/Roman/Spanish/Norman architecture, a stop in Sicily will definitely impart some fresh new flavor on your Italian getaway. Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano, is located here, and hiking the peak (either solo or with a guide) is an unforgettable experience! Oenophiles should take especial note of Marsala, where much of Sicily’s wine is made. Don’t forget to devote a day to Palermo, where a renowned museum of Greek and Roman relics is a perfect accompaniment to any Italian tour of ancient ruins. The seafood is exquisite here, which is no surprise ... but Sicily is also noted for its delicious pastries, especially those created for Easter and Christmas.

Quick Facts

Capital: Rome
Primary Airports: Rome Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino International Airport (FCO), Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP), Milan Linate Airport (LIN), Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE)
Government: Republic
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Population: 59,619,000 (2008 est.)
Language: Italian
Electricity: 230V/50Hz (European or Italian plug)
Time Zone: UTC +1
Italy

Italy Travel Reviews


A Summer Vacation through the Beautiful Country of Italy

Anonymous

I had the privilege of growing up as a "Military Brat." Being a Military Brat means that you grew up with one or both of your parents being in one of the four branches of the Military. One of the advantages of being a Military Brat is that your family would get stationed overseas. My family was stationed in Germany for many years. While we were there we visited the other countries. One of the Countries I had the joy of experiencing is going to Italy. If you love the water, you will love the city of Venice. In the summer it is very hot and humid during the summer, you do not have to worry about cars breaking down. There are literally no cars or other vehicles. Everyone got out by boat. Riding on the boat can get crowded like when I was there. The boat was so crowded people just could not move. despite all that Venice was a beautiful city. We also got to see Rome. The Vatican in Rome is beautiful. It is nothing like anything you have seen in the United States. They had stained glass windows and tall ceilings. I highly recommend everyone to go to Rome and see the Vatican. It is a breath taking place that you will never forget. This was many years ago for me as I was not yet a teenager, but it is something I will remember for the rest of my life. Italy is a beautiful country and one I will always remember for a lifetime.

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Destinations Visited: Italy

Gap Year Trip

Anonymous

Before college, two of my friends and I decided to embark on a gap year backpacking trip throughout Europe. Although we visited many countries and had countless adventures, I find my most memorable experiences were in Italy. Rome is truly the eternal city. I loved ambling through the cobblestone streets of Trastevere, entering Vatican City, and marveling at the Pantheon. For folks who are history buffs, Rome is an incredible place to visit. I went to the Villa Borghese where I saw Caravaggio's famous works, including the painting of David holding Goliath's head. The city is incredibly friendly for bikers, but be wary of speeding motorino nearby. The Jewish ghetto, with its washed orange walls and labyrynthine streets, offers a quieter view of Rome and some of the best restaurants in the city. After Rome, my second favourite spot was Montepulciano, a small town near Naples which is famous for its culinary heritage. Rabbit-based ragu that is not to be missed. We took some more rural excursions and hiked through vineyards, fig tree orchards, and old cemetaries in northern Italy. We took a weekend trip to Amalfi, which was stunning. The pebble-stone beaches and homemade limoncelli made for a charming trip. I would highly recommend gap year travel for any student who is ambivalent attending university. My trip to Italy changed my life. I am currently studying Romance Languages at SOAS and will be returning to Rome for language study and research this summer.

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Destinations Visited: Italy

My favorite hotel In Rome

Tom Hamilton

The Italian Tourist Authority gives the Colonna Palace Hotel 4 stars in its official ratings, but in my book, it gets 5+. The Colonna has absolutely everything you could want for the perfect Roman holiday. I spent a week there on the last occasion, and felt just I was just starting to get to know the neighborhood again.

The Colonna Palace is a charming thoroughly Roman hotel. There is none of the standardization found in the chain hotels, although it does have every modern amenity, such as wi-fi. The rooms are on the large side for Rome, and are impeccably and individually decorated. There is also a great rooftop deck and spa. In all of my stays there, I have never found a single member of the staff not to be friendly, helpful and genuinely welcoming.

Despite all of this praise, I haven't mentioned the best feature of the hotel which is its location. Located on the Piazza Montecitorio, it is directly opposite the Italian Parliament on a car free piazza. In fact, it is located in the middle of a pedestrian zone, so there is none of the Roman traffic noise which can disturb light sleepers.

Almost every Roman landmark you have ever heard of is within a few minutes walk of the hotel. The Pantheon is literally around the corner. The Trevi Fountain is 150 yards away and the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum are each about a 15 minute walk. The Piazza Navona is a 5 minute walk, and I have never had a bad (or even indifferent) meal at any of the restaurants located on its perimeter.

For its location alone, the Colonna Palace is unique in Rome. All of the other wonderful things about it are just a bonus.

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Destinations Visited: Italy

North-to-South Italian Expedition

Patrizio

After studying abroad in Siena, an amazing medieval walled-city in Tuscany, I embarked on an amazing expedition through Italy, starting in the Northern Alpine cities of Bolzano and Trento, and then moving South to the flatter destinations such as Milan, Verona, and Venice. Even by travelling a short distance I could notice a change in the geography, culture, and cuisine, with each city maintaining a unique, vibrant history and set of traditions; the food never disappointed. The Northwestern coastal cities of Genoa and San Remo were also gorgeous with great beaches, and backpacking through the Cinque Terre landscape, where the mountains meet the sea, was a breathtaking experience everyone should enjoy.

Moving further south into central Italy, the gentle hills of Tuscany greeted me as a friendly welcome. Smaller towns such as Lucca, Viareggio, and Siena offer a pleasant alternative to the bustle of Florence and Pisa, which, although quite beautiful and exciting, is a major travel destination for many tourists. A wine tour is a must, as is sampling every possible food dish, and museums and churches can be found everywhere. Continuing south to my final destinations, Rome and Naples were great cities to see and I felt I could have spent a week in each. The seafood and wine in this area is amazing, and there are almost more museums than coffee shops in these areas. Although the culture and language of each region is very diverse, each offers a very unique and amazing experience.

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Destinations Visited: Italy

A springtime roam around Rome

Anonymous

Feeling the itch to travel, my girlfriend and I made plans for four days in the Eternal City of Rome. We booked our room in the Domus Ciancaleoni, which was an ideal blend of rustic beauty and modern comfort. It's perfectly situated in a central location, with many of Rome's greatest attractions just a short walk away. Rome is best viewed at a relaxed, leisurely pace, so we spent much of our time casually strolling through the streets and soaking in the experience.

The Colosseum was naturally high on the list of must-see sights, and it didn't disappoint. It was every bit as majestic as expected, but we found that our trips to the nearby neighborhood of Monti were actually the most enjoyable parts of our trip. Just a short distance from both the Colosseum and the Domus Ciancaleoni, Monti is the ideal place to experience the living history and unique charm of the old city. Monti is off the beaten path, and its quiet cobblestone streets are lined with an enchanting mix of centuries-old historical buildings and trendy modern establishments.

A friendly local highly recommended Ai Tre Scalini, and we're glad she did! It seems to always be crowded, but the wait is worth it to experience some of the best food and drinks in the city. The wines were every bit as superb as you'd expect, and the lasagna was fantastic. At the heart of the little enclave is the Fontana di Piazza della Madonna dei Monti. It's far from the most ostentatious centerpiece in Rome, but it's a beautiful, historic fountain and a wonderful gathering place to enjoy an outdoor snack and just take a short rest and enjoy the weather. There's so much to do and see in Rome that it's difficult to experience everything in one trip, but for anyone who finds themselves drawn to destinations that are off the beaten path, it doesn't get much better than Monti!

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Destinations Visited: Italy

All Roads Lead to Rome

Daniel Jackson

"All Roads Lead to Rome." As you approach Rome from Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, you are instantly immersed in a city with ancient history surrounded by a bustling and modern metropolitan. Rome is a city of ancient structures, statues, cobblestone streets, nightlife and world-class dining options.

Ancient Rome

As I wandered around the city, I was amazed by the number of statues, fountains and 2,000 year-old structures that dot the city. The Coliseum was absolutely breathtaking and it was difficult to believe gladiators used to battle in this arena. Vatican City and St. Peter's Basilica had more of a spiritual feel than religious. Parts of the old aqueduct still stand around the city with roads weaving around their columns at the base.

Nightlife

Being that Rome is such an international city, the nightlife is outstanding. I spent time in many discos and found an interesting mix of international travelers and locals intermingling to European Electronic Dance Music and American songs. The locals are friendly and happy to meet Americans as most are immersed in our culture.

Dining Options

I love Italian food and, of course, this is the Mecca. I ate at many ma and pa restaurants that may only have enough seating for 10. You can find the best food when wandering down a narrow street and find a hole-in-the-wall. Just watch out for scooters because they are everywhere in this city! No trip to Rome is complete without sample local gelato. It is absolutely fantastic and stop by one of many locations around the city.

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Destinations Visited: Italy

Our Perfect First Year Anniversary in Rome

Anonymous

For our first year anniversary, my husband and I decided to go to Rome. We spent seven days in this magnificent city. On our first day of sightseeing, we went to the Colosseum. We decided to hire a tour guide right when we arrived and bought our tickets to enter. I highly recommend doing this unless you know a lot about the history of the Colosseum. Our tour guide pointed out lots of interesting facts that we would never have learned on our own. Interestingly, there were a lot of cats outside of the Colosseum that they enjoyed taking pictures of since I am an animal lover. Next, we visited the catacombs. This was a little spooky, but nonetheless interesting to see. We used public transportation the entire time we were there, which was easy to understand and very straightforward. One day we did hire a horse and buggy to take us around the city. Even though this was a fun experience, it was way overpriced. Another highlight of the trip was seeing the Vatican. We don’t affiliate ourselves with the Catholic religion, but its history and all of the artwork are extremely interesting learn about and see. I felt like Rome was a perfect place for our anniversary, as it is a very romantic city. Some of the other stops we made were at Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and Piazza Navona. I also enjoyed visiting The Mouth of Truth. Even though there were a lot of tourists and you could only squeeze in for just one second to take a picture, as a fan of the movie ‘Roman Holiday,’ I was glad I got a picture with my hand in the mouth.

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Destinations Visited: Italy

An Italian Love Affair Continues

Anonymous

I lived in Florence for six months, but I had not been back in several years. I was excited to see the city again after so much time had passed. I was curious if it had changed in any way, but it was just as I remembered. My first night back I walked down the main shopping street off the piazza of the Duomo. The church bells began ringing and I felt as if they were giving me a personal "welcome back" from the city I love so much.

Florence was a whirlwind as usual. I enjoyed many nights of aperitivo and drinking wine in cafés. I also explored the church of Santa Croce. I had not ever been inside before, and I felt I needed to pay my respects to the famous men buried there. Dante, Michelangelo, and Machiavelli are just a few of the men who have their final resting place inside. It is a magnificent church that also hosts a leather school. This is something I was not expecting, but a welcome find.

I also took a day trip to Lucca. It is a lovely little Tuscan town an hour away by train. It is fun to rent a bike and wind your way through tiny streets and on top of the ancient city walls. This city was a nice respite from the crowds of Florence. Overall, I had a great trip to Italy, and I would go back in a heart beat.

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Destinations Visited: Italy

Torino - Gateway to the Italian Alps

Toni

During my multiple trips to Italy, I keep returning to Torino, which is my favorite Italian destination. During our last vacation, we spent several days in Paris, then took a comfortable sleeper train to Torino, departing at 11:00 p.m. Paris time and arriving at 7:00 a.m. Torino time.

Torino, rich in Savoy history and culture, is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Italy. Situated on the left bank of the Po River, Torino is home to the finest museums, art galleries, opera houses and cathedrals in Northern Italy. Torino is known for its many piazzas, grand palaces, lavish gardens and breathtaking parks.

There are several sites that should not be missed during your stay in Torino, including the world-famous Egyptian Museum, which features exhibits of archeology and anthropology from Ancient Egypt. You can visit replications of ancient Egyptian tombs and see actual mummified remains. The museum is said to feature the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside Egypt.

One of Torino’s most popular attractions is the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, located close to the city center. The small chapel adjacent to the Cathedral houses the infamous Shroud of Turin. The Shroud depicts images of the face of Jesus imprinted on a linen cloth during the crucifixion. The Shroud is encased in a glass case suspended from a ceiling vault in the chapel. Viewings are held approximately once every 10 or 12 years. Visitors can see video images of the Shroud during a visit to the museum.

Torino is home to many wonderful Northern Italian restaurants. My favorite, the Caffė Torino, although expensive, features traditional cuisine and spectacular wines from the region.

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Destinations Visited: Italy

An Intrepid Italian Voyage

Jesse Quinn

The eight days I spent in Rome granted a dream vacation in the heart of Western art history. Being an avid devotee of the Baroque and Renaissance art periods, I was delightedly up to my neck in sculpture, architecture and enormous oil paintings. Early in my trip, I explored the opulent Vatican Museum in the heart of Vatican City, home to the Pope himself. The glorious collection housed in this world-renowned palace will astound even the most experienced museum-goers. Seemingly endless halls of marble statues, interior architecture unlike any other, and robust gleaming paintings are around every turn. It is truly a divine experience to explore these hallowed halls. The Borghese Gallery and the Rome Museum of Modern Art were two other notable institutions of grandeur. My transportation in the city was mostly my own two feet and I couldnt complain in the slightest. Starting from day one, the city itself is a delight to wander, and even to get lost in. Numerous public parks adorn the cobblestone roads, lavishly displaying local flora. I kept myself hydrated with lots of locally bottled Italian mineral water, paper cones stuffed with oily green olives and the notoriously decadent Italian gelato. The social scene seemed to ignite well after sundown, with bars and sidewalk cafes staying open past midnight. The chic occupants of Rome never seemed to be in a hurry, and life moved along at a gentle pace even amid the overflow of tourists.

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Destinations Visited: Italy

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