Italy — Attractions
A lifetime wouldn’t be long enough to take in all the historic, geographic, artistic and cultural attractions Italy has to offer. Rome itself oozes sophistication through its architectural treasures from the time of its great empire, unsurpassable Renaissance glories and superb artworks, Venice’s Grand Canal is lined with palaces and Florence was the heart of the sculpture and scientific flowering of the Renaissance period. In complete contrast, Italy’s ancient hill-towns and traditional southern villages give a glimpse of a way of life unchanged for centuries.
St Peter’s Basilica
The greatest of all Christendom’s places of worship, St Peter’s Basilica began in 1506 on the burial site of St Peter, apostle and first Bishop of Rome, whose tomb is reputedly beneath the main altar. The magnificent cathedral took 120 years to finish and involved Michelangelo, Bernini, Raphael, Bramante, and several other Italian greats to perfect its Renaissance-Baroque design. Michelangelo’s Pieta is the premier sculpture among many in the chapels and niches.
Address: St Peter’s Square, Vatican City, Rome
Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel
Within Vatican City is the residence of the Pope, the Apostolic Palace, closed to the public except for the Sistine Chapel with its glorious ceiling frescoes and Last Judgment panel, painted by Michelangelo and considered to be on of his greatest works. The Vatican Museum is one of the world’s greatest, with its superb collections of sculpture and art from antiquity through the 19th century categorizing the history of human civilization.
Address: Vatican City, Rome
Set in the heart of ancient Italy, the Coliseum is the largest Roman amphitheater of all time and a world-famous landmark. Built in 72 AD on the order of Emperor Vespasian, its partially-ruined state is due to the great earthquake of 1349 and subsequent tremors over the centuries. Originally it was the site of many epic gladiator contests and the rumored place of the martyrdom of hundreds of early Christians.
Address: Piazza del Colosseo, Rome
Venice’s Grand Canal
The heart of romantic Venice lies along the Grand Canal, virtually unchanged since the city’s heyday 600 years ago. It is set on the Rialtine Islands, the largest in the lagoon and lined with spectacular Renaissance palaces. Immortalized in Canaletto’s paintings, the canal is an Italian attraction in its own right and a boat trip here is a journey back in time.
Address: Rialtine Islands, Venice
Website: http://www.bellereti.com/grand canal
St Mark’s Basilica, Venice
One of the greatest examples of Byzantine architecture, St Mark’s Basilica fronts the Piazza of St Mark and is connected to the Palace of the Doges, who were the historic rulers of the Republic of Venice. The richness and opulence of its design symbolized the vast wealth and power of Italy from the 11th to the 18th century, and its exuberant decoration was the result of Venice’s trade with the Orient. Every vessel plying the Asian trade routes brought back marbles, carvings, friezes and columns from ancient buildings, all of which were added to the facade and interior.
Address: St Mark’s Square, Venice
Uffizi Museum, Florence
Set in the ornate palace built for Cosimo I de Medici in 1560, the Uffizi Museum holds the most comprehensive collection of Renaissance art anywhere on earth. Botticelli’s Primavera and Birth of Venus are here, along with artworks from Renaissance geniuses Michelangelo, Rafael, Giotto, Titian and Caravaggio. Exploring these galleries gives an unforgettable overview of the birth of Western art in a stunning setting once inhabited by members of Italy’s most famed and corrupt ancient families.
Address: Via della Ninna, Florence
Overlooked by the volcanic cone of still-active Vesuvius, the center of Naples is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its 2,500 years of history reflected in an unbroken architectural line connecting Italy’s Greek and Roman times. Churches containing elements dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries are here, and the imposing Castell del’Ovo was constructed as a fortified monastery in the 11th century. Palaces and piazzas stand as they did centuries ago.
A flourishing Roman town just across the bay from Naples, Pompeii was destroyed in a flash by a massive pyroclastic cloud during the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, its architectural treasures and human remains are displayed in the Naples Museum, and walking its eerie, stone-paved streets give a sense of time stopped still in the doomed city. 20,000 people died within minutes, and the city is preserved in exact detail. Nearby Herculaneum suffered the same fate.
Address: Pompeii, Naples
Amalfi and Positano
The stunningly beautiful Amalfi coast lies on the Sorrentino Peninsula a short drive from the beach resort of Sorrento. A UNESCO World Heritage site for its unmatched beauty, its two waterfront towns with their white-painted houses and steeply stepped streets clinging precariously to the rugged cliffs are a thing of postcards. The coastal drive is recognized as one of the world’s best with breathtaking ocean views all the way around. The region was originally made famous by writer John Steinbeck and is now a favorite celebrity escape.
Address: Salerno Province, Italy