An ever-popular vacation destination, Italy's reputation as a cultural and culinary Mecca is well founded. It boasts more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country, and its vast history is further accented by its wide variety of breathtaking terrain and craveable cuisine. Planning a trip?
Don't miss these must see Italian destinations.
Millenia of history await you around every corner in the ancient city of Rome, an absolute must-see during your visit to Italy. The capital of modern-day Italy and the ancient Roman Empire alike, Rome boasts world-famous architectural monuments such as the Colosseum and the Pantheon, and also serves as the crux of the Catholic church. Explore Vatican City, the abode of the Pope nestled within the walls of the city of Rome but technically its own separate country (no need to bring your passport!). Be sure to drop by the Vatican Museums complex, which houses the Sistine Chapel as well as Raphael's School of Athens. Equipped with a map and a good sense of direction, it is easy to navigate to streets and sights of Rome within a couple of days, but what's the rush? There's gelato a plenty, great people watching, and nightlife abounds.
While pizza is delicious throughout Italy, it is in Naples where you will arguably find the best. A couple hours south of Rome, Naples is a seaside city that boasts a remarkable history as the Greek colony formerly known as Neapolis, translating to New City. If the city's sights such as Museo Archeologico Nazionale and the Duomo San Gennaro aren't enough to keep you occupied, Pompeii -- and the infamous Mount Vesuvius -- makes for a perfect day-trip, easily accessible from the city by train. If you would prefer to relax by the beach, the island of Capri is only a short ferry away, making for another great day-trip (although you may be tempted to stay longer!). If for no other reason, go to Naples for the pizza. You will not know what pizza is until you have experienced one of these fresh and simple masterpieces fresh out of the oven -- especially from Pizzaria Gino Sorbillo, a local favorite.
Cinque Terre, meaning "five lands," is a breathtaking national park in the Liguria region consisting of five villages lining eleven rocky miles of the Italian Riviera. Surrounded by mountains, olive groves, and terraced vineyards, Cinque Terre allows no cars or motorbikes to disturb the scenic terrain. Village hopping is instead accomplished with trains, boats, and footpaths. Dotted with quaint harbors, superb picnicking areas overlook the Mediterranean Sea, which supplies the villages with its famously fresh seafood, the local cuisine of choice. Rent a canoe or a kayak to explore the coast, and be sure to sample some of the local pesto -- the region of Liguria is known for it.
Visiting Florence, Italy is like stepping back into Renaissance times. The artistic wealth of the city is sure to leave your head spinning, as it boasts a vast collection of works by the likes of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Donatello. The famously wealthy Medici family left their mark on many of the city's public buildings and played a significant role in bringing the Renaissance to life through their extensive patronage of the arts. The wealth of the city did not die out with the end of the Medici dynasty, and today Florence is home to plenty of well to-do Italian fashionistas. After being sure to see the city's most popular sights, such as the Duomo and The Uffizi, you may be interested in exploring the surrounding Tuscan countryside. Take a day trip to Siena to stand in awe of the Gothic architecture, or venture to Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower.
The very existence of the city of Venice is a wonder in itself. Built on the marshy lands of the Venetian lagoon on the northern tip of the Adriatic Sea, the complex system of canals and the palazzi that appear to be floating in thin air attract scores of visitors each year, each wanting to experience the charm of this one-of-a-kind city. While Rome boasts ancient history and Florence astounds with Renaissance art, Venice holds its own with a distinctly Venetian style, influenced by years of trade with cities such as Alexandria and Byzantium. While visitors flock to the Basilica di San Marco, Venice is also known for its impressive collection of modernist art housed at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. If you're planning a visit, check if it's a year of the Venice Biennale, a major biannual contemporary art exhibition that lasts the entire summer and most of the fall.
A landlocked region in central Italy, Umbria is less touristy than Tuscany but rivals it in beauty. The regional capital is Perugia, a university town boasting museums, churches, and nonstop cultural events, but what really distinguish Umbria are the rolling hills covered in wildflowers and the medieval towns that dot the countryside. Come to Umbria to feel the genuine heart of Italy, and experience some of the best cuisine and wine that Italy has to offer. Umbria is particularly known for the tartufo (truffle), as well as pork from the butchers in the Norcia area. The many small cities scattered through the Umbrian landscape include Assisi, which houses Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi (famous in part for its magnificent frescoes) and Spoleto, which hosts an epic annual summer music and opera festival called the Festival of Two Worlds. Despite the passing of time, Umbria has remained as authentic as they come.