Italy

Rome, the Winter Olympics, Wine, Ferrari, beautiful beaches – Italy has it all. If you are considering traveling to Italy, here are some things you should know.

An Overview of Italy

From a European perspective, there is little doubt that Italy is the foundation of modern society in the West. This is conclusion is primarily due to two facts, the reign of the Romans and the Roman Catholic Church.

In more modern times, Italy became a nation-state in 1861 when the city-states of the peninsula, along with Sardinia and Sicily, were united under King Victor Emmanuel II. An era of parliamentary government came to a close in the early 1920s when Benito Mussolini established a Fascist dictatorship. His disastrous alliance with Nazi Germany led to Italy’s defeat in World War II.

A democratic republic replaced the monarchy in 1946 and economic revival followed. Italy was a charter member of the European Economic Community. It has been at the forefront of European economic and political unification. Persistent problems include illegal immigration, organized crime, corruption, high unemployment, sluggish economic growth, and the low incomes and technical standards of southern Italy compared to the prosperous north.

Discover Italy

Italy as one of the most ancient European civilizations is unknown to none. Italy had been the land of Roman Empire for long. Today the country has a rich history and tradition that speaks for itself and gathers tourists from all round the world. Italy is a place known for its wonderful cities and their archaic art and architecture. There are great Roman structures like Roman Colosseum and Pantheon; the Sistine Chapel, sculptures by maestros Leonardo, Michelangelo etc. and many more attractions that can make your vacation a dream come true.

A Walk through the Italian Cities-

The cities of Italy are quite popular across the globe. For instance the land of Julius Caesar i.e. the city of Rome also known as the “Eternal City” has an aura of exotic Roman art and architecture. Rome is famous for its architectural masterpiece of the Colosseum, the National Gallery of Ancient Art which in itself is a magnum opus and displays the work of Bernini, Raphael and Titan. The Capitoline Museums houses the complete history of Rome, the Gallery of Modern Art presents the 19th and 20th century at work by eminent artists and the Galleria Borghese museum in Rome has the largest art collection in the world.

The city of Venice seeks no introduction. It is the city where tranquility prevails and the beguiling art and architecture makes everyone’s day. The visitors are attracted by pulls like the Grand Canal, the museums such as the Museum of Modern Art and Museum of Oriental Art in the Santa Croce region of Venice, which put at parade the art work from countries like Japan, Indonesia and China. Also worth visiting are the Academy of Fine Art and the Correr Museum known for its Renaissance art.

The fashion city of Milan has always been inviting visitors. It is a primary economic and cultural center of Italy. Milan is popular for the Romanesque architecture in the Lombardy region of which Milan is a part; The Cathedral of Milan that is a paradigm example of Gothic architecture. The Milan museums include some of the fascinating museums in the world. For instance the Brera Gallery that presents the tour de force of geniuses like Raphael and Giovanni Bellini. You can also gaze at the awesome “The Last Supper”, Jesus and his disciples at the Piazza Santa Maria delle Grazie church.

Since the entire Italy is swarming with museums and art, the city of Florence too grounds few wonderful ones. The Uffizi Gallery which is best known for the art work of Sandro Botticelli – “Birth of Venus”, Leonardo da Vinci’s strokes, and apart from these the Dutch, French and Spanish work of art it displays.

Besides this, Florence is thronged for its delectable cuisine, hill slopes and the oldest archaeologically significant region of this place i.e. the Tuscany region. One among the wonders of the world, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is nestled in the Italian town of Pisa in the Tuscany region.

The Vatican City is a center of attraction in Italy particularly for magnificent Sistine Chapel, designed by the architect Baccio Pontelli and feathers added to it by Bernini. The galleries of this Chapel present some of the exclusive art works-paintings and sculptures like “run-of-the-mill”, the archaic bronze statue of Apoxyomenos, Michelangelo’s sculpture ‘The Pieta’ and so forth.

After these Italy has many other cities that have always been welcoming visitors with their pleasant surroundings and amazing art work.

So one should, in one’s life time definitely bask in the glory of the skill of distinguished artists, painters and architects, no where else but Italy.

Best time to travel in Italy

Italy is often times named as the world’s ‘living art gallery’ and one of the most romantic places to be in.  From painters to poets, to paramours, and to popes, it’ll take more than just a shake of a paintbrush to ‘paint a thousand words’ to describe the beauty of Italy and its culture.

Whether it is a baroque church overlooking a cracked antique pediment in the Forum or the ruins of Greek temples or statue-filled Renaissance fountains, this place is superbly surrounded by history. Its splendid landscapes and vague lights seem to be made for romance. Its three millennia of culture, history, and cuisine entice just about everyone.

Endless possibility of things to do, people to see, places to visit, and food to taste, this place will naturally indulge your fantasies. From staying in tiny medieval hill towns, to gazing at Renaissance art, or skiing in the Alps, or staring at magnificent churches, exploring the canals of Venice, or just simply enjoying the pleasure of good food, good wine, and romantic scenery, Italy will definitely make a wonderful experience.

Italy’s climate is as complex as its amazing culture, varying from north to south and from lowland to mountain top.  Around the country, temperatures are at sea-level with altitudes creating a steep change between summer and winter.  In the Alps, winters are long and severe and storms develop in spring and tend to last to autumn, making the summer the wettest season.  In the northern regions however, chilly winters and hot summers and an even rain distribution is what makes up the weather.  Conditions become milder heading south where the hot and humid African winds affect the regions south of Rome producing at least a couple of stiflingly hot summer weeks.

When is the best time to travel to Italy? The best time to travel to Italy is during the spring, April to May, and autumn, November to October.  This is the best time to travel to Italy since during these times, the scenery is beautiful and the temperatures are pleasant with relatively few crowds. It is also during April that a lot of celebrations and spring festivals happen such as Pasqua or Easter which starts during the week before Easter and continue through Easter Monday or La Pasquetta, a day that may be filled with interesting festivals.

Food festivals such as best artichoke festivals in Ladispoli near Rome is celebrated during the second week of April or the Sagra dei Garagoj a dialect name for a local fish takes place on the last weeks of April. April is probably the best time to travel to Italy as Rome’s birthday is celebrated on April 21 and you can enjoy special events and festivities including Saint George’s Day on April 23, Festival of San Marco on April 25, and the Race of the Ring held during the last week of April.

Italy is an amazing place to be and will surely make an unforgettable experience, so when you decide to visit Italy, just make sure you visit during the best time to travel to Italy and avoid August as this is the time that most Italians take their vacations and you may end up going around with mostly closed shops and businesses.

Italy is an amazing country with colorful, animated people. From ancient culture to a bustling modern country, a trip to Italy is hard to beat.

THE WINE COUNTRY

While the Greek gods feast on ambrosia, Roman gods pander to wine. Italy has been the largest producer of wine since time immortal. And not only that, Italy has been producing the best of wines, great wines fit not only for emperors but even gods perhaps. Italian drinks such as aperitifs, blended over a base of Piedmont Vermouth, superb beers, and gleaming mineral waters are only Italy’s pinky-size pleasures.

Discovering the complete list elitist luxuries of world-destination tourist would be impossible without Italy travel winery search as a quest for opulence. You can almost smell it in the airs of Italia. Italy travel winery would be lost in nothingness if Italy where not a home to natural winery production.

Italy’s climate, soil, and traditions shelter the age-old estate of wine creation. Grapefruit vineyards of Italy stretch at ease as they are seen across the world as an image of ancestry wealth nurtured by generations of familial love for winery. You are a god if you are a god of wine in Italy. Italy travel winery finds purely allows tourist to garb the robe of Bacchus with just a sip of an Italian white or red. The choice of fine winery is endless, an eternal bacchanalia remnant of the North Central Etruscans’ three thousand years of wine-making, and leaving the greater part of the Italian population as pleased farmers, content land tillers, and fulfilled green-thumb cultivators of the world’s greatest culturally-made sumptuousness. They are the real inventors of fine dining. Each regional grower produces delicate winery specialties. From Piedmont, Veneto, Tuscany and the Islands of Sicily and Sardinia, Italy travel winery seekers marvel at the variety of Italian wine specials. Italian wines are never just white wines and red wines. If you could count the heritage sites of Italy, and the breadth of their delectable cuisine, as much as various people have diverse palate penchants so are Italian wine-types immense, according to requisite tastes of million travelers to Italy. White wine, reds, dessert wines, and sparkling wines – go Sicily and Sardinia, Abruzzo, Aosta Valley, Apulia, Basilicata (red Aglianico del Vulture), Calabria, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia, Giulia, Latium, Liguria, Lombardy, Marches, Molise, Piedmont, Trentino-Alto, Adige, Tuscany, Umbria, and Veneto. Long as you are in for Italy-travel winery -at -its -finest is at a delectable reach.

Enotria as the Greeks call it – ‘The Land of Wine’ – a toast for Italy – for being a natural home of wine lovers. Now get a taste of Italy, go wine-testing!

TRAVEL BY TRAIN IN ITALY

 Italy is one of the most romantic and best places to visit when you’re on vacation. There is a lot of places to see, people to meet, food to taste, art galleries to explore, and breathtaking sceneries to gaze at.  Most of the art lovers and artists, consider Italy a very inspiring place to take a sip of the true taste of art. From sculptures, to paintings, to pillars of great historic Greek churches, art is present everywhere making it an amazingly beautiful place to visit.

There are many ways to travel around Italy when discovering the place. Traveling by train in Italy is the best way to get around although it may be a little expensive than traveling by bus, but train travel in Italy is cheaper compared to surrounding countries. However, like any other means of transport, major rail lines in Italy tend to have huge number of people during ‘rush hours’ and seats can be hard to find on Italian trains.

Traveling by train in Italy can be tricky, but knowing how to travel by train will be a good place to start for you.  First know the basic types of train in Italy; they are the Eurostar (ES or Treni Eurostar Italia), Intercity and the newer Intercity Plus trains, and Diretto and Interregionali (Direct and Inter-Regional Trains). 

 Italy’s leading train is the Eurostar that requires compulsory seat reservations.  The Eurostar travels fast between major cities of Italy.  The Intercity and Intercity Plus are relatively fast trains that run the length of Italy with stops at large cities. You can avail of first and second class seating, wherein first class coaches present slightly better seats and usually less populated.  Intercity Plus trains require mandatory seat reservations and are included in the ticket price.  The Diretto and Interregionali are the local trains and the Interregionali is the faster one of these two types.  They are affordable and usually reliable but seats can be hard to find on main routes especially in August or holiday seasons.  First class seating is less likely to be full.

When you’re traveling by train in Italy, make sure you know how to find your destination on train schedules.  Train schedules are displayed in both white and yellow or orange in every train station.  You can check the yellow or orange colored poster for departing trains and it will tell you the route, major midway stops, and the times the train runs.  Always check on the notes column as schedule changes for weekends and holidays.

When buying a ticket for traveling by train in Italy, you can either go to a ticket window at the station ready with the time and destination of the train you want to take and the number of tickets you need including the class of ticket, or you can use ticket machines if the station has them as they are easy to use and long lines can be avoided, or you can also buy your ticket from a travel agent if they’re set to handle train tickets of course with an extra fee.

POPULAR REGIONS OF ITALY

Tuscany

Tuscany is one of the large regions of Italy that is also a famous tourist destination because of its endless artistic beauties, breathtaking landscapes, renowned history, and of course the quality produced wine.  Apart from the mountain stretch of Apuan Alps, Tuscany is a very hilly region that has long stretched coastline overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.

This place’s history goes a long way back the ancient times when first human settlements were Etruscan who built the town of Fiesole in 1st century B.C.  A true symbol of Tuscany is Florence, the capital city of the region and has been the birthplace of the Renaissance tempting a lot of travelers, scholars, and artists from all over the world to marvel at its beauty for centuries.

A travel to Tuscany Italy will let you experience a taste of nature and leisure.  The place’s fertile and luxuriant land combined with amazing landscapes full of thermal spas, stunning beaches, nature reserves, and hills sketched with rows of vines sprinkled with olive groves and cypress trees, makes travel to Tuscany Italy an extraordinary experience.

Tuscany is also well known for its food and wine produce that grows in their fertile soil creating high quality commodities for ages.  These products have been Tuscany’s pride combined with tourist industry resulting to the region’s economy.  All the pretty cities of Tuscany have one way or another contributed to its uniqueness.  Siena for one is a city filled with medieval ambiance and the locale for the famous Palio race every year. Pisa, another well-known tourist destination for its leaning tower built around the end of the 12th century, is one of the remarkable cities to visit in Tuscany.

A travel to Tuscany Italy will not be complete without experiencing its food and wine.  Siena is famous for its ricciarelli almond biscuits and panforte cake, while rural areas nearby are popular for the cinta senese pork salami products and cacio pecorino cheese in an area to the south of Siena known as “le Crete”Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, and Rossi di Montepulciano are some of the famous red wine in the Chianti area which is also known for it wonderful extra virgin oil.  If you’re travel to Tuscany Italy brings you to Florence, you can’t leave without tasting the ribollita soup and the “Fiorentina” steak that comes from Chianina breed of cows. A tasty fish soup made on the coast of Livorno called the caciucco is one cuisine you should not miss tasting.

Whatever you decide to do on your travel to Tuscany Italy, always remember that an amazing place like this with a lot to offer, from the most varied landscapes, hills and mountains, to the unforgettable taste of food and wine, this place should be savored slowly for memories that can last you a lifetime.

Southern Italy

Southern Italy composes some of the regions from which the mass of Italians who migrated to America came from.  Southern Italy for them represents the real Italy which includes the regions of Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, and Sicily.  These regions represent many of the different groups such as Greeks, Normans, Roman, Swabians, Argonese, and Bourbon who settled in these regions for centuries.  Different traces of history can still be found in Naples, Sorrento, and Pompeii.

If you travel to southern Italy, a best place to start is the great unknown southern Italy, to a region hardly known, the Cilento and Maratea.  Just about a hundred kilometers south of Naples, Cilento puts forward a whole variety of thrills in one of Europe’s most beautiful countryside, the aged sights in the UNESCO World heritage is the second largest national park in Italy.  The place also offers delicious regional cuisine, splendid panoramic views, the sea, sandy beaches, and the many possibilities of hiking and sporting.

Cilento is located in the province of Salerno in Campania Southern Italy.  The coast of this place is about a hundred kilometers long of quite rocky bays and sandy beaches.  Mountains of two thousand meter heights border the place and complete the picture with evergreen olive trees and cobalt blue sea. A travel to southern Italy should definitely include this place on the list.

Travel to southern Italy will not be absolute without visiting Puglia that forms the southeastern tip of the Italian peninsula with a long coastline facing the Adriatic and Ionian seas.  Bari, one of the provinces of Puglia, consists of the 19th century old town area.  The old city offers great ancient nub since 1813 with its narrow winding and cobbled streets.  Some interesting places to see are the Piazza Mercantile, Via Venezia, Baroque S. Teresa dei Maschi, the small Byzantine church of S. Gregorio, and the medieval churches of S. Maria del Buon Consiglio and Vallisa.

Sicily should also be taken into your travel to southern Italy as this is the largest island in the Mediterranean.  Agrigento, one of the provinces of Sicily, overlooks the southern coast and was founded by Greek colonists around 582.  This place is world famous for its so-called “Valley of the Temples”, the oldest temple being that of the Temple of Hercules that dates back to 6th century B.C.  One of the best preserved Doric temples is the Temple of Concord, then the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Temple of Juno, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus.  Many interesting sights are also offered by the historical center of the city.

Whatever place you visit on your travel to southern Italy will surely bring you a mesmerizing and captivating feel of the place because of its historic and gothic structures combined with its vast amazing lands.

Northern Italy

Northern Italy has eight regions namely Piemonte, Valle d’Aosta, Lombardia, Trenito-Alto Adige, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia, Liguria, and Emilia Romagna. The biggest cities of these regions are Milan, Venice, Genoa, and Bologna. Travel to northern Italy in the northwest part and you’ll get a taste of the popular winter sports paradise in the snow-covered slopes of Mount Blanc with mountain streams, forests, and great castles perched amidst mountain peaks and rolling hills.

Travel to northern Italy will let you get a tang of the area’s famous resorts that offer romantic restaurants and entertainment together with world class facilities for business conferences. The resorts also put forward summer and winter sports which will surely exhilarate you.

Your travel to northern Italy should include Turin’s famous 18th century architecture, Milan’s great commercial supremacy and its La Scala Opera House together with the place’s romantic canals, Gothic Cathedrals, Lombardia’s Lake District combined with rich art galleries that create an unusual collection of civilized diversity.

Don’t forget the Trentino-Alto Adige in your travel to northern Italy, as it may be the world’s most stunning mountain area that represents wintertime fun for mountain lovers. The place has many lakes including the well-known Lake Garda and is rich in winter and summer sports. Let yourself savor the roast alpine fish and strudel with a glass of excellent Bianco Val d’Adige and you’ll definitely discover the best of true northern Italian cuisine.

Two more places you should certainly take in your travel to northern Italy are Lake Como and Alba. Around the shores of Lake Como are many things to do including a superb shopping area that has local designers and artists as well as the world’s popular designer stores like Gucci, Ferragamo, and more. The breathtaking botanical garden is well worth the time to go through. If you’re a fan of the well-known movie Star Wars Episode 2, then you’ll find Lake Como interesting because it was shot there. Hotel Belvedere with great service and excellent rates is on the shores of this most beautiful lake that you should try to stay in.

Alba is a little-known small town in north central Italy and is the wealthiest region in the country because of its chocolate manufacturing and wine production. Piedmonte, a beautiful wine country region has lots of great bed and breakfast style hotels in an astonishing country setting. Fabulous restaurants and vineyards are just some of the things you should not miss in this place. Alba’s shopping is unlike anything one can experience; everything is there, Gucci where two stores are connected by an underground tunnel, Cartier, Baccarat, Fendi, you name it and you’ll find it, this is probable the best place to shop.

Amalfi Coast

If you were to make a list of the most beautiful places to visit in the world, then the Amalfi coast in Italy would have to be in the top ten category.

This is the coast which is famous for hairpin turns, breathtaking views, sweet lemons (I mean sweet) charming hotels and picturesque towns.

The Amalfi Coast is situated in the southern side of the Sorrentine Peninsula of Italy The best way to visit the coast is to fly to Naples, rent a car and drive down to Sorrento. If you make Sorrento your base camp, you can spend several days visiting the jewel towns of the Amalfi Coast at your leisure.

Start in Sorrento and drive to Positano. It is best to carry a Michelin map with you to avoid getting lost.

Before you arrive in Positano, you might want to stop at Positano Belvedere; a vantage point on the road that allows you to see the town of Positano in the distance. The view is breathtaking.

When you arrive in Positano, stop and walk around town. Chances are you have seen it in commercials. Once a small fishing village, it is now popular with the international crowd and some celebrities who stay at Positano’s 4 and 5 star hotels.

Most houses look like small boxes painted white with bougainvilleas growing along the walls.

After Positano, continue to Vertica Maggiore, and then Furore del Valle, another gem of a town. Near by is the Emerald Grotto. An emerald color cave only reachable by boat. The water of the Tyrrhenian Sea, enters the cave and the sun takes care of the rest.

Continue to the town of Amalfi and Ravello. Ravello also has unforgettable views.
In Ravello, you will see white washed houses perched on the hills with gardens planted with vines, lemon and olive trees. It is a major tourist destination, the beauty of the city, and its charm, has inspired its inhabitants and guests for centuries.

Things to see:

Ravello:
Villa Rudolfo
Villa Cimbrone
Cathedral

Amalfi:
St Andrea Cathedral
Cloisters of Paradise (Chiostro del Paradiso)

Dining in the region:

Sorrento and the Amalfi coast are situated in the Campania region, and typical southern dishes are likely to appear on the menus. Among those are pizza, pasta, tomatoes, eggplant, mozzarella cheese, seafood and citrus fruits.

If you have ever had tomato and mozzarella salad, you will surely have it there. It is called “Insalata Caprese” named after the Island of Capri. The famous San Marzano plum tomatoes that grow in the region, together with silky soft buffalo mozzarella cheese, olive oil and basil, will surely make a delightful dish.

And let’s not forget the wines. The region is rich in volcanic soil, an ideal medium to grow grapevines, and although wines from this region are not well known internationally, they are just as good as more popular Italian varieties. Wine at lunch and dinner is usually served in small carafes, but you can also order wines by the bottle.