Tips for visiting Italy tours Italian lakes
Why travel to Italy?
Italy is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and there are plenty of reasons why...
The cities are legendary. World-renowned cities like Rome, Venice, Florence and Milan are all packed into a country about one twenty-sixth the size of Australia.
And those coastal towns with coloured buildings climbing high on steep mountains above the beach that you see on calendars and postcards really do exist, along with those stripy-shirted Venetian gondoliers singing love songs to the besotted couples as they wind through ageing canals. Those centuries-old Roman ruins, those stone villas, those olive groves, those vineyards, those pavement restaurants with the chequered tablecloths and the beautiful food, the gelato, those incredible cathedrals, those piazzas.... They're real and they're amazing.
So here are our main reasons for visiting Italy:
Italian food is probably the most famous, appreciated and copied in the world – think of the ‘Italian’ restaurants you find almost anywhere you go. But in the ‘Bel Paese’ you'll find the real deal.
Take the almost infinite varieties of pasta... There are the ones you know, but trust us...it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Italy has over 300 types of pasta, each tastier than the last. The best part? So long as you avoid the tourist hotspots they’re usually fresh and handmade! And let’s not start to talk about the sauces!
Italian Cuisine is fresh, colourful, delicious and extremely provincial - it varies from region to region and season to season. This is a lesson visitors can learn the hard way when they order spaghetti carbonara in Florence because... hey, it's Italian. But that's not how Italy works. Most of the dishes for which the country is famous are specialities of certain regions, which is why you need to do your homework and know what to order. Go for bistecca in Florence, salumi and parmigiano in Bologna, carbonara or cacio e pepe in Rome, risotto or Osso Bucco in Milan, pizza in Naples, arancini in Sicily, seafood in Calabria, and orecchiette in Puglia.
And what goes better with fresh Italian food than a fine Italian wine? Italian wines are among the best in the world as the soil and climate are ideal to support the famous Sangiovese, Brunello, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Primitivo grapes that produce fine red wines.
And let’s add those amazing cakes, pastries, and cookies you can only find in Italy. In Italy cakes and pastries vary depending on the season, region and holiday or festival. For example, in Sardinia for Carnivale, you will find the typical zippole, fatti fritti and chiacchiere; while for Easter ricotta-filled pardulas are all over the place. For Christmas, you will find Panettone or Pandoro everywhere and for Easter Colomba. While they are sold by the big brands in every shop and supermarket, these cakes are best bought in the traditional family-run bakeries that have been making them for years.
And did I mention gelato????
Few countries have a historical heritage like Italy, and fewer still have played such a role in shaping world history.
The traces of the mighty ancient Roman Empire are everywhere, and the remains of the Etruscans - who ruled until Rome’s dominance - are found in the north, while further south you come across ancient Greek and Phoenician ruins. In Florence, you will get a glimpse into the Renaissance, and the Middle Ages are imprinted in towns, cities and countryside all across the peninsula.
And when you think of Italy, the list of famous historic sites that come to mind is long, with locations such as the Colosseum, the ancient buried cities of Pompei and Herculaneum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, St Peter’s Basilica, Florence’s Duomo…. Did you know that Italy has the world’s highest number of World Heritage Sites (49)?
If you are a history buff, you will be spoiled for choice on the places to visit in Italy, but even if you want a diverse holiday and only want to spend a little time visiting historic sites, it's history remains a compelling reason to visit Italy.
Art and Architecture
Italy has the right to brag about its art collections. Everyone has heard of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and the statue of David, or Da Vinci’s Last Supper (to name but a few). And while Florence is the undisputed star when it comes to the artistic heritage, in so many other Italian cities you will come across gems that make your jaw drop. From Rome to Venice, from Catania to Verona, wherever you go in Italy you come across an array of art masterpieces – often in a church or palazzo where it has hung for centuries.
Bernini, Borromini, Michelangelo, Donatello, Caravaggio, Canaletto, Canova and Giotto might be the most renowned names all over the country, but travelling around different regions you will also enjoy paintings, sculptures, palaces and churches by local artists that are lesser-known now but were well-known in their day.
Natural landscape and beauty
As well as its cultural diversity, in Italy, you will find also great diversity in natural landscapes. Despite being a relatively small country in some ways, it boasts an incredible range of natural landscapes: in one region you have stunning beaches (Sardinia for example), in another mighty mountain peaks that attract skiers all winter (Trentino Alto Adige, Piedmont or Friuli Venezia Giulia), yet another is all about soft rolling hills (I’m thinking about Tuscany here), and then you find stretch of rugged coast and steep mountains lapped by the deep blue Mediterranean, such as France-bordering Liguria.
Overall, Italy hides beauty around every corner: Medieval towns, Roman cities, lakes, mountains: Italy is a beautiful country, and if you’re a budding or more serious photographer there is an endless range of subjects at which to snap away.
People and ‘la dolce vita’
'La dolce vita' means 'the sweet life' and is an Italian ideal. Italians claim to have mastered the art of living by perfecting an ideal mixture of food, family, and famous good humour, and it all comes down to its people.
During your trip to Italy, you are likely to make many new friends. Whether on tours or in shops or restaurants, in the local coffee shop or on the bus or train, you are presented with many opportunities to meet and bond with the locals and – when you make the effort – the results can help make you (at least for a while) a temporary Italian and give you a taste of la dolce vita….
You need to visit Italy at least once in your life just because it’s a must-see destination. After your first Italy trip, it’s up to you to decide if you want to come back or not, but we are pretty confident you will.
You can find more general information about travelling to Italy here.
You might also find our Italian blog to be of value, as we use that to share information on a range of topics.
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