Why We Love Italy

Visiting the land where the foundations of western civilization were laid is always educational and edifying. It is also delicious, as the Romans have been testing out their recipes, sauces and fine wines for at least a couple millenia. Walk where the Caesars walked, view the amazing artistic genius of mankind in museums and churches in Rome, Florence, Venice and elsewhere, gaze at the quiet caldera of Vesuvius from the streets of Pompeii, or hike to the edge of Etna in Sicily. The past is always present in Italy, and it is rich indeed.

Top Destinations in Italy

Cinque Terre

WB Yeats, Ezra Pound, Byron and Shelley all garnered inspiration from Italy’s picturesque Riviera. Hardly surprising considering the dramatic curving bay and pine-covered mountains banded with vineyards and olive groves. Get a taste of the high life in the pastel-hued villas of Portofino, Rapallo, Portovenere and Lerici.

The Lake District

Basking in their Mediterranean micro-climate, the Italian Lakes have been a popular holiday spot since Roman times. The Borromean princes built their palaces on islands in the middle of Lake Maggiore, while modern-day movie stars and Russian billionaires now seek shelter in art deco villas amid Lake Como’s blooming tropical gardens.

Padua

Home to Italy’s second oldest museum and a bastion of free-thinking, Padua harbours unique treasures. Almost 200 years before Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel came Giotto’s groundbreaking frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel. Copernicus and Galileo taught at the University’s Palazzo Bo and pilgrims still seek miracle cures at St Anthony’s tomb in the Basilica.

Florence

Visit Florence (Firenze) and see Brunelleschi's revolutionary design for the Duomo (cathedral). Cross the medieval Ponte Vecchio bridge, see the art collections of the Uffizi Gallery and Michelangelo's famous statue of David at the Galleria dell'Accademia.

Pompeii

Understand how first-century Romans lived their daily lives when you see the remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum, both near the modern city of Naples, engulfed in the great eruption of AD79.

Rome

With its epic history and monumental museums, Rome is the repository of over 2500 years of European art and architecture. Begin at the beginning with the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon and the Capitoline Museums. Then get intimate in the reconstructed cubicula (bedrooms) of Museo Nazionale Romano. Also home to Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica, the home of the Roman Catholic Church.

Tuscany

The landscape of Tuscany is, typically, one of vine-covered hills, cypress woods, fields of sunflowers and remote hilltop villages. Chianti, the best-known Italian wine, is made in the area north of Siena, and several wine cellars are open to the public.

Venice

Marble palaces afloat on teal-blue waters, garden islands yielding speciality produce and golden glimpses of heaven in St Mark’s Basilica, Venice is a work of art in itself. Drift down the world’s most beautiful boulevard, the Grand Canal, under the Bridge of Sighs, and see where Casanova was imprisoned in the Doge’s Palace.

Sicily

The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily is separated from the mainland region of Calabria by the Straits of Messina. Home to every great Mediterranean civilization, Sicily is rich in art and history; from Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples to Palermo’s Baroque churches. The island’s most striking geological feature is Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano.

Overview

Italy is a country where history, art, food, fashion and “la dolce vita” — “the good life” — combine to form an unforgettable experience for most visitors. Whether visiting one of Italy’s cities, places where western civilization was nurtured, or getting out into the countryside, a land of rolling vineyards and agricultural fields and tiny hilltop villages, Italy is an immensely rewarding place.

All roads, they say, lead to Rome, and certainly, visiting this ancient city is a remarkable experience. From wandering around the Roman ruins on the Palatine Hills, tossing a coin into the Trevi fountain, making a pilgrimage to the Vatican and its many museums and holy places, or gabbing with the tourists on the Spanish Steps, Rome is endlessly fascinating. It’s hard to find a bad restaurant in this city, nor a meal that doesn’t feature a delicious wine from one of Italy’s many wine-growing regions.

Of course, Italy’s other urban districts are also well worth a visit. The canals of Venice, the museums and churches of Florence, the style and high finance of Milan, and the sun and sights of Naples are all hard to beat. Go back in time to the medieval cities of Padua and Pisa, Assisi and Verona.

Then there are the beautiful vistas of Tuscany, the towering peaks of the Dolomites, the azure-blue seas of the Italian Riviera and the Adriatic, the lush Po Valley and the sleepy villages of Sicily. Beautiful people gravitate to the isles of Capri and Sardinia and the lake district of the southern Alps.

And everywhere are reminders of Italy’s historic past. There are Roman villas and roadways. Medieval palaces and churches. Battlegrounds from before Christ and the last World War. All in today’s vibrant and active European nation.

Italy is a moveable feast for those whose for whom life is never sated.

Quick Facts

Italian is Italy’s mother tongue. English and other European languages are understood in most of the major urban and tourism areas.

The official currency is the Euro (€). The euro is divided by 100 cents. The U.S. dollar buys approximately € 0.88.

The electrical current in Italy is 220-240V AC, 50Hz. Socket and plugs typically are either two or three round prongs. Adapters and converters may be necessary.

Internet connections and WiFi spots are found throughout the country. Most major hotels provide good accessibility.

Tourist visas are not required of visitors from the USA, Europe and most western nations. A valid passport is required for entry. Tourists may legally stay in Italy for up to 90 days.

Tap water is generally safe to drink throughout Italy. Exceptions are water on trains and anywhere where one sees a sign that says “acqua non potabile” and/or a pictogram of a glass with a slash or X across it.

Italy is in the Central European Time zone, which is GMT +2. Italy observes daylight savings time from the last Sunday in October to the last Sunday in March. When it is noon in New York, it is 6 p.m. in Rome.

Although visitors arrive year-round, Italy’s peak tourist season is in the summer months: May through October.

Average High and Low Temperatures

Things To Do in Italy

Buildings of Imperial Rome

Modern Rome is full of structures that date back to the glories of Imperial Rome: the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, and many more. These are places where the pages of history come alive.

Venice Canals

A gondola ride through the canals of Venice is a tradition that travelers have been participating in for centuries. Venice is a city of islands and the canals have long been, in many ways, the city's streets. Lining the canals are the old buildings which have remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years, adding to the romantic charm. The Grand Canal is the most famous of these waterways and one of the most photographed sites in Venice.

Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a stunning stretch of coastline along the Sorrentine Peninsula. Hillside towns are built precariously along the steep mountains that cascade down to the sea. One of the main towns along here is Positano, but the entire area is popular with tourists.

Artistic treasures of Florence

Few cities in the world boast of so many treasures of fine art, sculpture and architecture as Firenze. Short list: Michelangelo’s David in the Galleria dell’Accademia, dozens of Renaissance treasures in the Uffizi Palace, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Piazza Duomo, the Battistero di San Giovanni, the Piazza della Signoria and even the humble Ponte Vecchio.

Vatican City

The Vatican is home to some of the world's most priceless art and art collections. Beyond the obvious sites of St Peter's Basilica and St Peter's square, the Vatican is home to countless attractions. The famous Sistine Chapel displays wall and ceiling paintings by Michelangelo and many of other of Italy's most famous artists.

Pompeii

Below the rumbling volcano of Mt Vesuvius stand the ruins of Pompeii, an ancient Roman city preserved in time by the eruption in A.D. 79. Excavations have revealed the remains of houses, markets, baths, temples, theaters, streets scarred by the tracks of chariots, and human remains. Visitors can tour the site, walk along the old streets, and see the engineering used by Romans over 2000 years ago.

Food tour

Only in Italy can one sample Sauce Bolognese in Bologna, pizza in Napoli, chocolate in Perugia, Chianti wine in Tuscany, and a dish of gelato almost everywhere. Being hungry in Italy is its own reward.

Ski the Dolomites

The Italian Alps are every bit the equal of her neighbors in France, Switzerland and Austria. And they have pasta! There are a dozen excellent ski resort areas, starting with the exclusive Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Hotels and Resorts