Italy – Roman Buildings and Sunny Coasts
History can rarely be felt as distinctly as in Italy. At the same time, the country is vibrant with colourful, modern activity. Besides the daily life, varied landscapes allure visitors who want to both relax and experience culture. Fashion, the Italian cuisine and a vivid culture also characterise the peninsula. It is this multifacetedness which makes Italy an extraordinary travel destination.
Geography – Europe's boot in the south of the continent
The boot-shaped peninsula Italy lies in the south of Europe and is enclosed by the Mediterranean and the Aegean. Rome as the capital is located in the centre of the country. Sicily, Sardinia and an number of small groups of islands belong to Italy. The country consists of ten regions, which can be divided into 20 provinces. While the north is dominated by a cooler alpine climate, there is typical Mediterranean weather in central and southern Italy.
Nature – The Appenine Mountains as Italy's backbone
The Appenine Mountains run lengthways through Italy like a backbone. In the north, the Alps with the Mont Blanc as the highest peak (4,810 m) mark the country's form. Especially in the 24 nature parks you find such rare animal species as ibexes, bears, golden eagles, wolves and chamois. Uncommon plants like orchids, white firs and myrtles as well as many others decorate the landscape. Pure nativeness is apparent in some of the last remaining patches of European jungle. In addition, you can experience forces of nature in the vicinity of the active volcanoes Mount Etna and Stromboli or at the dead volcano Mount Vesuvius.
Natural sights – From the Dolomites to Tuscany and island Capri
The mountain range of the Dolomites is not a natural site of the World Heritage for no reason. Its harsh, rugged mountains with bizarre formations can be explored starting from Bolzano, for example. Other protected Italian regions are the Gran Paradiso National Park between the Aosta Valley and Piedmont or the Pollino National Park. There you can get to know the peninsula's native nature. A great idea is also an expedition through Tuscany with its scenic landscapes of cypresses, stone pines, olive trees and grapevines (for example in Parco dell'Uccellina or in the Arcipelago Toscano National Park). You find the last patches of the thick and biodiverse European jungle in the Foresta Umbra (Apulia). Those who want to explore the underwater world of Italy's seas can do this on the islands Elba or Isola del Giglio. The island Ischia in the Gulf of Naples attracts visitors with its scenic landscape of chestnut and stone pine forests, grapevines, cliff coasts, sandy beaches and the many hot springs, in which you can relax splendidly. Further south you find the island Capri, which is known for its delightful Mediterranean atmosphere and the widely ramified caves.
Culture – From the Roman Empire to the Renaissance
According to legend, Romulus and Remus, the two sons of the god of war Mars, which had been raised by a wolf, founded a settlement. Romulus slayed his brother after a fight and named the settlement "Rome". The mythical foundation in 753 BC is the beginning of the city's rise to a global empire. For a long time it remained the Western world's centre of power until it broke down in the 5th century. The country flourished again in the 14th/15th century as a commercial power with Venice as its centre. At that time the Renaissance originated in Italy and paintings and sculptures were created by renowned artists like da Vinci, Michelangelo und Raphael. Nowadays the nice and beautiful things still play a major role in the Italians' life. For example, they make time for their families. Good food is important to the people, which is shown in the numerous world-famous Italian delicacies. The Italians also like to dress fashionably and they are very passionate about football and bicycle racing.
Cultural sights – The treasures of Rome, Florence, Venice or Milan
Italy allures lovers of culture from all over the world with its 100,000 sights. Many monuments and cultural sites are indicative of the Italy's glorious times as the centre of the Roman Empire. The Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon or Circus Maximus are only some of the prominent sights in the metropolis Rome. Clearly visible and characteristic for its cityscape is St. Peter's Basilica, which constitutes the seat of the Catholic Church together with Vatican City State. The Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona with its Fountain of the Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi) and the magnificent baroque Trevi Fountain are other highlights that can be found in the capital. Florence, which is equipped with many architectural masterpieces besides its cathedral, and Venice with its unique water canals and palaces constitute further significant cultural centres in Italy. Venice is also famous for its annual carnival, which takes place from the 6th of January and displays typical, flamboyant masks. The famous Tower of Pisa, which is 56 metres high, declines more and more to the south-east due to the sandy, muddy ground. The scenic landscape of Lombardy in the north of the country also attracts visitors with its numerous cultural treasures, especially its many magical castles. Close by you find the city Monza, which is famous for its modern racing circuit, on which Formula 1 races are staged. Milan, Lombardy's capital, is one of the most important fashion capitals on earth and is characterised by its modern, fashionable nature. It is worthwhile to visit the city's cathedral and the monastery Santa Maria della Grazie, which displays Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper". The vibrant daily life of the southern seaport town Naples is completely different. The city is filled with the noisy honking of scooters and is beautifully located at the Gulf of Naples. Close by you can see the ruined city Pompeii, which was buried during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in year 79 and holds fascinating testimonies of everyday life in the Roman Empire.
Experience – Culinary art and famous fashion capitals
The Italian cuisine is not only famous for pasta, pizza and ice cream. Connoisseurs get their money's worth in the countless pizzerias, restaurants, trattorias and coffee shops. Prosciutto from Parma, Ligurian pesto, truffles from Alba and many kinds of cheese and sausage are culinary specialities of this Mediterranean country. For centuries Italy has also been known for its excellent wine, examples are Chianti, Barolo and Lambrusco. Those who do not only want to taste the specialities but also want to see how they are produced can visit a cheese factory or take part in a truffle hunt in Tuscany or Piedmont. You can go shopping excellently throughout Italy. In the fashion capitals Milan, Florence and Rome you have access to the hippest designs and the most fashionable products. The smaller towns are great locations for buying souvenirs. You can get hand blown glass from Venice or gold and silver jewellery from Florence. In Southern Italy ceramic ware and carpets are good choices. Italy is also full of life at night. In all bigger cities and in the tourist regions, bars, restaurants and clubs allure party-goers. The opera, which has its roots in the Mediterranean and was shaped by renowned composers like Verdi, Bellini or Rossini, has a long tradition in Italy. Besides the numerous operas and theatres, literature and music festivals take place all year round. The vibrant Italian daily life is palpable on the markets. The Campo de' Fiori in Rome is one of the most famous examples. The town Cremona is famous for the manufacture of superb violins like the Stradivari. Hardly anywhere else in the world you can dive into the world of these valuable, first rate musical instruments – be it when listening to the sound of famous violins in the museum, visiting a violin making workshop or seeing the freshly varnished, drying instruments on the roofs. Music festivals, concerts and vilon making competitions take place regularly in Cremona. Another highlight is a bath in the sulphur thermal baths of Saturnia, where you can relax like the Etruscans did thousands of years ago.
Activities – Swimming in Rimini or hiking in Liguria
The coastline, which is 7,000 kilometres long and consists of sand, bays, promontories and rocks, is the destination of many sea friends. It is the perfect location for going swimming, sunbathing or relaxing. The centre of fun and sports at the seaside is the region around Rimini near the tourist gem San Marino. Other resorts at the seaside offer opportunities for sailing, diving and other water sports. In addition, many guesthouses and hotels are equipped with spas. A tip for anglers: many fishing boats take tourists with them on their boats when they go sea angling at night. Great locations for hiking are the hilly coast of Liguria as well as the national parks of Abruzzo, Umbria or Calabria with their magical mountain backdrop. Those who prefer locomotion on two wheels should take a cycling tour at the Adriatic coast, in the Po Delta or in the mountains. Lake Garda is particularly popular with people who practise road racing or water sports. The whole Alpine region, especially the giant mountains in the Aosta Valley, are the best location for varied climbing tours and also for winter sports. Moreover, there are ski slopes and tracks in South Tyrol, Trentino, Veneto and Lombardy, which offer great conditions for cross-country skiing, downhill skiing and snowboarding.
The country's official language is Italian. In regions which are fully-developed for tourism you can also communicate in English. From Central Europe travellers usually arrive via the Brenner Pass by car or train. Italy's most important airports are in Rome (FCO, CIA), Milan (MXP, LIN), Venice (VCE) and Naples (NAP). The country's transport network is fully developed and makes it possible to travel by plane, train or car (you have to pay a toll on a number of motorways).
Italy is the perfect tourist destination. You find overnight accommodation as well as varied cultural and leisure activities almost everywhere. The peninsula is suited for travellers with very different interests – be it for cultural experience, the pure recreational holiday, adventure or experience of nature.