Italy Travel Guide, Best Italian Vacations, Top Vacation Destinations in Italy
First, the dry facts; Italy covers 116,303 square miles and has a population of almost 57,000,000. You probably already know that Rome is the capital, with a population of 2,775,000. Milan and Naples also have populations of over 1 million.
The Alps and the Apennines are two mountain chains that dominate the geography of Italy. The foothills of the Alps are where world famous lakes such as Lake Como and Lake Maggiore are located. Though the Alps run east to west across the northern part of Italy, the Apennines trace the “backbone” of the Italian peninsula.
Off the southwest coast of Italy are the principal islands of Sardinia and Sicily, home to the great volcanic Mt. Etna, which rises 10,860 feet. Additional island chains include the Tremiti Islands, the Tuscan Archipelago, and the Pontine Islands, among others.
If you go shopping in Italy, look for men’s and women’s clothing, particularly shoes, gloves, and ties. Additional specialties include lace, jewels, leather handbags and luggage, gold and silver, glass and crystal.
One of the biggest “problems” in visiting Italy is having to choose among a huge array of cultural offerings. Not only the big cities, but most provincial cities and even small towns have museums that are well worth your time. How could you go wrong in a country that produced Raffaello, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio?
Countless ancient monuments and archaeological sites will also beckon you, and many Italian cities may as well be museums themselves, so full are they with culture. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, reports that two-thirds of the entire world’s artistic treasures are in Italy. The Tuscany region alone possesses more artifacts than some entire European countries. Not only that, but nearly every major style of Western architecture can be found somewhere in Italy, a country that has produced 20 Nobel Prize winners. It is no wonder that Italy is considered the birthplace of modern Western society.
Of course, Italy’s religious history plays a huge role in the country’s culture. The Roman Catholic Church is seated in the Vatican, which is considered its own independent country inside Rome. If you plan a trip to the Vatican in warm weather, be advised that you are not allowed to wear shorts.
Other Italian church architecture is historically important to Western culture. St. Peter’s Basilica, which is located within Vatican City, is considered one of the holiest sites in all Christendom. It is the burial place of St. Peter, one of Jesus’ twelve apostles.
The Basilica of St. Mark, patron saint of Venice, dominates that city’s Piazza San Marco, and the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, built from 1296 to 1436, features a notable dome, and exterior marble panels in shades of green, pink, and white.
For the connoisseur of art, history or cuisine, it would be hard to go wrong by visiting Italy. Besides the obvious artistic and architectural treasures, Italy has skiing in Courmayeur, mountain climbing in the Sesto Dolomites, hiking in Tuscany, and sunbathing in Sicily, where tiny country kitchens produce some of the world’s most delicious meals.
When you’re in Venice or Milan, you may have to do a little searching to find the best meal for the money, but Florence and Rome tend to offer more affordable options. A typical dinner out will cost you on the order of 20 to 50 euros per person, including wine and dessert. Though you are not expected to leave a tip, you may do so if you experience exceptional service. In bars, it is customary to leave small change as a tip, but it is not obligatory.
Clearly, there is much more to Italy than can be easily summed up. Perhaps that is a good enough reason to plan to return to this glorious cultural jewel on the Mediterranean.