Italy – Cultural Heart Of Europe
So why travel to Italy? Well with the allure of its spectacular cities, from the ancient capital of Rome to the fashion house that is Milan, its luscious lakes such as Lake Como and Lake Garda and beautiful coastal cities of Sorrento and Napals… There’s a holiday experience for everyone to enjoy whilst spending time in this spectacular European country.
Located at the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, the ancient capital of the Western world offers over 2500 years of history, and it’s no surprise, as The Roman Empire was one to the largest empires in world history. And, with more UNESCO World Heritages sites than any other country in the World, Italy has wonder at every turn.
And if the places and attractions alone aren’t enough to tempt you, then the cuisine will have your mouth watering. Famous for being home of the pizza, pasta, gelato and lemoncello, to name but a few, you’ll not find yourself hungry whilst holidaying in Italy.
There are few destinations that rank as high as Italy on a traveller’s bucket list. From its major cities, white-sand beaches and its legendary lakes, whatever your travel tastes are, Italy has something to satisfy!
From pizza to pasta and antipastis to gelato, there’s certain foods you just can’t leave Italy without eating, including the Limoncello liqueur, Trentino Ham and Porchetta.
As with travelling to any destination, when visiting Italy it’s helpful to know a little about the place before you go. So here’s some useful hints and tips to help you with your holiday planning...
Known worldwide for their beauty, art, history and architectural treasures, Italy's cities have been popular tourist destinations for centuries. With wonderful contrasts of scenery, food, lifestyle and culture, each city has something different to offer.
Did you know...
The Colosseum: An iconic symbol of Rome, the Colosseum was the site of many bloody gladiatorial fights, and today remains an imposing sight.
The Trevi Fountain: A stunning example of exquisite Baroque design, it is believed that throwing a coin into the fountain with your right hand over your left shoulder, will ensure a return visit to Rome. Give it a try!
The Pantheon: As the burial site of the Italian Kings, Victor Emmanuel II, Umberto I, and the painter Raphael, the Pantheon is one of the best preserved of Rome's ancient monuments, and is considered an architectural masterpiece.
Duomo (Milan Cathedral): Milan's Duomo is one of the world's largest Gothic cathedrals; begun in 1386, it took 500 years to complete.
Santa Maria delle Grazie and The Last Supper: Painted directly onto the wall of the refectory adjoining the church, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper (Il Cenacolo), is one of the most famous paintings in the world.
La Scala Opera house: Inaugurated in 1778, La Scala is one of the principal opera houses in the world and the leading Italian house. The red-and-gold theatre is famous for its superb acoustics, which are believed to reveal the true abilities of a singer.
Campanile di San Marco (Bell Tower): Located to one side of St. Mark’s Square, the bell tower is the tallest structure in Venice and offers a unique view of this beautiful city.
Bridge of Sighs: Linking the Doge’s Palace to the prison cells on the opposite side of the canal, romantics claim that lovers would find eternal happiness by kissing under the bridge at sunset, however the name actually comes from the sighs heard as prisoners crossed the bridge to the prison.
Rialto Bridge: Spanning the Grand Canal, the current Rialto Bridge was erected in 1591, and until 1854, this was the only point at which the Grand Canal could be crossed on foot.
With beautiful rolling hills, and lush, fertile landscapes filled with olive groves and vineyards, Tuscany is arguably Italy’s most popular region. Often referred to as the cradle of the Renaissance, it is also home to the culturally significant cities of Florence, Siena and Pisa.
Did you know...
Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square): Located in the heart of the historic centre of the city, the square is a perfect reflection of Renaissance Florence, home to the awe-inspiring Duomo (cathedral) famously topped with Brunelleschi's gravity-defying dome, the graceful Campanile and striking Baptistery.
Uffizi Gallery: This is one of the most important art collections in Italy, famously including Botticelli's mythological masterpieces, The Birth of Venus and Primavera (Spring) and Leonardo Da Vinci's Annunciation.
Ponte Vecchio (Vecchio Bridge): The Ponte Vecchio is the only bridge to have survived the Nazi bombing of Florence during WW2. Today, the famous 14th-century bridge is home to Florence's gold and silversmiths.
Piazza del Campo: Siena’s main square, a distinctive shell-shaped piazza, is one of the largest and finest medieval squares in the world. Central to Sienese life since 1300, the square plays host to the Palio horse race twice a year.
Siena City streets: The exquisite medieval architecture on the streets of Siena make it a fascinating city to explore. Take the time to discover the ancient alleys, courtyards and fountains of this captivating city.
Torre del Mangia (City Tower): Originally designed to be as tall as the cathedral to demonstrate that state and church had equal status, this superb medieval tower offers magnificent views of Siena and the surrounding area.
The Leaning Tower: One of Europe's most famous sights, Pisa’s leaning tower stands on the Campo dei Miracoli, (Field of Miracles). Already tilting when it was completed in 1372, the 56m white marble is the bell tower of the breathtaking Duomo.
The Duomo: Pisa’s ornate Duomo has four tiers of open galleries housing statues and decorated with marble inlay. The doors have bronze panels with bas-reliefs from the sixteenth century. Inside there is a sixteenth century wood ceiling, several important art works, and a magnificent marble pulpit by Giovanni Pisano.
Piazza dei Cavalieri: This was the centre of Pisa in its days as a republic, and later became the symbol of Medici power in Pisa. The square is home to a number of charming sixteenth century buildings, the church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri, and the Palazzo dell'Orologio (clock building) with two ancient towers joined by an arcade.
Stretching across much of northern Italy lies the stunning Italian Lake District. A string of narrow glacial lakes lying in the pre-alpine foothills, the region offers a glimpse of a picture-postcard Italy. With attractive lakeside villages surrounded by outstanding natural beauty, it is easy to see why the area has been a popular tourist destination since Roman times.
Did you know...
The Borromean Islands: Within Lake Maggiore lie the spectacular Borromean Islands. The most well-known islands are Isola Pescatori, famously home to a collection of white peacocks that freely strut around the botanical gardens, and Isola Bella, the location of the magnificent Borromean Palace and its beautiful landscaped gardens.
Stresa: Known for its beautiful natural flowers, Stresa is a delightful lakeside resort with a lovely promenade and spectacular views of the lake's famous Borromean islands.
Baveno: A popular tourist resort since the early 19th century, the charming harbour and plethora of fragrant oleander trees make Baveno the quintessential Italian Lakes destination.
Cadenabbia: The lakeside town of Cadenabbia lies in the impressive shadow of Mount Crocione on the western shores of Lake Como. With commanding views across the lake to the popular town of Bellagio and the Dolomite mountain range beyond, it is easy to see why it has been a popular tourist destination since Victorian times.
Tremezzo: With a spectacular location in the heart of the Azalea Riviera, so called because of the areas abundance of azaleas and rhododendrons, Tremezzo is known for both its charming medieval centre and the fabulous garden terraces and art on display at the wonderful Villa Carlotta.
Bellagio: The lakeside town of Bellagio is picturesquely located on the shores of Lake Como. With a charming tree-lined waterfront lined with cafés and restaurants offering commanding views across the lake to the resort of Cadenabbia, Bellagio is a delightful place to enjoy 'la dolce vita'.
Riva del Garda: Spectacularly set at the northern edge of Lake Garda, Riva is a popular resort with a superb lakeside promenade leading to the 12th Century La Rocca castle. It has a delightful cobbled old town and a large pebble beach which is popular for lake bathing.
Malcesine: A beautiful town made up of narrow pedestrianised cobbled streets, olive groves and sheltered courtyards clustered beneath the thirteenth century turreted Scaligero Castle, Malcesine is an idyllic lakeside destination.
Sirmione: Known as the gem of the peninsula, the ancient fortified town of Sirmione stretches out from the southern shore of Lake Garda. The town’s thermal springs have made it a popular spa destination since Roman times, and there are a number of impressive Roman ruins located at the end of the peninsula.
From beautiful Sicily and Sardinia to the lesser known Stromboli and La Maddalena, Italy’s magnificent array of islands are as diverse in landscape, culture and climate as the mainland. With world famous glamorous resorts and distinguished historic cities, sparkling blue waters, spectacular sandy beaches and dramatic volcanoes, the beautiful islands of Italy offer something for everyone.
Did you know...
Spectacularly located amongst the picture perfect string of islands in the Bay of Naples, Ischia's interior is dominated by the volcanic Mount Epomeo. Celebrated for its glorious sandy beaches and natural hot springs, visitor sights on the island include the Poseidon Gardens Thermal Park, the medieval castle, Castello Aragonese built by Alfonso D’Aragnona, and the 15th century Guervera Tower.
Set between the Italian peninsula and the North African coastline, Sardinia is the second largest island in Italy. Occupied by a long succession of different civilisations, Sardinia has a rich history with many architectural treasures, ranging from the nuraghi stone structures built around 3,000 years ago to medieval castles and beautiful churches. However, Sardinia is best known for the Costa Smeralda's beautiful beaches located in the northeast region of the island, and its rugged mountainous interior, which makes it a popular destination for climbing, hiking and camping.
Separated from the Italian mainland by the two-mile-wide Strait of Messina, Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, even claiming several smaller islands and archipelagos of its very own. With a strong cultural identity, striking seaside resorts and idyllic beaches, Sicily is a hugely popular destination for beach holidays. Yet arguably, the island’s biggest and most famous geological feature is the magnificent Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest and most active volcano. In an almost constant state of activity, visitors are drawn to Etna in the hopes of witnessing a volcanic display.
Did you know...
The tiny resort of Portofino has an idyllic setting on Italy's sunny Ligurian coast. Originally a fishing village, picturesque pastel-coloured houses, complete with frescoed façades and geranium-covered roof terraces, cluster around a delightful harbour and quaint cobbled piazza lined with designer boutiques. The views across the bay are simply breathtaking, and there can be no better way to pass the time than by sitting on Portofino’s striking waterfront sampling the region’s wine, famous pesto and locally caught besugo (sea bream).
The historic town of Tropea in the southern region of Calabria, is dramatically perched on a cliff overlooking a beautiful beach. With a charming, timeless character, Tropea is a maze of cobbled, meandering streets, beautiful piazzas, crumbling fountains and once-great houses with magnificent doorways and elaborately tiled roofs. The town has a proud sense of community and the locals spend their evenings taking a 'passeggiata' down Corso Vittorio Emanuele, enjoying each other's company and appreciating the impressive view over the beach and sea, on display at the end of the street.
Located in the idyllic southern province of Puglia, a region known for its magnificent beaches and beautiful olive groves, Alberobello is an exceptional town with unique cone-shaped houses known as Trulli. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, archaeologists believe the Trulli can be traced as far back as the Bronze Age, making the settlement an unbelievable example of ancient architecture that still survives and is in use today. A visit to beautiful Alberobello will certainly not disappoint.
Limoncello is the signature lemon liqueur of Southern Italy. Traditionally served after meals, or sometimes as a welcome drink, this zesty drink is definitely worth a try.
Our tours visiting Sorrento offer an opportunity to enjoy a short tour of a Sorrento Limoncello factory and orchard, along with a sampling of this famous drink.
Our popular ‘Taste of Italy’ optional excursion offered on our Lake Garda, Venice and Verona tours , provides a chance to sample Trentino Ham, and some of the red and white regional wines, as well as some of the house bread, cheese and salami.
Try this traditional Italian dish of rolled pork belly stuffed with a mixture of garlic, herbs and seasonings and then roasted whole in a wood-burning oven – delicious!
Our Corsica and Sardinia tour offers a chance to visit the town of Orgosolo, where we will have lunch with the local shepherds. Enjoy the traditional food, which includes porchetta roasted on an open fire, lamb and cheese. This is then followed by a serving of local Sardinian bread, washed down with home-made red wine.
Regarded as Rome’s signature wine and produced on the hills surrounding the town of Frascati for almost two thousand years, Frascati wine is often referred to as the Golden Wine, both for its colour and its value.
The town of Frascati can be visited on our 9-day Wonders of Rome & Pompeii tour, where you can enjoy time at a local pergolato sampling the local wine and traditional snacks including porchetta, cheese, olives and wine.
Originating from the town of Pizzo Calabro, Tartufo is a traditional ice-cream truffle dessert, usually containing fruit or nuts dipped in chocolate with chocolate shavings.
You will have the opportunity to try this wonderfully indulgent ice-cream on our Splendours of Calabria, Abruzzo and a Taste of Sicily tour when we visit the town of Pizzo Calabro.
Antipasto (Starter), Primo (First Course), Secondo (Second Course), Contorno (Side Dish) Dolce (Dessert).
Take note of the ‘Il coperto’ (cover charge). It is commonplace in Italy for restaurants to include a charge per person to dine at a table. The amount varies from restaurant to restaurant (usually a few Euros), and is usually listed at the bottom of the menu.
Italians are known for their love for family, food and socialising. Social life tends to focus around the piazzas where the locals will arrange to meet, eat and watch life go by!
In Italy it is common for the service charge to be included on most bills, therefore tipping is not compulsory or necessarily expected. If, however, the service you receive is particularly good, it is fine to leave a small additional amount. If the service charge is not included, a tip of between 10% and 15% is sufficient.
The national currency is the euro (€). 1 euro = 100 cents.
Knowing a few keys phrases can make a great first impression. Why not try out the below on your next visit?
Italy is one hour ahead of British time.
Italy works on the standard European 220 volts. A variety of plugs are used, including the European-style two-pin plug/adapter.
With a diverse geography and a varied climate, Italy offers a complete range of holiday experiences for everyone. The extreme mountainous north offers spectacular Alpine scenery during the winter months, whereas the northern lake region with its mild micro-climate offers a spectacular display of spring flowers between April and June. In central Italy, it is much warmer, and this can lead to humid conditions throughout the summer, especially in the cities. In the south it is a much more Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters.
Smoking in Italy is prohibited in all public buildings (including restaurants and bars), however smoking is still very common in Italy and in general Italians are very tolerant of smoke and smokers.
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