Italy is one of the world’s most loved holiday destinations, and one need not be a genius to work out why that may be. It’s home to more UNESCO heritage sites than any other country (45 and counting), boasts what it often regarded as the most delectable cuisine in Europe and showcases some of the most striking and varied landscapes this side of the Suez Canal. Want more? Italy’s got it! Superlative leather goods and designer fashion are the two other treasures of this mesmerizing country, and both are enough to attract thousands of visitors every year. The elegant and charming Italians are emulated the world over, their effortless style and joie de vivre are enviable assets, yet there’s something ostensibly Italian which is intangible and totally captivating, that can’t be duplicated. Plan you next vacation to Italy and you could discover what everyone else has known for years.
The most important thing to remember, when planning your trip, is that you could live in Italy, and never have enough time to absorb all its beauties; so the best thing you can do is simply choose one area. Trying to see it all on one trip is bound to leave you exhausted and overwhelmed. Besides, Italy’s most beloved pastime is sitting in a delightful piazza, sipping espressos, chatting and watching life go by. La dolce vita(the sweet life), as it is known here, is the philosophy of doing sweet nothing, and enjoying it very much; so if you really want to experience some authentic Italian essence, we suggest you do the same. Sure, one might argue this may be the reason why the Italian economy is so fickle, yet here life, family and friends come first and above all else…and who could argue with that?
Whatever kind of holiday you desire, whether it’s a cultural journey, gastronomic feasting or romantic sunset-viewing honeymoon…there’s no better holiday destination on earth than Italy. Convinced yet? Thought so! Now all you need to do is get time off work, pack your bags, book your holiday and hotels and head off into the superbly beautiful sunset. To help you better plan your journey, here’s a guide to the best parts of the country, and all they have to offer.
The best destinations for historical and cultural buffs
While just about every city and town in Italy boasts a history which dates back to medieval and Roman times, there are some cities which supersede them by far.
Florence’s city centre is so saturated with important historical and cultural sites, that when UNESCO tried to list them all, they soon surrendered and declared the entire town one colossal heritage site! The city is nestled within 14th century city walls, is home to the 4th largest cathedral in the world (the Duomo is beyond impressive) and we think it also has the best skyline of any city in the country. Head up to the hill towards the Church of San Miniato al Monte in the late afternoon and, if you don’t fall madly in love with the red-roofed city as the sun sets, you must be the most difficult person to impress!
Italy’s capital city is renowned the world over for its superlative Roman ruins and, of course, for being home of the Catholic Church. The Vatican is an unmissable attraction, no matter what your religious inclinations may be. It owns the largest collection of the world’s most priceless artwork, and if it’s sculptures by Michelangelo and Giotto, murals by da Vinci and more invaluable art you want to see, then this is by far your best pick. The Colosseum, of course, needs little introduction; it’s the country’s piece de resistance and the epitome symbol of the Roman Empire, so don’t even consider leaving Rome without seeing it!
The best places to indulge in shopping
Now this is a tricky one indeed! Shopping is great in Italy, no matter where you go. Although certain known products originate from certain areas; the country’s small size and devotion to retail therapy means that everything is available everywhere. You can buy Florentine leather goods in Milan and Rome, Venetian hand-blown glass in Florence or Siena and beautifully vibrant Amalfi ceramics are scattered in specialized boutiques all over Italy. All the major cities have specific avenues dedicated to designer wears, so if that’s on your agenda don’t forget to check out the following hubs: Rome’s Via Condotti, Milano’s Via Montenapoleone and Via Tornabuoni in Florence.
Via Condotti in Rome
The best places to enjoy breathtaking sunsets
Watching the sun set over the Mediterranean, while sipping an iced tea on the terrace of your Amafli hotel, is one of those holiday memories one never forgets, and the kind of setting dreams are made of.
The Amalfi Coast is a striking, winding and totally mesmerizing 30km stretch of coastline in the south-western part of the country and has inspired poets, writers and artists the world over for decades.
This most dramatic coastline, dotted by ancient towns which seem somehow suspended in the steep hillsides, is an absolute sight to behold. Base yourself in any of the picturesque seaside towns like Amalfi, picture-perfect Positano or Sorrento and day-trips to all nearby attractions will be easy to organize from your hotel. Take a day ferry-trip to Capri and visit the Blue Grotto, delight in the local seafood and shop your heart out on the most marvellous ceramics and hand-made sandals you’ll ever see.
What about VENICE you say?
Well, yes, you’re right…about time we mentioned the most romantic city in the world. With its infinitely romantic canals, majestic bridges, amazing architecture and serenity (due to its lack of traffic), Venice is the number one destination if romance and ambience is what you’re after. Book your hotel along one of the many canals, and leaving this city may be just the biggest challenge you’ll face on your vacation. Take a gondola tour or get lost in the maze of cobblestone alleys the city is renowned for, and you’ve got yourself a romantic experience par excellence.
The best time of the year to visit
Italy enjoys a quintessentially Mediterranean climate, although it must be said that it suffered some quite brutal winters over the past few years, with record snowfalls as far south as Naples. Nevertheless, the only activity which you really can’t do in winter is swim! The summer holiday months of July and August are insanely busy, considering the whole country stops for its yearly summer break, and millions converge on the country from every corner of the globe; so keeping away from the country in the height of summer be a good idea. However, do keep in mind that cities like Rome, Florence and Venice enjoy a consistent flow of visitors all year round; so finding a ‘quiet’ period of the year for sightseeing is but an illusion.
If you want to experience the country at its best, and have the luxury of choice, then head here during the European spring and autumn, when the colours are resplendent, the crowds manageable and the temperatures ideal.