Rome's ancient Forum.
Click on photos below to view popular Italian holiday destinations.
Italy is one of Europe's most attractive and complex countries, crammed with thousands of years of turbulent history encompassing among other evocative names: Hannibal, Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire,
Nero, gladiators, Anthony and Cleopatra, Charlemagne, St Peter,
the Vatican, Popes, the Borgias, the House of Medici, Leonardo da Vinci,
Michelangelo, Galileo, Mussolini and the Mafia. No
other country can get even close to that many historically important figures or self-indulgent nouns.
Florence Pictures, Firenze, Tuscany
A big player historically, Firenze contains many artistic wonders in both stone and oils, inside and out, endless quirky details and spectacular
interiors. It's a must-see,
but not in the summertime if possible, though the Bugcrew arrived there in July (by chance!) and enjoyed the experience enormously in spite of the crowds.
Rome Pictures, Roma
Italy encompasses some of the world's most fascinating ancient
cities, with Rome, Venice and Florence topping a global list of
'see before you die' candidates, as well as an unbeatable collection
of art treasures led by Rome and Vatican museums.
Throw into the tourist pot cute hilltop villages, rolling golden
vistas, good wine, opera, predictable sunshine, a serious attitude
towards food with always edible, good value cuisine and you have
one of the world's most attractive destinations.
• summer sunshine is pretty well guaranteed and the Mediterranean
is warm and inviting.
• the food and wines are superb and good value compared to most
• anybody with a camera cannot fail to go home with stunning photos
• the law is generally considered to be an ass in Italy and Italians
frequently disregard it, so anti-establishmentarians (always wanted
to use that word) will enjoy life here.
• train and bus services are frequent and cheap, though frequently
• the sights, large and small are magnificent.
• there's so little rain in summer that mosquitoes don't breed.
• roads have posted limits but no apparent police control on them.
• Italians seeing a powerful car in the rearview mirror will let
it pass as soon as practical.
• town centres are very walkable even if you do have to lurch
deliberately in front of moving vehicles in order to cross a road
at a pedestrian crossing. They won't stop if you just stand there
• English has many similar roots to Italian via Latin so some
bits of the language are kind of understandable.
Vatican City Pictures, Rome
• Italian cuisine is excellent - pasta, pizza and risotto. Then
more pasta, pizza and risotto, hmm. Then more of the same - if
you are in a tourist area and on a budget or elsewhere and don't
read Italian (No, knowledge of French or Spanish is surprisingly
not going to help with menus). Nor is international cuisine readily
available. Chinese? Mama mia!
However, if you can unleash a fat wallet or have studied up on
Italian food words then the cuisine can be superb.
• directional signs for pedestrians have the same lack of continuity
(or just lack) that road signs have. GPS, map-reading skills,
patience, imagination and/or a grasp of Italian language will
be essential to successful navigation in Italy.
• roads between magnificent towns are often sadly drab, garbage-strewn
and bordered with concrete excrescences.
• while some Italians are cheerful, welcoming and speak English
not a lot of those types work in the service sector so don't expect
to see a smile or hear 'Have a nice day' from your waiter or ticket
collector. Never mind, you don't have to tip them!
• mainland Italian beaches are frequently small, stony and packed or large, sandy and pay-your-way.
Venice Pictures, Venezia, Veneto
The lakes and good value ski slopes of far
north Italy, the Italian Riviera coast for summer beaches
though they're many are small and stony, visiting a couple of little
hill towns - but most tourists would want to spend at least a few
days in the magnificent cities of Rome, Florence, Venice,
Genoa, and perhaps Pisa or Bologna before worrying about the
smaller places like Verona and Lucca.
In the south of Italy - which starts below Rome - the coast of Amalfi is stunning, as are the two ancient sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. From there things get very unsophisticated
and tourism drops off dramatically, but the scenery of the Gargano
peninsula is lovely while distant Sicily offers a Afro-rustic version of traditional Italy along
with a couple of excellent beaches and ancient Greek sites. And
then there's Sardinia island, offering Italy's
best beaches and a delightful capital, Cágliari.
Lake Como Pictures, Lago di Como, Lombardy, north Italy
And not far way another popular medieval town...Bergamo Pictures.
Set in a spectacular landscape of mountains, hills, yellow and pink villages, the massive expanse of Lake Como has been a popular holiday destination for centuries, offering soothing views, slapping waters, gorgeous waterside villas and escape from the internal combustion engine.
Genoa Pictures, Genova, Liguria
Genoa, the only European city to be mentioned in the
old Arabian Nights stories is a fabulous surprise for travellers
who know all about the wonders of Rome, Venice, Pisa, and Florence
but were not aware that Genoa's centre is lively, easily walkable and loaded
with 16thC and 17thC Palazzi, chic shops, elegant
people, magnificent avenues, tiny winding medieval streets,
bizarre little details and of course gorgeous churches, particularly
in the well-preserved old town.
Lucca Pictures, Tuscany
over-the-top Renaissance walls and interesting little town are
just 17km (10miles) from its historical enemy, tourist-clogged Pisa,
yet gets barely a whiff of alien intruders. The town was most
powerful from the 11thC to the 14thC due to the rich local agriculture
and the silk trade, till it was captured by Pisans.
time to go to Italy
The shoulder months April-June and Sept-Oct generally have the
best weather and fewer tourists or cars on the road. The latter
months are also good for swimming.
Winters will be decidedly chilly in north Italy but bearable in
Florence, Rome and further south.
July and August are the worst months for tourism due to excessive
heat, crowds and busy roads, though the sea will probably be delightfully
Travel Guide | Rome
Travel Guide |
Italy Map | Italian Beaches