Italy Pictures 2017-05-16T02:20:08+00:00

Italy Pictures

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain, one of Rome’s must-sees, preferably early, late or out of season! Photo by Diliff.

Italy Tourism

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.

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’ destinations, as well as an unbeatable collection of art treasures.
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. And if you want to rent  villas in Italy instead of booking into a hotel then there is plenty of choice.

Florence

Florence in Tuscany, an historic city packed with treasures and easily walkable. This Ponte Vecchio shot is by Martin Falbisoner.

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 another must-see, preferably not in the summertime though the Bugcrew arrived there in July (by chance! ) and enjoyed the experience enormously in spite of the crowds.

Venice, Piazza San Marco and the Doge

The core of Venice, Piazza San Marco and the Doge’s Palace. Venezia, in Veneto province. Photo by Wolfgang Moroder.

Venice is unique, timeless and gradually sinking into muddy oblivion. A stunning, decaying city with no wheels, a labyrinth of mysterious streets and canals, surprise views, sublime buildings and particularly Piazza San Marco, ‘the finest drawing room in Europe’ according to Napoleon, and ‘pigeon paradise’ according to others.
Along with those sights and boat rides are a clutch of riveting museums, elaborate palaces and churches and sensational walks.

Bellagio on Lake Como, Lago di Como, Lombardy in north Italy

Bellagio on Lake Como, Lago di Como, Lombardy in north Italy. Cool and relaxing, yes. Want to go back, not especially.

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.

And near Como another popular medieval town with a stunning cluster of religious sights:

Where to go

Northern Italy

If we base our choice of the best of Italy on places we’d really like to return to then we’d have to say the magnificent northern cities of Rome, Florence and Venice have to be Italy’s top attractions, though Lucca is a little gem, as is Siena. The lakes in the far north – such as Lake Como – are beautiful and relaxing but don’t have the wow factor of the ancient cities, nor do the good value ski slopes. Other destinations worth visiting though not quite primary sights are Genoa, Pisa, Bologna and Verona (especially for opera lovers).

Monterosso resort and the Cinque Terre trail, north Italy

Monterosso resort and the Cinque Terre trail (visible on the right and left).

The Cinque Terre makes an enjoyable walk whether it’s done partially or fully. It’s not too strenuous but perhaps overrated as the views are lovely but change little over the days and there’s a tendency to get barged off the path by large and impatient north Europeans. The five Cinque Terre villages situated between Levanto and Portovenere have virtually no road access, which is one reason why they are so favoured by hikers.

Beaches

Lido di Camaiore on the western Versilia Coast, with a tiny free beach area, Italy

Lido di Camaiore on the western Versilia Coast, with a tiny free beach area bordered by green tape and kilometres of pay beaches stretching to the horizon.

The Italian Riviera/Versilia Coast beaches tend to be either massive, dull and dominated by pay areas or small and difficult to get even with personal transport. Not worth the crack unless you’re nearby. We feel that the Italian mainland is generally lined with inferior beaches, though there are concealed exceptions and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily have some characterful stretches of sand.

Sistine Chapel ceiling in Musei Vaticani, Rome, Italy

Rome – including Vatican City and the sensational Vatican Museums – offers some of Europe’s finest sights extending from the Roman Empire to Renaissance Italy. This is a photo by Boutique Creativa of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling in Musei Vaticani.

Positives

• 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 of Europe.

• 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 late too.

• the sights, large and small are magnificent.

• there’s so little rain in summer that mosquitoes don’t breed.

• roads have posted limits with little or 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 hoping.

• English has many similar roots to Italian via Latin so some bits of the language are kind of understandable.

Negatives

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.

Genoa

Genoa’s Piazza di Ferrari, Genova, Liguria. Photo by Hpschaefer.

Genoa, the only European city to be mentioned in the old Arabian Nights storiesis a fabulous surprise for travelers 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

Lucca’s entirely intact medieval wall makes a brilliant walk before/after exploring the interesting and labyrinthine town centre. It’s in Tuscany not far from Pisa and Florence.

Lucca’s 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.

Southern Italy

Starting 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.

Amalfi town in south Italy, Europe

Amalfi town in south Italy. Photo by Jensens.

Best time to go to Italy

The shoulder months April-June and September-October 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 refreshing.

Capri island, south Italy

Capri island photo by Berthold Werner.

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