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.
Italy Top Attractions
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).
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.
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.