Ambrosial cuisine and legendary ruins
Over 60 million people proudly call Italy home and, in this case, a little ego is understandable. As a Mediterranean crossroads, Italy has had a profound impact on the art, cuisine, and spiritual life of Europe since ancient times. The 116,347 square-mile “boot” on the southern end of Europe, is the seat of papal power, birthplace of the Renaissance, and—perhaps most importantly—the harbinger of pizza. Experience cultural touchstones like Michelangelo’s David and the Roman Colosseum. Bike through vineyards and boat winding canals. It’s hard not to enjoy a country where pasta counts as an appetizer.
Italy is all about finding your dolce vita. Is it eating seafood on the Sicilian coast and exploring ancient ruins or indulging on truffles in Tuscany and skiing in the Alps? Whatever it is, Italy is there to meet you with a quartino of wine and a healthy dose of effortless cool. With more UNESCO sites than any other country in the world, you’ll experience the heights of human ingenuity, but don’t miss out on the small pleasures—you never knew a tomato could taste so good.
Wind your way to the heart of Rome where the Colosseum has welcomed crowds since 80 AD. This six-acre stadium could accommodate up to 87,000 people in its heyday, making it the biggest amphitheater in the world to date. On your tour, you’ll see the hypogeum—an intricate series of alcoves beneath the floor where animals and set pieces were stored in preparation for theater and bloodsports.
The facade of the Parthenon may seem eerily familiar as it has inspired so many subsequent monuments. Enter through the Corinthian columns to stand beneath the 27-foot oculus. Inside you’ll see evidence of the temple’s history, as both a Pagan and Catholic house of worship, in the statues of Roman gods and biblical figures. When you exit it’s hard to believe you are in the buzzing center of contemporary Rome.
From its history as a Mediterranean crossroads, Sicily is a wonderful mix of influences and yet distinctly itself. As you tour the mountainous island off Italy’s southern boot, expect to see ancient Greek temples, Norman Castles, and Baroque frescos mixed in with colorful fishing villages and remote hilltop towns. Remember, whether you’re dining on the catch-of-the-day or streetside arancini, leave room for dessert, the sweets here are legendary—cannoli anyone?
Art, food, and landscape—who could want more? Tuscany, the central region of Italy, offers it all. Visit Michelangelo’s David in Florence, hunt truffles in the forests of San Miniato, and tour vineyards in Siena. Take your trip offshore to visit Napoleon’s house of exile on Elba Island before heading back to the mainland for some papa al pomodoro—a rich tomato stew that is the quintessential Tuscan comfort food.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa should have been a beautiful, but innocuous structure. One of four buildings in the Pisa cathedral complex, this seven-story campanile slid onto the world stage thanks to a 10-degree tilt. Climb the 297 steps to the top floor for a new perspective on the eponymous town, where a vibrant cafe and bar scene waits to be explored upon your descent.
A floating city in the Adriatic Sea where the roads are waterways and life is beautiful. Save the gondola ride for the intimate back allies and explore the Grand Canal on foot. Pass Harry’s bar, where the Bellini was invented, and continue east to explore the royal gardens. Make time for a picture on the Bridge of Sighs and finish your day with a candlelight dinner of spaghetti alle vongole.
The best times to visit Italy are the shoulder seasons of Spring and Fall when the weather is mild and the crowds thinner. Summer, mid-May through July, is the busiest tourist season and hovers in the low 70s. North of Rome, Winters tend to be grey and wet—but the south remains temperate. If you’re after a vineyard getaway, March through May will be the most scenic though January through February is less busy--and don’t worry the wine is just as good. If you want to see some Italian celebrations, consider planning your visit to coincide with one of the many festivals, like Tuscany’s White Truffle Fair in November.
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