Ask an Italian where in the world they would most like to live, and the odds are that they will say “right here”. Indeed, most people – not just Italians – have raved about Italy since tourism began, and to be honest the country really does have it all: one of the most diverse and beautiful landscapes in Europe; the world’s greatest hoard of art treasures (many on display in fittingly spectacular cities and buildings); a climate that is on the whole benign; and, most important of all for many, a delicious and authentic national cuisine. The country is not perfect – its historic cities have often been marred by development, and beyond the showpiece sights the infrastructure is visibly straining – but for its places to visit, many of the old clichés still ring true; once you’ve visited, you may never want to travel anywhere else.
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- Napoleon claimed Italy was just “too long”, and who can disagree? The distance from the tip of the country’s “toe” to its northern border is about 1380km.
- Italy became a nation state in 1861, under King Vittorio Emanuele II, and has been a democratic republic since 1946, when the monarchy was abolished by popular referendum.
- The parliament consists of two houses, the Senate (315 seats) and the Chamber of Deputies (630 seats); both sit for five-year terms of office. The country has an elected president, but real power lies with the prime minister, who is generally the leader of the party with the biggest majority in the Chamber of Deputies.
- Italy’s population is just over 61 million, of whom almost three million live in the capital, Rome. The country is divided geographically and administratively into twenty regions, of which five are autonomous.
- Italy has the lowest birth rate in Europe, and twenty percent of the population is over 65.
- The average Italian eats 23 kilos of pasta annually, and the nation drinks a staggering 14 billion cups of coffee every year.
- There’s still a significant gender divide in Italy, with the country ranked 69th in the world in a recent gender equality survey. And in the country of the pizzaiolo, it’s a shocking thing that seventy percent of men claim never to have used an oven.
Places to visit in Italy
Celebrated as one of the best travel destinations in Europe, Italy has plenty of phenomenal sites that emphasise the country's enormous cultural legacy. Tuscany has more classified historical monuments than any country in the world; there are considerable remnants of the Roman Empire all over the country, notably in Rome itself; and every region retains its own relics of an artisitic tradition generally acknowledged to be among the world's richest. Venice sees mass tourism at its finest - where keen travellers will battle the crowds and pay for overpriced rates whilt insisting the experience is all part of the charm.
Although the historical sites are often the busiest, if all you want to do is chill out there's no reason to be put off travel to Italy. There are any number of places to just lie on a beach, from the resorts filled with regimented rows of sunbeds and umbrellas favoured by the Italians themselves, to secluded and less developed spots. And if you’re looking for an active holiday, there’s no better place: mountains run the country’s length – from the Alps and Dolomites in the north right along the Apennines, which form the spine of the peninsula; skiing and other winter sports are practised avidly, and wildlife of all sorts thrives in the country’s national parks.
Best time to travel to Italy
The best time to visit Italy in terms of weather is during spring (April to June) or autumn (September to October) when there are fewer tourists and friendly prices, and when temperatures are warm. During the summer months, the heat can be unpleasant, something only worsened by busy crowds and expensive rates.
Planning an itinerary for when you travel to Italy
The rich variety of Italy and it's charm will most certainly leave you wanting more, enticing multiple trips to the country. You can certainly travel Italy on a budget, or you can go large and make the most of its luxurious possibilities. If you are wondering how to plan a trip to Italy, we've made an ideal itinerary for you to follow, however, if you are looking for something specifically catered to you and if it is your first trip to Italy, be sure to check out our tailor-made! Alternatively, check out our range of itineraries with different routes to explore depending on your travelling goals in Italy.
Days 1 - 3: Lake Garda
Lake Garda, known for its majestic, crystal-clear waters and colourful houses set amongst rugged rocky cliffs, makes a perfect first impression of Italy. Indulge in Gelato, visit the 13th-century Scaligero Castle and take a cable car to the top of Monte Baldo for scenic views. If you are looking for some family fun, head to either Caneva Aqualand or Gardaland Theme Park.
Days 3 - 6: Pisa and Florence
The most notable monument in the region of Tuscany is, of course, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Enjoy being a tourist and stop by Pisa on your way to Florence. Take iconic photos here whilst people-watching hundreds of others doing the same. Once at Florence, explore the Uffizi Gallery and be mesmerized by Renaissance masterpieces, as well as visiting the iconic red dome atop the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
Days 6 - 10: Rome
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Step back in time by visiting the Roman Colosseum, throw a coin in the trevi fountain, explore The Vatican and marvel at Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescoes, check out St. Peter's Basilica and enjoy gelato on the Spanish Steps. Rome is a perfect ending point for your trip, where wandering the charming streets and stopping off for espressos is an experience in itself.
Historical and cultural highlights of Italy
Italy might be the world’s most celebrated tourist destination, but it only became a unified state in 1861, and as a result of Italians often feel more loyalty to their region than to the nation as a whole – something manifest in its different cuisines, dialects, landscapes and often varying standards of living. However, if there is a single national Italian characteristic, it’s to embrace life to the full – in the hundreds of local festivals taking place across the country on any given day to celebrate a saint or the local harvest; in the importance placed on good food; in the obsession with clothes and image; and in the daily ritual of the collective evening stroll or passeggiata – a sociable affair celebrated by young and old alike in every town and village across the country.
Cuisine in Italy
Italian cuisine is honoured worldwide and is considered by some as a form of art. Pasta comes in all shapes and sizes, from spaghetti and linguine to penne and fusilli. Wine and cheese are deemed crucial to every meal, and carbs are always the main ingredient in any dish - pizza is praised and pasta is adored. Italian culture is very family orientated, with meal times being a time to come together. Italians take their food seriously, so you will not be disappointed when it comes to eating out in Italy. Naples boasts the birthplace of pizza, and coastal regions have fresh seafood twists on their classic dishes.
Coffee culture is a specialism in Italy, with many Italians playfully scolding the rest of the world for drinking it incorrectly. Espressos and macchiatos are classic choices throughout the day, but order a milky coffee in the afternoon and expect raised eyebrows. Coffee is always served in Italy alongside a glass of water, to cleanse your palate before and after each sip as to not ruin the tasting experience.
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