Tourists have been making a beeline for Italy since the 18th century, attracted by an alluring combination of its history, rich cultural heritage and the varied splendours of coast and countryside. Today, we'd add its cuisine, wines, sense of style and a commitment to la dolce vita, the good life. Wherever you're thinking of heading to, whether it's the Eternal City or La Serenissima, Sicily or Tuscany, you're sure to have a great break and head back planning your next visit to La Belle Italia.
Things to see and do
Italy began as a series of independent city states, something that led to the creation of cities and regions with their own unique character. Rome, Italy's capital is chock-full of history, from the ruins of the Colosseum and Forum to St Peter's and the Vatican with the art-filled Sistine Chapel.
Venice is a city like no other, built on a series of small islands intersected by canals. It remains one of the most beautiful cities with treasures including St Mark's Cathedral, the Doge's Palace and the Rialto Bridge. It also has a unique collection of historic churches, many of which are home to art masterpieces.
Naples, which offers access to the island of Capri, is a great base from which to explore the ruins of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, as well as being a great destination in its own right. Visit the imposing New Castle which guards the Bay of Naples, Italy's oldest opera house, or be dazzled by the sheer riches on display at the city's archaeological museum, one of many in the city.
Florence is famous for Michelangelo's colossal David. It also boasts one of the finest collections of art anywhere at the Uffizi Gallery, and the iconic Duomo, the cathedral, dominates its skyline.
And we haven't even touched on the Amalfi Coast, rolling Tuscany with its many historic cities including Sienna, Pisa and Lucca, Sicily or Milan, to name just a few other destinations.
Restaurants and cafés
The national cuisine dominates with others not getting much of a look in, but you'll be hard pressed to find many bad places. Even the service stations serve good coffee. And vegetarians are very well catered for. Be aware that at bars there are three tariffs: outside, inside sitting down and standing up.
Italy might have been designed to separate you from your money. The essentials are pretty pricey but if you enjoy designer clothes you've come to the right place. Italians love their designer labels and you'll find brands including Armani, Gucci and Dolce e Gabbana on sale in many high streets. Italy is also famed for its great designer homeware. Check out Alesso's famous grapefruit squeezer.
Italians also love their nightlife. And there's a great variety on offer. Milan is a clubber's paradise with a host of venues like hectic Hollywood. Rome, on the other hand, is perfect for people who enjoy good food and wine. Or take in an opera at La Fenice, in Venice, or Verona's amphitheatre.
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