From the snowy peaks of the Dolomites in the north to the fabulous beaches of Sicily around the Mediterranean in the south, Italy has spectacular natural landscapes, unspoilt villages and ancient cities which are historically and culturally in a league of their own.
The waterways of Venice and the classical architecture of Rome and Florence make for popular short breaks, Milan is great for fashion and shopping while Tuscany’s vineyards and rolling hills are ideal for food and wine lovers. The Italian Lakes offer unspoilt natural scenery, while Sicily and Sardinia provide exquisite island escapes.
Getting there/getting around Italy
Ryan Air and easyJet offer cheap flights to Italy, making a weekend break affordable to those on a budget. Even though these budget airlines fly to many regional airports, make sure you research the location of the airport and transport options before you book your flight. British Airways and Alitalia are among the scheduled airlines that fly to Italy.
Driving is a great if you want to explore, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. Rome’s roads in particular are often choked with traffic, and drivers regularly fail to stop at red lights. Pedestrians should also be cautious when crossing busy roads. The safest, most efficient and cheapest way to get around in Italy is by train, tram and bus.
Beaches in Italy
After touring Italy’s historic cities, exploring its lovely lakes and walking through its amazing mountains, make sure you hit the beaches, which are perfect to relax, unwind and reflect.
Italy’s 4,500 miles of coastline boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean. Many can be found in the western Riviera di Ponente (Riviera of the Setting Sun), which boasts wide sandy beaches and is close to the French border.
The Amalfi Coast is one not to miss, with it’s stunning coastline and wonderful villages including Ravello, Atrani and Positano offering incredible views of the sea and a totally relaxed way of life. Other sought-after beaches can be found along Italy’s Adriatic east coast.
The Blue Grotto on the isle of Capri is a must-see, allowing visitors to take a boat ride through a natural cavern filled with an eerie light that reflects on the intensely blue water.
Sightseeing in Italy
Italy’s proud history at the forefront of European civilisation has left it with a legacy of countless famous tourist attractions. Capital Rome is world-renowned for its ancient Roman ruins such as the Colosseum, the Forum and the Pantheon. Other highlights include St Peter’s Square, the Trevi Fountain and the Sistine Chapel.
Outside the capital you are equally spoilt for choice. The stunning skyline from Piazza Michelangelo in Florence, the canals of Venice, the leaning tower of Pisa, and the architecture of Milan and Naples are all renowned for their scenic Italian beauty and history. This is not to mention the superb scenery of Tuscany, filled with picturesque small towns, wine farms and rolling countryside or the awe-inspiring Italian Alps.
Family attractions in Italy
As well as beach resorts with their fun activities for adults and children, there are also amusement parks.There are more than 100 in Italy. Visit GardaLand, on the outskirts of Verona in the north. It is a kind of Disney World wanna-be with one of the most spectacular roller-coasters in Europe, and a variety of interactive rides.
The vast Zoo Safari is another popular family attraction. Located in the Puglia region, it boasts an amusement park which features a dolphin show, a mini circus and many other wonderful attractions.
Day trips in Italy
If you’re staying in an Italian city or beach resort, why not get away from it all with a day trip into the surrounding countryside. If you’re in Rome, you can head to the beautiful seaside town of Sperlonga or to Palestrina, originally an important Etruscan town, in the hills.
From Florence you can head out into the superb Tuscany countryside, or head for beautiful hill-towns like Siena or San Gimignano, famous for its medieval skyscrapers or even Pisa with its famous Leaning Tower.
No trip to Venice is complete without a thorough exploration of its lagoon and islands including Torcello, Burano and Mazzorbo. Seafood lovers will love a trip to fishing town Chioggia at the southern end of the lagoon and it’s possible to take a boat excursion up the Brenta Canal from Venice to the art city of Padua.
The Italian Lakes in the north are not far from the Alps, so a visitor can visit a number of the lakes, including Como, Garda and Maggiore and fit in a possible trip to the mountains as well.
Eating out in Italy
Italy’s cuisine is world famous and it’s no wonder. Made up of 20 regions, each has its own distinctive dishes and produce and each attracts culinary fans for different reasons. It’s diversity is famous and you’ll only find certain dishes in specific regions. Examples include tortelli filled with squash in Lombardy and spaghetti tossed with salted gray mullet roe in Sardinia.
Whatever region you visit however, a million mouthwatering dishes await visitors, with typical meals lasting eight or more courses. From the antipasti starter delights including hams, bruschetta and buffalo mozzarella to the various pasta dishes made with rich tomato sauces and italian olive oil visitors have fallen in love with the food.
Ice cream (sorbets), pasta, pizzas and veal are among the popular main courses you’ll find around the country. Make sure you compliment your meal with a good Italian wine, a Barolo from the Piedmont region or a Chianti from Tuscany are ideal.
Nightlife in Italy
Going out in Italy can be quite different from going out in other places in Europe. You’ll find the bars full of all age groups: old and young, families and singles, and sometimes even young children with their parents.
You’ll find a huge variety of nightclubs, restaurants and pubs in most of the cities and tourist centres. The restaurants and coffee shops found throughout Italy will usually have tables outside, providing customers with a way to enjoy the colourful street theatre and wonderful Italian weather.
Of course the bars serve drinks, but usually no-one gets really drunk. Instead, what you’ll find is that people stand around chatting, sometimes nursing the same glass of wine or beer for hours. It’s very chilled-out and civilised.
Shopping in Italy
From linens to glassware and ceramics to jewellery and leather, Italian manufacturers create some of the finest items in the world. You need not spend a fortune to own these delightful pieces for your home or your wardrobe, as bargains can be found throughout.
If you’re a fashion lover in search of a bargain, head to outlets outside of Milan, Florence and Rome, where you can enjoy discounts of up to 70 percent on famous name brands. At Foxton, outside Milan you’ll find Prada, Gianni Versace, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and much more.
The Mall outside Florence features Emanuel Ungano, Giorgio Armani, La Perla, Sergio Rossi, Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent. McArthur Glen at Castel Romano (outside of Rome) features Diesel, Dolce & Gabbana, Fratelli Rosseti, Guess, Mandarina Duck, Salvatore Ferravamo and Samsonite Black Label.