From designer chic and Renaissance splendour to superb landscapes and traditional charm, it is difficult to beat such a unique and irresistible cocktail of history, culture and cuisine. Your love affair with Italy starts right here.
ONE COUNTRY, 20 REGIONS
Once made up of independently ruled states and kingdoms, each with their own culture, customs and language, Italy was finally unified in 1861. From the food, traditions and even the dialect, each of the 20 regions that make up the Italy of today proudly boast their own unique and distinctive character. Visiting each region delivers a different experience, probably one of the reasons why so many travellers choose to return to Italy again and again.
A TOUR FOR YOUR TASTE BUDS
The food of Italy is where you will find the greatest regional diversity and culinary tradition. Beyond the popular pizzas and gelato, more tempting treats await. Try the Riviera’s sumptuous sea food, creamy Venetian risottos, rich Tuscan ragù, feather-light pasta from the kitchens of Rome, Campania’s plump Mozzarella di Bufala and Puglia’s rustic dishes. There really is something on the menu to suit every taste. Further south, on the beautiful island of Sicily, many of the dishes are strongly influenced by neighbouring North Africa.
FROM GRAPE TO GLASS
With hundreds of years of wine-making history, 800 grape varieties and 20 designated wine-growing regions, Italy is the world’s largest producer of wine. The rich reds of Tuscany and Piedmont are perhaps the best known but if you fancy a glass of white, seek out the crisp, fruity wines of the Veneto, Trentino and Friuli regions, or celebrate with a bottle of sparkling prosecco. Puglia and Sicily are now also making headlines in the world of wine. For something sweeter, try a glass of Marsala or Vin Santo. A nutty, cantucci biscuit is the perfect accompaniment.
From top to toe, Italy is packed with some of the world’s most iconic artistic masterpieces. This was the birthplace of the Renaissance, a period that that spanned the 14th and 17th centuries and during this important time, artists discovered new ways to use paint and stone. These innovative methods set the benchmark for the artists of today. From Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci to Titian and Caravaggio, the roll call of Italian artists is studded with luminaries. Works by these great masters and many more are displayed in museums, galleries and religious buildings throughout the country. Palaces and churches commissioned some of the greatest Italian masterpieces which were painted directly onto their ceilings and walls. The magnificent treasures of Rome and Florence are undisputed but discovering the elaborate interior of a seemingly simple Tuscan village church or coming across a striking sculpture in one of Venice’s quieter corners can be just as rewarding.
ANCIENT TO MODERN - A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME
From region to region, a visit to Italy is also a thrilling journey through a turbulent and fascinating history. Rome will introduce you to a once mighty ancient empire, the glories of medieval Italy are evident in the hilltop towns and villages of Tuscany, and the richness of the Renaissance is revealed in Florence. The Venetian empire was a leading European and economic stronghold for nearly 1,000 years, wielding power across the Italian peninsula and beyond. Some believe that Sardinia was the mythical home of Atlantis. This stunning Italian island was certainly home to Bronze Age settlements, and stone towers and villages dating back to this period still stand here today. The rollercoaster history of invasion and colonisation of Sicily is underlined by a rich legacy of magnificent Greek temples, splendid Norman churches and castles, Arab and Byzantine domes and elaborate Baroque architecture.
For such a small country the diversity of the Italian landscape is truly surprising. The north boasts the snow-capped peaks of the Alps and Dolomites and the sparkling waters of the alluring Italian Lakes. Sun-seekers need look no further than the Italian Riviera, the resort of Portofino is also a favourite spot for the international jet set. Think of Tuscany and a landscape of rolling hills, olive groves, cypress trees and vineyards springs to mind, and the fragrant lemon groves and stunning coastline of the Amalfi Coast are also a must for any traveller. The less-visited and ruggedly beautiful regions of Basilicata and Calabria make up the instep and toe of Italy’s boot, with Puglia and the striking Gargano peninsula forming the heel. Sicily boasts two of Italy’s finest beach resorts, Taormina and Cefalu, and Sardina is renowned for its pristine white beaches and emerald-blue sea.