- If you can dream it, you can do it. Walt Disney
Go to Italy
There is really no other city quite like Rome in the world. While Rome wants to be a modern 21st century city, it is desperately trying to keep it historical ruins and monuments from crumbling around them. The city is really one large archaeological dig that continues to discover its 2,800 years of history. And preserving its past continues to be a monumental task for this city of 2.8 million people. To be able to walk through the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, where the likes of Romulus, Julius Caesar and Nero once ruled is a walk back in time through ancient Rome.
If you love history, architecture, museums, great food, shopping, historical monuments, and great gelato then head to Rome. As an added benefit to any visit to Rome you get to also visit Vatican City, which is an amazing destination in its own right. My biggest concern with Rome is that its incredible ancient ruins and monuments won't be around for future generations to enjoy, so start planning a visit now.
Okay, the truth be told about Venice is that it’s old, sinking into the lagoon, floods occasionally, and sometimes it smells. What other city on this planet can claim a list like this and still be one of the most sought after destinations in the world. Maybe everyone wants to visit Venice before it disappears into the Adriatic and becomes the lost city of Venice?
Okay, so the top three are Rome, Venice and Florence. There’s really no mystery here. If you were to ask visitors to Italy what their favorite Italian city was I would venture to guess that for many it might be Florence.
Florence is just right in so many ways. The city is just the right size to make it one of the most walkable cities in Italy. The centerpiece of Florence is without a doubt the magnificent Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, otherwise known as the Duomo and this should not be missed. This city is the rightful birthplace of the Renaissance and as such is loaded with wonderful art, architecture, and some of the finest museums in the world; namely the Uffizi and the Galleria dell’ Accademia. Florence truly is of the most beautiful cities in the world.
While many people will argue that the Amalfi Coast should appear on this list I could not resist placing the Cinque Terre region here in the number four spot. Virtually unknown to Americans twenty-five years ago, this beautiful coastal region of Italy is simply spectacular. The five villages are all unique and are connected by a network of trails that vary in difficulty and distance. And if hiking is not your thing don’t despair; the local train connects all five villages as does the local ferry system, except for Corniglia, which is perched high up on a cliff above the sea.
Tuscany encompasses a pretty large area of central Italy so I’m going to narrow this down to the Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany. Why? Because of it’s beautiful rolling hills and wonderful medieval hilltop towns. This area of Italy is pure heaven. Stretching from Siena in the north, to Montepulciano in the east, and including Pienza, Montalcino, and Monticchiello, this area makes for a great road tour. Get lost on the cyprus lined back roads of the Val d’Orcia and you are bound to have your breath taken away by the beautiful rolling landscape of this region. Find an Agriturismo, rent a car for a few days, and discover this region of Italy that is famous for its wine and photographic beauty.
A big part of the whole Italian experience is without a doubt the food. I’m not sure I’ve had a really bad meal in Italy and this includes stopping on the Autostrada at the rest stops for a quick bite. The different regions of Italy all have their own specialties but no matter where you are in Italy you will find wonderful cuisine. And if you get an opportunity to have a home cooked meal while in Italy you should jump at the chance as these have been some of the finest meals we have ever had. Many of the agriturismo’s in Italy will host a dinner for their guests, so if the opportunity presents itself take advantage of it.
Sometimes Italians gets a bad rap for their impatience with tourists and their notorious reputation as the picket pocket capital of the world. I have personally experienced none of this and to be honest I have found the people of Italy to be a warm and hospitable bunch. Don't get me wrong, there are those unscrupulous types who will pick your pocket if the opportunity arises, but this can be said of almost any city. Just be sure to always be aware of your surroundings.
We have had so many great experiences with the locals during our time in Italy and these are some of the most wonderful memories that we have of our time there. From the little Italian man who invited us into his home even though he spoke no English to show us his pictures of the local church that we were photographing, to Irene, the wonderful owner of a small trattoria in Cortina d’Ampezzo who absolutely made our day, we have had nothing but good experiences.
To help in conversing with the locals learn a little Italian, even if it’s just a few key phrases to help you engage the locals in a conversation. They are sometimes just as curious about us as we are about them.
Often overlooked by visitors for the more popular destinations farther north, Sicily is a world of its own and is a great reason to visit Italy. With an extraordinary combination of Greek Temples, Norman Churches, Roman Mosaics and classic Baroque towns, Sicily is a melting pot of cultures reflecting thousands of years of foreign occupations and invaders. From the beautiful scenery of Taormina, to the wonderfully preserved Temples of Agrigento, to the magnificent Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily has so much to offer those who venture to the island.
And don't forget about Mount Etna. This massive, very active volcano dominates the landscape on the eastern side of Sicily and makes for a great day trip from either Taormina or Catania.
Mountains and Lakes
The mountains and lakes of Italy might not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering a visit to Italy but they are reason enough to start planning that trip. From the stunning Dolomites in the northeast to the Italian Alps in the north this is a virtual playground for those of you who love to hike, bike and ski. And dotted among the valleys of these majestic mountains are some of the most picturesque lakes in all of Italy.