Italy is, for the most part, a peninsula situated on the Mediterranean Sea, bordering France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia in the north. Italy, which is boot-shaped, is surrounded by the Ligurian and the Tyrrhenian Seas to the west, the Mediterranean and Ionian Seas to the South, and the Adriatic Sea to the East.
Italy (Italian: Italia) is a country in Southern Europe. Together with Greece, it is acknowledged as the birthplace of Western culture. Not surprisingly, it is also home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. High art and monuments are to be found everywhere around the country.It is also famous worldwide for its delicious cuisine, its trendy fashion industry, luxury sports cars and motorcycles, diverse regional cultures and dialects, as well as for its beautiful coast, alpine lakes and mountain ranges (the Alps and Apennines). No wonder it is often nicknamed the Bel Paese (the Beautiful Country).
Situated on the river Tiber, between the Apennine mountains and the Tyrrhenian Sea, the “Eternal City” was once the administrative centre of the mighty Roman Empire, ruling over a vast territory that stretched all the way from Britain to Mesopotamia. Today, the city is the seat of the Italian government and home to numerous ministerial offices. Rome has 2.6 million inhabitants while its metropolitan area is home to around 4.2 million.
Rome (Italian: Roma), the Eternal City, is the capital and largest city of Italy and of the Lazio region. It is famous for being the home of the ancient Roman Empire, the Seven Hills, La Dolce Vita (the sweet life), the Vatican City and Three Coins in the Fountain. Rome, as a millennia-long center of power, culture (having been the cradle of one of the globe’s greatest civilisations ever) and religion, has exerted a huge influence over the world in its roughly 2800 years of existence.
The historic centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With wonderful palaces, thousand-year-old churches, grand Romantic ruins, opulent monuments, ornate statues and graceful fountains, Rome has an immensely rich historical heritage and cosmopolitan atmosphere, making it one of Europe’s and the world’s most visited, famous, influential and beautiful capitals. Today, Rome has a growing nightlife scene and is also seen as a shopping heaven, being regarded as one of the fashion capitals of the world (some of Italy’s oldest jewelry and clothing establishments were founded in the city).
With so many sights and things to do, Rome can truly be classified a “global city”.
Bologna is a historical city, with around 380,000 inhabitants. Although it is well known by Italians, it is less so among foreign visitors. Little English is spoken by its residents. It is the capital and largest city of Emilia-Romagna (a region in northern Italy). Bologna is famed for having the oldest university in the Western world, a lively student population, exquisite food, typical brick terracotta-roofed architecture and porticos, theatre and nightlife.
Bologna is famous for its cuisine (la cucina Bolognese). It is also viewed as a progressive and well administered city. It is considered second only to Venice in beauty by many Italians and certainly has one of the largest and best preserved historic centres among Italian cities. Its architecture is noted for its palette of terracotta reds, burnt oranges, and warm yellows, hence the name of Bologna la rossa (Bologna the red). The extensive town centre, characterised by miles of attractive covered walkways, known as “porticos,” is one of the best-preserved in Europe.
Bologna is the seat of the oldest university in continental Europe, founded in 1088.
Florence is the capital of the region of Tuscany in Italy, with a population of about 366,500. The city is considered a cultural, artistic and architectural gem.
Florence was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Politically, economically, and culturally it was the most important city in Europe for around 250 years; from some time before 1300 until the early 1500s.
Florentines reinvented money in the form of the gold florin. This currency was the engine that drove Europe out of the “Dark Ages” a term invented by Petrarch, a Florentine whose family had been exiled to Arezzo. They financed the development of industry all over Europe, from Britain to Bruges, to Lyon, to Hungary. They financed the English kings during the Hundred Years War. They financed the papacy, including the construction of the papal palace in Avignon and the reconstruction of St. Peters and the Vatican when the papacy returned to Rome from the “Babylonian captivity”.
Genoa (Italian, Genova) is a historical port city in northern Italy, the capital of the Region of Liguria. Genoa today, as a tourist attraction, is often shadowed by cities such as Rome or Venice, even though it has a long history as a rich and powerful trade centre. However, with its multitude of hidden gems behind cozy alleyways, excellent cuisine (notably fish and seafood), renovated old port, beautiful sights (including one of Europe’s biggest aquariums), and its position as the European Capital of Culture in 2004 have made the birthplace of explorer Christopher Columbus an enticing place which is gradually becoming more included in the touristic market. With pastel-coloured terracotta-roofed houses, artistic churches, lovely seaside villas, and also several luxurious boutiques, Genoa is a must see if you want to experience the “quintessential” Italy
Venice, Rome, Milan, and Florence are of course the most known and admired towns in Italy. When moving to north-western Italy (Milan, Turin) it is nevertheless absolutely worth staying for a couple of days or a weekend in Genoa. The city is a good base to explore the Italian Riviera and world famous places like Portofino and the Cinque Terre.
Milan (Italian: Milano) is financially the second most important city in Italy. It has the most populous city proper in the country, but sits at the centre of Italy’s largest urban and metropolitan area. While incorrectly not considered as beautiful as some Italian cities, having been partly destroyed by Second World War bomb raids, the city has rebuilt itself into a thriving cosmopolitan business capital. In essence, for a tourist, what makes Milan interesting compared to other places is that the city is truly more about the lifestyle of enjoying worldly pleasures: a paradise for shopping, football, opera, and nightlife. Milan remains the marketplace for Italian fashion – fashion aficionados, supermodels and international paparazzi descend upon the city twice a year for its spring and autumn fairs. Don’t get fooled by the modern aspect of the city, since it’s one of the most ancient cities in Europe with more than 26 centuries of history and heritage!
Milan is famous for its wealth of historical and modern sights – the Duomo, one of the biggest and grandest Gothic cathedrals in the world, La Scala, one of the best established opera houses in the globe, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, an ancient and glamorous arcaded shopping gallery, the Brera art gallery, with some of the finest artistic works in Europe, the Pirelli tower, a majestic example of 1960s modernist Italian architecture, the San Siro, a huge and famed stadium, or the Castello Sforzesco, a grand medieval castle and the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site Santa Maria delle Grazie Basilica, containing one of the world’s most famous paintings: Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. If you plan to visit it reserve a ticket online, as it is sold out for several months.
Naples’, in Italy, is the capital of the Campania region. The city is the third most populated municipality (city proper) of Italy, but the second metropolitan area, after Milan. It was founded between the 7th and 6th centuries BC by the Greeks and was named Neapolis, which means new city. The historic centre of Naples has earned the UNESCO World Heritage Site denomination. It has one of the biggest historical city centres in the world, and its pride are the 448 historical and monumental churches, the highest number in the World for a single city.
Sure, the city has a bad reputation concerning the Mafia, trash crisis (the worst is actually over) and many parts of the city are impoverished and really dangerous, but if you look even further than that and by excersising lot of caution, you will find a vibrant city with plenty to see and do, a city where the large influx of tourists like in Rome, Venice, Florence etc… have not happened (for now) and have thus allowed the city to retain much of its original culture, allowing you to visit a hidden gem just 2 hours south of Rome. Its territory, particularly the iconic sight of the gulf of Naples (but also Mount Vesuvius, the music, etc. ) is arguably one of the most powerful symbolic images of Italy.
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Italy with a population of some 90,000 people.
Pisa is best known for the world famous Leaning Tower, but those who come here with their mind already made up that the Tower is the only thing to see may miss the rest of the architectural and artistic marvels of this beautiful city.
The half hour walk from the Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) to the train station runs through a pedestrian street with many interesting sights, shops, and restaurants. The best way to visit Pisa is walking the streets, as the city center is very small, and enjoy the sight and the atmosphere.
Pisa would not be Pisa without the University. The city is animated by the students, who organize parties, shows, and cultural events, and fill the central street of the city at night. The University of Pisa has 60,000 students in a city of about 100,000 inhabitants. You’ll notice the student flair in the city once you leave the touristy campo dei miracoli.Pisa is a safe city, you do not need to worry about your safety (except for some zone at night, such as the area surrounding the station). However you should take the obvious precautions (like, if you stay in a very cheap hotel, take your valuables with you) and watch out for pickpockets in the touristy areas.
Turin, a large city of about one million inhabitants, is the capital of Piedmont, a region of northwestern Italy, a one-hour drive from the French border and slightly more than that from the Mediterranean sea. It’s famous for being the home of Sabaudian former royal family. Today, Turin, with its fine, aristocratic atmosphere, old world sophisticated shops, grand boulevards and palaces, leafy parks, and several art galleries, is an increasingly popular tourist resort. The 2006 Winter Olympics, and its status recently as World Book Capital have promoted tourists to visit this beautiful and underestimated Italian city, which has a longstanding cultural and artistic history.
Turin was the first capital of modern Italy, and was the host of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. While it’s not a famous tourist destination like Florence or Rome, the setting is pleasant, with the Po River flowing through the city, the genteel hills overlooking the city and scattered with pleasant villas and surrounded by the Italian Alps off in the distance. This is why the famous architect Le Corbusier defined Turin as “the city with the most beautiful natural location in the world”.
Venice is a city in Veneto, a region of North-East Italy.The city is virtually the same as it was six hundred years ago, which adds to the fascinating character. Venice has decayed since its heyday and is heavily touristed (there are 56000 residents and 20 million tourists per year).
This place may not seem huge, but it is, and is made up of different boroughs.
The most famous is the area comprising the 118 islands in the main districts that are called “Sestieri”: Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, San Polo, Santa Croce and San Marco, where the main monuments and sights are located. Other main districts are Isola Della Giudecca and Lido di Venezia. Some of the more important islands in the lagoon include Murano, Torcello, San Francesco del Deserto, and Burano.
10. Italian Alps
The Alps are a range of mountains in Europe caused by uplift in the European Plate as it is impacted by the African Plate moving north; they stretch from Italy through France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria, and into Slovenia.
The highest peaks in Europe (outside of the Caucasus mountains) are located in the Alps. Mont Blanc (4810 meters), Dufourspitze (4634 meters) and the world famous Matterhorn(4478 meters) are official and well known alpine four-thousanders.
Many areas of the Alps are covered by eternal snow and ice. The largest glaciers are located in the Valais and Bernese Alps of Switzerland. The Aletsch Glacier with its 23 kilometers length and 900 meters depth is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and Liechtenstein are often referred to as the alpine countries because much their territories are geographically and culturally dominated by the alps. The regional provinces of Bavaria (Germany) and South Tyrol (Italy) also offer a distinctly Alpine flair.