Charming cobblestone piazzas, rolling picturesque landscapes, and plates full of delicious fresh food are all images that come to mind when I think of Italy. It’s on my wish list and the the bucket lists of many travelers – and there are dozens of good reasons why!
Background and History of Italy
The history of this country is long and rich having been the home of the infamous Roman Empire and the seat of Christendom for many centuries. The Italian Renaissance brought the region out of the Dark Ages of the 11th century and has gifted us with many of the famous artists, scholars, and explorers that are synonymous with western civilization. The modern Italy we know was formally established in the mid-19th century. While many areas of Italy prospered from the creation of the nation-state the southern areas were largely excluded, leading to a large immigration wave. Much of the Italian American influence is due to this diaspora.
The major cities of Italy include; Rome, Naples, Venice, Florence, Milan, Turin and Genoa. Geographically Italy is a peninsula and almost it’s entire land mass is bordered by the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Ionian, and Tyrrhenian Seas. The islands of Sicily and Sardinia are Italian, as well as many smaller islands. In the north the Alpennine (Alps) mountains form the border with France, Austria, Slovenia, and Switzerland. Traveling throughout Italy visitors will see many different cultures, foods, and architectural styles.
What are 3 things you probably didn’t know about this country?
1. In the United States Italian food is one in the same but in Italy regional specialties reign supreme. Stick to the foods each location is known for to have the best dining experience possible.
2. Trains are a fast and easy way to get around Italy. However, there are many budget airlines that fly within the country (you can sometimes find fares for under 20 euro one way). Flying can often get to you to your destination faster, and cheaper! Ryanair, EasyJet and Euroflight are a few to consider.
3. Gas prices are high but not uniform. If you decide to rent a car and drive in Italy be sure to price check. Prices can vary, sometimes wildly between pump stations.
What are some must-visit sites?
Italy is a big country, so unless you have a long vacation planned (more than two weeks) sticking to one or two regions makes sense. You’ll get the most out of your visit without facing utter exhaustion. If you’re wondering what are some things “not to miss,” a few suggestions are; a visit to the Vatican, taking a drive up the Amalfi coast, see the remains of Pompeii, take in the scenery of Tuscany (and the wine too), eat pizza in Naples and try a gelato everywhere!
Where can you see some hidden highlights of this country?
Everywhere! Each region of Italy has something to see. One tip, instead of sticking only to the big cities, find some smaller cities that offer something similar. For example, you may want to consider visiting Modena or Mantua in northern Italy instead of just sticking to Milan.
Agriturismo is another way to get an authentic Italian experience. These farmhouse accommodations are somewhat similar to a bed and breakfast. You’ll save money (it’s much more affordable than a hotel stay) but in many cases you will need a vehicle to access the farm. Some farms encourage guests to pitch in, while others are highly luxurious.
Why this country should be on YOUR bucket list?
Maybe the real question is why shouldn’t it be?! Italy has an amazing history and culture that should be experienced at least once. While the biggest hurdle standing in your way may be money (isn’t it always?) travel in the off season to save a bit and spend plenty of time researching to secure the best deals.
Is Italy on your travel bucket list? What is the one thing you wish to visit while traveling to Italy?