Italy - Attractions
Italy was once divided up into many different city-states, and so there are many cities within the country who have their own unique cultural heritage.
Tuscany, or Toscana as the locals call it, is a region in central Italy. Tuscany is famed for its idyllic landscapes, its long and rich history and its influence on the arts and high culture. Tuscany is well-known for the wines it produces, like Chianti, and for its food and produce. Tuscany is a favoured tourist destination, people who prize the vine-covered hills and for the cobbled villages who’ve preserved their culture for hundreds of years.
In the heart of Tuscany is the city of Florence, a city renowned for its cultural and historical significance. Florence was one of the epicentres of the cultural Renaissance that swept through Europe starting in the 15th century. This is evident today in the architecture of the city, its famed Duomo, the countless museums and the general appreciation for the arts that Florence embodies.
Turin, or Torino, is a city in Italy’s north-east. It is an important business centre and is a significant cultural centre. Turin is in the Piedmont region. Turin ranks third after Rome and Milan in terms of economic strength and is home to the Italian automotive industry. The city is well-known as the home of the Juventus F.C. and the Torino F.C. (football club), and the headquarters for car manufacturers FIAT, Alfa Romeo and Lancia.
As with any Italian city, Turin offers an ample cultural experience for the average traveller. The city is packed with museums and art galleries, including the Egyptian Museum, the second-largest Egyptian museum in the world. You can even view the Shroud of Turin in the royal chapel at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Turin is also known for its parks and gardens, with the most popular park in the city being the Parco De Valentino. This park is famed for its medieval village and a small castle, a romantic building and garden to wander through.
Turin is also famous for its film industry, being the originating place of chromatography, a chemical process involved in film making. Expect to find many fabulous Italian cinemas and when you’re done watching an Italian film, stop by a chocolate shop for a Gianduiotto, a chocolate truffle endemic to Turin, and a bicerin, an espresso-hot chocolate drink; Bellissimo!
Milan (Milano) is the capital of Lombardy, and the second most populous city in Italy after Roma (Rome). Milan is regarded as an alpha city in terms of economic growth and strength, and its contribution to culture and the arts. Milan is the third strongest economy in Europe after London and Paris and is the fastest growing economy of the three. Milan is known as the fashion and design capital of the world, every year the country hosts Milan Fashion Week and the Milan Furniture Fair, the world’s largest in terms of revenue, growth and visitors.
Milan is also known for its museums and galleries, with works on display by the artist Leonardo da Vinci – like The Last Supper, which can be viewed at the convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie. La Scala also remains the undisputed capital of opera the world over. Milan is home to rival football clubs A.C. Milan and Internazionale Milan, who hold their derby’s at the San Siro Stadium.
Genoa (Genova) is another city in Northern-Italy and is close to Turin. Genoa is the capital of the region of Liguria. Genoa is the sixth largest city in Italy, and in 2006 part of the old town became a UNESCO heritage listing. Genoa is known for its plazas (piazza’s), parklands, museums, and old architecture. The birthplace of Christopher Columbus and other famous Renaissance figures. At the Galleria di Palazzo Bianco, you can view an extensive collection of paintings by Genoese artists.
Venice, or Venezia, is a city located in Italy’s north-east and is the capital of Veneto. Venice is one of the most famous cities in the world, renowned for its unique locale, being situated on the waters of the Venetian Lagoon. There are numerous lagoons and hundreds of smaller islands, an island archipelago of sorts, on which the city has been built. Venice, like Florence, Genoa, and Torino, developed as a city-state during the Middle Ages and was granted exclusive trading rights with Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium/East Roman Empire. This helped Venice accrue further wealth until it became one of the most prosperous states in all of Europe, further buffered by the fact that Venice had 36,000 sailors living within its walls, at the stead of 3,300 ships.
Today, Venice is an important cultural centre for Italy. Being one of the epicentres of the Renaissance, and the home of Leonardo Da Vinci at one stage in his life. Venice attracts millions of visitors every year and has many museums, galleries, plazas, and restaurants for tourists to enjoy.
Naples, or Napoli, is the third largest city in Italy after Rome and Milan and is the capital of Campania, a region in Italy’s south. Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in the world, first populated by the ancient-Greeks thousands of years ago. It is an ancient city and is known for its various forms of architecture. Expect to see ancient architecture, medieval, renaissance and baroque styles. Naples is also famous for its piazza’s, or city squares.
The main piazza in Naples is the Piazza del Plebiscito, named after the Plebiscite, that formally brought Naples into the Kingdom of Italy in 1860. The surface of the piazza was made from the volcanic rock of Mount Vesuvius. Speaking of Mount Vesuvius, you can take organised tours to the volcano from the city, where you can visit the city of Pompeii, the ancient Roman city which was destroyed by the volcano’s eruption in 79 C.E. Naples is also the home of pizza, and you can get a margarita in the city for around 4 euros, 7 euros with buffalo mozzarella; the pizza is too good to miss. Once you’ve got your pizza pie you can walk through the old town of Naples, or head on over to the Amalfi coast for a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean.
Sicily is a large island off of the coast of Italy’s mainland, right at the point of the toe of the peninsula. It is an autonomous region in Italy, officially known as Regione Siciliana. Sicily, much like the rest of Italy, has a rich history and its own unique culture. The area of land was first inhabited by humans over twelve thousand years ago, and around the time 700 B.C.E. there were Phoenician and Greek colonies on the island. Following the collapse of the Roman empire in 500 C.E. the island was inhabited by various other tribes and peoples, including the Ostrogoths, Byzantines and the Arabs, and finally was conquered by the Normans in 1150 C.E. The Norman conquest led to the birth of the Kingdom of Sicily, which would then go on to become a part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860, along with Naples. As you’d imagine, all these different conquerors and inhabitants imbued the island each with a part of their culture, and so in Sicily, you’re likely to find a mishmash of different architectural styles spanning over thousands of years.
Understand how first-century Romans lived their daily lives when you see the remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum, engulfed in the great eruption of AD79.
Visit the Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi, the birthplace of St Francis, founder of the Franciscan order of monks.
Art and Culture
Florence the font of learning from languages to architecture. Italian language and art courses are available throughout Italy. Language courses are often complemented by subjects such as cooking or architecture. Art courses are offered by the Palazzo Spinelli and Università Internazionale dell'Arte in Florence.
Piazza del Campo
Stand in the stunning Piazza del Campo in Siena, the shell-shaped heart of this walled medieval city in southern Tuscany. Amazing views can be seen in the morning or at sunset.
Ancient Greek Locations
Sail to Sicily to see the remains of successive invading cultures. The most important ancient Greek sites include the temples of the Valle Dei Templi at Agrigénto, said to be better preserved than any in Greece itself. The catacombs at the Capuchin Monastery contain thousands of mummified bodies.
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