Just five? That means leaving out several thousand more reasons to love Italy. This European nation is heaven for lovers of food, wine, fashion, history, art, culture, beaches and mountains … and the good life, ladolce vita, of course.
Margherita pizza in Italy is a must.
According to popular tradition, the original pizza Margherita was dreamed up in Naples in 1889 in honour of Queen Margherita of Savoy and the colours of the Italian flag – red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil).
Whether that’s strictly accurate, there’s no doubt that Italian cuisine is a splendorous thing. From antipasti – charcuterie and cheeses – to 300 different types of fresh pasta and delicious desserts such as tiramisu and zabaglione, every region has its own speciality dish.
Italy’s most famous cultural and historic hot spots – Rome, Florence and Venice – are best visited in early spring, late autumn or winter as they are heaving with tourists at the height of summer.
A guided cycling tour offers an enthralling overview of ancient Rome. You will need to choose which of Florence’s treasures you most want to see. That will be a difficult choice. In Venice, a vaporetto (public water ferry) trip along the Grand Canal is a wonderful introduction to La Serenissima. You might want to add Milan, Verona, Naples and Genoa to your big-city hit list – and then there are many exquisite smaller cities such as Lucca, Ravenna and Parma. The Cinque Terra offers colourful villages built into the hillside overlooking the Mediterranean.
So much to see, so little time!
Mountains & Lakes
Trentino alto adige, Italy
Seasoned hikers, climbers and skiers should head for the Dolomites — a majestic mountain range in north-eastern Italy.
Less sporty types will love the picturesque villages and glamorous towns. Cortina d’Ampezzo, where the Bond movie For Your Eyes Only was filmed, is best known as a sophisticated ski resort but is stunningly beautiful year-round. The region’s scenic lakes have attracted travellers for centuries. Maggiore and Como are a magnet for jet-setters. Lake Orta is a less-visited jewel.
Cefalu, Palermo – Sicily
Sicily and Sardinia, the two biggest islands in the Mediterranean, belong to Italy (along with about 350 smaller ones).
Sicily has beaches, small elegant cities such as Palermo and Syracuse, picturesque villages and the towering active volcano, Mount Etna. Sardinia is dotted with ancient ruins, medieval towns and is renowned for its glorious Costa Smeralda, a haven for the rich and famous.
Both islands have their own distinctive cuisine and traditional Sardinian vineyards are a drawcard for wine aficionados.
World Heritage Sites
Italy is home to more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country in the world. There are 47 cultural sites and four natural sites and the whole of Rome’s historic centre and the Holy See comprise just one.
By Sally MacMillan