Since Dante and Petrarch first coined the term bel paese or beautiful country back in the Middle Ages, Italy has never failed to charm and captivate visitors with its unique offering of la dolce vita. The country enjoys an unrivalled cultural heritage as the birthplace of the Renaissance, and is home to the largest collection of artistic treasures in the world, including Michelangelo’s frescos, Ravenna’s Byzantine mosaics and the ancient ruins of Pompeii. Twenty regions cover a diverse range of landscapes, from the sun-dappled olive groves of Tuscany to the medieval fishing villages of Cinque Terre, all of them sharing Italy’s obsession with superlative cuisine and world-famous wine.
Opera, fine cuisine and the good life
Think Parma and you think Parma Ham, the quintessential prosciutto – a delicate cured ham and the standard all other types of salami are measured against. A holiday in Parma will see you descend into a graceful city famed for incredible ancient architecture, magnificent artworks and delicate cuisine. Is there a better lunch in the world than sitting in the sunshine outside a bistro, with a glass of Lambrusco, a few slices of the eponymous ham, a chunk of Parmigaino-Reggiano cheese and a basket of ciabatta?
Parma was founded as a Roman colony and has switched between French and Italian rule a handful of times, but has fallen under Italian jurisdiction since 1860.
The city is split in two by a little stream with the same name. During your Parma holiday it is worth taking in a visit to the University, which is one of the oldest and most historic seats of education in the world having been established in the 11th century.
The city is well-served by its eponymously-named airport, a mere one and a half miles north of the metropolitan area.
Your Parma holiday accommodation is dependent upon your budget. There are a large number of city centre hotels to meet all monetary requirements.
Parma is surrounded by attractive countryside, meaning there many options when it comes to bed and breakfast or farmhouse-style accommodation. You will need your own transportation to get into city. Vehicular access is limited within the centre but there are several parking garages around the outskirts and everything within the city centre is easily reachable by foot.
Sight-seeing forms an integral part of a Parma holiday, as this is a place proud of its heritage. Be sure to check out the two main city squares, the Piazza Duomo and the Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi. You will simply be amazed when you learn the buildings here date back almost nine hundred years. You may also wish to visit the Museo Glauco Lombardi, a museum dedicated to life of Maria Luigia, second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duchess of Parma.
You can’t really experience a holiday in Parma without taking an appreciation of former Parma resident Giuseppe Verdi. The much-loved composer was born and spent most of his life in Busseto, a village north west of Parma. The Festival Verdi celebrates the composer’s life and greatest works throughout the month of October every year.
For your meals whilst on holiday in Parma you are spoilt for choice. There are countless restaurants, bistros and time-honoured eateries. Your meal will traditionally consist of a selection of cured meats for a starter, a pasta dish with liberal sprinklings of parmesan for your main and a gelato (ice cream) for dessert.
All washed down with one of Italy’s many excellent wines, of course. Eating is Italy is an intense pleasure, as you are never rushed, over-attended to or pressured into ordering more food.
Parma is a city whose citizens have established a wonderful culinary climate and a graceful way of enjoying life throughout the centuries. Take a holiday to Palma to experience the peaceful way that most Italians have chosen to live for hundreds of years.
The Fashion Capital of the World
If you’re contemplating a holiday to Milan, let’s face it, you are going to be busy. Milan is the marketplace for global fashion with aficionados, world-famous models and paparazzi from every major newspaper and magazine descending upon the city for its spring and autumn fairs. Whilst Rome, the Italian capital, represents everything historic about this passionate country, Milan represents everything that is new and modern. A Milan holiday is all about pleasure; retail therapy, football, opera, and fantastic nightlife.
Milan was originally settled in 400BC but fell to the empire of Rome two hundred years later where it became the capital of the Western Roman Empire.
In the middle ages it became an important trade centre and later for a while was ruled by France, Spain and then Austria, returning to Italian rule in 1861. Your holiday to Milan will see you located in the Po Valley, between the Ticino and Adda rivers with the majestic Alps to the north of you.
If you prefer a warm environment, make sure your holiday to Milan takes place during the summer. Winters can be cold and wet, although summers can become oppressive and humid. Late Spring and late summer are usually the best times to visit. Milan has two airports, Linate and Malpensa, both of which handle hundreds of thousands of passengers every day. Moving around Milan is exceptionally simple, via the underground train system, trams, buses or taxis. Driving in Milan can be an exasperating hassle, as traffic is often blocked and parking is a problem.
When it comes to sight-seeing for your holiday in Milan it’s often tough to know just where to start as there is just so much to see, from museums to churches and monuments to buildings that will take your breath away. Tourist maps are readily available all over the city to help you. The Duomo, or Cathedral of Milan, is one of the most stunning buildings in the world and took nearly half a century to complete. It has 135 spires and 3200 statues just on its roof. You can take an elevator to the rooftop for awe-inspiring views of the city below.
A Milan holiday gives you a chance to view Leonardo Da Vinci’s stunning fresco, the Last Supper. This amazing and famous (think The Da Vinci Code) artwork is housed in the 15th century Convent of Santa Maria della Grazie. Please note you will need to book in advance. In the centre of Milan you will find the Castello Sforzesco, home to many museums and full of interesting artefacts and examples of Italian architecture.
If on your Milan holiday you want to experience some true Italian culture you can’t go far wrong by booking to see an opera at La Scala, one of Italy’s most historic opera houses which first opened its doors in 1778.
If opera is not really your cup of tea you can instead experience some of the most vibrant nightlife available anywhere in the world. The Brera gallery and Navigli areas of the city are full of lively bars, stunning restaurants and busy nightclubs. Partying starts at six in the evening with an aperitif and continues until four in the morning. Often venues have live acts and world-famous DJs. If your wilder days are beyond you don’t worry, you’ll be able to find quieter venues for a relaxing meal.
A holiday in Milan means paradise for shoppers and fans of fashion, fantastic cuisine, football and fun in an energetic, modern city. Book your Milan holiday so you can truly appreciate this historic, beautiful and vivacious part of Italy.
When in Rome…
Rome is of course the capital of Italy and by far the largest city in the country. It is also one of the most historic cities on the entire globe. If you holiday in Rome you will see churches, ruins, monuments and statues that date back over two thousand years. As a city it is utterly captivating, being visited by millions of tourists every year for its inimitable history, vivacious nightlife, celebrated shopping and exceptional cuisine.
Rome is divided into several districts. Your sight-seeing and camera-snapping whilst on holiday in Rome will largely take place in the small centres of the sprawling city known as Old Rome and Colosseo.
As its name suggests, the Colosseo is home to the Colosseum and is the heart of ancient Rome with many other Forums and museums. Old Rome reflects the city’s medieval period with attractive plazas and cathedrals.
This area is also home to the Pantheon, the famous temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa and completed in 126AD.
North of Old Rome is The Vatican, The Papal City State with a population of around 800. This is of course home to the Pope and an everlasting trove of treasures, sights, relics and museums. A visit to the breath-taking St Peter’s Square is essential. Adjacent to Old Rome and Colosseo is the Modern Centre, the best place for accommodation for your Rome holiday if you intend to spend your entire vacation exploring the city and enjoying all it has to offer. Here you will also find the famous Trevi fountain, and numerous places to enjoy an unforgettable meal.
If you want to ease the burden on your pocket during your holiday in Rome, be sure to visit in mid-May during La settimana dei beni culturali when all the famous Italian landmarks are open for 7 to 10 days free of charge.
As you might imagine, this is a very crowded time. One thing to be aware of, Italians expect you to be respectfully dressed when visiting their many historic monuments; some churches will deny you admission if you even have bare shoulders or knees.
Rome is increasingly becoming a venue where you can enjoy the party life. In the San Lorenzo area you will find many bars and clubs catering for the young and those young at heart. Italians like to drink but in moderation, so excessive drunken behaviour will be met with heavy punishment. Romans are genuinely polite and respectful, especially when treated as such by those on holiday in Rome. Don’t take offence when queues disintegrate though, this is just the Italian way.
Driving in Rome should be avoided at all costs if you’re a tourist. Traffic is habitually heavy and the rules of the road disintegrate at frantic times. Once you’re in the centre of Rome on holiday it’s best to go by foot or use the Metro, bus or tram. Rome has two excellent international airports, Ciampino and Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino. You can take the train into central Rome from both.
Italy is of course famous for its food and no holiday in Rome is complete without experiencing some fine Roman dining. Often the best restaurants can be found in residential areas. Don’t be lured into ‘tourist traps’ where you’ll pay over the odds for mundane food. Italians love their food and love to cook.
As a holiday destination, Rome really has it all; an enthralling history, centuries-old monuments, exotic nightlife and exceptional cuisine. Book your holiday to Rome for an experience like nothing else on Earth.
A chance to time-travel over 300 years
Sardinia is a large island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, between the Balearic islands which include Majorca and Ibiza, and the Italian peninsula. If ancient history and its appreciation number amongst your interests, then a holiday in Sardinia could be just the thing for you.
Sardinia is one of the oldest civilised places in the whole of Europe, with its ancient Nuragic civilisation dating back to 1500BC, far before that of Italy itself. This beautiful Mediterranean island is also perfect for swimming, boating, hiking, climbing and camping, so if you’ve ticked off one or two of your hobbies from that list, a Sardinia holiday is ideal for you.
Your Sardinia holiday will most likely be centred in one of three areas, those being Cagliari, where one third of the whole island’s population lives, to the south, or Sassari and Olbia to the north.
There are also less tourist-based areas such as Alghero, Bosa, La Maddalena, Nuoro, Oristano and Porto Torres. Most of the interior of the island is unpopulated and undeveloped aside from a handful of villages. A holiday in Sardinia will see you enjoy a typically balmy Mediterranean climate, especially from mid-May to mid-October. Beware though, Sardinia is prone to heavy rainfall, particularly in the late autumn, winter and early spring months,
Cagliari is the island’s capital city and has its own airport. For a relaxing Sardinia holiday, you can spend as much time as you desire on the beautiful Poetto Beach, which stretches for nearly five miles. Cagliari offers much in its picturesque old town which is built on a very steep hill. Shopaholics can attend to their retail needs in the parts of the town called Via Alghero, Via Paoli and Via Dante.
A holiday in Sardinia must feature a sampling of Italy’s finest cuisine, and the old towns presents frequent opportunities to sample authentic pizzas, pasta and Sardinia’s famous seafood.
Sassari is Sardinia’s second-largest city and has a diverse heritage with both Spanish and Italian influences. Founded in the early middle ages, Sassari has actually been inhabited since the New Stone Age and contains numerous important archaeological sites and ruins. If you want on your Sardina holiday to travel further back in time than you’ve ever travelled before then Sassari should satisfy you. There are also numerous museums and research centres.
For a gentler holiday in Sardinia Olbia makes a perfect tourist base. Certainly less dense than either Cagliari or Sassari, Olbia is the only centre of population in its area and is reachable via ferry from mainland Italy. It has a handful of excellent restaurants, hotels and bars.
Alghero is a historic old town with Catalan influences, so for something a little different when it comes to your Sardinia holiday you could set up in what is known as little Barcelona. The atmospheric old town is home to many bars and cafés and the restaurants in Alghero are particularly known for their fine seafood. Out of the city you’ll find the splendid beaches at La Pelosa and the charming little medieval town of Bosa.
A holiday in Sardinia definitely offers you something unique; a centuries-old island influenced by many civilisations, both ancient and contemporary. Book your Sardinia holiday and experience everything that Italy has to offer in the highest terms.
A Mediterranean mash-up
Sicily is a large, rugged and attractive volcanic island to the south of the Italian mainland, separated from the rest of Italy by the three miles of the Straits of Messina. A holiday in Sicily will see you cower under the magnificent Etna, the impressive active volcano that rises nearly 11,000 feet over the Ionian Sea.
It’s the highest mountain in Italy and by far the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy, the others being Vesuvius and Stromboli. The philosopher Empedicles is allegedly to have been the first to attempt to climb the ‘column of the sky’.
A Sicily holiday marries ancient archaeology and history with breathtaking scenery and saliva-inducing food. Sicily has been invaded and conquered many times in its long history, from the Greeks and Romans to the Arabs and the Spanish. Every part of the island reflects a different aspect of this varied mix of cultures, which makes a holiday in Sicily such a fascinating experience.
Sicily has two main airports in Palermo and Catania, plus there are smaller airports in Trapani and Ragusa. Alternatively, you could incorporate a holiday in Sicily with a longer vacation on the Italian mainland, as rail services from Italy cross to Sicily via railferry at Messina. Whilst on the ferry you are allowed to disembark and enjoy the views across the sea.
Accommodation when it comes to your Sicily holiday depends upon your personal choice. All of Sicily’s major cities, such as Agrigento, Catania, Cefalù, Palermo, Siracusa, Taorima and Messina have excellent hotels.
You will also find more rustic B&Bs, villas and self-catering departments. Guest farms are a very popular option in Sicily; such farms offer a different style of accommodation at an affordable rate. If you visiting outside of the period between late Spring and early Autumn make sure the rooms you rent are heated as Sicily can get a little chilly at night.
Most of your sight-seeing whilst on holiday in Sicily will be done on foot. Old Palermo is a maze of narrow lanes and is often choked with traffic, so a walking tour is the best way to experience this ancient region.
The famous Mount Etna is worth tackling if you feel you have the energy and stamina. There are a number of hiking routes up to the “summit zone”, plus there are the options of taking a jeep or the cable car.
If you intend to venture up under your own steam be sure you have a proper guide and are aware that it is a very tough climb. For a more moderate Sicily holiday you need to venture no further than one of the island’s many splendid beaches.
The majority of them are clean and the sparklingly clear waters of the Med are a definite feature. The island is also home to over a dozen nature reserves and protected marine areas, all of which are definitely worth a browse.
A feature of your Sicily holiday will be the traditional Sicilian cuisine, particularly the islander’s love of desserts. Try ‘cannoli’ which are pastry tubes filled with sweet ricotta cheese, or ‘cassata’, a cake with Arabic influences. Sicily also produces some fine wines, but the islanders are not big drinkers and drunken behaviour is severely frowned upon.
A Sicily holiday allows you to experience many aspects of Mediterranean culture beyond that you’d find in mainland Italy, France or Spain. Book your holiday to Sicily for a unique vacation the memories of which you will treasure forever.
Where Romeo met Juliet
Take a holiday to Verona in northern Italy to experience a beautiful city in which you can truly imagine Shakespeare’s most romantic play still taking place. Verona is known as little Rome in deference to the city’s importance during the 13th and 14th centuries. This was the age of family feuding under the ruling Scaligeri family, the backdrop to the Bard’s tale of the pain of young love.
The city was one of the prime cornerstones of the Roman Empire, and your holiday to Verona should take in the many Roman ruins preserved there.
The city grew in importance due to its position at the intersection of many ancient roads, and for many years was considered the seat of the Italian government. In 1630 Verona fell foul of plague, with over 60% of its residents dying from the disease. Between 1798 and 1866 Verona was controlled by the Austrian Empire before returning to Italian rule following the Six Weeks War, and has been part of Italy ever since.
Getting to Italy for your Verona holiday can be done either by air or road. Verona has one major airport, Catullo, which located eight miles or so from the city. Driving to Verona isn’t difficult at all from all parts of mainland Europe. As with most of the built-up areas of Italy, driving within the city is not recommended due to congestion and parking issues. Travelling by foot or bus is much preferable.
A Verona holiday is mainly one of sight-seeing and relaxation. Verona is a peaceful place in comparison to the hectic pace of Rome or Milan, and never becomes overstuffed with tourists.
Verona’s most impressive sight is the Arena, an incredible Roman amphitheatre built two thousand years ago and still in use today. If you are holidaying in Verona at the right time of year you should be able to take in an opera there.
For a more modern nod to the Shakespeare connection during your holiday in Verona you should take a look at the Casa di Giulietta, supposedly the location of the talismanic balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet. The courtyard is often full of teenage sweethearts photographing themselves, tenderly forgetting the fact the characters were entirely fictitious and the balcony was only added in 1936. If you prefer your sight-seeing to be more grounded in reality Verona has an excellent range of castles, gardens and art museums all worthy of your perusal.
For accommodation during your Verona holiday you can expect the range of options you’d find in any major European destination, from top class hotels to captivating B&Bs, holiday farms and youth hostels. One word of warning though, for twelve weeks between June and September each year it is Opera season in Verona and finding “on the spot” accommodation in the City during this period will involve a lot of walking and fruitless phone calls, so booking in advance is essential.
Another important note is to know that when you see cavallo on a restaurant menu it is referring to horse-meat. This is a Veronese favourite that tourists from other parts of the world may find unpalatable.
A Verona holiday will see you enjoy the sights, sounds and history of a beautiful and romantic city. Book your holiday to Verona for a tranquil and memorable experience of life in Italy.
Taking a city break in Naples is a wonderful chance to see and experience Italy at its ancient best. This sun-soaked city is drenched in history and is famed for its huge number of medieval churches and impressive castles. You can couple this with a more modern way of living in the lively centre of Naples, at the Piazza del Plebiscito, the heart of the old town. You can also visit many museums dedicated to art and Italy’s history, as well at completing your sight-seeing and taking a shopping break at Galleria Umberto.
Naples is served by an international airport, known locally as Capodichino. Your Naples city break will start, if you fly into the country, with a trip via the Alibus into the heart of the city. You may also take a taxi, but make sure you take an authorized one from the designated taxi rank. If you are approached by a driver directly they are probably unauthorized and will cost a great amount more. As Naples is on the Italian coast, you might consider visiting the city as part of an extended European cruise, and the ferry terminal is well served.
Naples is one of the major homes of fine Italian cuisine and your city break in Naples will no doubt see you sampling some of the exquisite treats the city has to offer.
The city claims the pizza was originally created here and you must sample an authentic Italian pizza whilst in Naples; just hunt for a Pizzeria that is obviously not aimed at tourists. Most Neapolitan dishes are based on tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. You’ll be amazed at the variety created from these three basic ingredients.
A city break in Naples is an excuse for a spot of wine-tasting, as Naples is famous for its strong and powerful vintages. Visit the Mastroberardino vineyard for some excellent examples, such as the whites Lacryma Christi and Greco di Tufo, and the potent red Taurasi.
The city was declared a World Heritage Site in 1995, so preserving all the important nuggets of history you’ll discover during your Naples city break.
Colonists from Cumae originally formed the city on Megarides, a small island, and you can visit the Castel dell’Ovo which stands there as a reminder. In the city centre there is the Santa Maria del Carmine church which is over 900 years old. You are literally spoilt for choice whilst sight-seeing as there seems to be a memorable monument around every corner.
For a unique experience during your Naples city break make sure you visit the network of tunnels and catacombs that lie some 30 metres below ground level. These where originally reservoirs dug out during Greco-Roman times. During the Second World War this underground network saw use as an air raid shelter.
Naples is within 40 minutes by train of Pompeii, home to Mount Vesuvius, the only active volcano on the mainland of Europe. You Naples city break could take in a trip to the smouldering mountain; you can even hike to the top if you are feeling energetic enough.
A city break in Naples will see you experience a distinct flavour of Italy that remains reasonably untouched by the modern world. Book your Naples city break today for sunshine, pizza, fine wines and a touch of ancient Italian history.
Venice is a town of romance, of art and of beauty. Located in Italy, it is in fact a group of 118 islands connected via a water channel. It is for this reason that one always visualises the romantic trips in a gondola on the waterway in the moonlight. The whole of Venice is named as an UNESCO Heritage Site.
Climate of Venice
Venice has a subtropical climate. The summers are very hot and humid and winters are cool. Rainfall is high and spread relatively even throughout the year.
Attractions in Venice
Venice is famous for the spectacular architecture from the romantic Renaissance era. Many of the buildings are still original buildings from centuries past.
Venice has a large amount of these buildings that the tourist can view. The most spectacular buildings are the churches, palaces and the artwork and statues contained within these buildings.
The main attraction in Venice has to be the Grand Canal. The Grand Canal is the main thoroughfare in Venice and you can view many of the interesting places and Renaissance buildings from a gondola steered by a gondolier.
The St Mary of the Friars is an ancient church built in the 14th century. It is a beautiful church built in typical Venetian Renaissance architecture and contains extraordinary artworks by Bellini and Titian who is also buried in the church. The tombs are pieces of artwork in own right and add to the design of the romance and mystery of the church.
The Gothic structure of the Palazzo Ducale is an impressive building featuring council chambers, residential apartments and prison cells. Explore the beautiful decorated interior and view the artworks from Venetian masters.
The opera house is another site to visit if you are an art lover. The Musica A Palazzo is a grand palace, yet comfortable and cosy enough to make you feel at home. Shows are featured daily, each day of the week.
The best way to view these stunning landmarks will be to join a tour group. Guides are trained and experienced to show you the architecture and give the history of these sites. Without their guidance, you may miss some other spectacular sites such as the St Marks’ Basilica, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco Gallery and the San Marco Lighthouse.
The St Marks’ Square is a popular venue for festivals and other activities. Many shops and restaurants occupy the square. Enjoy the sidewalk cafés with live orchestras playing while you savour your meal. It is just as in the movies!
The nightlife in Venice also has the feel of romance. There are clubs and bars with live music and many of the bars may seem insignificant by day, but comes to life at night. Night entertainment is rather found on the mainland. So if you are a party seeker, travel to the mainland, or be content with casual and relaxed night out in town.
Accommodation in Venice
Accommodation in Venice is not hard to find. It ranges from top standard hotels, including a Hilton Hotel, to apartments for rent. Alternatively, rent a private villa in true Venetian style.
The largest lake in Italy has famously inspired a multitude of artists and poets, including D H Lawrence, who wrote of the “exquisite scent of lemon flowers” here. Mountains rise from the north and west, where active types enjoy mountain-biking, walking and hang-gliding, as well as wind-surfing and water-skiing on the lake itself. The southern side offers a more relaxed vibe, with sprawling vineyards, charming villages and a distinctively Mediterranean laid-back lifestyle. An abundance of restaurants serve up local specialities influenced by the three surrounding regions: Lombardy, Trentino Alto-Adige and the Vento. Lake-side terraces are the best place to sample grilled lake fish, razor clams and the superb fritto misto (seafood platter).