Travelling in Italy

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Travelling in Italy: sightseeing

Italy is known as the “Bel Paese” and it is a truly beautiful country that creates lasting memories for everyone who visits it. There is so much to see from the famous cities to the many beautiful villages, from the beaches and the countryside to the mountain regions and the lakes.
It is impossible to mention all there is to see in Italy since each region has so much to discover and explore, each beautiful in a very different way. Here below are just a few points of interest to give you a feel for some of the different regions from North to South.


The Aosta region, close to the French border, has some of the most famous and spectacular mountains in the Alps. Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa create a breathtaking panorama and provide endless opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts who can hike and climb in summer and ski in winter.

Piedmont region (Piemonte) borders with France and Switzerland and is famous for its wonderful Alpine scenery and ski resorts, as well as its many first class wines and gastronomic delights including truffles, cheese and excellent meat. It is a region full of monasteries abbeys and convents. Turin is the main town, famous for a religious relic known as the Holy Shroud once owned by the Royal family of Savoy, but also for its world renowned Egyptian Museum.
Trentino Alto Adige

The Trentino Alto Adige region lies to the North East and is made up of two provinces. One is Trentino, mainly Italian speaking and its capital is Trento. The other province is Alto Adige, mainly German speaking and its capital is Bolzano. This province home to another mountain range, perhaps less famous than the Alps but certainly no less spectacular. Tourists flock to the Dolomites in winter for skiing and in summer for hill walking and mountain climbing.

Lombardy (Lombardia) is home to the city of Milan, famous all over the world for its fashion houses, but the region also has many artistic and architectural treasures such as the Cathedral (“Il Duomo)” and Leonardo’s Last Supper painting in Milan, the medieval town of Bergamo and the Ducal Palace in Mantova with frescoes by Mantegna. Lombardy also is home to the famous Italian lakes, Lago Maggiore and Lake Como.

One of the smallest regions is Liguria with the main town of Genoa, home of Christopher Columbus, the navigator who discovered America. Liguria has a beautiful coastline along the Mediterranean, dotted with villages perched high above the sea such as the famous Cinque Terre as well as many picturesque harbours including the very prestigious port of Portofino.

The Veneto region is most well known for the city of Venice with its canals and gondolas, the Bridge of Sighs and the beautiful Piazza San Marco. The region is also famous for the town of Verona, the city of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Here concerts and operas are performed in the summer in the ancient Arena. It is only a stone’s throw from the Lago di Garda, the Lake that lies half in Veneto and half in Lombardy.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s most famous city is Trieste, once a main trading port for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When the Romans were here, their port was Aquileia but the sea has since receded and the town now lies inland. Another town well worth a visit is Udine, once under the rule of Venice and with many buildings reminiscent of that period.
Emilia Romagna

Heading south the next region is Emilia Romagna, one of the most famous gastronomic regions of Italy so make sure you have time to enjoy some of the wonderful regional specialities while here. The main town is Bologna, home to the ancient University, and full of churches, museums and historical buildings. Other towns well worth a visit are Modena, Ferrara and Ravenna. Rimini lies on the coast and is one of the most popular Italian seaside resorts, especially for young people and families.
Le Marche

Between the Apennine mountains and the Adriatic Coast lies the region called Le Marche, often unknown to many travellers. Italians enjoy the many beach resorts around the towns of Pesaro and Ancona here in the summer but the region offers much more. There are many lovely towns to visit such as Urbino, a beautiful Renaissance city, but also wonderful inland mountain countryside and nature parks.

Tuscany is home to the leaning Tower of Pisa, the Piazza del Campo in Siena where the Palio is held, and the magnificent and well-maintained architecture of Florence, one of Italy’s most visited cities and birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. The region is full of fascinating historical towns and villages such as Lucca, San Gimignano, Pienza and Volterra set in the famous Tuscan countryside which make Tuscany one of the richest artistic regions in Italy. It also has its own coastline and is a favourite holiday destination for many Italians.

South of Tuscany lies the less well known region of Umbria, with its magnificent rural landscapes and the wonderfully preserved towns of Perugia, Gubbio, and Assisi.

Rome, Italy’s capital, is also the main town of the region known as Lazio. Rome, the Eternal City, is a walking museum of history, art and architecture. The ruins from Rome’s glorious past are situated in the city centre itself and include the monumental Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Rome is also famous for its wonderful squares and fountains such as the romantic Piazza Navona with Bernini's fountain of the-"Four Rivers", the Piazza di Spagna and the Trevi Fountain, all in the heart of the city and within walking distance of one another.
No visit to Rome would be complete without a visit to the Vatican City, the world’s smallest sovereign state, where you can take part in a religious mass in St Peter’s square and visit the fabulous Basilica and Museum.
You should also find time to travel outside Rome where there is also so much to see. In particular the region is home to what remains of the ancient Etruscan civilisation, which dates back to before Rome was founded.

The Campania region is famous for Naples, Sorrento, the Amalfi coast, the islands of Capri and Ischia. The coastline of the Bay of Naples offers spectacular scenery and Naples may have a reputation as a loud and chaotic city but it is a town well worth visiting. It is full of wonderful churches and historical buildings from the past but it also has a very lively and colourful present!
From here you can take a trip to Mount Vesuvius, the active volcano that wiped out the towns of Pompei and Ercolano in 79 A.D, two sites definitely not to be missed on a visit to this region.

The regions further south are often less visited by international tourists although there is now growing interest in this part of Italy too.
Abruzzo has the Apennine mountains, home to the National Park of Abruzzo where you can follow mountain trails and perhaps catch a glimpse of the local wildlife, including some rather shy bears. There are also beautiful towns to visit, such as L’Aquila with its fine architecture, Sulmona considered the most beautiful town in the region with its Gothic and Renaissance style of buildings and Chieti with its wonderful views across Abruzzo to the sea.
South of Abruzzo is the small region of Molise., Many people visit Termoli, a popular beach resort with a lovely old town. From the harbour of Termoli you can take the boat across to the Isole Tremiti, uncontaminated islands that lie just off the coast. The main towns of the region are Campobasso and Isernia.

Puglia at the heel of the Italian boot, has wonderful landscape and beaches as well as castles and towns of historical interest.. Lecce in particular is well worth a visit for its baroque houses and churches.
Basilicata has for a long time been an underdeveloped region but is of considerable historical interest. One town worth a visit is Matera where you can visit the caves in the rocks that until recent times were used as houses. It also has fine beaches to enjoy in the summer months.

Calabria is another region that is perhaps less well known by international visitors although it is a popular holiday destination for Italians since it offers both mountains and a wonderful coastline. It received international attention recently when the famous Greek Bronze warriors were retrieved from the seabed.

Sicily is the sunkissed island with a wonderful climate all year round, but it is also a very interesting historical island. Invaded and conquered over the centuries, it offers a wealth of sightseeing from Greek temples and Roman ruins, Norman castles and Byzantine domes. After visiting these wonderful monuments, you can relax on the beautiful golden beaches, or climb Mount Etna, Europe's largest active volcano.

The largest Mediterranean island after Sicily is Sardinia. This island is a favourite holiday destination among Italians and hosts growing numbers of international tourists each year. It has some of the finest beaches and sea in Italy and many Italians will tell you there are no better beaches anywhere in the world. It is a truly beautiful island with its many medieval towers and castles and many examples of traditional culture.