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Italy: The land of those who – since the beginning of time – know how to enjoy it

01.08.2016, Destination of the month

Italy is a magical country where you learn to truly enjoy life – indulge in great food, including seafood, pasta, seasonal vegetables, a wide range of cheeses, and olive oil. No matter whether you prefer to sip espresso in the morning sun or enjoy exquisite Italian wine in the evening, Italians have your back. And don't worry; you can burn all of these yummy calories during your bike rides, hiking and swimming, or you can explore what was once the epicentre of Roman culture.

Those who have already visited Italy have different opinions about when is the best time to visit this boot-shaped country. Some prefer Italy in May when spring is slowly turning into summer, while some visit it regularly after June.

However, keep in mind that July and August can be very hot in Italy, especially if you’ll visit central cities like Rome, Milan, Florence and so on. If you are going to Italy for summer vacation, enjoying the seaside and sun, by all means go! :) Italy is great for summer vacation. However, it also has its charm in September and October, though at the end of October you can expect temperatures that are a bit lower, as well as a few clouds and showers.

Manarola - at sunset Autumn in Chianti Italian

Driving in Italy

The road network is efficient and extensive, and roads are well maintained, but traffic in bigger citieis is heavy, so if you're not an experienced driver or you don't like to drive abroad, driving in Rome, Milan or Naples is definitely something to avoid. Many city centers are off-limits to unauthorized traffic, but driving in a city in general involves dealing with one-way systems, scooters appearing everywhere and narrow streets. Outside of main cities, car hire is a great deal, but everywhere it's highly recommended that you use a GPS navigation system. The best weather is between April and October. The maximum BAC level is 0.05% and there is a Zero Tolerance Law for young drivers.            

  • Age limits: 21(minimum age may vary according to car rental companies. A Young Driver fee will apply to drivers under 25 years of age. A driver must have her/his driver’s license in possession for at least one year in order to rent a car.)
  • International Driving Permit: Yes, if you have a non-EU driver’s license.
  • Additional papers: ID (passport), valid national driver's license, Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and theft protection.             
  • Additional requirements: A warning triangle, reflective vests and a spare tire.
  • Children in the car: Children under the age of 12 must be in an age-appropriate restraint. All car occupants must wear seat belts.                          
  • Driving side of the road: Right.              
  • Lights: Dipped headlights must be on at all times.                              
  • General speed limits: 50 kph in residential areas; minor out-of-town roads, 90 kph; major out-of-town roads, 110 kph; and 130 kph on highways.  
  • Parking suggestions: Parking is available in parking garages, coin-metered parking or spots marked with blue lines. You will need to buy a blue “Sosta Milano” Scratchcard either at newsstands or in tobacco shops. Read more »

What to see?

Actually, it would be easier to say what not to see in Italy, but you have to start somewhere, so we chose some of our favourite mainland cities and seaside destinations for you. Here they are:

Rome

Rome is the capital of Italy, just as it was the centre of the Roman Empire a few thousand years ago. It's a cosmopolitan city with nearly 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture and culture to display.

Rome

  • Ancient ruins such as the Roman Forum and the Colosseum evoke the power of the former Roman Empire.

Piazza Venezia

  • The Colosseum is known as the Flavian amphitheater because it was built during the Flavian Dynasty. Back in those days it was the city’s prime venue for gladiator games, chariot races, animal slayings, and executions. In its heyday, it held some 20,000 spectators.
  • The Roman Forum, situated in the area between Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum, is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world, so be sure not to miss it. This is is the central area of Rome where much of ancient Roman civilization developed, so you will see a lot of important sights on this tour, like temples, basilicas, archers, pools and springs, as well as a wide array of smaller monuments. (Because this tour will probably be long and hot, take a hat and some water with you, especially if you travel with your children.)
  • St. Peter's Basilica (located in Vatican City) is the largest basilica of Christianity and is truly a work of art. The incredible “cupolone” – the church’s dome – was created by Renaissance genius sculptor Michelangelo. Saint Peter's covers an area of 2.3 hectares (5.7 acres or about 50,000 square feet), and is large enough for 60,000 people.
  • When in Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel is also a must-see, as it's the official residence of the Pope. Its construction started in 1475, during the Jubilee Year proclaimed by Sixtus IV, and ended in 1483. Its most-known sights are Michelangelo’s Last Judgment and the ceiling frescoes, which can be best viewed from the chapel’s main entrance in the far east wall. Michelangelo's design covers the entire 800-square-meter surface.
  • When in Rome you might consider a road trip to Pompeii – the ultimate architectural showcase. 2000 years ago Pompeii was the scene of a great catastrophe when Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the entire city under volcanic ash. Most of the city’s inhabitants are still there to see – immortalized by hot ashes that turned their bodies into carbon monuments.

Pompeii

Florence

Some travellers prefer Florence, as it's one of the most beautiful and magical cities in Europe. This capital of Italy’s Tuscany region and birthplace of the Renaissance is home to masterpieces of art and architecture.

Florence Florence

  • Back in Roman times Florence was one of the richest cities in the world. You can still see it as the birthplace of some of the poshest worldwide brands, like Gucci. If you have time, visit the Gucci Museum; you wont be sorry. At the Ponte Vechio, a timeless bridge dating back to the time of the Medici, you can still see the old shop where Louis Vuitton products were sold.
  • If you're not here as a fashion lover, the main sight you must not miss – and trust us, you actually can't – is Florence Cathedral, with its iconic dome. The cathedral was begun at the end of the 13th century, and its magnificent red dome was added in the 15th century. Brunelleschi's dome is the largest masonry dome ever built and covers the Cathedral of Florence. Take the tour and explore all of the masterpieces of art and architecture by the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance – Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Giotto, and Michelangelo.
  • One of the most iconic sights of Florence is the Statue of David, located in The Galleria dell’Accademia or “Gallery of the Academy”.
  • Road trip to Pisa: The cities of Florence and Pisa lie less than 100km apart, so it would be a shame not to take a short ride to check out the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which is known around the world. It is the freestanding bell tower of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa which began to tilt during construction; the tilt slowly progessed until the tower's stabilization at the beginning of the 21st century.

Pisa Florence Florence

Milan

One of the main sites in Milan is the Milan Cathedral, also known as il Duomo. This Gothic treasure was under construction for 600 years and the outcome is spectacular! Climb to the top of the cathedral for jaw-dropping views of the city. If you can, see il Duomo during the day and again at night, when it’s even more dramatic and perhaps a bit less crowded. Shop until you drop in the oldest shopping center in the world, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, built in 1877. This is an impressive example of Art Nouveau architecture. Set foot in the stunning Sforza Castle and visit the Castle Museums. Take in Italian culture at the famous La Scala and enjoy a performance in this 1778 opera house.

Panorama of Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano), Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery and Piazza del Duomo in Milan, Italy

Milan, Italy

  • Arch of Peace: This triumphal arch stands in Piazza Sempione. It is dedicated to the peace that was restored in 1815 after Napoleon was defeated.
  • Via Monte Napoleone: this posh boulevard is lined with famous designer shops, fancy boutiques and the finest shoemakers.
  • Via della Spiga: If you didn’t get enough widow shopping along Via Monte Napoleone, Via della Spiga is three minutes away. Here you can find boutiques such as Bulgari, Prada and more.
  • Brera Botanical Garden: A tranquil garden with more than 300 plant species. Perfect on a sunny day!

All the colours of the market Inside

Enjoy Italy by the sea

Puglia

Puglia is a part of Italy representing the heel of the Italian shoe. This sunny Italian region is known for its remarkable historic farmland and the turquise bays along its coastline. Enjoy a heavenly sandy beach in Marina di Pescoluse, a vibrant and crowded coastline in Torre dell'Orso and charming bays in the Torre Specchia on Salento's Adriatic coast.

"PUGLIA"

Naples

For those who want it all – a bit of history sightseeing, proper seaside lounging and sunbathing, and local Italian wines and cuisine – Naples is a great destination. If you rent a car, you can easily explore the surroundings, or check out Capri, Pompeii or Amalfi, which is known for its beautiful coast towns, where you can rest your eyes on some of the most beautiful views in Italy and enjoy superb food.

Naples

Capri

Visit this 10.4-square-kilometer island to escape the crazy life of Rome, Florence and other famous Italian cities. Back in ancient times, it was one of the vacation spots of Roman emperors, but today is a preffered escape option with high-end hotels for nature lovers. The most visited attraction in Capri is the Blue Cave, Grotta Azzurra; a hidden opening in the cave allows light to refract, making the water appear an incredible shade of sapphire blue.

Capri

region in southern Italy is known for its sunny weather, whitewashed hill towns, centuries-old farmland and hundreds of miles of Mediterranean coastline. Alberobello and the surrounding Itria Valley are home to unique stone huts with conical roofs (called trulli), while the city of Lecce is known as “Florence of the South” for its numerous examples of Baroque architecture.

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