Ah, there’s music in the air and so much nostalgia in the heart…At least that’s what many people say after visiting Italy. Nearly every corner of the country has a story of love, of war, of arts…And this last subject is what makes Italy one of the top tourist destinations on Earth. Its cultural legacy is nowhere else evinced as in its Etruscan, Latin, Roman, Medieval and Renaissance heritage displaying at nearly every city in the country. This “boot” of Europe kicked boredom out to usher in immensely beautiful landscapes like the ones in Tuscany, or the ever graceful Renaissance architecture of Florence, Genoa, Pisa, Milan, and Venice. Of Rome, a whole chapter here would not do it justice, but it is indeed the cultural, political and historical heart of this giant of music, immensely renowned gastronomy and magnificent sites.
“All roads lead to Rome” is not a vain phrase; literally, as the capital of, and largest city in Italy, Rome is a neurasthenic combination of traffic jams, glorious monuments, packed cafes, equally packed museums, splendid Renaissance palazzos and piazzas, and immense history. Its legacy has been such that no one can mention Europe without any mention of this vibrant city of endless attractions. On the one hand is the Trevi Fountain where dipping a coin with your back to it would ensure you visit again; or the Coliseum, Rome’s mightiest landmark and synonymous of its past glories; for the pious (and curious and art lovers, too) is The Vatican, where lines visiting the Sistine Chapel and pay homage to both Pope and Michelangelo could mean hours waiting in line. In greenery, Rome has three monumental parks—the Villa Doria Pamphili, the Villa Alda, and the Villa Borghese, all adorned with alluring gardens surrounding graceful Renaissance villas.
There’s something Machiavellian if you visit Italy without visiting its most guarded treasure. Florence is considered by many to be the most beautiful of Italian cities, and while Rome has the opulence of size and vibrant life, Florence has kept its Renaissance elegance which in itself has inspired the imagination of millions who are attracted to see this open-air museum of art and love. From any angle, the city’s main landmark, the Duomo of Brunelleschi, stands aside as the crowning triumph of artistry and engineering of the Renaissance period. And as if the city itself were not a museum, Florence is home to one of the world’s most exclusive and renowned art galleries—the Uffizi. Florence has also one of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes, Tuscany. The region, though dominated by the sheer Renaissance grace of Florence, is itself composed of an immensely beautiful countryside like the sunflower fields of Maremma, the cultivated hills near Val d’Orcia and Sienna (another Renaissance jewel), and the myriad number of vineyards and groves that populate the surroundings.
What Florence is to the centre of Italy, Milan is to its north. The economic and fashion powerhouse of the country, Milan stands as the stylish capital of Europe, always sparring about the title with Paris. The city’s most renowned landmarks are its immense array of medieval and Renaissance palazzos and piazzas, public gardens and museums, but by far, the most majestic are its towering cathedral; the Sforza Castle and the nearby Porta Sempione, or Arch of Peace, Milan’s rival to Paris’ Arc de Triomphe; the Teatro All Scala, the world’s famed opera house; and its frivolous, exquisitely decorated shopping mall, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.
The poetry of a gondola leisurely ferrying two lovers through the Grand Canal, surrounded by the imposing St. Mark’s Cathedral and Dodge’s Palace…Sigh…
Venice has been the subject of many literary works, but the city in itself is a work of art so cherished and so unique that very little could be said that cannot be experienced in the flesh. Built over a thousand years ago, Venice went on to become a maritime power, and as such, riches and artists began pouring in to give the world what it is today—one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Its main sights are the many colorful medieval and Renaissance buildings flanking the city’s water ways, but the most evocative are Piazza San Marco with the imposing St. Mark’s Basilica; the Dodge’s Palace right next door; The Grand Canal; Rialto Bridge; The Lido; Café Florian, the oldest functioning coffeehouse in the world; and of course, the mother of all festivities—Carnevale, where sumptuous masks and fastidiously decorated costumes wonder about the streets, inspiring so many. Venice is also hosts to major world events in the arts—the Venice Biennale and the Venice Film Festival which awards its most prestigious award, the Winged Golden Lion, symbol of the city. Venice is most fascinating and no visit to Italy can end without first paying homage to this monument to beauty perched above the sea.