Italy is such a varied and historical country, with so many facets, that any synopsis of basic information will differ from another. However, the following may be some of the highlights to be expected from a visit:

• Remnants of the Greek civilization and Roman Empire, to be seen not only in its capital, Rome, but all over the country.
• The origins and highlights of the Renaissance, which originated in this very special country, especially in Florence, but also in many other places.
• World renowned cities, and special historic towns, villages and many UNESCO cultural heritage sites, more than in any other country in the world.
• Contrasting landscapes, from scenic lakes, to Alpine mountains, forests and seaside resorts.
• Great cuisine, unique dishes and world famous wines.
• A vibrant country with friendly and passionate people.



Italy stretches from the Alps in the north, flowing out over the plains of the Po, the country’s largest river, and then south in a shoe-shaped peninsula, with the Apennine mountains as its backbone out into the Mediterranean Sea to the west, the Adriatic to the east, and the Ionian Sea to the south. The islands Sicily, Sardinia and Elba also belong to Italy.

Some of Europe’s most well-known mountains, like Mont Blanc (4 810 m), the Matterhorn, Gran Paradiso and Monte Rosa are to be found in the Alps, as well as prestigious ski resorts, such as at Sestriere, near Turin, where the winter Olympics was held in 2006. On the plains south of the Alps a number of large lakes, popular as holiday destinations are to be found – Garda, Maggiore, and Como. The well-known dormant volcano, Vesuvius, slumbers in the southern Apennines, near Naples, while the nearly-submerged Venice lies at the mouth of the Po on the Adriatic Sea.


Italy is well connected by way of all modes of transport:

• By air: 32 international airports, with the busiest the main airports the Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino (Rome), Malpensa and Linate (Milan), and the Marco Polo (Venice).
• By train: High speed international and night trains such as the TGV or Eurostar from all over Europe offer swift and easy transport to the main cities. The Eurail Pass of Eurorail ensures affordable options.
• By bus: Just as with trains, buses ensure comfortable and affordable transport, such as with Eurolines, connecting more than 500 towns and cities of 18 countries with 100 destinations in Italy. The Eurolines Pass offers various low cost options.
• By car: Self-drive travellers will encounter no problems of reaching Italian destinations by way of Europe’s extensive and well-kept road network.
• By sea: Many ferry companies offer transport between ports in Italy and other Mediterranean countries. Cruise ships also dock in the main ports.


Italy may be visited right through the year, depending on the traveller’s interest and budget, although the following should be taken into account:
• Summers (July to mid September) can be extremely hot, especially in the southern regions, with holiday and sight-seeing destinations teeming with visitors, especially during the August school holidays. Prices will be ski-high. However, the days are longer, allowing for the opportunity to present a large variety of summer festivals or outdoor concerts.
• Winters (November to February) is a season for winter sport enthusiasts, especially in the northern regions, but it is also the season for winter performances of opera, orchestras and other theatre performances. Tourist attractions and museums are less crowded, and winter highlights like Christmas, and New Year draws a substantial number of tourists. Prices for accommodation are lower.
• Spring and fall (March to June) and fall (September to late October) are also popular. During spring nature is in bloom with flower festivals to be attended. The climate is mild, with less tourists and lower prices, whilst spring festivals and holy processions during Easter draws many participants. The fall has much of the same climate, with dramatic natural beauty, and interesting cultural events. Delicacies like truffels, wild mushrooms and roasted chestnuts are to be tasted.


Public transport in Italy is easy and efficient:

• By air: Besides the international airports, there are also 13 smaller airport. Three major domestic airlines (Alitalia, Air One and Meridiana), as well as Ryanair operate between most of them.
• By train: Apart from the fast Eurostar, the intercity trains are relatively cheap. Different types of trains are run by the train-system Tremitalia, with some of them stopping only at major cities, but others – although a little bit slower - stop at all the most remote places. It is cheaper to buy tickets for local journeys in Italy itself.
• Buses and trams: Numerous companies offer services between most of the cities and towns, even to remote villages. I the largest cities like Rome, Milan, Turin and Naples efficient underground systems operate.
• By car (or motorbike): An extensive road system of different sorts is available, making motoring easy: the autostradas between the main cities, the strade statali off the main routes, and the strade provincilai in the rural areas. These are the roads by which the traveller is able to view interesting sites and spectacular scenery.
• Ferries: Different types of ferries and hydrofoils, many of them overnight, operate between the mainland and the islands,.
• Local: Good public transport, like buses, trains or taxis is to be found in all major cities. However, in Venice only vaporetti (small passenger ferries) are available, otherwise the visitor will have to discover the city on foot..


Among the literary thousands of sites, some of the most famous may be categorized as follows:

• In the cities

o Rome: The Roman Forum and Colosseum as remnants of the ancient Roman Empire; the St Peter’s Basilica (Cathedral) at the Vatican, as well as the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel.
o Florence: The impressive Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, with one of the largest domes in the world.
o Venice: The St Mark’s Basilica with its domes, the St Mark’s Square in front, and the Doge’s Palace next to it, and, surely, the canals, such as the famous Grand Canal.
• Small towns in the countryside: San Gimignano, with its 14 towers; Paestum, with its ancient Greek ruins, and extremely well preserved temples; Ostea Antica, an ancient Roman port which gave access to Rome, with astounding well preserved temples and streets.
• Seaside villages: The Cinque Terra (Five villages) on the Italian Riviera, with stunning views, with Manarola as the most famous. These small towns, nestling against the steep mountainside jutting up from the sea, cannot even be reached by car, only by foot, boat or train; the overwhelmingly colourful small hillside town of Positano with its quaint Fornillo Beach on the Amalfi Coast, not far from Naples and Sorrento.
• Nature: Lake Como with its temperate climate and attractive villas; the aftermath of the Vesuvius eruption and historical remains of a living city in Pompeii.
• Other: The world renowned Leaning Tower of Pisa; for those who are not faint-hearted, the unique Catacombs of the Capuchines in Sicily, where grisly, but remarkably well-preserved bodies of nobles and other citizens of Palermo were buried since the 16th century.


It is nearly impossible to choose just a few out of the thousands in all the cities or towns. The following few in two cities should suffice:

Johann – Hier sal jy moet help. Wat ek wel gedink het om te doen, is om slegs in Rome en sê maar Florence onderskeidelik ‘n luukse en bekostigbare hotel te noem en ook in elkeen ‘n puik restaurant of twee. Ek het wel die volgende uitgesoek, maar jy moet maar totaal wysig. Dis sommer onverwerkte stukkies uit die internet, veral en Michelin:


In Florence:

Luxury: The Four Seasons Hotel Firenzi, Florence. The 11-acre botanical garden that is home to these two restored Renaissance buildings—a fifteenth-century palazzo and a sixteenth-century convent—is "like heaven." Rooms with frescoes and ceiling murals have amenities made by a Florence-based perfumer, and public areas showcase Renaissance art. "The whole hotel feels steeped in history"—although it can be "a bit stuffy." Dine alfresco at Il Palagio, which uses locally sourced ingredients. The Winery serves more than 50 Italian wines by the glass and has a list of nearly 400 bottles. Stroll tree-lined paths to the two-story herbal spa, where wet-treatment rooms have glass mosaic walls and floors: "It’s very expensive, but wonderful for a splurge."


St Anna: Wonder what it would be like to stay in the pope's front yard? An old establishment in the Borgo neighbourhood, Sant'Anna is a proverbial stone's throw from St Peter's Square – a little bit of heaven in the Vatican area. With its rooms recently refurbished, the hotel's decor recalls its medieval and renaissance histories with guests relishing the classic design – lavish and luxurious fabrics and warm marbles – or else in the hotel's gorgeous loggia courtyard. Remember to ask for a balcony.

In Rome:

In the city center:

Luxury: Hotel Raphael – Relais & Chateax

Budget: Profumo Maison d’Hôtes


In Florence

The Enoteca Pinchiorri - Michelin starred. philosophy of traditional
Fresh Tuscan cuisine, local ingredients, simply cooked.
T-bone steak prepared on chestnut wood and served with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil is a Florentine specialty. From three Michelinstarred Enoteca Pinchiorri to gelato specialists Grom, Florence’s restaurants use the finest Tuscan artisanal ingredients for clean flavors and fresh, melt-in-your-mouth textures. Dishes are accompanied with velvety Tuscan wines.
Féold’s cuisine became increasingly complex and by 1993 the pair was running a three-Michelinstar restaurant with a renowned wine cellar. Pinchiorri keeps 120,000 bottles of the finest wine in the restaurant’s basement. Enoteca Pinchiorri emanates character and charm with mosaics, parquet floors, a pink marble chimney and antique furniture, but it is the restaurant’s cuisine rather than its décor that is the true show stopper

In Rome: Agata e Romeo – Michelin starred : Elegant and refined ambience/atmosphere


The most delightful way of gaining an insight into the culture and way of life of its people, is to attend a coountry’s festivals. In Italy there are such an abundance of festivities throughout the year, that a visitor will be able to come across one in every month of the year, whether it be events to celebrate aspects such as culture, sport, music, food and wine, or religious ceremonies. The following are just a few of the most popular:

• Summer: The Notte Rosa Festival (Pink Night), the so-called Summer’s New Year’s Eve, is a festival similar to the White Nights held in northern European countries. Cities and towns like Rimini on the Adriatic Riviera are coloured pink by all sorts of means, such as using lights, balloons or paint. Festivities take place through the night, with open air concerts, and fireworks.

• Fall: During autumn many food festivals are held all over the country, like the White Truffel Fair every weekend from mid October to mid November in Alba (Piedmont) with even a donkey race as one of the items, or in the Tuscan hill town Certaldo Alto the gastronomic fair, called the Boccaccesca, during the first two weeks of October.

• Winter: Amongst others, the Romaeuropa Festival at the start of the country’s opera season, with music, opera and dance performances all over Rome, or the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December, a national holiday, with religious celebrations throughout the country.

• Spring: At the start of the new season, what better than the Venice Carnival from the middle of February to the first week of March, with its masked parades, fireworks shows, boat and gondola parades and costumed people wandering through the streets of the city.

Manie Wolvaardt

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