La dolce vita, la Serenissima, il Belpaese….. these phrases merely scratch the surface of a country that has beguiled visitors since the days of the Grand Tour and beyond. From design-conscious Milan, Renaissance-rich Florence, cosmopolitan Rome to the more-traditional south, Italy is a seductive mix of history, culture, fashion and cuisine. It’s impossible not to fall in love with a country which is connected so strikingly to the ancient glories of yesteryear and the sophisticated pleasures of today.
Best time to visit
April to June, when it’s not too crowded or hot.
Beeping Fiats and screeching Vespas; pizza by the slice; Roman ruins, Michelangelo and Leonardo; La Cosa Nostra, Prada, Gucci and Dolce and Gabbana.
Cappucinos are considered ‘Americana’ coffee; not every Italian has Mafia connections. Pesto originally hailed from Genoa, in Liguria.
Hiring a car and driving through the beautiful Tuscan countryside
Feeling history surround you in the ruins of Herculaneum or Pompeii
Queuing for hours to enter the Ulfizi Gallery in Florence
Venturing offshore to the less-touristy islands of Sicily and Sardinia
Wandering along the canals of Venice and shelling out the euro for a gondola ride
Window shopping in Milan’s Golden Quad or Rome’s Via del Corso
Food and drink
Polenta (cornmeal), baccalá (salted cod), risotto nero (flavoured with squid ink), sfogliatella (pastry filled with ricotta), panettone (fruit bread eaten at Christmas).
Espresso (strong coffee)
Chianti (Tuscan wine)
Marsala (sweet wine)
Grappa (grape-based liqueur).