Italy travel guide
Italy travel guide
Here are just a few of the highlights of the major regions in Italy featured by Cox & Kings.
Lombardy & the Northern Lakes
Milan is the largest city in Lombardy and the commercial and financial centre of Italy. It offers an excellent range of accommodation choices and attractions to suit all travellers, from designer boutiques, to majestic architectural sights such as the Duomo and celebrated works of art such as The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.
From Milan you can extend your stay to the northern lakes of Garda, Como and Maggiore. These are among some of the most beautiful locations in Italy and have attracted travellers for centuries.
The region of Veneto stretches from the Adriatic coastline right up into the craggy mountains of the Dolomites to the border with Austria.
Venice is the obvious place to visit here. One of the most romantic cities in the world, the city is precariously situated over a number of islands in the Venetian lagoon. The narrow canals, tiny alleyways, elegant bridges and exquisite palaces are a delight to explore. Alongside this are architectural wonders such as the Doge’s Palace, St Mark’s Basilica and its shimmering gold-tiled interior, St Mark’s Square and exquisite palaces. There are numerous festivals throughout the year in Venice, most famously the Carnevale in February, which amounts to a week-long party with masquerade balls and costume parades. Other notable events include the Festa del Redentore, when boats of every size gather in the lagoon; the Venice Biennale, which showcases contemporary art; and the International Film Festival.
A short train ride from Venice is Verona, a Unesco world heritage site and famously the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, with their famous balcony taking centre stage in the city, as well as The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Taming of the Shrew. The city is stuffed with magnificent Roman and medieval architecture, including the enormous Roman amphitheatre in the main piazza.
Tuscany & Umbria
Tuscany is widely considered to be the most beautiful region in Italy, with rolling hills, sweeping valleys, sprawling vineyards producing fine wines, and cypress trees silhouetted against bright blue skies. Studding this serene landscape are medieval hilltop towns and cities which were great centres of learning, trade, finance and artistic expression during the middle ages and the Renaissance. These include the former powerful city-states of Florence, Pisa, Siena and Lucca. The celebrated galleries and museums, immense cathedrals, gilded churches, local markets, narrow cobbled streets and grand piazzas of these cities are a delight to explore. Tuscan cuisine is also famed throughout Italy. Dishes with peasant origins such as thick soups, pasta served in rich gamy sauces and wild boar stews are simple yet exceptionally tasty.
Similar to Tuscany, Umbria is well-known for its charming medieval towns and scenic hilly countryside. Umbria’s capital, Perugia, dates all the way back to Etruscan times and has become a renowned centre of culture and art over the centuries. Further picturesque towns which shouldn’t be missed include Assisi, the birthplace of St Francis and home to the 12th-century Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, and Orvieto with its majestic cathedral, one of the country’s finest with elaborate frescoes. Lake Trasimeno with its waterfront dotted with castles and olive groves is a popular spot to relax in the summer.
Lazio & Rome
Rome, located in the region of Lazio, is a city like no other. Founded in 753BC, it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe, hence the nickname ‘the Eternal City’. It’s ancient past can be seen everywhere, from the ruins of the Roman forum and immense Colosseum to Renaissance palaces, baroque fountains and churches, and the fascist architecture of Cinecittà. Although not a huge city, you will need more than a day or two to see all the sights on offer here.
Within the Vatican City alone, itself an independent state, you could take a day exploring the Vatican Museums, the artistic masterpieces in the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica. So make sure to stay here at least 3 or 4 nights to see the city at leisure.
Campania & the Amalfi Coast
The Bay of Naples is the major attraction in the region of Campania. Naples itself is a bustling city with an authentic Italian vibe. Visit the Museo Archeologico Nazionale as it holds one of the finest collections of Graeco-Roman artefacts in the world. Travelling around the bay from here, beneath the slumbering Mount Vesuvius, are the major archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
On the other side of the bay begins the magnificent Amalfi coast. The strikingly attractive towns of Sorrento, Positano and Ravello all provide luxury accommodation and breathtaking sea views. Off the coastline the islands of Capri and Ischia provide tranquil retreats from the crowds. Capri has been a haven since the days of the Roman republic, while Ischia is renowned for its thermal springs and cuisine.
Puglia & Basilicata
Also known as Apulia, Puglia is one of the more remote regions of Italy, situated right down in the ‘heel’ of the country. It is less touristy yet there are a wonderful array of things to see here. It’s well worth hiring a car to drive around the countryside and enjoy vistas of orchards and olive groves, as well as reach some of the beautiful stretches of golden sandy beaches.
As you travel through Apulia you will occasionally view traditional stone dwellings called trulli with distinctive domed roofs. The town of Alberobello is full of their attractive conical rooftops. There is also exquisite baroque architecture in this region, particularly in the town of Lecce, dubbed the ‘Florence of the south’. Cross over into the neighbouring region of Basilicata to visit Matera, a town where dwellings and churches are carved out of the mountainside. This troglodyte settlement was used for over two millennia and remains almost completely intact.
The most southern point of Italy, the character of Sicily is a world apart from that of northern Italy. Its strategic position in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea has appealed to numerous ambitious powers over the centuries, from the Ancient Greeks and Arabs to the Normans and the Spanish. The result is an intense and eclectic cultural mix. On a holiday here you might see anything from superb Norman architecture and beautiful Roman floor mosaics to Arab-inspired gardens and the finest Greek temples to be found anywhere in Europe. There are also excellent wines from this region and such tasty cuisine that you will eat like you have never eaten before.