If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that my husband is Italian and we visit Italy often so this may be a bit biased! However, If you’ve been to Italy then no doubt you’ll be nodding in agreement with these reasons to visit. And if you haven’t, it’s probably on your list anyway because why wouldn’t you want to visit the most beautiful country in the world?
Italy is steeped in history. No matter where you visit, you’ll be astounded by how old everything is (apart from Sardinia – for some reason this island looks modern!). Churches from the 10th century, paintings from centuries ago and even 100-year old restaurants, you just feel like you’re stepping into a history book. Whether you’re a history lover or not, you can’t help but get swept up in the magnificence that is Italy.
Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli, Caravaggio…. to name a few of Italy’s most famous artists. And you don’t even need to step inside an art gallery to see Italian art. Walk in to any church or piazza and you’ll find art everywhere – from frescoes to fountains. Of course, their art galleries are world class – my favourite being the Uffizi in Florence.
Most people think of Italy and think of pizza and pasta but there’s so much more to Italy’s cuisine. Each region has their own specialities and even their own pasta. Puglia’s is orecchiette, Bologna has tortellini, Sicily has busiate etc. Then there’s also the fresh seafood in the south and the juicy fiorentina steaks in Florence. Not to mention all the delicious pastries and biscuits. Italian cuisine is actually more varied than you think.
Italy’s wine is world-renowned and is produced all over Italy – even on islands like Sardinia and Sicily. And, as with their food, there are wines that come from certain regions such as prosecco (my favourite) from Veneto and Malvasia from Sicily. If you love wine, then you should definitely plan a visit to a vineyard in Tuscany, Umbria or Piedmont. Check out Maggie’s post on places to go wine tasting in Chianti. Also, wine is so affordable – you can get very decent bottles of wine for around €4 to €5 in supermarkets and from €13 in restaurants (depending where you are, of course).
The south of Italy is home to the most stunning beaches. Here are five fabulous ones. The beaches are diverse too – from ones that are basically rocks, small beaches in secluded places to ones that stretch for miles. If you’re looking for a purely beach holiday then Sardina has some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen – like being in the Caribbean!
If you’re heading to Italy you simply must try aperitivo. Basically it’s a pre-dinner drink that comes with some snacks or food. Aperitivo is served all over Italy from about 6 pm until around 9 pm and the drink price will include food. The food can range from a small buffet, where you help yourself, to snack bowls of crisps, olives and peanuts to salumi and cheese or something a bit fancier. You will very rarely see a drunk Italian and this is because wine, beer, cocktails etc are to be enjoyed with food and not drunk on their own.
Hands down, Italy produces the best ice-cream. However, don’t just rush to the nearest gelateria as not all gelato is made equal. You can tell which are going to be good by looking at the colours and creaminess of the ice-cream (and also how long the queue is). My favourites are pistachio, stracciatella and nocciola (hazlenut). Ice-cream portions are also really big – a medium is two big scoops and should cost less than €3.
If you’re an architecture buff, then Italy is Heaven. From astonishing masterpieces, such as Florence’s Duomo, to Bologna’s twin towers you’ll be in awe. Castles, bridges, towers, basilicas… you name it, Italy has it – in abundance. The only place I’ve visited in Italy where, if you’d blindfolded me and I had no idea where I was, I wouldn’t know it was Italy is Sardinia. Their architecture is very different and quite modern.
If you’re a culture buff, you might want to time your visit with some festivals or events. Venice celebrates their carnival in February, for example. Ischia has a famous film festival in June/July, Verona is famed for it’s opera and then there’s the world famous Sanremo music festival. If it’s culture you’re after, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Need I say more? Coffee culture in Italy is something to witness. Many Italians will order a coffee and pastry and just drink it upright at a bar. By the way, bars in Italy are cafes – not wine bars! Unlike other parts of the world where coffee is extortionate, Italy’s coffee has a set price no matter where you are. A coffee should be no more than €2. And did I mention how good the coffee is?
I hope this post has inspired you to visit Italy!