Italy is a land steeped in history, art and culture. Few travelers pass this country without making several stops. But Italy's immense cache of treasures can be overwhelming. How do you condense thousands of years of history into a few days of sightseeing? Our Italian travel guide will help you make the most of your trip to Italy.
Planning an Italy trip requires careful structuring of your time. Your first step is to get a broad idea of what the country is like. Within its relatively small borders are enough sights to fill an entire continent. Decide what you would most like to see, then plan some time for wandering around and enjoying la dolce vita.
Areas of Italy
Italy can be divided into several major areas for the convenience of planning your trip. Treat these as very broad generalizations, as each area contains widely different cultural histories and sights.
- Southern Italy - When people dream of Italy, it's usually the southern part of the country. Here the sun always seems to shine and the people are in love with life. You'll find the famous "Italian organization" most prominent in the south of Italy alongside a rich cultural tradition, friendly people and more delicious food you thought could exist.
- Northern Italy - The industrial, efficient and rich north of Italy is cooler and more mountainous than the rest of the country. Because of the proximity to other cultures, many Italians here speak two or more languages and are remarkably different than their southern brethren. Still, the north offers exquisite lakes and mountain views and a crisp sort of architecture unique to this area.
- Central Italy - The mountainous center of Italy is home to countless small hill towns. Dotting the tree-soaked landscape are traditional houses and fields of evergreen olive trees and wine grapes galore. The center of Italy is the home of good food, good wine and the slow, sweet life. Take in the hills with a cup of Italian caffe and enjoy the sunset.
- Rome - The largest, grandest city of Italy, Rome is the throbbing heart of the country. You'll find more historic buildings and statues than any other city in Italy. Plan several days in this here and be prepared to leave wanting more. For more information on traveling in Rome, see our series of articles on the city:
- Travel Italy - Rome
- Travel Italy - Travel to Rome
- Travel Italy - Planning A Trip to Rome
- Travel Italy - Rome's Four Corners
- Milan - The economic center of Italy is far in the north of the country. Cooler temperatures and cooler attitudes offer less of the friendly atmospheres found throughout Italy. Expect a more business-like attitude from the natives, which is both a welcome relief and a shocking surprise.
- Naples - This southern city is one of Italy's oldest areas. Founded by Greek settlers and dubbed "New City", Naples is nestled against Mount Vesuvius, a sleeping (but still active) volcano ever-present on the horizon. Keep a lookout for Pompeii, a perfectly-preserved city buried in ash 2000 years ago.
- Florence - Art, architecture and some of the best gelato in the country can be found in Florence. Take in the grand duomo and the largest museum of historical art in the area.
- Orvieto - Once an important sister of Rome, Orvieto sits near the geographical center of Italy. It's built on an ancient Etruscan city hollowed out in the soft tufa stone. Orvieto is famous for three things: wine, pottery, and the magnificent duomo overlooking the valley.
- Venice - The famous canal city is filled with old world charm and surprise, but also tourist traps and cheesy souvenirs.