THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: Sestri Levante (pop. 20,000) is a seaside and winter resort in a picturesque setting with great beaches, fantastic restaurants and a relaxed atmosphere between two small bays. Sestri Levante is a tourism victim of its own location; overshadowed by the pretty Portofino to the north and the quintet of Cinque Terre villages to the south which makes it a suburb hidden gem.
THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: Genoa is believed to derive from Genua, protector of ships and coins. Landmarks are dedicated to Christopher Columbus and Nicolo Paganini, near the center of the city’s “old town.” Once the most powerful port in Europe, and still the second largest (only to Marseilles, France), Much of its rich history and former wealth is still on display, encased within the medieval walls that still make up the city’s heart and soul. It’s a city rich in art and a major seaport, of flourishing trade and commercial exchange.
THE ITALIAN RIVIERA: Portofino on the Ligurian Sea lies a coastal town with a tranquil harbor with a hill of olive groves and small vineyards in its background. Portofino is featured on many postal cards and the town itself is just as pictured: beautiful in shape and color, its harbor cradled by a piazza which in turn is rimmed by tiny pastel houses, yellow, green, and blue.
The Leaning Tower has made Pisa famous all over the world, at the Square of Miracles (Piazza dei Miracoli). If you can get beyond the aggressive African bead sellers and kitsch of the stalls hawking cheap souvenirs around the Leaning Tower, continue your visit to the other monuments in the Piazza: the Cathedral and the Baptistery. Along the perimeter of the square, there is also the Cemetery, the Cathedral Museum and the Museum of the Synopses.
Florence, capital of Firenze province and Toscana (Tuscany) region. The city, located about 145 miles (230 km) northwest of Rome, is surrounded by gently rolling hills that are covered with villas and farms, vineyards, and orchards. Florence was founded as a Roman military colony about the 1st century BCE, and during its long history it has been a republic, a seat of the duchy of Tuscany, and a capital (1865–70) of Italy. During the 14th–16th century Florence achieved preeminence in commerce and finance, learning, and especially the arts. Among the most famous of the city’s cultural giants are Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dante, Machiavelli, Galileo, and its most-renowned rulers, generations of the Medici family.
Milan is the biggest city of North Italy. The powerhouse of the country and one of the most stylish cities of the planet. But it is also a city with many museums and monuments. See the Castello Sforzesco the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (which displays Leonardo’s Last Supper) the Brera Museum (Madonna and Child and Pieta by Bellini) and many other museums monuments and churches. If you have money to spend, just make a visit in via Montenapoleone and via della Spiga where you’ll find boutiques by Gucci, Ferragamo, Valentino, Armani, Ferre, Fendi and others. Look for other famous designer labels and items such as shoes, camelhair blankets and leather goods. Built in 1778, Scala Opera Theatre is one of the most famous opera houses in the world.Some of the greatest musicians have made their debuts like Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, Gioachino Rossini, Gaetano Donizetti, Vincenzo Bellini, Arturo Toscanini. The theatre-room offers seats for 2012 spectators in 4 box-ranks and 2 galleries.
Verona conserves values related to an ancient past of medieval and renaissance splendor. According to Shakespeare, “There is no world outside these walls…” The tragic story of the love of Romeo and Juliet, which Shakespeare situates in the Verona of the Scala seigniory, makes the city a preferred destination for lovers and tourists alike. The historical centre, marked by the Adige River, crosses the city with a network of bridges and is home to Italy’s largest opera theatre, the Arena, which is a Roman amphitheatre which can seat 15,000.
Padua (Padova) is a walled city situated along the Bachiglione River, between Verona and Venice. If you come by train, the Station (Stazione Ferroviania) is on the north side of town. The Basilica and Botanical gardens are found on the southern edge of town. Either the Corso del Popolo or the Viale Codalunga heading south will take you into the old center of town.
Built entirely on water by men who dared defy the sea, Venice is unlike any other city. Its landmarks, the Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale are mixes of Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance styles. You’ll see Venetians going about their daily affairs in vaporetti (water buses), aboard the traghetti (traditional gondolas) that carry them across the Grand Canal, in the campi (squares), and along the calli (narrow streets).
- Piazza San Marco
This square at the heart of Venice is home to many of the city’s most famous landmarks, including St. Mark’s Basilica, the Campanile bell tower, and the Doge’s Palace. Afterwards, browse the boutiques that ring the square or sip espresso at an outdoor cafe.
- St. Mark’s Square
The heart of Venice, mostly because of its location on the banks of the grand canal, and because of the great number of beautiful, historical monuments located there.
- The Doge’s Palace
Has façades which date from 1309-1424, several times rebuilt, and completed in the Renaissance period.
- The Grand Canal
Take a gondola ride down the two-mile long Grand Canal. The canal is lined with magnificent buildings that epitomize the architectural beauty of Venice offering a panorama of superbly detailed facades.
- Rialto Bridge
The 24-foot arch was designed to allow passage of galleys, and the massive structure was built on some 12,000 wooden pilings that still support the bridge more than 400 years later. The architect, Antonio da Ponte, competed against such designers as Michelangelo for the contract.
- Venetian Gondolas
The gondola has a history beginning in the 11th century. The gondola has evolved over centuries and the one we see nowadays is the result of a long process of adaptation to the special needs of Venice’s shallow and sharply angled canals. The gondola was born as a private means of transport for rich people, but then, thanks to its great maneuverability, it became the most important means of transporting people. Ten thousand gondolas operated on the canals of sixteenth-century Venice. The dimensions, color and appearance of these boats are strictly regulated. The gondola boats used for tours and serenading are called ‘da nolo’, meaning hired. They have got trimmings, padded seats and the ferro. The ones used to transport passengers in the traghetti are called ‘da parada’. They are rowed by two gondoliers and have a flatter bottom.
Prepare for the worst but hope for the best
Naples is lush, chaotic, funny, confounding, intoxicating, and very beautiful. Few who visit remain ambivalent. Armed with the right attitude — “be prepared for the worst but hope for the best” — sometimes Napoli does not disappoint, but sometimes expect to be robbed at the port by motorbike handbag grabbers. Among other things, it’s one of Italy’s top città d’arte, with world-class museums and a staggering number of fine churches. The most important finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum are on display at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale — a cornucopia of sculpture, frescoes, and mosaics.
Alternatively, consider a high speed ferry (1.5 hours) or private helicopter taxi shuttle (20 minutes) to the Isle of Capri in the Bay of Naples, with spectacular flights over the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Pompeii is a preserved ancient Roman city in Campania, 14 miles (23 km) southeast of Naples, at the southeastern base of Mount Vesuvius. Around noon on August 24, 79 CE, a huge eruption from Mount Vesuvius showered volcanic debris over the city of Pompeii, followed the next day by clouds of blisteringly hot gases. Buildings were destroyed, the population was crushed or asphyxiated, and the city was buried beneath a blanket of ash and pumice. For many centuries Pompeii slept beneath its pall of ash, which perfectly preserved the remains. When these were finally unearthed, in the 1700s, the world was astonished at the discovery of a sophisticated Greco-Roman city frozen in time. Grand public buildings included an impressive forum and an amphitheatre; lavish villas and all kinds of houses, dating back to the 4th century BCE, were uncovered. Inside were some preserved remains of people sheltering from the eruption; others lay buried as they fled; bakeries were found with loaves still in the ovens. The buildings and their contents revealed day-to-day life in the ancient world.
Herculaneum, ancient city of 4,000–5,000 inhabitants lay 5 miles (8 km) southeast of Naples, at the western base of Mount Vesuvius, and was destroyed—together with Pompeii, by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. Ancient tradition connected Herculaneum with the name of the Greek hero Heracles. In the 1980s, excavations at the ancient shoreline of the Bay of Naples uncovered more than 120 human skeletons, suggesting that numerous additional inhabitants had perished while attempting to escape. The particular circumstances of the burial of Herculaneum, unlike those of Pompeii, led to the formation over the city of a compact mass of material about 50 to 60 feet (15 to 18 metres) deep which preserved Herculaneum and prevented tampering and looting. The special conditions of ground humidity made possible the conservation of wooden frameworks of houses, wooden furniture, the hull of a sizable boat, pieces of cloth, and food (carbonized loaves of bread left within ovens). Thus, Herculaneum offers a detailed impression of private life that is only with difficulty achieved in other centres of the ancient world.
Civitavecchia is the port city of Rome. Located on Tyrrhenian Sea; founded by Trajan as port for Rome; flourished in late Roman era; sacked by Vandals, then Saracens (828); inhabitants moved to nearby mountains, but later returned to old site; walls strengthened in 16th century; damaged in WW II. A renaissance fort guards the harbor of Civitavecchia. Today, just a port city, not much to see, move on.
All roads lead to Rome, capital of Roma province, and the country of Italy. Rome is located in the central portion of the Italian peninsula, on the Tiber River about 15 miles (24 km) inland from the Tyrrhenian Sea. Once the capital of an ancient republic and empire whose armies and polity defined the Western world in antiquity and left seemingly indelible imprints thereafter, the spiritual and physical seat of the Roman Catholic Church, and the site of major pinnacles of artistic and intellectual achievement, Rome is the Eternal City, remaining today a political capital, a religious centre, and a memorial to the creative imagination of the past. History buffs can explore an absurd amount of ancient sites, from the Pantheon to the Colosseum to the Trevi Fountain.
The Vatican City is a city-state surrounded by Rome, and is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s home to the Pope and a trove of iconic art and architecture. Its Vatican Museums house ancient Roman sculptures such as the famed “Laocoön and His Sons” as well as Renaissance frescoes in the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel, famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling.
Messina is the gateway to Sicily, it can be easily explored on foot. On a beautiful sunny day, you can see the coast of Calabria so close you could almost touch it. The Greeks used to call this corner of land Zancle “sickle”. And if you’re wondering why this name, just take a look at its natural harbour.
Palermo is an urban melting pot characterized by history and culture so diverse that it often feels conflicted. Discover an intriguing range of architectural styles, from Arabian domes to baroque buildings, and enjoy delicious cuisine that spans a variety of origins. Be sure to visit the Palace of the Normans, the Palatine Chapel and the church of St. John of the Hermits. Art and music lovers won’t want to miss the Galleria d’Arte Moderna, the Salinas or an opera or ballet at the Teatro Massimo.
Sardinia’s largest city (with a little over 150,000 people) and its capital for centuries, Cagliari on the island’s south coast offers the perfect mix of recreation and exploration options. The five-mile-long Poetto Beach is among the best city beaches on the Mediterranean, and together with the adjacent Marina Piccola, satisfies all manner of sun and sea pursuits. Seekers of culture will love Cagliari’s old district, Castello, where 13th-century towers still guard the medieval city walls.