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Places to See in Italy


Few parts of the world can claim so rich a store of art, architecture, music, and food—or so intense a range of natural beauty, from craggy mountains to verdant hills to coasts of shattering beauty. Italy has given rise to a number of architectural wonders, including classical Roman, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical. Italy is home to some of the most famous structures in the world, including the Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Rome

Rome, Italy’s capital, is a sprawling, cosmopolitan city with nearly 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture and culture on display. Ancient ruins such as the Forum and the Colosseum evoke the power of the former Roman Empire. Vatican City, headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, has St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, which house masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes.

The Colosseum

The Colosseum is another of Rome’s major tourist attractions. Its construction was started by emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty in 72 AD and was finished by his son Titus in 80 AD. The elliptical amphitheater could hold up to 50,000 people who turned out to watch gladiators do battle, people be publicly executed and enjoy other forms of entertainment. This stone and concrete structure, built in the first century, was the largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire. It is considered one of the Romans’ greatest architectural and engineering feats.

St. Peter's Basilica

The center of the Catholic world and a major tourist attraction, the Basilica of St. Peter is a huge church: with an interior height of 120 meter (400 feet), the space shuttle, together with its booster rockets, could fit inside, as could the Statue of Liberty. The basilica stands on the traditional site where Peter, the apostle who is considered the first pope, was crucified and buried. Construction on the current building began in 1506 and was completed in 1615. Many famous artists worked on the complex and its surroundings: Michelangelo designed the dome while Bernini designed the great St. Peter’s Square.

Pantheon

One of the best preserved Roman buildings, The Pantheon was built in 126 AD as a temple for all the Roman gods. The temple has served as a Roman Catholic Church since the 7th century. Eight graceful granite Corinthian columns extend across the front of this circular building, with lesser columns in back. Though it is 2,000 years old, the Pantheon’s famous dome remains the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. It is believed Marcus Agrippa built the Pantheon to be his private temple. The current building was reconstructed by Emperor Hadrian in the second century.

Vatican Museum

The Vatican Museums began in the 16th century with a collection of sculptures by Pope Julius II. Today, they encompass several museums inside the Vatican City and include some of the world’s most important relics. Attractions of the museums include the spiral staircase, the Raphael Rooms and the exquisitely decorated Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo painted the chapel ceiling between 1508 and 1512. Today the ceiling, and especially The Last Judgment, are widely believed to be Michelangelo’s crowning achievements in painting. To keep the massive crowds under control, the museums have 4 itineraries that range from one and a half hours to more than 5 hours. All itineraries end in the Sistine Chapel.

Trevi Fountain

Completed in 1762 to a design by Nicola Salvi, this world famous Baroque fountain features a mythological sculptural composition of Neptune, god of the sea, flanked by two Tritons. The location of the Trevi fountain marks the terminus of the ancient Aqua Virgo aqueduct and is so named on account of its position at the junction of three roads (tre vie). The fountain was the setting for an iconic scene in Fellini’s film Dolce Vita starring Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni. Since than, it has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rome. The legend says that one who throws a coin in the fountain shall one day return to Rome.

Spanish Steps

A truly monumental stairway of 135 steps, the Spanish Steps were built with French funds between 1721 1725 in order to link the Bourbon Spanish embassy to the Holy See with the French church, Trinità dei Monti. The steps are usually very crowded attracting tourists as well as locals who use it as a gathering place. Each year in May the steps are decorated with pink azaleas. At the foot of the Spanish Steps is the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish square) and the Fontana della Barcaccia, a sober fountain designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Roman Forum

Located in the small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, The Roman Forum (or Forum Romanum in Latin) was for centuries the teeming heart of ancient Rome: the site of triumphal processions and elections, venue for public speeches, and nucleus of commercial affairs. The Forum today is a sprawling ruin of architectural fragments and includes the Arches of Septimius Severus and Titus, the Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina and the Temple of Saturn.

Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo was built to be a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian and his family. Built in 123 BC, it later was turned into a fortress and castle by the popes. It was once Rome’s tallest building. The ashes of other emperors were buried there, but scattered when the Visigoths invaded in 410. It also served as a prison, but today the castel is a museum. Among the most well known sights in Rome, film buffs will recognize it as a setting from “Angels and Demons”.

Piazza Navona

One of the most famous of Rome’s many squares, Piazza Navona was established towards the end of the 15th century, and preserves the shape of the Stadium of Domitian that once stood here. Built by Emperor Domitian in 86 AD, the stadium, which had a larger arena than the Colosseum was mainly used for festivals and sporting events. The buildings surrounding the square stand where the spectators once sat. Today, the square features no less than three magnificent fountains and is an immensely popular place to sip a cappuccino, shop, and watch street performers.

Galleria Borghese

The Galleria Borghese is an art gallery that was built as a party house by Cardinal Sciopione Borghese in the 17th century. A nephew of Pope Paul V, the cardinal also was a patron of the arts. The galleria today houses many pieces of paintings, sculptures and other antiquities from his collection. Paintings by Titian, sculptures by Bernini, and the National Museum of Musical Instruments can be seen here.

Victor Emmanuel II Monument

Built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy, this bombastic monument may appear to be solid white marble but actually contains many rooms inside. It was designed by Giuseppe Sacconi in 1885 and completed in 1925. There are two permanent museums, one on Italian Reunification and one on emigration from Italy, as well as other spaces that host rotating exhibitions. The Victor Emmanuel Monument is not exactly known as one of Rome’s most beautiful structures but it is nevertheless well worth the visit, even if only for the great views from the top.

Tuscany

Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio  is a medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops.The present tenants are jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. Great place to visit and shop for souvenirs.

Piazza Santa Croce

Piazza Santa Croce is situated at the heart of Florence and is the very symbol of the Italian Middle Ages. Very evocative thanks to the Basilica di Santa Croce and palaces such as Palazzo Cocchi-Serristori and the Palazzo dell'Antella, this square is home also to a well known statue of Dante Alighieri by Enrico Pazzi and a beautiful fountain by Giuseppe Manetti.

Piazza della Signoria

Situated at the very centre of the town, Piazza della Signoria has always been considered its political and social heart. The square takes its name from its most distinguishing feature, the Palazzo della Signoria. It is also home to the majestic Fontana del Nettuno.

Piazza IV Novembre

 The 4th of November's square, Piazza IV Novembre, is the most famous part of town. It is the meeting point of Perugia's youth and the real hub of the city's social life, as well as a frequent destination for tourists. The beauty of the place is increased by the National Museum of Umbria, the Palazzo dei Priori and the Duomo; the central part of the square is enriched by the Fontana Maggiore, a Pisanos brothers' masterpiece.

Santa Maria del Fiore
Florence

Begun in 1296 in the Gothic style and completed in 1436, The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the symbol of the city of Florence. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white. The basilica is one of Italy’s largest churches, and until the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.

Uffizzi Gallery
Florence

VThe Uffizi, (1560-1580) was originally meant to be an office for magistrates as well as judges, technicians and merchants of Florence, the top floor was turned into a private gallery for the pleasure of the ruling family of Florence, the Medici, and their guests. In addition to paintings, statues, jewelry, scientific instruments, even weapons, were displayed there, which made it one of the most interesting and precious collections in the whole world. Since 1865 it became a museum, nowadays with 50 rooms housing paintings ranging from the 13th century to the 18th century. The highlights are the famous “Madonna enthroned” by Giotto, the “Battle of San Romano” by Paolo Uccello, the double portrait by Piero della Francesca, “Federico da Montefeltro”, the “Birth of Venus” by Botticelli, in addition to three works by Leonardo, one by Michelangelo, a few by Raffaello and many by Tiziano. All paintings have been displayed chronologically, so it is possible to fully appreciate all the innovations in art throughout the centuries.

Piazza del Campo
Siena

Begun in 1296 in the Gothic style and completed in 1436, The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the symbol of the city of Florence. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white. The basilica is one of Italy’s largest churches, and until the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.

San Gimignano

Nicknamed the medieval Manhattan, San Gimignano is a village in Tuscany famous for its 14 stone towers. At the height of San Gimignano’s wealth and power, more than 70 towers were built to defend the town against enemy attacks. After the plague devastated the city in 1348, San Gimignano’s power faded, which kept enemies away and preserved many of the city’s medieval towers.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

The world famous Pisa Tower was built over a period of about 177 years. Soon after the construction started in 1173 the tower began to sink due to a poorly laid foundation and was left alone for almost a century. When the construction resumed the engineers built higher floors with one side taller than the other to compensate for the tilt and the tower was finally finished in the 2nd half of the 14th century. Since 2001, the famous tower in Pisa is again open to those wishing to climb it’s 296 steps.

Lucca

Lucca is a city and comune in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the Serchio, in a fertile plain near the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital of the Province of Lucca. It is famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls.

Volterra

Volterra is a charming town situated in the province of Pisa, not far from Florence, Siena and the coast as well. It is well known for its Etruscan origins and for the many remains belonging to this era.

Galgano

One of the most famous British legends is that of King Arthur and the sword in the stone. According to the various versions of the story, the sword could only be pulled out of the stone by the true king of England. A similar, though much less well-known, story can be found in the Italian region of Tuscany, and has even been suggested by some as the inspiration for the British legend. This is the sword in the stone of San Galgano. San Galgano is reported to be the first saint whose canonisation was conducted through a formal process by the Church. Consequently, much of the San Galgano’s life is known through the documents of this canonisation process, which was carried out in 1185, just a few years after his death. Furthermore, there are also a number of works written by later authors about the saint’s life.

Southern Italy

Southern Italy forms the lower part of the Italian "boot", containing the ankle (Campania), the toe (Calabria), the arch (Basilicata), and the heel (Apulia), Molise (north of Apulia) and Abruzzo (north of Molise) along with the island of Sicily. Separating the "heel" and the "boot" is the Gulf of Taranto, named after the city of Taranto, which is at an angle between the heel and the boot itself. It is an arm of the Ionian Sea. The island of Sardinia, right below the French island of Corsica, might also be included. On the eastern coast is the Adriatic Sea, leading into the rest of the Mediterranean through the Strait of Otranto (named after the largest city on the tip of the heel). On the Adriatic, south of the "spur" of the boot, the peninsula of Monte Gargano; on the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Gulf of Salerno, the Gulf of Naples, the Gulf of Policastro and the Gulf of Gaeta are each named after a large coastal city. Along the northern coast of the Salernitan Gulf and on the south of the Sorrentine Peninsula runs the Amalfi Coast. Off the tip of the peninsula is the isle of Capri.

Paestum

Located in Salerno, Paestum has some of the most well-preserved ancient Greek temples in the world today and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are three major temples still standing today, and you can walk along the paths of an ancient city that is believed to have been founded back in 600 BC.

Capri

Capri, an island in Italy’s Bay of Naples, is famed for its rugged landscape, upscale hotels and shopping, from designer fashions to limoncello and handmade leather sandals. One of its best-known natural sites is the Blue Grotto, a dark cavern where the sea glows electric blue, the result of sunlight passing through an underwater cave. In summer, Capri's dramatic, cove-studded coastline draws many yachts.

Amalfi

The coast is named Amalfi, but there is also a city by the same name (on the Amalfi coast, of course). It’s also another popular vacation destination and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Amalfi is known for paper making and you can buy a variety of handmade paper goods in the local shops. I have a very precious cookbook with handmade paper from Amalfi that holds secret Italian recipes and lots of memories.

Pompei

Pompei is a vast archaeological site located in southern Italy’s Campania region. Once a thriving and sophisticated Roman city, Pompeii was buried in meters of ash and pumice after the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Near the coast of the Bay of Naples, the well-preserved site features excavated ruins that visitors can freely explore.

Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius is a volcano located on the Gulf of Naples in Campania, Italy, about 9 km east of Naples and a short distance from the shore. It is one of several volcanoes which form the Campanian volcanic arc.

Mount Etna

Mount Etna is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily, Italy, in the Metropolitan City of Catania, between the cities of Messina and Catania. It lies above the convergent plate margin between the African Plate and the Eurasian Plate.

Sassi di Matera

Matera is a city and a province in the region of Basilicata, in Southern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Matera and the capital of Basilicata from 1663 to 1806. The town lies in a small canyon carved out by the Gravina. Known as "la Città Sotterranea" (the Subterranean City), its historical center "Sassi", along with the Park of the Rupestrian Churches, is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1993. On October 17, 2014, Matera was declared Italian host of European Capital of Culture for 2019.

Arab influence in Sicily

The Muslim conquest of Sicily began in June 827 and lasted until 902, when the last major Byzantine stronghold on the island, Taormina, fell. Isolated fortresses remained in Byzantine hands until 965, but the island was henceforth under Muslim rule until conquered in turn by the Normans in the 11th century.
The first permanent Arab settlement on Sicily occurred in 827, but it was not until Taormina fell in 902 that the entire island fell under their sway, though Rometta held out until 965. In that year the Kalbids established the independence of their emirate from the Fatimid Caliphate. In 1061 the first Norman liberators took Messina, and by 1071 Palermo and its citadel (1072) were captured. In 1091 Noto fell to the Normans, and the conquest was complete. In 1245, Muslim Sicilians were deported to the settlement of Lucera, by order of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. In 1300, Giovanni Pipino di Barletta, count of Altamura, seized Lucera and exiled or sold into slavery its population, bringing an end to the medieval Muslim presence in Italy.

La Cuba
Sicily

The remains of a hall with stalactite vaults and reliefs. The palace in Palermo called La Cuba is part of the same architectonic complex of the Zisa, commissioned by William II in 1180. The structure is square and simple influenced by Arabic art. It is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Some say that the name Cuba derives from its approximately cubical form. Others that the name Cuba comes from the Arabic kubbeh, meaning dome.

La Martorana
Sicily

Islamic inscription on a column in La Martorana (Santa Maria dell'Ammiraglio), Palermo. The inscription (in Kufic, the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts) reads: In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, ("Basmala" - all prayers and chapters in the Quran starts with these words) God is sufficient for me and He is the best advocate.

The Duomo in Palermo

The explicitly Islamic tenor of these inscriptions suggest that this column was probably spolium from a religious building, and was reused in Santa Maria because of the close association between the hasbala and the vizier George.  Islamic inscription on the left column outside the cathedral of Palermo may have been preserved from the earlier mosque. The passage is from the Koran.


Northern Italy

Northern Italy is made of the basin of the River Po, which comprises the whole of the broad plain extending from the foot of the Apennines to that of the Alps, together with the valleys and slopes on both sides of it, the Venetian Plain and the Ligurian coast. Northern Italy has the Alps as northern and western boundary and the Apennine Mountains as the southern one. In between the two mountain ranges lies a large plain made of the Venetian Plain and the valley of the Po, the largest river in Italy, which flows 652 km eastward from the Cottian Alps to the Adriatic Sea and receives all the waters that flow from the Apennines northwards, and all those that descend from the Alps towards the south. The Po Valley is the largest plain in Italy and held the vast majority of North Italian population.

Cinque Terre
Liguria

Cinque Terre is a string of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. In each of the 5 towns, colorful houses and vineyards cling to steep terraces, harbors are filled with fishing boats and trattorias turn out seafood specialties along with the Liguria region’s famous sauce, pesto. The Sentiero Azzurro cliffside hiking trail links the villages and offers sweeping sea vistas.

Il Cavallo di Leonardo
Milan

Leonardo's Horse is a sculpture that was commissioned of Leonardo da Vinci in 1482 by Duke of Milan Ludovico il Moro, but not completed. It was intended to be the largest equestrian statue in the world, a monument to the duke's father Francesco.

Milan Cathedral

Milan Cathedral is the cathedral church of Milan, Italy. Dedicated to St Mary of the Nativity, it is the seat of the Archbishop of Milan, currently Cardinal Angelo Scola. The Gothic cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete.

Sforza Castle
Milan

Sforza Castle is in Milan, northern Italy. It was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remains of a 14th-century fortification.

Galleria Vittorio Emanule II
Milan

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the world's oldest shopping malls. Housed within a four-story double arcade in central Milan, the Galleria is named after Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy.

Murano glass factory
Venice

Murano glass is glass made on the Venetian island of Murano, which has specialized in glassware for centuries. Murano’s glassmakers led Europe for centuries, developing or refining many technologies including crystalline glass, enamelled glass (smalto), goldstone, multicolored glass (millefiori), milk glass (lattimo), and imitation gemstones made of glass. Today, the artisans of Murano continue these centuries-old techniques, crafting figurines, chandeliers, glassware and vases, contemporary art glass, beads, and the Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum) in the Palazzo Giustinian houses displays on the history of glassmaking as well as glass samples ranging from Egyptian times through the present day.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Marco
Venice

The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Marco in Venice, commonly known as Saint Mark's, is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, northern Italy. It is the most famous of the city's churches and one of the best known examples of Italian-Byzantine architecture. It lies at the eastern end of the Piazza San Marco, adjacent and connected to the Doge's Palace. Originally it was the chapel of the Doge, and has been the city's cathedral only since 1807, when it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, formerly at San Pietro di Castello. For its opulent design, gold ground mosaics, and its status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, from the 11th century on the building has been known by the nickname Chiesa d'Oro (Church of gold).

Doge's Palace
Venice

The Doge's Palace is a palace built in Venetian Gothic style, and one of the main landmarks of the city of Venice in northern Italy. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice, opening as a museum in 1923.

Verona Arena

The Verona Arena is a Roman amphitheater in Piazza Bra in Verona, Italy built in the first century. It is still in use today and is internationally famous for the large-scale opera performances given there.


Terme Spa and Hot Springs

Saturnia, Tuscany and its Thermal Baths

Saturnia is a beautiful town in Maremma famous for its thermal baths, the Sulphur waters well-known for their therapeutic properties. In addition to the spa centers, the outdoor waterfalls are freely available to the public.

The Natural, Outdoor Hot Springs at Bagni San Filippo, Tuscany

Discover the beautiful outdoor hot springs at Bagni San Filippo in southern Tuscany along the eastern skirts of Monte Amiata. Hot water at the source makes it possible to bathe even in cold seasons - and the spectacular White Whale needs to be seen and enjoyed!

Siena and the Val d'Orcia, Tuscany

The province of Siena is the richest area of natural thermal waters in all Tuscany: here, you will be able to take care of your body as well as explore a stupendous territory, characterized by the gentle hills of the Val d’Orcia (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), in particular the Crete Senesi and the green mountain of Mount Amiata. Between the provinces of Siena and Grosseto, for enjoying total relaxation and curative wellness, from the hot thermal pools amidst nature, to the luxurious and modern centers offering all kind of treatments.

Petriolo, Tuscany

The hot springs of Petriolo along the River Farma, sit on the border between the municipalities of Monticiano and Civitella Paganico, and are within close proximity to the capital of Tuscany, Florence. Gushing out from the banks of the River Farma torrent at around 43°C, the hot Sulphur pearly waters keep the natural concavities topped up and allow for free, round-the-clock bathing. Off the beaten track, and right in the rural heart of Tuscany, this wild hot spring is bordered by venerable oak and chestnut trees. Positioned below ruined walls – the only remnants of the fortified ancient thermal baths – these historic pools, once frequented by the Etruscans and the Romans, provide the perfect place for a healthy dip.

Bormio - Province of Sondrio, Lombardy region of the Alps in northern Italy.

The thermal waters of Bormio are considered a miracle of nature; between 98.6 and 106 degrees Fahrenheit, they rush up from grounds almost always covered in snow that is the imposing Dolomitic Massif of the Ortles Mountainous Group. The nine springs in Bormio are Pliniana, San Martino, Arciduchessa, Cassiodora, Zampillo dei Bambini, Ostrogoti, Nibelungi, San Carlo and Cinglaccia. Meanwhile, there are three spa establishments that are fed by these thermal sources: the Terme di Bormio, in the Comune of Bormio; and the Bagni Vecchi Complex and the Gran Hotel Bagni Nuovi, in the nearby Comune of Valdidentro.

Aeolian Islands Mudbath Vulcano, Sicily, Italia

The Fosso Bianco natural pools in the village of Bagni San Filippo sit at the confluence of several hot springs. Slipping down the calcium-carbonate encrusted rock-face and into the natural cerulean basins below, the Fosso Bianco waterfalls provide the perfect all-year-round bathing experience. Following the tree-lined leafy pathway into the heart of the woods, you will eventually come to the ‘white-whale’ (the largest calcium formation of Bagni San Filippo), where the white-blue water is in marked contrast with the green and copper shades of the woodlands. Spurting out at 48°C, the water here is very warm, which permits bathing during colder months. The rich and remedial mud deposits, sitting at the bottom of the pools, also provide the best (free) spa treatment that Mother Nature can offer.

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