Once home to the most powerful and fabled empire in history, this country still has a special allure to date. Discover the vitality of the extraordinary landscape of Italy with Ankita Mamgain.
In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance,” said Orson Welles, the American actor, director and writer.
Italy is a country that truly knows how to live and love and preserve the fine gifts of life; be it the glorious taste of its cuisine or the picturesque views of its terrain. From the charm of its remotest nook to the urban establishments that house fashion’s elite, people here celebrate each day with passion. Here’s a peek into the land of fast cars, sharp suits, beautiful faces, spectacular scenery, great food and sunny smiles.
Lombardy: Milan and the lakes
One of the most dynamic regions of the country, Lombardy offers everything from world-class ski slopes to luxurious summer lake resorts. The pulse of the region is of course Milan, its commercial, fashionable and forward-looking capital.
Explore the great Renaissance cities of the Po Plain – Pavia, Cremona and Mantua. They will fill you with the typical Italian romance that one expects to encounter, effortlessly embracing their past by preserving national treasures while ever keeping an eye on the present.
Perhaps the richest part of the country, Lombardy resembles its neighbouring Switzerland more than the rest of Italy. The top attractions are its glacial lakes. Above them stand the Alps, which have been praised as the closest thing to paradise by writers throughout the ages, from Virgil to Hemingway.
The breathtaking beauty of Como, Maggiore, Garda and Orta, the magnificent lakes of Northern Italy, is truly unmatched. Along their shores are 18th- and 19th-century villas, exotic formal gardens, sleepy villages and dozens of Belle Époque–era resorts, once Europe’s most fashionable, which still retain a powerful allure.
Lazio: All roads lead to Rome
This region forms the kneecap of the thigh-high boot that is Italy. Boasting a long stretch of coastline along the Tyrrhenian Sea and bordering the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, Le Marche, Abruzzo and Molise. Predominantly hilly, the terrain flattens as you move towards the sea.
Rome is the capital of the region and is obviously one of the biggest draws. A definite stop for a first-timer’s trip, Italy’s cosmopolitan capital offers rich history, architecture, tourist attractions, markets and eateries.
There is also much more to explore in Lazio. Although Pompeii is deservedly world famous, you can also visit ruins of another ancient Roman city, Ostia Antica, a short train ride from central Rome that makes an excellent day trip. Another great and rather peaceful trip is to Tivoli with its lavish gardens and villas. Further north is the city of Viterbo, once a popular retreat for Popes, as well as the sites of the Etruscan tombs at Tarquinia and Cerveteri. If ancient history starts getting too overwhelming for you, head to the coast to experience some top-notch beach resorts.
Campania: The Golden Shores and Naples
This iconic corner of the country holds the Amalfi Coast, Naples and the sun-kissed islands of Capri, Ischia, and Procida. If the colourful cliff-side houses don’t woo you, Campania’s azure seascape certainly will. Drive the curvaceous coastal road for an exhilarating experience and later savour the scenery with some exquisite Neapolitan fare. Follow this up with an island-hopping expedition, exploring the grottoes and beaches.
Naples is the obvious focus here, an utterly compelling city that dominates the region in every way. The Bay of Naples is packed with interesting sites and will easily keep you occupied for a good week or so. In addition to some of Italy’s best-preserved and most revealing Roman remains, there is the amazing volcanic Campi Flegrei area to the northwest.
Inland Campania remains untouched by tourist activity for the most part, though the giant palace and gardens of Caserta are worth visiting. Benevento, an old stop on the Roman route to Brindisi, has a flavour that’s quite distinct from the coastal regions. Sorrento, at the far southeast end of the bay, is a major package-holiday destination and the Amalfi Coast, across the peninsula, is perhaps Europe’s most dramatic stretch of coastline.