Italy was for over 1,000 years the home of the Roman Empire and, together with Greece, is often recognised as the home of European culture. The two countries gave a legacy of architecture, warfare, literature, art, culture, philosophy and religion which still resounds and impacts on Western civilisation to this day. Therefore, it is a country well worth a visit.
Italy has given a legacy of architecture, warfare, literature, art, culture, philosophy and religion which still resounds and impacts on Western civilisation to this day.
Travel in Italy is much easier if you want to go North to South than if you want to go East to West, where the ridge of mountains that runs down the centre of the country often makes this difficult. If you want to go by train, it is worth taking some time to familiarise yourself with the complex price structure which is organised into tiers. The main difference a higher tier makes is it increases the likelihood that your train turns up on time and reduces the possibility of you having to sit on someone's lap throughout the journey.
The fastest and most reliable trains are the Eurostar Italia, which is no relation to the Eurostar trains that run between London, Paris and Brussels. These intercity trains run reliably and often cut journeys in half when compared to other types of trains running in Italy. Remember to validate your ticket before your journey otherwise you may well find yourself liable for a hefty fine.
The north of Italy has a well developed road system. In the South roads are a little more patchy. One thing worth noting is that many roads in Italy have an average speed check which may run for several hundred miles on a motorway. Therefore, if you suddenly notice that all the Italian cars are going slowly and there is no-one bombing past you, it's a good idea to keep your speed below the limit too!
Motorways are marked by green signs and are normally toll roads. It is worth the effort to pay the toll, however, as it will significantly shorten your journey by taking you around all the major cities.
The whole country is littered with memories of the country's earlier civilisation, and every town is almost guaranteed to have a temple, theatre, spa or statue. Trying to list all these here would probably take down most of the internet. However, these things are always worth seeing and can give you a great insight not just into the history of Italy but into the history of wider western Europe.
Rome is the capital city and has a thriving nightlife and is seen by many as being the fashion capital of the world. If you are interested in the history of this ancient city, two must see elements are the surviving Roman buildings (including the incredible Colosseum) and Vatican City, which is the seat of the Catholic church across the world. If visiting St Peter's Basilica, you will need to wear long clothes that cover both legs and shoulders. There are also many art galleries and museums in Rome.
Venice is still worth seeing, though you may find it a bit stiflingly hot if you are going in the middle of Summer. Despite the fact that Birmingham technically has more canals that Venice, the quality of the scenery is not normally quite so high, so do take a Gondola around the city when you go there. When you have gone by Gondola, go back again and walk the city - you will see different things that you didn't see before. Note that people in Venice tend to consider the canals as being a useful outlet for their sewage, so for goodness sake don't touch the water (it wasn't for nothing that Thomas Mann wrote `Death in Venice'). Oh, and watch out for small dwarves in red coats.
When you have gone by Gondola, go back again and walk the city - you will see different things that you didn't see before.
Florence was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and it still shows in the architecture of the city. There are many fine art galleries from famous artists - including the Galleria degli Uffizi, where you can see Boticelli's `Birth of Venus'. The galleries themselves are often works of art, with the walls and ceiling ornately decorated with various brightly coloured murals. The cathedral in the centre of town is also stunningly beautiful, and well worth queuing up for. Just note that if you are climbing up the Cathedral, you will have to get very intimate with your fellow climbers as many of the staircases are both exceedingly narrow and two-way.
Just note that if you are climbing up the Cathedral, you will have to get very intimate with your fellow climbers as many of the staircases are both exceedingly narrow and two-way.
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