4 best places to visit in Italy

A deep-dive into some of its most famous spots reveal why Italy remains one of the most popular tourist destinations



By Rashmi Gopal Rao

Published: Thu 17 Nov 2022, 8:01 PM

Last updated: Thu 17 Nov 2022, 8:07 PM

Famous Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi famously said, “You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” Well, this quote truly encapsulates the beauty of this southern European nation located in the midst of the Mediterranean Sea. Often referred to as the country shaped like a long boot with a high heel, Italy is a land steeped in culture and heritage and is home to, arguably, some of the most famous monuments, architecture and, of course, cuisine in the world. With stalwarts like Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo Galilei from this peninsula nation, Italy is often synonymous with the famed bella vita, which is Italian for the beautiful life. It is all about the Italian philosophy of living life to the fullest, enjoying every moment and savouring the dolce vita or the “sweet life”.

Rome, which is one of the oldest cities in Europe, houses some of the most stunning architectural wonders, including the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain. Up north, Milan is the fashion and financial capital of the country. The city of Venice, with its beautiful bridges and enigmatic canals, is a tourist’s paradise while the Vatican City, which is an independent city-state within Rome, is the seat of the Pope and home to the largest church in the world, the St. Peter’s Basilica. But beyond these obvious attractions, Italy boasts of several other interesting cities and pretty towns that offer eclectic sights. Here’s a look at some of them.

Florence: Often referred to as the cradle of the Renaissance, Florence is one of Italy’s most attractive cities. Locally known as Firenze, this ancient city rose to prominence as a flourishing trade centre between the 14th and 17th century, thanks to the presence of some wealthy merchants who controlled most of the city, like the renowned Medici family. Being great patrons of art and architecture, they were, in fact, responsible for the birth of the Italian Renaissance movement that saw a revolutionary movement in the field of not only art and architecture but even literature and science.

The landscape of the entire city is dotted by gorgeous churches, buildings and statues and is akin to an open-air museum. Not surprisingly, the historic centre of Florence was designated as a Unesco world heritage site in 1982. The Florence cathedral, called the Santa Maria del Fiore, is also known as The Duomo and is famous for its massive dome which is still the largest brick-and-mortar dome in the world. The Baptistery building, Giotto’s Bell Tower, Museum of the Opera del Duomo and the Palazzo Vecchio, which is the city’s town hall are just some of the other awe-inspiring structures in the vicinity.

The city is also intrinsically associated with Pinocchio, who is the protagonist of the famous children’s book authored by Florence-born Carlo Lorenzini (Carlo Collodi). If you are fan of this famous wooden puppet, you can embark on an endearing Pinocchio trail when here. Needless to mention, the best way to explore the city’s various squares, museums and art galleries is by foot. If you are a fan of shopping, do not forget to splurge on some leather goods like bags and belts and also some hand-painted art, which is abundantly available from talented artists across the city.

Pisa: This charming city, perched on the banks of river Arno and located in the Tuscany (Toscano) region, is a must visit if you are a fan of history and architecture. Unarguably the soul and heart of the city is the Leaning Tower or campanile aka Bell Tower located in the beautiful Square of Miracles or Piazza dei Miracoli. Dating back to the 12th century, this imposing structure, crafted in stone in the Romanesque style of architecture, is one of the seven wonders of the world. After you pose for some quirky pictures, take time to climb up the tower for some panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Apart from the Leaning Tower, the complex houses several other buildings of immense historical significance, including the cathedral called the Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta, the Baptistery and the cemetery or the Camposanto. The architecture of these buildings — replete with intricate carvings, pillars and arches — is truly noteworthy. The cathedral museum and the Piazza dei Cavalieri (Knights’ Square) are other famous landmarks of the city.

Pisa is also the birthplace of astronomer Galileo Galilei and houses one of the oldest and best universities of Europe, namely the University of Pisa (1343 AD). Apart from the historical sites, you can walk along river Arno just in time to catch the breathtaking sunset, shop for fresh produce in the local vegetable and fruit market, buy loads of souvenirs and gorge on some cecìna while in this bustling university town.

Capri Island: An island located on the southern side of the Bay of Naples, Capri is often dubbed as the destination for the rich and the famous. A perfect place to visit in the warmer months, this island is divided into three main areas: the main port or Marina Grande where you arrive via a boat, Capri which is where the main square aka Piazzetta is located and Anacapri which is the highest village accessible by a mini bus from Capri. Capri’s Piazzetta is a colourful, vibrant area that is teeming with eateries, cafes and souvenir shops. A perfect place to have a drink during dusk as you watch the blue waters, this one is sure to rejuvenate your body, mind and soul. Anacapri is equally charming with its narrow alleys hosting some charming, colourful shops, boutiques and cafes. While here, you can take a chair lift to the highest point for some absolutely dramatic views of the Gulf of Naples and the Gulf of Salerno. Luxury boats and yachts dotted across the sapphire blue waters are a sight to behold from the top.

Arguably, the most famous attraction in Capri is the Blue Grotto which is a sea cave that appears magically lit with a blue light. Accessible by boats that take you right up to the entrance of the cave, the intense blue colour is the play of sunlight as it passes through a cavity below the starting of the cave. Shrouded in mystery and legends, this is a sight not to be missed while in Capri. Throughout the boat ride, you can view several other magnificent sea stacks and caverns.

Before you leave Capri, do not forget to pick up the Capri Bell as a souvenir which is believed to be a talisman of good luck and success.

Sirmione: If you are looking to spend some time amidst nature and away from the urban humdrum, the pretty village of Sirmione by Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) is for you. With distinct medieval vibes, this place has oodles of rustic charm with its narrow-cobbled pathways, winding alleys and stone arches. Flower-lined window sills, billowing bougainvillea creeping along the stone walls coupled with quaint cafes and ice cream parlours, makes the town look straight out of a fairytale. Apart from walking around the lakeside, unwinding on the beachside and exploring the town centre, you can visit the 13th-century Scaliger Castle, which is a fortress in the centre of town. You can also take a short excursion on a speed boat across the utterly beautiful azure waters of Lake Garda to soak in the magnificence all around. While in the village, do not forget to sample some delectable and authentic gelato ice-cream, which is available in a wide variety of flavours ranging from lemon, walnut, pistachio and even tiramisu!

wknd@khaleejtimes.com


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