Italy is known for much more than the country being shaped like a boot. It is a country rich with history, art, culture, gastronomical delights, magnificent cities, breathtaking countryside and two mountain ranges; the Alps and the Apennines.

The Toscana region of Italy is at the foot of the Apennines. This is a region known for both its beauty and its art. The northern region of Aosta Valley is defined by its geography. Located in the Alps, this area of Italy offers famous mountain peaks waiting to be reached by cable car. Grand Paradiso National Park is a must see when in this region of Italy.

The Apennines Mountains dominate the most southern Italian region of Calabria. Here the beauty of the landscape is equaled by the beauty of the beaches along the Mediterranean Sea. The beaches of this region are known for their fresh sea air, splendor, and tranquility.

Romeis located on the Italy’s west coast, and the Mediterranean Sea, Rome, is the perfect juxtaposition of modern and ancient civilizations. The days in Ancient Rome never seem to have enough hours when visiting sites such as the Colosseum and the Pantheon. The craftsmanship and architectural wonders found in Ancient Rome will leave you in awe.

Within Rome’s city limits lies Vatican City, an independent state which attracts many tourists. One of the highlights of a visit to the Vatican is viewing Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Rome offers a variety of shopping experiences ranging from boutiques to markets. High quality Italian leather goods can often be found at reasonable prices in the shops of Rome. Indulge in an espresso or a glass of fine Italian wine while relaxing at one of Rome’s many cafes. Rome has many fabulous authentic Italian restaurants.

Venice is a uniquely beautiful city located in northern Italy and has been described as one of Europe’s most romantic cities. Venice is the world’s only pedestrian city and Europe’s largest urban car-free area. Comprised of 121 islets linked by 435 bridges and close to 180 canals, the buildings of this truly remarkable a city are constructed on wood piles. The submerged wood is deprived of oxygen resulting in a petrified, almost stone-like, wooden foundation for this truly remarkable city.

Known as one of the world’s greatest cities for art and music, Venice is among the world’s most visited tourist destinations. Averaging 50,000 tourists per day, Venice boasts a glorious cityscape, rich and diverse architecture, and rich musical and artistic cultural heritage. Venice has played an important role in the history of symphonic and operatic music and is known for a number of important artistic movements, especially the Renaissance period. It is a significant fashion center and major center for international conferences as well as many exciting festivals including the Venice Biennale and the Venice Film Festival.

Popular attractions include St. Mark’s Basilica, the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. Featuring Byzantine architecture, opulent design and gilded Byzantine mosaics, this stunning cathedral has been nicknamed the “Church of Gold.” The Grand Canal is one of the major water-traffic corridors in the city lined with more than 170 buildings dating from the 13th to 18th centuries. The Piazza San Marco is the beautiful and bustling principal square in Venice, dominated by the St. Mark Basilica, Clock Tower, and Doge Palace. The Lido di Venezia is an 11 km sand bar that is home to the beach district and the Venice Film Festival that takes place every September. The Doge Palace is treasure to explore with gorgeous scenery, beautiful art, an armory room filled with every conceivable weapon, and a prison to spark the imagination. Other must-sees include the Rialto market, a shopper’s haven, and the Rialto Bridge, one of Venice’s most famed landmarks. Venice is also home to an innumerable array of museums and one cannot leave without experiencing a Murano glass-making tour.

A huge range of seafood characterizes Venetian cuisine. Specialties include polenta, made with cornmeal and risotto, particularly in a cuttlefish ink sauce. Cuttlefish and its ink is a trademark food in Venice.

Transportation generally occurs on foot or via water. The most common forms of transport are the famed gondola, the sandola, a flat-bottomed rowing boat that is smaller and lighter than the gondola, the waterbus (public transport), and the water taxi. Be sure to explore the maze of alleyways that make up the special city of Venice. A helpful tip is to always carry a map and, when out at night, carry a small flashlight to illuminate some of the darker back alleys. For an authentic Venice experience, one must travel on foot to discover the hundreds of treasures tucked along the byways of this one of a kind city.

Florence Italy is the both the capital of Tuscany region and the most populated city in the region. It lies on the River Arno and is considered among the most beautiful cities in the world. Regarded as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance and the largest preserved Renaissance city, Florence is famed for its art, architecture, and cultural heritage. This World Heritage Site has had a far-reaching impact on music, architecture, cuisine, fashion, philosophy, science, education, and religion.

Florence has been nominated the most desirable tourist destination on the globe and attracts more than five million visitors per year. In fact, during the months of April through October, tourists outnumber the local residents. This inspiring city is believed to have the greatest concentration of art in the world. Featuring a wide range of art collections, perhaps the most famed collections are located in the Pitti Palace and the Uffizi. The Pitti Palace is a vast Renaissance palace that contains one of Florence’s largest art galleries. The palace features the Palatine Gallery with more than 500 Renaissance paintings; the Royal Apartments with 14 rooms; the Gallery of Modern Art; the Silver Museum; the Porcelain Museum; the Costume Gallery; and the Carriages Museum. The Uffizi is one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the Western world. Florence boasts over 80 museums including a number of world class museums and exhibits.

Florence is referred to as the “cradle of the Renaissance” due to its numerous monuments, churches, and buildings. In addition to its many art galleries and museums, Florence is a stunning city comprised of elegant squares, parks and gardens, Renaissance palaces, churches, monasteries, villas, and great monuments. It features many important basilicas and churches full of art. One of the best-known Florence sites is considered an architectural jewel. The domed cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, also referred to as The Diomo, is one of Italy’s largest cathedrals and boasts the largest brick dome ever constructed. Equally famed and part of the cathedral complex are the Campanile (bell tower) and Baptistery building, octagonal in shape and one of the oldest buildings in the city. The Baptistery building is renowned for its three sets of bronze doors complete with relief sculptures.

The center of Florence contains medieval walls built in the 14th century. At the heart of the city is the Piazza della Signoria where the famed marble masterpiece, the Fountain of Neptune resides. An equally renowned Florence landmark is the bridge Ponte Vecchio, with numerous shops standing on stilts built along its edges. Florence also features both historical and modern theatres including the Odeon Cinema of the Palazzo dello Strozzino, one of the oldest movie theatres in the city.

It is worth noting that Tuscany is one of the world’s finest wine-growing regions and Florence is the most significant city in Tuscany. Wine-growing regions within a reasonable distance from the city surround Florence. Visitors will want to discover the bounty just outside the boundaries of this great city.

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