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Italy

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Italy is a country engrained with a deep history left from remnants of the powerful Roman Empire. The world Italian immediately stirs feeling of romance, passion and sophistication. Italy can offer chic high fashion cities like Milan, romance capital Venice and the well preserved Renaissance city of Florence. Italians are extremely style concious and the whole country opens up a shoppers delight of high fashion designers and exclusive boutiques. Rome can pander to any taste, from ancient cultural monument the Colosseum and the Trevi fountain. Religious whims can be satisfied by a day in the Vatican city and culinary travellers can have all tastes quenched. The Amalfi coast has heart stopping scenery mixed with the kind of resorts that do not require buckets and spades. Italian beach holiday are carried out with the usual panache.

Italy produced some of the most influential artists in the world with De Vinci and Michaelangelo being the most renowned. Their works alongside others are hung proudly in galleries everywhere. Be stunned by Michelangelos biggest work on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, home of the Pope. Italians are passionate about art almost as much as they are stirred by their own foods and wines. Beyond the ubiquitous pasta and pizza lies a much overlooked cuisine oozing with deep sexy flavours. Wines have been produced in these parts since Roman times when it was described as 'life water.'

Of the outer lying islands of Italy including Sardinia, Sicily and Elba, Capri is likely to be the most enticing. From afar Capri appears to be just a huge rock jutting out of the water, but on closer inspection the discovery of a forgotten civilisation complimented by a backdrop that could have been created by Da Vinci himself seduces visitors in a land they never want to leave.

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By contrast, its ancient rival, Rome , is far more a modern city whilst still celebratory of its glorious and historic past. The modern, cosmopolitan feel of the city away from the relics is wholly in contrast to the feel around the Coliseum, for example. Rome is a city that needs time, not least because to piece together how 2000 year-old remains relate to each other, amid a mass of modern roads and buildings, is like figuring out a giant jigsaw puzzle. But time is something most Romans, and indeed most Italian city dwellers, seem to have little of. Everything is done in a rush; traffic hustles for position at every set of lights, then races to the next to do the same again. Venice is the obvious exception, due only to its lack of suitable roads. Even on the canals, though, there is a definite one-upmanship amongst the gondola pilots, as they guide you around the sights. Venice is a pretty city, which, if it wasn't for the water, would deserve far less attention. But water it has, and so tourists come in their thousands to stand in St Mark's Square, cross the Rialto Bridge , and see the Basilica. Go well away from these areas to find a sensibly priced café, and try and avoid coming in peak season.

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The other main city of Northern Italy high on most traveller's ‘must see' list is Florence . Very much a city to appreciate the fine and the beautiful in terms of art and architecture, the city is not as glamorous as Paris, or as ornate as Prague, but the museums house some of Italy's most famous works, and you'll come away feeling a sense of satisfaction and awe. The cities of Italy 's south have less to attract, but are a good base to explore the countries other marvels. Naples is a short drive from the monastery at Monte Cassino, the spectacularly pretty Amalfi coast, and probably the most memorable place you will ever visit in Europe, Pompeii . The Roman city which was destroyed by the nearby volcano Vesuvius leaves visitors amazed, sad, and visibly moved.

 
 
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