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The heart of the ancient Roman empire, Italy has played a pivotal role in the world culture, influencing sculpture, architecture, painting, literature and music. Visitors enjoy unrivaled historic sites, magnificent cuisine, stunning scenery and ultra-chic shopping.
A matches heritage, the result of millenia of history, Italy boasts the world’s largest number of UNESCO ”World Heritage” sites. Like the village Su Nuraxi at Barumini or the rock art of Valcmonica, whose origins are lost in prehistory, or the Etruscan necropolises in Cerveteri and Tarquinia, silent witnesses to a mysterious, magical people. A collection of masterpieces ranging from architectural gems, such as the temples of Arigento or the Royal Palace of Caserta with its park, to entire cities whose historic centers possess a charm generated over the centuries.
Rome, Florence, and Venice are authentic open – air museums, as are Ferrara, Naples, Siena, Urbino, Verona and Vicenza. Not to mention smaller marvels such as medieval San Gimignano, renaissance Pienza, and the Baroque cities of Val di Noto. Then there are the ”Sassi” of Matera, ancestral cave dwellings restored to new life, and the quaint, conical houses known as ,,trulli” in Alberobello. Then there are the Sacred Mountains of Piedmont and Lombardy, which bear witness to a popular devotion that still runs deep. Most of the eight thousand communes into which Italy is divided guard some hidden pearl:because Italy is a country with over 25 thousand churches, 20 thousand castles, and 3 thousand museums, a country where for millennia the genius of man has been engaged in an incessant contest to create prodigies capable of rivaling the marvels of nature.
The results are bold creations, from mountain fortifications to the great cathedrals of the cities, from architectural masterpieces such as the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa and the Rialto Bridge in Venice to artistic expressions of stunning beauty, such as Michelangelo’s statues or Raphael’s paintings. The innate taste for beauty has given life to the finest products, from Murano glassware to Ferrari cars, and from unforgettable melodies to a cuisine with an unmistakable flavor, and wines with inebriating bouquets. An art of living that embraces all aspects of life, and one that from the time of the first travelers to the present day has seduced millions of people.
Italy’s best travel months are May, June, September and October. November and April usually have pleasant weather, with generally none of the sweat and stress of the tourist season. Off-season, expect shorter hours, more lunchtime break, and fewer activities. Peak season (May-September) offers the longest hours and the most exciting slate of activities – but terrible crowds and, at times, suffocating heat. During peak times, many resort area hotels maximize business by requiring that guests take half-pension, which means buying dinner in their restaurants. August, the local holiday month, isn’t as bad as many make it out to be, but big cities tend to be quiet and beach and mountain resorts are jammed.
Many people travel through Italy thinking it’s chaotic mess. They feel any attempt at efficient travel is futile. This is dead wrong -and expensive. Italy, which seems as orderly as spilled spaghetti, actually functions quite well.
Airfare: Don’t try to sort through the mess. Find and use a good travel agent. Always consider saving time and money in Europe by flying ”open jaw” – into one city and out of another.
Surface Transportation: For a three week whirlpool trip to all my recommended destinations, allow $300 per person for public transportation (train and buses) or $800 per person (based on two people sharing a car) for a three week car rental including insurance, tolls, gas and parking. Some train passes are available only outside of Europe. You might save money by getting an Italian rail pass or buying tickets as you go.
Room and Board: Sleeping in Italy is expensive. Cheap big city hotels can be depressing. Tourist information services cannot give opinions on quality. You normally get close to what you pay for. Prices are fairly standard. Shopping around earns you a better location and more character, but rarely a cheaper price. However, prices at nearly any hotel can get soft if you do any of the following: arrive direct (without using middleman, with a risk to find no room free at the time you want to check in), offer to pay cash, stay at least three nights or visit off season. Breakfasts are legally optional. Initial prices quoted often include breakfast and a private bathroom. Offer to skip breakfast for a better price. You can thrive in Italy on $100 a day for room and board. This allows $10 for lunch, $5 for snacks, $20 for dinner, and $65 for lodging (based on two people splitting the cost of a a$130 double room that includes breakfast).
Hotels in Italy
$$$ Albergo Santa Chiara – Rome, is a big and solid hotel, offering marbled elegance and all the hotel services in the old center at an affordable prices. Its ample public lounges are dressy and professional and its 100 rooms are quiet and spacious.
$$ Albergo Settimo Cielo – Sorrento, the aptly named ,,Seventh Heaven” offers all the views and lazy resort trappings you could want, run by a family that really hustles to give a fine value. At this modern, dressy cliffhanger, the reception is just off the road, and the elevator takes you down through four floors with 50 rooms – all with grand views.
$$$ Loggiato dei Serviti – Florence, at the most prestigious address in Florence on the most Renaissance square in town, gives you Old World romance with hair dryers. Stone stairways lead you under open-beam ceiling through this 16 Th- century monastery’s classy public rooms. The 38 cells, with air- conditioning, TV’s, mini bars and telephones, wouldn’t be recognized by their original inhabitants.
$$$ Hotel Ariston – Milan, at about 20 minutes walk from the Duomo, is a modern, eco-friendly, 46 room hotel with air purifiers, organic breakfast, and recycled or biodegradable everything.
$$$ Hotel Belle Arti – Venice, is a good bet if you want to be in the old center without the tourist hordes. With a grand entry and all the American comforts, it’s a big, 67-room, modern, three star place sitting on a former schoolyard.
Sightseeing and Entertainment: In big cities, figure about $6 – 12 per major sight (museums, Colosseum), $3 for minor ones (church towers), and $30 for splurge experiences (such as tours and concerts).
Italian Spa Passion
Over two thousand years ago the ancient Romans had already discovered the curative, regenerating qualities of water, a power so gentle that there was no city, great or small as it may be, without its spa, which was often splendid and imposing. These spas were privileged places where you could recover your energy and tone yourself up after the fatigue of everyday life, places where you could discuss business or comment on the events of the day. A custom that has now been lost, but one that has bequeathed us a culture and a tradition of the highest level, Italy offers over one hundred spas spread throughout the peninsula: there are celebrated, internationally renowned places such as Abano Terme, Montecatini, Fiuggi and Ischia, or little gems such as Saturnia and Bagno Vignoni. Some are by the sea, like Grado and Lignano Sabbiadoro, or at the foot of the mountains, like Levico Terme or Merano/ Meran. The enormous number of sources and the properties of the waters that gush out from them make Italy a paradise for those wishing to devote their holidays to their own well-being. Spa mineral waters have recognized curative powers, which serve to alleviate a multitude of aliments. But today’s spas are above all places for those of us who want to look after ourselves, where we can put ourselves in expert hands capable of pampering us and increasing our sense of well-being. Each spa possesses its own ancient secret: places where you benefit from the virtues of mud’s or hot sands, or others that specialize in recent discoveries, such as the beneficial properties of wine. Today’s spas are marvelous refuges for the mind, designed to help you improve your physical appearance and to breathe renewed vigor into the spirit.
From the far North to the far south, the generous land of Italy offers dozens of spas, hot and cold thermal springs whose waters are rich in minerals that not only regenerate the body and the spirit, but are also useful in the treatment of numerous maladies.
$$$$$ Hotel Therme Meran - Within easy reach of the slopes, this Merano hotel is in the mountains, just minutes from Merano Thermal Baths and close to winter activities such as cross-country skiing and ice skating. Also nearby are Kurhaus Conference Venue and Trauttmansdorff Castle Gardens.
$$$ Hotel Torretta, Monsummano Terme - Treat yourself to an imaginary journey from the cool of paradise to the fires of hell, via the warmth of Purgatory, in the style of the ancient Romans: your body, freed of toxins and stress, will thank you for it. Hotel Torretta is a 4 star hotel equipped with an outdoor swimming pool with hydro massage, a shaded garden and private parking. The feeling of being part of the family who owns this hotel, together with the carefully throughout kitchen that can cater for all your dietary requirements, that make your stay here as comfortable and relaxing as possible.
The bus trip from Sorrento to Salerno along the breathtaking Amalfi Coast is one of the world’s great bus rides. It will leave your mouth open. You’ll gain respect for the Italian engineers who built the road – and even more respect for the bus drivers who drive it. Cantilevered garages, hotels, and villas cling to the vertical terrain, and beautiful sandy coves tease from far below and out of reach.
Amalfi Coast towns are pretty but generally touristy, congested, overpriced and a long hike above tiny beaches. Most beaches are private and access to those is generally expensive. The real thrill here is the scenic Amalfi drive. This is pretty treacherous staff – even if you have a car, you may want to take the bus or hire a taxi. Some enjoy doing the coast by motorbike (rented in Sorrento).
Traveling the Amalfi coast you’ll see several Saracen (Turkish pirate) watchtower. The gray-green trees are olives. The two small islands after Sorento are the Galli Islands, the bigger one (on the left) is Ulysses Island. These islands mark the boundary between the Bay of Naples and the Bay of Salerno.
Capri was made famous as the vacation hideaway of Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius. In the 19th century, it was the haunt of Romantic Age aristocrats on their Grand Tour of Europe. But these days, the island is a world-class touristic trap, packed with gawky visitors searching for rich and famous, and finding only their prices.
Boats sail from Napoli port. Get oriented on the boat before you dock at Marina Grande. Capri Town fills the ridge high above the harbor. Emperor Tiberius Palace ruins and Villa Jovis, cap the peak on the left, and the dramatic road arcs around the mountain Monte Solare on the right leads up to Anacapri, the island’s second town. Capri town is a cute touristy shopping town. The bus drops you just around the corner from Piazza Umberto, the town’s main square. From the Piazza and the city hall, a lane leads into the medieval part of the town, which has plenty of eateries. The lane past the many-domed church has been dubbed by locals ”Rodeo Drive” because it’s the fashion shopping strip. Walk down Rodeo Drive to Quisisana Hotel, the island’s top old time hotel and continue down a lane lined with elegant villas and great Sea views.
Situated between the Balearic Islands and Italy in the Tyrrhenian Sea as well as to the south of the island of Corsica is the island of Sardinia. Sardinia is one of the more popular Italian island destinations along with Corsica and Sicily. The following is a list of 5 of the most breathtaking and beautiful beaches of Sardinia that you should consider when vacationing there.
Bidderosa Beach – five distinct coves lined with eucalyptus, juniper, and pine trees as well as the bright white sandy beaches make this one of the more popular Sardinian beaches.
Cala Luna – as the day progresses, the Mediterranean waters are like a kaleidoscope of varying colors from bright and sparkling turquoise to ultramarine as the sun is setting.
Cala Mariolu – locals claim that this beach has the most crystalline and translucent waters on the island.
Costa Verde Sardinia – located on the island’s western coastline, this area depicts why the beaches of Sardinia are so popular.
Emerald Coast – known by the locals as “Costa Smeralda”, this region is the home to some of Sardinia’s (and quite possibly the world’s) most alluring and impressive beaches.
The allure of the blue sea, sandy beaches and a variety of activities in and around Sardinia ensures a memorable vacation to solo visitors and families.
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