Italy is obviously home to a good number of the world’s most famous landmarks: the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Ponte Vecchio… the list goes on. But even going slightly off the beaten track reveals a whole host of other wonderful things to see.
The Piazza del Campo in Siena is one of Europe’s great medieval squares. Perugia, the capital of Umbria, snakes its way along a hillside and has walls and gates dating from the Etruscan period. Milan is grand and formal; Naples is alleyways and cobblestones; the island of Sicily is both beautiful and scarred (and all the more romantic for it); Venice is… well, Venice.
No matter where you go, there’s always a surprise just around the next corner, waiting for you to claim its secrets as your own.
Who doesn’t love Italian food? It’s so unfussy, yet so good. The very best pizza, for example, is one hand-made, with skill and passion from years of being genuinely proud of what you’re making. Fresh, local cheese and tomatoes, the smell of fresh basil leaves, and a beautiful, crispy crust.
Walk down a side street and find a trattoria. That’s the one: the one with the steamed-up windows and the delicious smell drifting out from inside. You’re beckoned in, having to virtually clamber over other diners to get to your table in the corner, and for the rest of the evening you’re treated as if you’re a long-lost member of the family. A bowl of fresh pasta, a delicate seafood main and a rich dessert later (plus a couple of glasses of wine), and suddenly life seems awfully simple.
A love of art
Some of the world’s greatest singers and composers were Italian, and the country itself has inspired many of those who aren’t. The vast majority of Mozart’s operas were written in Italian, while composers like Vivaldi, Rossini and Puccini created some of the world’s most recognized classical works. In other artistic fields as well, Italy offered inspiration: think of Shakespeare, whose Romeo and Juliet, Othello, The Merchant of Venice and more were set in the country.
The romantic poets adored Italy, with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley both living there, and William Blake creating a series of remarkable illustrations for an English translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
The country is also home to some of the world’s greatest museums, with Florence’s Uffizi, the Vatican Museum, Rome’s Borghese, and hundreds more crammed with works by some of the most celebrated artists of all time. Indeed, you could even consider some of the cities to be living museums as you wander through streets and past buildings that are thousands of years old.
La Dolce Vita
One of the things that’s amazing about Italy is just how very Italian it is. There are few countries on earth that live up so completely to their own stereotype — and we mean that in the best possible way.
The girl on the back of the scooter, laughing wildly, hair flying behind her, clinging onto her boyfriend as he navigates the traffic. The two old men playing chess in a city park, surrounded by friends who judge, jab, and gently mock every move. Two people having an animated discussion over a morning espresso, voices raised, gestures flying; are they discussing last night’s football, a major legal case, or the mileage on a Fiat Panda? It doesn’t matter; what matters is that it’s important now.
This, after all, is the real Italy. The day to day occurrences that you’re happy, as a tourist, simply to be a part of. And that’s why we know that when we can once again visit Italy, it’ll be the same vibrant, lively, dramatic place it’s always been.