Bel Paese (the Beautiful Country)

Italy is one of the European countries that is acknowledged as the birthplace of Western culture and as such, should definitely be on your bucket list. It has the biggest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the planet with so much high art and monuments, you’ll literally be tripping over them! The cuisine here is pretty amazing too and varies greatly from region to region. Visit Italy for fashion, sports cars, diverse culture and stunning scenery.

This boot-shaped nation is steeped in history and humans have lived here for at least 200,000 years. There have been many influences on the Italian culture throughout history from invasion or settling, including the Etruscans, Greeks, the Celts and the Romans. The climate here is also very diverse with most of the country enjoying hot, dry summers. Winters can still be cold and damp in the north but milder in the south. The Alps have a typical mountain climate, of cool summers and freezing winters.

There is so much to see and do here that you’ll struggle fitting it all in. Medieval villages are dotted around the country and two notable locations include San Gimignano, famed for its thin towers and Assisi, known for Saint Francis of Assisi and the Basilica di San Francesco. The basilica is full of stunning frescoes. In Sicily you’ll find many reminders of the Roman Empire including the Roman theatre with views of Mount Etna. Just south of Naples, explore the ancient site of Pompeii and Herculaneum, well-preserved thanks to the lava that fell on it.

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Italy is synonymous with great wine and the vineyards are found in the middle of some beautiful countryside. There are many tours available which place much emphasis on good food, amazing wine and staying in high quality accommodation in different wine-producing areas around Italy. For Online wine merchants in Northern Ireland, visit

No visit to Italy would be complete without a trip to Rome, the capital. Must-see attractions include the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Aqueducts and the many museums dedicated to displaying Roman ruins. For Renaissance art, Florence is the place to be. Try to include the Piazza Michelangelo and the many museums containing Renaissance artworks. The architecture, literature and art here is like a who’s who of history. You’ll see original works from names like Brunelleschi, Dante, Machiavelli, Donatello, Michelangelo, Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci.

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Italian opera is another unique experience and you can usually get tickets for a performance in cities like Milan, Verona, Parma, Florence, Venice and Rome. Other cultural attractions include some of the most internationally important museums in the world. The Uffizi Museum in Florence is one of the best there is anywhere on earth but book ahead to avoid long queues. The Brera art gallery in Milan is held in a 17th century palace and displays some famous Renaissance paintings. The Egyptian Museum in Turin has the second largest Egyptian collection in world after Cairo.

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