It is no wonder Italy is called Il Bel Paese – the beautiful country! From the northern snow-capped peaks of the Alps and the idyllic hilltop villages of the renowned central Tuscany and Umbria area, to the rugged southern shores of Sicily, lies a plethora of distinctive regions and people. Explore Italian villages and cuisine with World Journeys.
Lake Como (Lago di Como), one of the most well-known Italian lakes, is long (50km), slender and extremely deep. The southern end forks into two long ‘legs’, with the picturesque town of Bellagio situated on the promontory between them. Lake Como has been popular as a resort since the days of the Roman Empire; ever since visitors have admired the blue waters and relaxed in luxurious villas in the wooded lakeside slopes above.
The Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. “The Five Lands” comprises five villages – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Cinque Terre is world renowned for its beauty. Over centuries, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible “modern” development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, and cars cannot reach it from the outside. In the late 1990’s the Italian Ministry for the Environment put measures in place to protect the natural environment, conserve the landscape and safeguard the anthropological values of the region.
Amalfi Coast A stunning 50km stretch of coastline known for its sheer cliffs and rugged shoreline dotted with small beaches, pastel-coloured fishing villages and abundance of lemon production. Sorrento, Positano, Ravello and Capri are all popular towns for visitors who enjoy the good life with incredible food and wine!
The largest region in Italy and famous for its stunning landscapes with miles of rolling hills, olives groves, and fantastic wines, it is a fabulous destination to enjoy a villa stay and explore local towns such as Siena, Lucca and San Gimignano. The regions capital Florence home to approximately one third of the worlds most important artworks!
Venice Venice was built on one hundred and seventeen small islands, and holds one hundred and fifty canals, connected by an amazing four hundred and nine bridges, of which only three cross the main canal. Through the mysterious alleyways leading off from the city, endless mazes of backstreets and deserted squares, you will find that this city is a perfect place to walk for hours on end. The unique Venice activities you will discover during a walk around town are plentiful. The now-famous watery villages on rafts of wooden posts driven into the soil, laid the foundations for the floating palaces of today.
Italy can be visited all year round but our favourite months are April – June and September/October.
One of my favourite parts of Italy is the Lakes area north of Milan. I recently returned to Lake Como and stayed at the stunning little village of Bellagio which is wonderfully located in the central Lake area. After a leisurely breakfast on the hotel terrace we strolled to the ferry pier and bought a pass for the day. Today we decided we would have a progressive lunch – one course at each of four villages on the lake. We enjoyed antipasti at Varenna Mon Amour in Varenna, enjoyed homemade pasta Il Ristorante di Paolo in Menaggio, dined on freshly caught fish at Ristorante Belle Isole in Cadennabia and finally a fabulous gelato at Gelateria Helvetica in Tremezzo. We caught our final ferry back to Bellagio very happy and very sated and yet again believing Italian cuisine to be some of the world’s best! Brett
Why we love it Few countries can offer such a diversity of scenery as Italy. From the lakes of Northern Italy surrounded by majestic mountains, to the cliff-hanging villages of the Amalfi Coast, from the tranquil countryside of Tuscany to the Grand Canal of Venice – Italy is a top favourite of ours. Needless to say the relaxed lifestyle, great wine and cuisine just add to make travelling in Italy a real highlight!
Weather Italy can be visited year round. In winter (December to February) the mountains are covered in powdery snow. In summer (June to August) it can be very warm particularly in the South. Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November) can be a wonderful time to visit.
Social customs and quirks It is not uncommon for entire families to be living under one roof in the more traditional southern region. The family heads the social structure in Italy. Italians are also highly fashion conscious, Bella Figura is the concept of presenting a good image in both dress and personal style. Italians make wonderful hosts and are experts in making guests feel welcome. Arriving a few minutes late for a dinner is the norm, as is bringing wine or chocolates as a small gift.
Festivals and events Festivals in Italy are boisterous, fun-filled celebrations, whether they are focused on religious occasions or simply the joy of life. The sheer number of events year-round ensures every visitor has a chance to experience Italy like a local. Carnevale and Easter Week are two of the most popular holidays.