Italy might be the world’s most celebrated tourist destination. This is manifested in Italy’s cuisines, dialects, landscapes and standards of living.
However, if there is a single national Italian characteristic, it is to embrace life to the full. It’s demonstrated by the hundreds of local festivals to celebrate a saint or the local harvest. It’s in the importance placed on good food and in the importance of family. And it’s shown in the daily ritual of the evening stroll or passeggiata – a sociable affair celebrated by young and old alike in every town and village across the country.
Enormous cultural legacy. There are remnants of the Roman Empire all over Italy, most notably in Rome itself, while Tuscany alone has more classified historical monuments than any country in the world. And every region retains its own relics of an artistic tradition acknowledged to be among the world’s richest.
If all you want to do is chill out, there’s no reason to be put off. There are any number of places to just lie on a beach, from the resorts filled with regimented rows of sunbeds and parasols favoured by the Italians themselves, to secluded and less developed spots. And if you’re looking for an active holiday, there’s no better place. Mountains run the country’s length – from the Alps and Dolomites in the north right along the Apennines, which form the spine of the peninsula. Skiing and other winter sports are practised avidly, and wildlife of all sorts thrives in the national parks.
Italy Travel facts
Spoken language: Italian (majority of population).
Currency: Euro (EUR €).
Population: Just under 60 million; around three million live in the capital, Rome. Italy has the lowest birth rate in Europe.
Tourist numbers: 63 million in 2018.
Politics: Italy has been a democratic republic since 1946, when the monarchy was abolished by popular referendum.
Food and drink: the average Italian eats 23 kilos of pasta annually. The nation drinks a staggering 14 billion cups of coffee every year.
Accolades: Italy has 55 UNESCO World Heritage sites, 50 cultural and five natural. Tuscany alone has more classified historical monuments than any other country in the world. The country was also the birthplace of modern banking. The world’s oldest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, has been in operation since 1472.
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Where to go in Italy
Unless you’re heading for a particular destination and staying put, it’s likely you’ll want to take some time to explore this alluring country. But figuring out where to visit in Italy is no mean feat. From ancient hilltop towns to modern bustling cities, dramatic mountain landscapes to sweeping coastal scenery and idyllic beaches, each pocket of the country has something different to offer. And everywhere you go you’ll find a culture steeped in history. There are fabulously preserved Hellenistic treasures in Sicily, Baroque structures in Lecce and the ancient towns of Ostia Antica and Pompeii, while Rome wins the competition for most historical sights hands down. As if this wasn’t enough, Italy’s authentic cuisines and fantastic wines are second to none.