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Italy is an extremely diverse country and one of my favourites. It has a fascinating history, going back to the ancient Romans and beyond and was a cultural powerhouse during the Renaissance period. It is truly one of the cradles of Western civilization.

Rome is the "Eternal City": Today a hustling and bustling overcrowded metropolis, it was the hub of Ancient Rome, the capital of an enormous and powerful empire. Today one can admire many relicts from Roman times: the Roman Forum (Foro Romano), the Colosseum and the Pantheon, among many others, are witnesses to a highly refined culture that existed more than 2000 years ago. A visit to the Vatican also underscores the uniqueness of this city. Outside of Rome there is just so much to discover.

Florence comes to mind immediately, one of the primary tourist destinations. Florence is the capital of Tuscany and known for its many sights: the Duomo (the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Fiore), the Uffizi, the Ponte Vecchio, Michelangelo's David, and many more. You can also enjoy the quieter villages and serene landscapes in the interior of Italy, with Tuscany as one of the preferred destinations for interior travel. A favourite Tuscan location is San Gimignano, fabled for its many historic towers.

The word Venice immediately evokes romantic notions of canals, the Piazza San Marco and the Doge's Palace, the Rialto Bridge, and of course the gondolieri. There are many other cities and towns to explore. Milan, for instance, is Italy's fashion capital and has stunning architecture to admire. The old city of Verona is the setting for Romeo and Juliet. Genova is an important harbour city on the Ligurian coast. The glamorous coast along the Italian Riviera around San Remo and Imperia has attracted many Hollywood celebrities. Many other famous historic towns are located in the north: Bologna, Siena, Padova, Vicenza, Trieste.

In the south there are cities such as Naples, Cosenza, Salerno, Sorrento and many more that let you explore Southern Italian hospitality. The eastern side of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula is generally quieter than the western side and cities such as Ancona, Pescara, Bari and Brindisi and their surrounding areas have their own charm. Historic sites in the south include the ancient cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii that were destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 79 A.D. Needless to say, geologists are going to be interested in seeing the still active volcanoes Etna and Vesuvius. Italy's landscape is truly stunning.

The Italian Alps with the limestone spires of the Dolomites are simply majestic, and the famous lakes such as Lago Maggiore, Lago di Como, Lago di Garda, Lago di Iseo are blue jewels embedded in green mountains and hills. Hiking, mountain biking, skiing and windsurfing are favourite acitivites in the north of Italy.

Naturally, Italian cuisine and wine are appreciated the world over and a trip to Italy can become a venerable feast for the senses. Some of the most visually stunning scenery can be found just south of the Bay of Naples, along the Amalfi coast and the island of Capri. The islands of Sardinia and Sicily, reputedly the birthplace of the Mafia, glisten like gems in the Mediterranean.

There are just too many places to mention, Italy is simply a fabulous place to visit. Check out some of the links below and dream about all these beautiful far-away places.

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