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Imagine a slow holiday visiting Italy and its islands, taking your time to explore this divine Mediterranean country famous for pizzas and pasta; prosecco and limoncello; fast Italian cars and men; incredible architecture and art; villages perched atop mountainsides and steep coastal cliffs; islands located off the dazzling shores; valleys of vineyards and olive groves that stretch for as far as the eye can see; and history that takes you back to B.C.
This boot-shaped country 1,185 km from south to north in length and 381 km from east to west in width, is a manageable size for either driving by car or travel on the fast train. My advice is to start in Rome, that is approximately in the centre of Italy, and then head in either direction to explore this charming Mediterranean country.
Take your time to appreciate your surroundings visiting Italy and its islands, because for a country that is so rich in history, culture, art, food and natural beauty, you will want to absorb it all! Walking holidays in Italy with Inntravel is a great way to see the country.
When visiting Italy and its islands, the entrée or apéritif is the capital and eternal city of Rome, or as the locals call it Roma. When in Rome there is so much to see and do that it literally sends your head into a spin. Remember, “Rome was not built in a day”! So unless you take your time and carefully plan your intended sightseeing itinerary, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the wonderful historical landmarks and buildings.
Amongst the multitude of things to see don’t miss the Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Basilica, Piazza Novona, Castel Sant’Angelo, Roman Forum, Spanish Steps and the Vatican Museum.
Jump on the fast train from Rome to Florence, the home of numerous masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture, like the Statue of David and the impressive Duomo. Florence is the capital of Tuscany and the largest city in Italy. Take your time and feast your eyes on its incredible architecture and pieces of art, then meander through the undulating countryside of vineyards and olive groves in the Tuscan region. Check out medieval villages and castles that sit atop high hills and get a taste for fine foods and wines along the wine routes stopping at wineries and farms.
Head out to the steep cliffs and sandy beaches on the Tuscan coastline, and the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, surrounded by the azure blue Mediterranean Sea. Tuscan Islands include Elba, Giglio, Giannutri, Capraia, Pianosa, Montecristo and Gorgona.
To reach Elba, the largest of the Tuscan Islands, take the train or drive to the town of Piombino just south of Pisa, where you catch one of the frequent ferries for the one-hour trip to the port town of Portoferraio.
Return to Pisa and catch a train to La Spezia, the gateway to the Cinque Terre. Within minutes of departing La Spezia you will start to get glimpses of the dramatic coastal scenery of Cinque Terre, that is actually made up of a string of five little fishing villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso.
This string of coastline on the Italian Riviera is jaw-droppingly beautiful with spectacular views and enchanting little villages that you can stroll through at your leisure. A must do is the the famous Sentiero no. 2 trail or Sentiero Azzurro walking path connecting the five villages of the Cinque Terre. The scenic path set high above the coastline winds its way through lemon groves and vineyards and is about 11 kilometres long taking an estimated 5 hours to walk.
If walking or cruising isn’t your thing, then the train is a very cheap and easy way to village hop along the Cinque Terre. The trains run every half hour.
Scoot on over to the eastern coast of Italy to the city of romance – Venice. Check out the Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Basilica and the Gothic masterpiece Doge’s Palace. A must do is a Gondolier ride down the canals of Venice or simply weaving your way on foot through the narrow laneways of this ancient city. It’s easy to get swept away by the magic of Venice!
The city made up of 118 islands, is also surrounded by a number of charming and easily accessible islands, all of which are unique in their own right. Jump on a ferry and visit each of these Venetian lagoon islands, all boasting a different view of this incredible city. They comprise of Burano, Murano, Torcello, Giudecca and Isola di San Michele.
After leaving the romance of Venice make your way to another equally charming place in Northern Italy, the captivating Lake Como. The lake is shaped like an upside-down Y, with three slender branches that meet at the resort town of Bellagio. Lake Como is set against the foothills of The Alps that provide breathtaking scenery and is dotted with small villages full of charm and character.
Cruising on the lake is without a doubt the most common thing for tourists to do when visiting the area. It is the perfect way to observe the area from a unique point of view, admiring the charming villas and towns that populate its shores.
The easiest way to get to the Amalfi Coast is via the fast train from Florence to Naples, then either catch a bus or hire a driver to negotiate the 57km drive along the scenic Amalfi Coast road. The road clings to the steep cliffs with many twists and turns and is impossibly narrow with tunnels dug through some of the mountains that touch the sea.
Village hopping is extremely popular along the Amalfi Coast. Positano, Maiori and Ravello are just some of the names of the beautiful places you can visit.
If you’re feeling particularly energetic take on The Path of The Gods or the Sentiero degli Dei, high above Positano and the Amalfi Coast. The path passes through the most fascinating gorges, cliffs and precipices of the Amalfi Coast, with views to die for!
An absolute must-do when on the Amalfi Coast is a day trip over to the Island of Capri. Located in Italy’s Gulf of Naples, it’s between a 20 to 60 minute ferry or boat ride from Positano, depending on the speed of the boat. Also worth a mention are the Gulf of Naples islands of Ischia and Procida.
Sometimes referred to as the “Real Italy”, Sicily is an island located at the bottom of the toe of the boot of Italy. When visiting Italy and its islands, this one is an absolute must see! The largest island of Italy, is dominated by the looming Mount Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano.
Italy’s island of Sicily is rich in history, food and culture. Visit the historic cities of Palermo, Catania and Siracusa; the Etna region with its volcanic landscapes, fertile wine country and picture-perfect Taormina; Ragusa, Modica and the other Baroque towns of the south; the Greek temples of Agrigento, Selinunte and Segesta; Roman sites like Piazza Armerina; miles of sandy beaches and secret rocky coves. There really is enough to see and do here that will keep you busy for at least a month!
How can one small country have so many bounties? And where does one even start to plan an itinerary visiting Italy and its island to see all this splendour?
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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