A smorgasbord of art treasures, delicious food, stunning landscapes and a lively culture are just some of Italy’s riches. It is also home to some of the world’s best fashion designers and has a strong artisan tradition, from handmade violins in Cremona to gold and jewelry in Valenza. In contrast to the throwaway culture of many countries, Italians value quality. This often translates into name brands, but it also means that they prefer to buy fewer things and keep them longer, from clothes and furniture to shoes and automobiles.
Italy’s varying climate and strength of local traditions yields an amazing variety of regional foods and wines. Pizza and spaghetti are perhaps the most famous dishes associated with the country, but there is much more to the cuisine of the twenty-one regions.
In the north, Trentino-Alto Adige is a mountainous region that sweeps against the Alps and Dolomites with a distinctly Germanic feel. It’s also known for its alpine sports and the writings of Nicolo Machiavelli, Pietro Bembo and Ludovico Ariosto.
The central regions include Lazio, the capital city of Rome, with hill towns and a rich Roman heritage. The rolling hills of Umbria, dominated by the Etruscans, have magical isles and quaint hilltop villages, as well as great wines.
Tuscany has a similar appeal, with medieval towns and villages set amid rolling countryside. The area’s most famous wine is Chianti, made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese grapes.
On the southern coast, Naples and Campania are both sun-kissed and full of gastronomic delights. Naples’s zingy pomodoro sauce is famous worldwide, but there’s plenty more to discover. From aphrodisiac pastas to the sweeter and more savory mozzarella di bufala, the cheese is one of Italy’s culinary highlights.
Le Marche is a land of hill towns and unspoiled scenery, from the Renaissance ducal palaces of Urbino to the travertine of Ascoli Piceno. It’s also a wine region, producing the easy-drinking whites of Trebbiano and Grechetto alongside the dark reds of Sagrantino and Montepulciano.
The inland mountains of the Italian Peninsula are a playground for hikers, skiers and snowboarders. Calabria offers palm-lined beaches and forests that invite hiking, while the red wine of Taurasi is bold, robust and long-lived. The north’s Piedmont is a blend of industrial might (the Fiat plant in Turin) and agricultural wealth, with the vineyards of Barolo, Nebbiolo and Barbaresco producing some of the world’s finest wines.