Italy is home to some of the world’s most famous monuments, celebrated art, and renowned cuisine. Its natural beauty is also renowned, with the soaring Alps and rocky Dolomites in the north; inland lakes including Como, Maggiore, Iseo, and Garda; and three active volcanoes (Etna, Stromboli, and Vesuvius). Italian culture has been defined by many trends throughout history, from the Renaissance’s elegance and chiaroscuro style to the Baroque tendencies of Caravaggio and Bernini; to Rococo and Neoclassical styles in the 17th and 19th centuries.
Its long coastline includes picturesque beaches and stretches of olive groves, with hill towns scattered over its rugged interior. Campania’s volcanic landscape is perfect for winemaking, producing tannic grapes such as Taurasi and Aglianico, while Puglia boasts scenic hills and plains that produce spiced Negroamaro and rare white Verdeca wines.
With its famous museums and art galleries, Florence is the capital of Renaissance art. The Piazza della Signoria is a jackpot for street art, with sculptures by Cellini, Giambologna, and Michelangelo (and copies of his work). A few blocks away is Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s government center and an imposing museum with works by Donatello, Botticelli, and other Renaissance masters.
The mountainous northern region of Trentino-Alto Adige brushes the Alps and Dolomites, and has a distinctly Germanic feel in its food, language, and architecture. Its climate is temperate, with cold winters and warm summers.
As you move south, the climate becomes warmer, with hot, dry summers and mild winters. Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, has an almost tropical climate.
Italy’s cuisine is diverse and delicious, with influences from all over the globe. A wide variety of pastas are popular, as are pizza and focaccia bread. Other famous dishes include risotto, lasagna, fettuccine al pomodoro, and eggplant parmesan.
The wine scene in Italy is equally impressive. The country’s dozens of distinct wine regions produce excellent red, white, and sparkling wines. Its vineyards range from sea level in Emilia-Romagna to as high as 1,300 meters (4,200ft) in the alpine Aosta Valley.
Aside from its dazzling food and wines, Italy is a place where family is everything. Its small to medium-sized families are renowned for their warmth and closeness. Families gather to celebrate birthdays and holidays, to celebrate weddings and anniversaries, and to share meals together at restaurants and homes.