Civilization is believed to have existed within the current Italian borders for a mind-bending 200,000 years. Greek colonists were the first to call the land home before Ancient Rome emerged, blended in some ways with the Greek empire, and formed the basis for much of today's Western civilization. The layers upon layers of history and culture that were left behind — along with modern-day attractions and gorgeously preserved natural landscapes — today draw between 25 million and 30 million tourists each year. That's nearly half the population of the European Union itself, and it ranks Italy among the world's top half-dozen or so vacation destinations.
You could tour Italy for more than a month, visiting a different UNESCO World Heritage Site each day, and still not see them all in the span of a single trip. Many tourists say a week isn't even enough to shop for shoes in — let alone walk all around — a city such as Rome or Milan. Scholars have spent entire lifetimes researching single sites like the Colosseum and even single works of art by the Italian masters Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. You could sample Chianti in and around the city of Florence for a year and never taste a drop from the same vintage, or enjoy life on the mainland for decades without crossing Italy's waterways to play on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
Given all that Italy has to offer, it's no wonder so many people visit — and then visit again and again. The trick to planning your own vacation in this land of plenty is outlining a doable itinerary that will get you to the areas that intrigue you most, without leaving you so exhausted that you feel too tired to truly explore and enjoy them. Trying to see all of Italy in a single vacation is plainly unimaginable, but learning about all of Italy and then picking and choosing what sounds best to you? Well, that's just smart planning.
For that reason, The Everything® Travel Guide to Italy is organized primarily by geographic region. If you're trying to envision your first visit to Italy and want to focus on a popular location such as Rome, you will find everything you need to create a memorable week-long visit within the city limits. Or, if you're heading to Italy for the fourth or fifth time and want to explore some of the less-frequently visited regions, the following pages will help you determine where you might start and end to create a reasonable week-long or month-long schedule. Each chapter focuses on the prime tourist offerings in every region of the country, with special attention given to hotel and restaurant listings so that you can keep your budget in tune with your traveling wish list.
The Everything® Travel Guide to Italy also includes full chapters on Italian food and wine, which are a huge part of the tourism experience and can be much more enjoyable if you understand what and how to order. Also in that vein, there is an entire chapter full of common Italian words and phrases. Yes, the people of Italy are accustomed to welcoming tourists, especially in the larger cities where English is often spoken, but the language of choice is still Italian, and you can get much friendlier (and faster) assistance if you take the time to learn a few key phrases.
Last, there are chapters about sample itineraries and options for visiting Italy by boat or cruise ship, or as part of international itineraries that include nearby nations. France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia are exciting cultures unto themselves, each bringing into sharp relief what makes life in Italy so different and special.
Which is, of course, why you want to start your vacation in Italy — which is exactly what this book will help you do. Get ready to begin with a fast history lesson, one that will help you understand the centuries of civilization that gave birth to today's countless tourism options.