In this extract from our Italy Travel Guide, we look at some Italian experiences that you must not miss.
You have seen it in movies like Roman Holiday and Gladiator, but nothing beats the moment you come face to face with the Colosseum. Rome’s greatest architectural triumph has seen countless bloody mortal combats between gladiators and wild beasts, including lions, bears and hippopotamuses. Visit first thing in the morning, in the late afternoon, or in the evening when it glitters with light, to pay your special tribute to Rome’s colossal edifice and timeless reminder of Roman might.
Once a prosperous Roman port and resort city with elegant villas, baths, theatres and temples, it was destroyed in just a few short hours by a cataclysmic eruption of the Vesuvius. The volcanic ash also managed to preserve the remains for centuries. The marvellously preserved ruins of Pompeii in southern Italy attract millions of visitors annually. Witness a town frozen for all time in its 2000-year-old death throes. Wander the Roman streets, the grassy, column-lined forum, the city brothel, the 5000-seat theatre and the Villa dei Misteri, home to the world-famous Dionysiac Frieze fresco. Pop into the Terme Suburbane – which once served as a bathhouse, complete with a sauna and pool – to see some of the raunchiest frescoes in Pompeii.
The Grand Canal, Venice
A take-it-easy cruise along Venice’s watery high street is a must-do; hop on to a vaporetto (water bus) and drift down the shimmering and snake-like length of the Grand Canal to fully savour the over-the-top theatrical opulence of its famous palazzi, churches and public buildings. If the sheer number of beautiful buildings does not make your day, the sun going down over the rippling waters of the canal will surely do the trick.
St Peter’s Basilica
The grand Michelangelo-designed dome of St Peter’s Basilica is the first thing you notice about this High Renaissance-baroque church. Inside, openings on all sides allow natural light to miraculously flood the vast, cavernous space. Expect to be overwhelmed by the marble and the gilt and masterpieces by Raphael, Bramante and, of course, Italy’s Renaissance genius, Michelangelo.
With its dramatic cliff-strewn landscape, tiny fishing villages and hilltop views of an inky blue sea, the Amalfi Coast is just perfect for a romantic getaway or tranquil family holiday. Walk hand in hand through glamorous and languid Capri, take your kids to a stunning sea cave and interesting paper museum in the town of Amalfi, or explore dreamy Positano’s stylish boutiques – every trip to the Amalfi Coast promises to be unique. You’ll be guaranteed the holiday snaps of a lifetime.