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Italy

About Italy

Italy is without a doubt the classic ‘must’ country to visit. Europe’s probably best-loved vacation paradise offers a variety of different landscapes and is also unbeatable with its rich variety of historical and cultural monuments. Nature is seen in all its variety from the eternal ice of Alpine peaks to the sunny coastal regions of Sicily. Visitors are captivated by the remnants of an ancient empire that once stretched from Britain to Africa, while the Italian beaches and coastline are veritable tourist magnets.

This country in Southern Europe occupies a boot-shaped peninsula extending from the Alps to the Mediterranean. The national territory includes a wide range of islands and island groups, among them Sicily and Sardinia. Among the smaller islands are Capri or Ischia. Italy is divided into twenty regions and 95 provinces. The mini-state of San Marino is completely surrounded by Italian territory and is considered an enclave. The climate of the Italian peninsula is divided into three zones. In the North cold winters and damp summers are typical. In the Po Valley, winters are cold and damp and summers dry. The remainder of the country is characterized by long hot summers and mild winters.

Already Italy’s North gives a foretaste of the country’s great variety. The winter sport areas of the Dolomites and the proud buildings of Verona or Padua are just as popular as the famous lagoon city of Venice. Much untouched nature awaits visitors in Italy’s Northwest, where the craggy mountain ranges of the Alps and the Mediterranean coast dominate. The noble vacation resort of San Remo, Lake Maggiore or the fashionable metropolis of Milan always reward a visit. Hikers roam the idyllic Aosta Valley and Piedmont. Blooming gardens and numerous lakes characterize Lombardy. In the heart of Italy lies Tuscany, with its culture-rich cities like Florence and Pisa. The Po Delta spreads over Emilia-Romagna, and in Umbria and the Marches idyllic villages lure visitors to a journey into the past.

The varied tourist sights of Rome enjoy international significance and witness to the prestige of the former world empire. Memories of ancient Rome live on in the Pantheon, the Coliseum and the Capitol, which help visitors feel the greatness of the eternal city on the Tiber, for a millennium-and-a-half the cultural and power center of Europe. From the lively bustle in the streets of Naples, attention is drawn to Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompeii. Greeks and Romans once shaped the history of Campania and left behind their traces, still visible in its monumental ruins. The Amalfi coast is the bathing paradise of Southern Italy, while the rugged landscape of Abruzzi promises peace and tranquility. Wild landscapes where one can encounter solitude are also found in Basilicata and Calabria. In the shadows of Mount Etna, the coast of Sicily is impressive and many-faceted.

Vacation Rentals and Holiday Homes in Italy

Italian Regions

Tuscany
Tuscany is located in central Italy and ranges from the mountains of the Tuscan and Etruscan Apennines to the rolling hills of Toscana to the Tyrrhenian Sea coast. Additionally, the island of Elba and some smaller islands belong to the region. In the hilly country we find lush vineyards and cypress trees. Cities such as Florence, Pisa or Sienna are home to many of Italy’s most significant art treasures. The white marble of Carrera has been treasured by sculptors for centuries. Massive defensive walls surround the city center of Lucca. The leaning tower of Pisa has defied gravity for ages, and Arezzo is among the richest cities of Tuscany. Fascinating Elba is the island where Napoleon was first exiled, and can be reached by ferry.

Sicily
Sicily is Italy’s largest island and is situated southwest of the mainland in the Mediterranean Sea. The almost completely mountainous island is divided into several provinces. The capital city is Palermo. Sicily’s landscape has long been marked by volcanism. As a landmark of the island, Mt Etna’s volcanic cone towers over the east coast. Etna is, with an altitude of 3,343 meters, the largest still-active volcanic crater in Europe. Around Marsala, Tindari or Eraclea, beautiful beaches line the coast. In the interior, remote mountain villages attract hikers. In the fertile volcanic soil, citrus fruits and grapes flourish. History buffs will find very well-preserved temple complexes from Greek antiquity in Sicily.

Sardinia
The island of Sardinia lies west of the Italian mainland. The Strait of Bonifacio separates the peaceful island from the French island of Corsica. The autonomous region of Sardinia is divided into four provinces, Nuoro, Oristano, Cagliari and Sassari. On its eastern coast the mountainous island descends over ragged cliffs to the sea. In the middle ages there were mining operations on Sardinia, but today the island is largely agricultural. Numerous traces of antiquity have survived on Sardinia. The Costa Smeralda is a swimmers’ paradise. The cathedral of Sassari or the waterfront of Alghero are popular starting points for excursions. Among the island’s unique features are thousands of cone-shaped basalt formations, which are called “nuraghi” and once served as fortresses.

Campania
Campania stretches from the Apennine Mountains to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The region is marked by Mount Vesuvius’s active volcanism. Campania is among Italy’s most densely-settled regions. In ancient times, Greeks and Etruscans shaped its history. The port city of Naples is an excellent starting point for exploring Campania. The jewel of Campania is the Amalfi coast south of Naples. Northern Campania is largely untouched and characterized by its green lowlands. At the foot of Vesuvius lie the imposing ruins of Pompeii. Worth seeing are also the Palazzo Real, reminiscent of Versailles, in Caserta and Trajan’s famous triumphal arch in Benevento. On Capri and Ischia, beach tourism attracts thousands of visitors.

Apulia
Apulia is located in southeastern Italy and reaches as far as the boot heel of the Salento peninsula. Once Apulia was located at the junction of important trade routes to the Orient. The Hohenstaufen dynasty led the region to prosperity and created noteworthy buildings and artworks. The flat countryside is very fertile, and great quantities of wine and olive oil are produced there. The baroque architecture of Lecce provide a charming contrast to the Trullo houses, typical of the region. Thousands of these small stone houses with peaked roofs are found in the Zona dei Trulli. Another rewarding excursion destination is the exotic zoo not far from Fasano. The caves of Castellana are among the most significant European dripstone caverns and can be visited on guided tours.

Trentino – South Tyrol
Italian-speaking Trentino and German-speaking South Tyrol are tied together by the Dolomite Mountain range. The valleys were already inhabited thousands of years ago, which was impressively shown by the discovery of a glacier mummy affectionately known as Ötzi. Trentino-South Tyrol is a beloved region for active vacationers and nature lovers. Not least of all, visitors value the hospitality and culinary riches of the region. Proud castles invite visitors in Meran or Bruneck. In Brixen the cathedral forms the center of the city. With the Walther Square and the Dominican church, the city of Bozen is likewise rich in sights. In Grödner Valley, traditional woodcarving has survived. The Ladin Museum in Canazei is dedicated to the language and culture of this regional minority.

Liguria
The region of Liguria encompasses a narrow coastal strip along the Gulf of Genoa. The peaks of the Alps and Apennines form a natural barrier against unfavorable climatic influences, and the region opens to the south with its whole Mediterranean splendor. The mild winters make the coastal strip of the Riviera a popular vacation area. Lush flower gardens and pastel-colored houses offer charming photographic motifs. The lively harbor city of Genoa contrasts with tranquil coastal towns. San Remo, an elegant resort town, impresses with its vibrant flower market. Portofino is among the most expensive vacation towns in Italy. The cliff villages of the Cinque Terre are popular hiking destinations.

Lombardy
Lombardy is a region in northern Italy. The landscape is marked by the Alpine peaks of Bernina and Ortler and extends down to the Po Valley. The major points of attraction for tourism are the Upper Italian lakes. On Lake Maggiore, Lake Garda or Lake Como, one gets a foretaste of the rich variety of Southern Italy. The high mountain regions are well suited for climbing tours and winter sports. Furthermore, Lombardy is considered the economic center of Italy and with its elegant capital of Milan possessed a fashionable metropolis of world renown. The churches and palaces of Bergamo or Cremona also deserve respect.

Latium
Latium is a historical landscape between the Apennines and the Tyrrhenian Sea. The vibrant center of the region is the Italian capital of Rome, with all its magnificent churches, palaces, museums and classical architecture. The region is marked by volcanic activity. In the course of time, several crater lakes have formed. Agriculture, sheep husbandry and fishing dominate the economy. The varied landscape and the cultural-historical sights are the corner post of tourism in Latium. In Rome the magnificent buildings of a world empire surround visitors. A castle rises over the roofs of Segni. In the middle ages, popes resided in Anagni. In Fiuggi, healing fountains bubble out of the ground. As well, in Latium the ruined city of Ninfa is worth a side-trip.

Umbria
Umbria is a region in central Italy and borders directly on Tuscany. Because of its idyllic mountains, the region is also called the green heart of Italy. Furthermore, its numerous medieval villages make the area especially charming. Assisi and Spoleto are the centers of tourism in Umbria. The capital city of Perugia possesses a beautiful medieval city center. Lake Trasimeno is the fourth-largest lake in Italy, and its small sand beach is a veritable gem. In Assisi one can visit the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi in the Basilica di San Francesco. The cathedral of Orivieto is an impressive structure with a long history. Monti Sibillini National Park exemplifies the great beauty of the region.

Emilia-Romagna
Emilia-Romagna comprehends the southern part of the Northern Italian lowlands and extends to the East as far as the Adriatic coast. The fertile farming and grazing land of the Po Valley, the numerous cultural-historically significant cities and dynamic economic activity form the corner posts of one of the richest regions in Italy. Parma is worth a visit not just for its cheese and ham. Additionally, the cathedral, the Baptistery or the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista will reward a visit. In Modena one can also see an automobile exhibition, not to mention the stately cathedral. In Bologna magnificent palaces catch the eye, and the splendid architecture of Ferrara arose under the influence of the aristocratic d`Este family.

Aosta Valley
Aosta Valley is an autonomous region in northwestern Italy. Located at the foot of Mont Blanc and surrounded by the highest peaks of the Alps, the landscape of Aosta Valley makes it one of the most impressive regions of Italy. Castles and fortresses are common in the region, which already very early was an important access route to the Alpine mountain passes. The excellent winter sport conditions make the region an attraction for ski holidays. The Aosta Valley road crosses the region and invites visitors to a variety of stops, for example, at Fénis Castle, built in the 14th century. The Grand Paradiso National Park beckons with mountain tours and animal watching. An extended mountain tour can be made to the peak of Mont Blanc in about ten hours.

Calabria
The toe of the Italian boot is formed by the region of Calabria. Calabria consists of the provinces of Cosenza, Catanzaro and Reggio di Calabria. Until 1860, Calabria belonged to the kingdom of Naples. Today Calabria is only sparsely populated, but is rich in unspoiled nature. The economy centers chiefly on agriculture. The jagged coastline offers a wildly romantic picture, and the extensive conifer and beech forests lend the region a central European character. In the capital city of Catanzaro, a richly decorated cathedral is worth seeing. Catanzaro Marina is a tranquil bathing resort. Hikers crisscross the Sila mountains. In southern Calabria the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Locri have survived.

Abruzzi
Abruzzi is the highest part of the Apennines and is located in central Italy. Between the central Apennines and the Adriatic Sea lie the provinces of Teramo, Chieti, Pescara and L`Aquila. The highest point of the Apennines belongs to the 2,912 meter high Corno Grande. Closer to the Adriatic Sea, the landscape is flatter and is crossed by numerous rivers. Winter sports play a significant role for tourism. Otherwise, the thinly settled region is a popular hiking area. The capital of Teramo offers medieval Gothic buildings and a charming city garden. Along the Adriatic coast, the beaches of Alba Adriatica, Tortoreto Lido or Martinsicuro are very popular.

The Marches
The Marches region includes a part of central Italy characterized by numerous mountain ranges. The fertile highlands rise up to the 2,476 meter high Monte Vettore. The residents live from farming and gardening. On the Adriatic coast, fishing plays a role in the economy. The beach resorts on the Adriatic coast are popular tourist magnets. In the hinterlands, serene mountain villages keep alive memories of the past. Besides the capital city of Ancona, Macerata is worth a visit. The university town possesses a cathedral and a festival house. The churches of Fermo are richly decorated. In Jesi in the northern part of the region, the German Emperor Frederick II von Hohenstaufen was born. Works by Lorenzo Lotto can be viewed in the local museum.

Piedmont
Piedmont is a region in Northern Italy and, besides the Po Valley, includes a pre-Alpine area that offers a view of the peaks of Monte Rosa und Mont Blanc. On the mountain slopes of Piedmont, some of the best Italian grapes are grown. The best-loved tourist points of attraction lie in the Cottian and Ligurian Alps. Unexcelled is the Mediterranean landscape around Lake Maggiore. Especially popular city tours are scheduled to Turin or Asti. The Margrave of Monferrato once lived in Casale Monferrato. Cuneo is located on a high plateau. The promenade along the fortifications offers an impressive Alpine vista. In Saluzzo, numerous medieval buildings have survived.

Molise
The region of Molise extends along the southeastern Italian coast. In this typical mountain region, much remains of the historical past. By 1963 the regions of Molise and Abruzzi had been united. The raw countryside is only thinly settled. Romans and Normans marked the development of the area on the ankle of the Italian peninsula. In the hinterland of Molise, one finds a few of the last untouched regions of Italy. Characteristic of the landscape are the valleys, high plateaus and lonely mountain peaks. Atri is a pretty mountain town with narrow streets and a cathedral. The most magnificent castle of Frederick II, Castel de Monte, reigns alone on a high hilltop. The mountain town of Locorotondo is among the most picturesque spots of the region and in the summer is the venue of a musical festival.

Palaces in Italy

Vitruvius, Bramante, Brunelleschi, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Palladio, Bernini, Piranesi, Piano… Throughout history, no other country in the world has produced such a large number of genius architects like Italy. From Roman antiquity to modern times, their monuments have influenced and inspired architecture all over the world. Besides the glorious Roman temples and amphitheatres, the awe inspiring medieval churches and cathedrals, it is especially the magnificent Renaissance, Baroque and neo-classical residences of the country's noble and clerical rulers that cast a spell on millions of Italy visitors every year.

Palaces in Northern Italy
South Tyrol in northern Italy features hundreds of picturesque fortified medieval castles and castle ruins sitting enthroned on rocky outcrops high above vineyards and valleys, but there is also a large number of elegant palaces - the witnesses of a much later era. If you visit the Hofburg Palace in Brixen (Bressanone), you will hardly believe that this magnificent building with its impressive Baroque façade and the beautiful arcade Renaissance courtyard was once a medieval castle, too. The only reminder is the water filled moat surrounding the palace, which used to be the residence of the Prince Bishops of Brixen until 1972. Travelling southwards from the Alps, the next Italian must-see palaces are located in Venice, and the one that immediately comes to mind when mentioning this place is the Palazzo Ducale. Before it became a museum, the Doge's Palace was for centuries the residence of the Doges, the rulers of Venice, and its beautiful 14th century Venetian Gothic waterfront façade has been the unmistakable landmark of the lagoon city ever since.

Florentine and Roman palazzi
Florence, the capital city of Tuscany, is considered as the cradle of the Renaissance and its outstanding cultural and artistic treasures draw large numbers of visitors every year. Besides the Duomo, Palazzo Pitti (15th century) with its characteristic rusticated façade is certainly the city's most famous and visited building. The former residence of the Medici family and even the Italian King is now an important art museum with several collections including the Palatine Gallery, where you can marvel at masterpieces by world famous Renaissance and Baroque artists like Raphael, Titian, Tintotretto, Rubens, Caravaggio and Velasquez. Absolutely worth seeing are also the sumptuous Royal Apartments and the palace's vast Boboli Gardens - a prime example of a classic Italian palace garden with sculptures, fountains and grottoes. Of course, Italy's capital city Rome also boasts an incredibly high number of magnificent Renaissance and Baroque palazzi such as Palazzo Farnese, Palazzo Borghese and Palazzo del Quirinal, just to name a few. Designed and decorated by the most prestigious architects and most talented artists of their times, these stately homes of popes, kings and Italian presidents have become an integral part of the Eternal City's townscape, just like the majestic monuments of ancient Rome.

Palaces in the south of Italy
If you spend your Italy holidays in the country's lovely south, in Campania or Sicily for instance, don't miss the opportunity to visit the Reggia di Caserta near Naples or the Palazzo dei Normanni in Palermo, as these two royal palaces rank among the most impressive palaces in southern Italy. The Royal Palace of Caserta is even more spectacular than the Palazzo Reale in Naples. It was commissioned in the 18th century by the Bourbon ruler Charles VII and its architect was no other than the famous Luigi Vanvitelli, who created a monumental masterpiece of Italian classical Baroque architecture with 1,200 rooms and 34 staircases. You certainly won't fail to notice the striking similarity to the Parisian Palace of Versailles and, in fact, it was mainly this French palace that inspired the architect when designing the new royal residence. With its extremely sumptuous interiors and the vast landscape gardens, the palace rightly deserves to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage. In contrast, the Royal Palace in Palermo, also called Norman Palace, is a couple of centuries older and its history begins in the 12th century, when the Normans ruled over the newly founded Kingdom of Sicily. King Roger II had the former Arabian palace transformed into his residence and he also added the famous Capella Palatina (Palatine Chapel) – a lavishly decorated gem in the heart of the palace and a prime example of Norman-Arab-Byzantine art and architecture.

Nature holidays in Italy

It is totally understandable that the monuments of Ancient Rome, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Sistine Chapel draw millions of tourists from around the globe to Italy every year. However, besides these cultural tourist attractions, there is another excellent reason for choosing this country as your next holiday destination: its unique and diverse landscapes, which provide all outdoor enthusiasts with an abundance of possibilities to get in close touch with unspoilt nature! The Italian sceneries are incredibly beautiful and range from snow-capped mountains to rolling hills, deep forests, sparkling lakes, sandy beaches, idyllic islands and even roaring volcanoes. Enjoy these to the max while hiking, climbing, biking, skiing, swimming or diving and you will fall in love with Italy's "wild" side!

Exploring mountains
Where could you experience nature better than in the mountains? Both the Alps in northern Italy and the Apennine Mountains, that run from north to south across the entire length of the Italian peninsula, are true nature paradises and the majority of Italy's 24 national parks are located within these two mountain ranges. They are the best places to enjoy untouched nature and observe the local wildlife at close range. For instance, the wild animals roaming freely in the Stelvio National Park (South Tyrol, Trentino, Lombardy) include Alpine ibexes, different types of deer, foxes, stoats and marmots, while the Abruzzo National Park in the Central Apennines is home the Abruzzi chamois, red deer, wolves and golden eagles. If you are very lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the Marsican brown bear – an elusive creature that is endemic to this region. Taking pictures of the endemic flora such as the beautiful Marsican iris and the rare Yellow Lady's Slipper will certainly be much easier!

Taming volcanoes
If you are seeking a thrilling mountain adventure of a very special kind, you should look further south and join a volcano tour! These guided walks will take you up on one of Italy's still active volcanoes: Mount Vesuvius near Naples, Mount Etna in Sicily or Mount Stromboli in the Aeolian Islands. Whichever of these fire-spitting "beasts" you decide to tame, walking on a steaming, hissing volcano, smelling its breath (sulphur) and staring right into its eyes (craters), knowing that its blood (magma) is boiling beneath your feet, is an unforgettable once in a lifetime experience!

Discovering lakes
You don't necessarily need to climb high mountains or volcanoes in order to enjoy beautiful nature in Italy. The Italian lakes – and there are well over a thousand, ranging from small idyllic Alpine lakes to large lakes with little islands – are the ideal Italy holiday destination for all nature lovers. With a surface area of nearly 370 m2, the world famous Lake Garda is not only the largest lake in Italy but also one of the most beautiful. It extends from Alpine foothills to the Po river plain and its mild, almost Mediterranean climate allows an exotic vegetation to prosper. Lake Bolsena, located in Lazio on the border to Tuscany, is a true insider's tip. Embedded in one of Italy's most scenic landscapes, this almost circular lake has formed in the crater of an extinct volcano and its crystal clear waters are so clean that many rare species of fish and aquatic plants have managed to establish a foothold.

Hopping islands
The Italian Boot is surrounded by four seas: the Adriatic Sea, the Ionian Sea, the Ligurian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea. Its coastline is thus extremely diverse and ranges from rocky cliffs to flat sandy shores, featuring a multitude of scattered islands and islets. Sicily is the largest of all the Italian islands, followed by Sardinia. Both are places of outstanding natural beauty with rugged mountains, green hills, wood lands, marshes and pristine beaches, making them an ideal Italy holiday destination for beachgoers, outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife observers alike. When in Sardinia, take the chance and visit the Maddalena Archipelago National Park - this protected archipelago in the northeast of the island is a great place for birdwatching and exploring Italy's fascinating underwater world and so are Sicily's satellite islands. Hop over to Pantelleria or one of the beautiful Egadi or Pelagie islands and you will be even closer to Africa than to Europe!