The Belpaese (Beautiful Country) is one of the single greatest repositories of sensorial pleasures on earth. From art to food, from stunning and varied countryside to flamboyant fashion, Italy has it all. This is the country that brought us Slow Food, devoted to the promotion of fresh products and fine traditional, cooking. What started as a local protest against fast food has become a worldwide movement.
With 44 sites, Italy has more Unesco World Heritage sites than any other country on earth. Its great città d’arte (cities of art), like Rome, Venice and Florence, have been attracting visitors for centuries, and with good reason. At times, it seems like the country rests on its artistic laurels. This is not entirely true. Milan, the country’s financial hub, has created one of Europe’s biggest and most modern trade fairs and is planning a major residential development, the CityLife complex, in the heart of the city. Venice is possibly the city that has, in appearance, changed least down the decades but it has recently opened a sleek new bridge over the Grand Canal and a spectacular contemporary art space at the Punta della Dogana.
Alongside Italy’s art treasures, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy in the countryside. You can ski in the Alps, hike the Dolomites or dive off Sardinia’s golden coast. Adrenalin junkies can catch fireworks on Sicily’s volatile volcanoes. But as much as all of this, a trip to Italy is about lapping up the lifestyle. It’s about idling over a coffee at a streetside cafe or lingering over a long lunch in the hot Mediterranean sun.