Italy’s fortes extend beyond its galleries, plates and wardrobes. The country is one of Mother Nature’s masterpieces, its geography offering extraordinary natural diversity. From the north’s icy Alps and glacial lakes to the south’s volcanic craters and turquoise grottoes, this is a place for doing as well as seeing. One day you’re tearing down Courmayeur’s powdery slopes, the next you could be riding cowboy-style across the marshes of the Maremma, or diving in coral-studded Campanian waters. Not bad for a country not much bigger than Arizona.
In few places do art and life intermingle so effortlessly. This may be the land of Dante, Titian and Verdi, but it’s also the home of Prada, Gualtiero Marchesi and Renzo Piano. Beauty, style and flair furnish every aspect of daily life, from those immaculately knotted ties and perfect espressos, to the flirtatious smiles of striking strangers. The root of Italian psychology is a dedication to living life well and, effortless as it may seem, driving that dedication is a reverence for the finer things. So slow down, take note and indulge in a little bella vita.
Italy’s 20 regions feel more like 20 independent states, each with its own dialects, traditions, architecture and glorious food. From nibbling on knödel in an Alto Adige chalet to exploring souk-like market streets in Sicily, the choices are as diverse as they are seductive. Then there’s the country’s incomparable artistic treasures, which amount to more than the rest of the world put together. It’s hard not to feel a little envious sometimes, but it’s even harder not to fall madly in love.
It might look like a boot, but food-obsessed Italy feels more like a decadently stuffed Christmas stocking. From delicate tagliatelle al ragù to velvety cannoli, every bite feels like a revelation. The secret: superlative ingredients and strictly seasonal produce. And while Italy’s culinary soul might be earthy and rustic, it’s equally ingenious and sophisticated. Expect some of the world’s top fine-dining destinations, from San Pellegrino ‘World’s Best 50’ hotspots to Michelin-starred musts. So whether you’re on a degustation odyssey in Modena, truffle hunting in Piedmont or swilling powerhouse reds in the Valpolicella wine region, prepare to swoon.
Epicentre of the Roman Empire and birthplace of the Renaissance, this sun-kissed virtuoso groans under the weight of its cultural cachet: it’s here that you’ll stand in the presence of Michelangelo’s David and Sistine Chapel frescoes, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Primavera and da Vinci’s The Last Supper. In fact, Italy has more Unesco World Heritage cultural sites than any other country on Earth. Should you walk in the footsteps of saints and emperors in Rome, revel in Ravenna’s glittering Byzantine treasures or get breathless over Giotto’s revolutionary frescoes in Padua? It’s a cultural conundrum as thrilling as it is overwhelming.