Going around Italy is like visiting a museum. Each city stands as a gallery; each church and monument is an antique article on display; every crack and cobblestone is a witness to legends that inspired plays by Shakespeare, movies on Casanova, and even a hit song by Bastille.
Here are six of my favorite exhibits:
Aside from whipping up the world’s finest gelatos, I would say that the grandeur of the Roman Empire ranks a close second for what Italy is most celebrated.
Postcard views make up the country’s capital, including the Roman Colosseum, the ruins of the Forum, the Pantheon, and the walled enclave of Vatican City.
The numerous churches need no introduction for fans of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, but the Renaissance masterpieces decorating the city bears countless revisits and heaves of admiring sighs.
Try to spend a good part of your stay getting lost in St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, then ask your local tour guide (or any Italian cutie) for fun facts on the eponymous artists of the Ninja Turtles. Do as the tourists do and don’t leave the city without a coin toss to the Trevi Fountain, sealing the chance for a second visit.
Florence or Firenze may be better known among fashion mavens as the cradle of the Ferragamo and Gucci civilization, but to the rest of the world, it weighs more as the birthplace of the Renaissance.
The legacy of the Medici family and Niccolo Machiavelli are more than just remnants of the past, it moves in the very air and aura of the present city. The Florentine roofscape adds to the charm of the city in its photogenic shade of medieval orange, with the great dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, or the Cathedral of Florence, sticking out in all its Gothic glory.
If the quaint beauty of the capital of Tuscany doesn’t win you over, the view of the Arno River punctuated by its iconic bridges will make you surrender. Or you can just head over to the outlets if retail is the type of therapy you prefer.
To any unsuspecting person, Venice sounds like a logistical and engineering nightmare. As an idea, it’s so absurd that no sales pitch would have gotten your boss to approve it.
Technically, it’s a city made up of hundreds of small islands separated by canals and connected by bridges. But a more accurate description would be that it’s a city of canals and bridges connected by small islands. The semantics makes a real difference though because the character of Venice lies not in the fact that it’s a compact city-archipelago, but rather in the gondolas gliding down the Grand Canal, the shops lining the Rialto Bridge, and the means of transportation: either by water or by foot only.
The Venetian lifestyle is an art in itself, and the way the Italians own this city without cars or roads will make you feel as if it’s the most natural order of things in the world.
You may be thinking by now that Italy has somehow been left in earlier centuries, but Milan will prove that it coexists in the past, present, and future.
Begin with the timeless Last Supper, quietly sitting at Santa Maria delle Grazie. Just a slot in the same room with Da Vinci’s famous mural would need months of advanced reservations. Book it even before you apply for visas.
A sure sign that you really are in the present century though are the tourist buses winding around the city. Any one of them should take you to the Milan Duomo, the mere façade of which is sure to leave you gaping in awe like most cathedrals in Europe do, only multiplied by its size.
In the same piazza stands the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which will put your favorite malls to shame.
One of the buses will also take you to the more commercial side of town, where you’ll find a pair of residential towers called Bosco Verticale, which translates to Vertical Forest, an architectural feat towards a cleaner and greener future.
From Milan, it’s easy to take daytrips to nearby cities. In fair Verona, you’ll find Casa di Giulietta and within, yes – Juliet’s balcony. What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and everyone is lining up to be the Sun.
The Verona Arena in Piazza Bra is also worth a visit. With its dated outer facade, you’d be surprised to find that it still seats thousands today on a typical opera or concert night. I wasn’t expecting plenty else and was rather delighted to find how lovely the city turned out to be.
There’s no better place to search for la dolce vita than in the five villages of Cinque Terre.
Cap off your vacation with good wine and a view of the Italian Riviera that’s so superb, I have no words that could give it better justice than this photo does.
The added beauty of touring Italy is that most of these cities are conveniently within a few hours of each other. Rent a car or purchase Eurorail passes – either option leads to endless possibilities.
Just like my favorite museums, Italy has left me utterly convinced that tucked away in some of its hidden galleries, wonders are waiting to be discovered.
Louella is a 22-year-old jack of some trades and Master of Mathematical Finance from Ateneo de Manila University. She is curious about everything and searches for answers by traveling extensively. She travels daily from Binondo to Taguig, where she works as a derivative analyst for Deutsche Bank. She travels across time and space through books, her broomstick, and the TARDIS. But more than anything, she likes to travel to places with good art, good food, and good stories to write about over at gypsyblogger.tumblr.com.