Italy, the beautiful country of south-central Europe, occupies the peninsula surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. With its iconic boot shape on the map, Italy is the third-most populous member state of the European Union and a worldwide famous destination for travelers who love to combine all. It comprises some of the most scenic landscapes on Earth, having the rugged range of Alps standing at its broad top while Apennine Mountains run along the length of the Italian peninsula. Several active volcanoes, including Vesuvius, which from time-to-time belches ash and steam into the air above Naples, as well as the islands of Sicily and Sardinia complete the geomorphological map of the country.
Italy holds a long and multi-faceted history, present throughout the country on every archaeological and cultural remnant. Italian history begins with the ancient civilization of Etruscans. The Etruscans were replaced in the 3rd century BC by the Romans, the great empire of the Mediterranean world stretched from India to Scotland by the 2nd century CE. Barbarian invasions by Huns, Lombards, Ostrogoths, and Franks caused the Roman Empire to fall in the 5th century CE.
During the Renaissance era, Italy became again a center of significant intellectual, artistic and technological advances and it is considered one of the birthplaces of western civilization and a cultural superpower. During these ages, the best architects, artists and scholars created a great legacy of monuments, paintings, music and literature, thus Italy’s contribution to the cultural and historical heritage of Europe and the world remains immense. Overall, an estimated 100,000 monuments of any sort (museums, palaces, buildings, statues, churches, art galleries, villas, fountains, historic houses and archaeological remains) are located in Italy and, according to some, the nation could be considered as home to half the world’s great art treasures.
Italy though is not only its glorious past. Today’s Rome, one of the oldest of the world’s great cities and an all-time-classic for visitors, features great monuments and works of art but at the same time a contemporary life and the opportunity to enjoy the city’s famous dolce vita. Other popular cities attracting visitors is the fashion centre of Milan, the port of Genoa, the expanding metropolis of Naples, as well as the always incurably romantic Venice. In Rome locates the independent state of Vatican City, seat of the Roman Catholic Church and spiritual home of Italy’s Catholic population.
Italy has a coastline of 7,900 km, offering numerous options of dreamy vacations. Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea with its capital city of Palermo, is situated south of the Italian Peninsula, separated from it by the narrow Strait of Messina. Sicily’s most prominent landmark is Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe and one of the most active all over the world. Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily. Located west of the Italian Peninsula, the island has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era. Its capital and largest city is Cagliari. What is interesting is that Sardinia’s indigenous language and other minority languages spoken on the island are officially recognized by law as having “equal dignity” with Italian.
Last but not least, Italy offers a well-developed modern transport system. The Italian rail network is widespread, especially in the north, including a high-speed rail network that joins the major cities of Italy. Italy’s road network is also extensive, making driving and exploring Italy on road-trips a piece of cake. Due to its long seacoast, Italy also has many harbors suitable for the transportation of both goods and passengers.