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The Delights of Italy

Italy's development and history is as colorful and varied as its cuisine. Over time, Italy has made significant contributions to the cultural and social development of the entire Mediterranean area.

Italy is located in southern Europe and combines the long, boot-shaped Italian Peninsula, the land between the peninsula and the Alps, and a number of islands including Sicily and Sardinia.

Florence, a Renaissance city in the heart of Tuscany, is home to some of the country's best museums, cathedrals and churches, and therefore perfect for a luxury holiday.

Top of the to-do list is the Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio. The Piazza della Signoria is Florence's most famous square, having served as the city's political and cultural center since the Middle Ages. It also houses a free open-air sculpture exhibition.

Florence's town hall, the Palazzo Vecchio, sits on the piazza. The palazzo is surrounded by cafés and restaurants. Another popular destination is the Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore. The huge Gothic duomo was built in 1296, and holds 20,000 people. The exterior is composed entirely of green, pink, and white marble and features several elaborate doors and statues. Inside, Brunelleschi's Dome is an architectural masterpiece. This destination is the centerpiece of any luxury tour.

The Ponte Vecchio was built in 1345, and was the city's first bridge ever built across the Arno River. It is the only surviving bridge from Florence's medieval period and features stunning views of the Arno River and beyond.

The Galleria degli Uffizi holds the world's best collection of Renaissance art, and is therefore a must? See for any art lover. The Uffizi features works from Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, da Vinci and Raphael.

Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in Italy and holds the tombs of several important Florentines including Michelangelo and Dante.

Naples is the third most populated city in Italy. It comes from the Greek Neapolis meaning 'new city'. Naples is a lively and vibrant city, full of historical treasures and ancient, winding streets.

Be sure to stop at at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, a museum featuring one of the world's best collections of Greek and Roman antiquities, including mosaics, sculptures and a collection of early Roman artefacts from Pompeii.

The Duomo is a 13th century Gothic cathedral dedicated to Naple's patron saint, San Gennaro. An annual festival is held in his honor. On one side of the duomo is the 4th century Basilica Santa Restituta with columns believed to be from the Temple of Apollo.

Castel dell'Ovo, the oldest castle in Naples, sits in a prominent position on the harbor and is used for concerts. Teatro San Carlo is the world's oldest surviving opera house, although it was rebuilt in 1816 after a fire.

Venice is a beautiful Italian destination and home to many great attractions. Venice is actually composed of 117 bodies of land connected by more than 400 bridges over its 150 canals. The Grand Canal is its main street, cutting through the center of the city.

The main public transport in Venice is the vaporetti, boats that glide through the principal waterways. Doge's Palace – Palazzo Ducale, on St. Louis Mark's Square, is the most impressive building in Venice and was the political and judicial hub of the Venetian government until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797.

Canal Grande is the main thoroughfare of Venice. Its waterways are home to a variety of boats and its streets are lined with beautiful buildings. Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) – the main bridge crossing the Grand Canal – is over 400 years old.

Lastly, there is Rome, the modern capital of Italy. Today Rome is a vibrant and lively city with strong ties to its past. Ancient monuments, medieval buildings and fascinating museums are plentiful in this city.

Every visit to Rome must include a trip to the Colosseum – the largest monument in existence from Imperial Rome. It is an ancient amphitheater that once housed the fierce gladiator and animal fights.

The Roman Forum is one of the city's most important archaeological sites. It was the focal point of Republican Rome and houses monuments reflecting 900 years of history.

Another must-see is the Vatican Museums – the largest museum complex in the world. It houses art spanning 3000 years. Here you will find the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo's wall frescoes.

Source by Karen Cooke

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