Italy has long been a favourite with travellers; with culture on every street corner, so much so that lots of historical sites aren’t even listed in the guide books. Europeans and those who love Italy will be deliriously happy with the news that Italy, the fashion and culture capital of the world is well and truly open.
Let’s take a trip down the Amalfi coast, or visit George and Amal Clooney on Lake Como. Let’s see the mummified residents of the Catacombs of the Capuchins in Palermo and eat our own body weight in delicious pizza from Napoli. Meander through the waterways of Venice in an overpriced gondola – the options are endless and, frankly, very stylish.
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
This is so true, but your options are so varied that you can cram so much into a day in Rome. Let’s start with the famous Aventine Hill, known locally as “The Garden of Oranges”. Aventine hill offers fantastic views across Rome, and it’s free.
No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to The Pantheon. This Roman temple was commissioned under Augustus, finished by the emperor Hadrian and restored by Septimius Severus. It has been continuously used (but its shape hasn’t really changed) since 127 AD. Today it is a church and Masses still take place inside. Entrance is free, the queue can be long but it tends to move quickly. The inside is spectacular, and the dome will not be quite like anything you’ve seen before!
Something off the beaten track – take a look at The Baths of Diocletian, sitting opposite Termini, the central railway station in Rome, is a set of complete roman baths that nobody seems to know about: so they’re always empty. In the connecting building, there is also a lovely courtyard filled with statues. Tickets are about 10 euros and there is no need to book in advance. A tranquil setting in the middle of a busy city.
If open space is what you’re looking for, visit the Villa Borghese. Essentially the only green space in Rome, it has a large expanse of gardens in the north of the city, offering amazing views over Piazza del Popolo and the whole of Rome. A perfect place to watch the sunset but very busy in peak seasons – and you will be pestered by men trying to sell you roses.
In the gardens, there is the Villa Borghese Gallery, a small museum with lots of works by Caravaggio, Bernini and Raphael. A must-see if you’re already in the gardens – 13 euros plus 2 euro booking fee and it’s open until 7 pm. Booking in advance is a must.
Milan is a Fashion Statement
As much as Rome is beloved by many, let’s take a trip to Milan, the fashion capital of Europe. Everyone takes fashion very seriously and no matter who you are, bin man or policewoman standards are very high.
Let’s start our visit to the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology set inside a renaissance monastery. Inside, through a 3D adaptation of da Vinci’s designs and studies into aviation, particle physics, locomotion: then on to a display of his masterpieces. For €10 you can spend all day looking at the amazing architecture and taking on board the entire philosophy of de Vinci’s life.
While we have de Vinci on our mind a visit to Santa Maria Delle Grazie church is a must. The famous Leonardo da Vinci’s mural, The Last Supper is housed in this church and, what’s more, it’s free to visitors – may be a small contribution to the upkeep would be a nice gesture?
No trip to Milan would be complete without some retail therapy in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the world’s oldest shopping experience, complete with a stunning dome-topped glass roof. Shop to your heart’s content in Prada, Versace and Louis Vuitton. The Milanese are never knowingly underdressed.
Naples – For the Love of Pizza
So we’ve looked at art and museums and wandered around the shops, now it’s time for lunch. Italy will never run short of amazing restaurants or delicious food; but to visit Italy without going to Naples would be like having a pizza and putting pineapple on it – unheard of!
The city of Naples is well known for the chaos and charm in an area known locally as Spaccanapoli, or “Via San Biagio”. In this area around the Piazza del Gesù Nuovo are the traditional pizzerias and coffee shops that sell the famous cannoli and of course the best pizza in the world.
Just remember Naples is a working town and the Italians don’t do queuing and niceties – take a leaf out of the well-known book and film Eat Pray Love and Do as Julia Roberts did, shout loudly, eat messily and don’t worry about your waistband.
Italy is well and truly open for business, pack your suitcase and make it your next destination for business or pleasure. As the Italians say – “Mangia bene, ridi spesso, ama molto” – this translates to eat well, laugh often, love much. Go on do as you’re told, visit Italy, you can thank me later.