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Italy

 

Description of Destination : italy
 
Venice
Venice

Pisa ( Livorno )

From the 11th to the 13th centuries, Pisa's navy ensured the city's dominance in the western Mediterranean . Trade with Spain and North Africa led to a scientific and cultural revolution and remarkable architectural development. This can be seen in the Duomo and other religious buildings on the Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles), which blend Romanesque colonnading, Gothic pinnacles and Moorish marble inlay techniques. Piazza dei Cavalieri, in Pisa's ancient centre, is the most attractive square and the colonnaded Via Borgo Stretto has elegant shops. Stately 16th century palazzi flank both banks of the Arno.

 

Florence ( Livorno )

As an independent city state, Florence became one of Italy's leading powers in the 13th century, first as a republic, then, until 1737, under the banking dynasty of the Medici. Its cosmopolitan society and wealth attracted artists and architects, who filled it with some if Italy's greatest Renaissance works. Historic Florence is compact and most of the great sights are accessible on foot. Many of the most famous, including the Duomo, Uffizi Art Gallery and statue-filled Piazza della Signoria, cluster in its western half. The eastern half, while similarly rich in palazzi , is also the place to shop. Across the river in the quieter Oltrarno district is the Medici's vast Palazzo Pitti.

Duomo, Campanile and Baptistry

Set in the heart of Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore-the Duomo, or cathedral-dominates the city with its huge dome. Its sheer size was typical of Florentine determination to lead in all things and, to this day, no other building stands taller in the city. The Baptistry is one of Florence's oldest buildings, dating perhaps to the 4th century. The celebrated North and East doors were commissioned from Lorenzo Ghilberti on 1401 to mark Florence's deliverance from the plague. The Campanile was designed by Giotto in 1334.

 

Rome ( Civitavecchia )

Legend says that ROMULUS founded Rome in 752 BC and archaeology also dates the first settlement to around that time. After 300 years as a kingdom, it was governed for 500 years as a Republic. This, in turn, was superseded by the Roman Empire , which endured from 27 BC to AD 935. Imperial Rome became the centre of the Christian world when, in AD 313, Constantine granted freedom of worship to Christians. After many centuries of decline the city rose to new dominance in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, when artists and architects flocked to work for the papacy. Although steeped in history, today's Rome is a vibrant city that successfully juxtaposes its ancient and modern identities. Many of Rome's centro storico (historic centre) lies in a bend of the Tiber and its attractive, narrow, cobbled streets are best explored on foot.

St. Peter's Basilica

Rome's sumptuous, marble-clad basilica of St. Peter, Catholicism's most sacred shrine, draws pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. It holds hundreds of precious works of art, some salvaged from the 4th century church built by Emperor Constantine, others commissioned from Renaissance and Baroque artists. The dominant tone is set by Bernini, who created the baldacchino twisting up below Michelangelo's huge dome. He also designed the cathedra in the apse. The throne is supported by the figures of four saints and contains fragments once thought to be relics of the chair from which St. Peter delivered his first sermon.

 

Vatican Museums

These vast buildings were originally the palaces if Renaissance popes, but in the 18th century became a showcase for the papacy's priceless works of art. Visitors today have to follow a one-way system. Be sure to conserve energy for the Sistine Chapel and Raphael Rooms , which are 20 to 30 minutes walk from the entrance without allowing any time for viewing along the way.

 

Naples

Naples lies in a beautiful bay dominated by Mount Vesuvius. Its name derives from the ancient Greeks' settlement, Neapolis, but its golden age was as the capital of the Medieval Angevin and Aragonese kingdoms. The historic centre is easily explored on foot. Its main axes are Via Toledo (also called Via Roma), running north from the Palazzo Reale to Piazza Dante, and a long, narrow street known as Spaccanapoli (split Naples). The latter's central sections (named Via Benedetto Croce and Via San Biagio dei Librai) have been likened to an open-air museum for their many fine buildings.

Pompeii

An earthquake in AD 62, which shook Pompeii and damaged many buildings, was merely a prelude to the tragic day in AD 79 when Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the town in 6 m (20 feet) of pumice and ash. Although it was discovered in the 16th century, serious excavation began only in 1748, revealing a city frozen in time. In some buildings, paintings and sculpture have survived and graffiti is still visible on the street walls.

 

Venice

Venice was founded in the 1st century AD by the Veneti seeking shelter from Goth attack. It was a world power from the 12th to the 14th century and controlled Mediterranean trade into the 17th . The Grand Canal is a showcase of its history, with nearly every palazzo bearing the name of a once-grand family. At the heart of the city are the Piazza and Basilica of San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace). From here, most sights can be reached on foot.

Piazza San Marco

Throughout its long history Venice's Piazza San Marco has witnessed pageants, processions, political activities and countless carnival festivities. Tourists flock here in their thousands, for the Piazza's eastern end is dominated by two of the city's most important historical sights St. Mark's Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace). In addition to these magnificent buildings there is plenty to entertain, with elegant cafes, stylish boutiques and open-air orchestras beneath the arcades of the Procuratie. So close to the waters of the lagoon, the Piazza is one of the first points in the city to suffer at acqua alta (high tide). Visitors and Venetians alike can then be seen picking their way across the duckboards that are set up to crisscross the flooded square.

 

Palazzo Ducale

The Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) was the official residence of each Venetian ruler (doge), as well as Venice's seat of government and justice. It was founded in the 9th century as a fortified castle, but fire destroyed this and several subsequent buildings. The present palace owes its external appearance to the building work of the 14th and early 15th centuries. To create their airy Gothic masterpiece, the Venetians broke with tradition by perching the bulk of the pink Verona marble palace on a lake-like loggia and portico of Istrian stone. For centuries, this was the city's only building to be entitled palazzo; the rest were merely called Ca' (Casa, or house).

 

Genoa

Genoa , birthplace of Christopher Columbus, is Italy's most important commercial port. It became a prominent sea power in the 10th century, and in 1343 Simon Boccanegra was elected its first doge. In the 16th century, the doge Andrea Doria and rich merchants proved astute patrons of the arts. The historic centre is famous for its carruggi (old, narrow streets), as well as the grand palazzi along the Renaissance Via Balbi and 17th century Via Garibaldi. Near the Porta Soprana is a house where Columbus may have lived. The recent regeneration of Genoa's port has given the city some remarkable new architecture, such as Renzo Piano's Bigo, built in 1992.

 

Portofino

The picturesque setting of this former fishing village and its natural deep-water harbour, called Portus Delphinus in Roman times, have made it Italy's most exclusive resort, crammed with the yachts of the wealthy. It occupies a narrow inlet at the end of a peninsula on Liguria's Riviera Levante the attractive, rocky coastline stretching east form Genoa and dotted with other popular holiday resorts. The entire Portofino peninsula, the northern half covered in pine, olive, eucalyptus and chestnut trees and the southern half in macchia (Mediterranean scrub), is a protected natural park. No cars are allowed into Portofino village. A footpath leads from the village to the church and 15th century fortress of San Giorgio and, beyond them, to the lighthouse at Punto Portofino the tip of the peninsula. Another path leads to the medieval abbey of San Fruttuoso. Its church dates from 984, but the abbey was built by the Doria family in the 13th century. The tower was added in the 16th century.

 

Capri

With idyllic views and almost constant sunshine, Capri lies just off the southern tip of the Bay of Naples . Its first illustrious residents were the Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius (27 BC-AD 37). Forteen years, Tiberius ruled Rome from Capri and the the ruins of his luxurious villa can still be seen today. Despite this noble history, the island saw few visitors until the 19th century, when the German poet August Kopisch found the Grotta Azzurra, which was known to locals but not to travelers on the Grand Tour. Tourism began to flourish and Capri became the haunt of foreign politicians, artists and intellectuals, among them Oscar Wilde and Alexandre Dumas. Today, despite year-round crowds, it still retains its attractiveness.

 

 

Sardinia

Sardinia is most famous for its translucent seas and the luxury holiday resorts on the Costa Smeralda. However, the entire coastline is picturesque, with isolated coves, coral strands and long, sandy beaches, spectacular cliffs and flamingo-filled marshes. Inland are rolling uplands and the rugged Gennargentu Mountains . The dominant feature of the island is the 7,000 nuraghe , conical structures built between 1500 and 400 BC by the Nuraghic people, about whom almost nothing is known. Sardinia was settled by the Phoenicians in around 1000 BC, after whom the Romans, the Pisans and Genoese, and then the Aragonese held sway before it was passed to the House of Savoy and united with Italy . The main ports are Cagliari , Porto Torres and Olbia. Cagliari, the capital, is notable for its 2nd century AD rock-cut Roman amphitheatre and the medieval Pisan and Spanish architecture in its high Castello district.

Palermo

Sicily's capital lies in the Conca d'Oro (Golden Shell), a natural amphitheatre below Monte Pellegrino. Palermo's golden age, from 902 to 1091, was under the Arabs and its Arabic past is most apparent in the Vucciria, the medieval casbah-style market in the Kalsa. This old Arab quarter later became the Norman fishermen's district, and it is for its Norman architecture that Palermo is most famous. The originally 12th century Duomo stands on Corso Vittore Emanuele, the main street, which is full of impressive buildings and elegant sores. The city also has many fine Baroque buildings .

Messina

Although Messina was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1908 and heavily bombed in 1943, some historic buildings were rebuilt and the Museo Regionale holds treasures from many others. The Duomo dates from 1160 to 1197 and its campanile houses the world's largest astronomical clock, built by a Strasbourg firm in 1933. The beautiful church of Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani is also Norman. The port is protected by the 17th century Forte San Salvatore on a peninsula.

 
Excursions Available at italy
    • Florence & Pisa
    • The Best of Florence
    • Florence Sampler
    • Elite Collection: Florence with Uffizi Gallery & Pisa
    • Visit to Pisa
    • EZ Italian Wine Tasting & Scenic Drive
    • A Walk through Lucca
    • Tuscan Countryside, San Gimignano & Volterra
    • Rome, The Eternal City
    • Imperial Rome
    • Treasures of Rome
    • Rome Sampler
    • Elite Collection: Rome & the Vatican Museums
    • EZ Rome
    • Etruscan Countryside & Villa Lante
    • Medieval Countryside & Olive Oil
    • Nero's Golden House & Colosseum By Train
    • Pompeii, Sorrento & Capri
    • Amalfi Coastal Drive & Pompeii
    • A Taste of Sorrento & Pompeii
    • Elite Collection: Sorrento, Positano & Amalfi
    • The Isle of Capri
    • EZ Naples
    • Mt. Vesuvius & Pompeii
    • The Ruins of Pompeii
    • Ancient Herculaneum
    • Shopping Tour to Sorrento
    • Panoramic Naples
    • Sorrento & Pompeii
    • The Ruins of Pompeii
    • A cruise to the Isle of Capri
    • A taste of Naples: Pizzas & Piazzas
    • Gondola Ride, Murano Glass Factory & San Giorgio
    • Gondola Ride, Doge's Palace & Glass Showroom
    • Doge's Palace, St. Mark's Cathedral& Glass Showroom
    • Ca' Rezzonico, Doge's Palace & St. Mark's Basilica
    • EZ Murano Glass Factory & Burano Island
    • Grand Canal & Waterways by Water Taxi
    • Hidden Venice Walking Tour
    • A walking Tour of the Jewish Ghetto
    • Verona: City of Rome & Juliet
    • Alghero & Castelsardo
    • Coastal Charms
    • Introduction to Sardinia
    • Gulf of Alghero by boat
    • Sardinian Sampler
    • Palermo & Monreale
    • Solunto & Bagheria
    • Panoramic Palermo
    • Messina & Environs
    • Tindari Ruins & Shopping
    • A Drive to Mt. Etna
    • Taormina & the Greco-Roman Theater
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