8000 Km Seacost,
+50% UNESCO World Cultural Heritage,
2500 Km Ski slopes,
20 Food and Wine Regions,
The Design’s world,
A Fashion’s stars country
Whether you want to toss a coin into Rome’s Trevi fountain or relax on the picturesque Amalfi coast, Italy is bound to delight you. Offering great options such as the Colosseum in Rome, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the ruins of Pompeii, Italy is a haven for those who love history.
Venice stages its spectacular carnival in February, and this romantic city now has a new bridge over the Grand Canal. Aficionados of Renaissance art will not want to miss a visit to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. And what about outdoor sights? You can play golf or ski in the glorious heights of the Alps, swim in Sardinia’s “Caribbean” sea or go hiking in the Dolomites.
And 50 Unesco Sites
Northwest Italy (Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy and Aosta Valley)
This is the home of the Italian Riviera, including Portofino and Cinque Terre, the Alps, and world class cities such as the industrial capital of Italy (Turin), its largest port (Genoa), the main business hub of the country (Milan). Northwest Italy offers visitors beautiful landscapes like the Lake Como and Lake Maggiore, and little known Renaissance treasures like Mantova.
Northeast Italy (Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto)
From the canals of Venice to the gastronomic capital Bologna, from impressive mountains such as the Dolomites and first-class ski resorts like Cortina d’Ampezzo to the delightful roofscapes of Parma and Verona, these regions offer much to see and do. South Tyrol and the cosmopolitan city of Trieste offer a unique Central European flair.
Central Italy (Lazio, Marche, Tuscany and Umbria)
This region breathes history and art. Rome boasts the wonders of the Roman Empire and some of the world’s best known landmarks, combined with a vibrant, big city feel. Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, is Tuscany’s top attraction, whereas the magnificent countryside and nearby cities like Siena, Pisa and Lucca have much to offer to those looking for the country’s rich history and heritage. Umbria is dotted with many picturesque cities such as Perugia, Orvieto, Gubbio and Assisi.
Southern Italy (Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Abruzzo and Molise)
Bustling Naples, the dramatic ruins of Pompeii, the romantic Amalfi Coast and Capri, laidback Apulia and stunning unspoilt beaches of Calabria, as well as up-and-coming agritourism, help make Italy’s less visited region a great place to explore.
The beautiful island famous for archaeology, seascape and some of the best cuisine Italian cuisine has to offer.
A large island, some 250 km west off the Italian coastline. Beautiful scenery, megalithic monuments, lovely sea and beaches: a major holiday destination for high budget tourists.
The Leaning Tower and Duomo of Pisa
Italy has a very broad and diverse architectural style, which cannot be simply classified by period, but also by region, because of Italy’s division into several regional states until 1861.
This has created a highly diverse and eclectic range in architectural design.
Italy is known for its considerable architectural achievements, such as the construction of arches, domes and similar structures during the time of ancient Rome, the founding of the Renaissance architectural movement in the late-14th to 16th centuries, and as the homeland of Palladianism, a style of construction which inspired movements such as Neoclassical architecture, influencing the architectural designs of Aristocratic country houses all over the world, notably in the UK, Australia and the US during the late 17th to early 20th centuries. Several of the finest examples of Western architecture are found in Italy, such as Rome’s Colosseum, Milan and Florence’s cathedrals, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the buildings of Venice.
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci: equal in prestige to the Mona Lisa, it is the most famous, the most reproduced and the most parodied portrait and religious painting of all time.
The history of Italian visual art is part of Western art history. Roman art was influenced by Greece and can in part be taken as a descendant of ancient Greek painting. However, Roman painting does have important unique characteristics. The only surviving Roman paintings are wall paintings, many from villas in Campania, in Southern Italy. Such paintings can be grouped into four main “styles” or periods and may contain the first examples of trompe-l’òil, pseudo-perspective, and pure landscape. Panel painting becomes more common during the Romanesque period, under the heavy influence of Byzantine icons. Towards the middle of the 13th century, medieval art and Gothic painting became more realistic. We see the beginnings of an interest in the depiction of volume and perspective with Cimabue and his pupil Giotto. After Giotto, the treatment of composition by the best painters also became much more innovative and free. They are considered to be the two greatest masters of medieval painting in western culture.
The Pietà by Michelangelo.
The Italian Renaissance is said by many to be the golden age of painting; roughly spanning the 14th through to the mid-17th century. In Italy artists like Paolo Uccello, Fra Angelico, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Andrea Mantegna, Filippo Lippi, Giorgione, Tintoretto, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Raphael, Giovanni Bellini, and Titian took painting to a higher level through the use of perspective, the study of human anatomy and proportion, and through their development of an unprecedented refinement in drawing and painting techniques. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the High Renaissance gave rise to a stylized art known as Mannerism.
In place of the balanced compositions and rational approach to perspective that characterized art at the dawn of the 16th century, the Mannerists sought instability, artifice, and doubt. The unperturbed faces and gestures of Piero della Francesca and the calm Virgins of Raphael are replaced by the troubled expressions of Pontormo and the emotional intensity of El Greco. In the 17th century, among the greatest painters of the Italian Baroque are Caravaggio, Annibale Carracci, Artemisia Gentileschi, Mattia Preti, Carlo Saraceni and Bartolomeo Manfredi. Subsequently, in the 18th century, Italian Rococo was mainly inspired by French Rococo, since France was the founding nation of that particular style, with artists such as Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Canaletto. In the 19th century, major Italian Romantic painters were Francesco Hayez, Giuseppe Bezzuoli and Francesco Podesti. Impressionism was brought from France to Italy by the Macchiaioli, led by Giovanni Fattori, and Giovanni Boldini; Realism by Gioacchino Toma and Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo. In the 20th century, with Futurism, primarily through the works of Umberto Boccioni and Giacomo Balla, Italy rose again as a seminal country for artistic evolution. Futurism was succeeded by the metaphysical paintings of Giorgio de Chirico, who exerted a strong influence on the Surrealists and generations of artists to come.
Literature and theatre
Dante, poised between the mountain of Purgatory and the city of Florence, displays the famous ‘incipit
nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita’ in a detail of Domenico di Michelino’s painting, 1465.
The basis of the modern Italian language was established by the Florentine poet Dante Alighieri, whose greatest work, the Divine Comedy, is considered among the foremost literary statements produced in Europe during the Middle Ages. There is no shortage of celebrated literary figures in Italy: Giovanni Boccaccio, Giacomo Leopardi, Alessandro Manzoni, Torquato Tasso, Ludovico Ariosto, and Petrarch, whose best-known vehicle of expression, the sonnet, was created in Italy. Prominent philosophers include Giordano Bruno, Marsilio Ficino, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Giambattista Vico. Modern literary figures and Nobel laureates include the nationalist poet Giosuè Carducci in 1906, realist writer Grazia Deledda in 1926, modern theatre author Luigi Pirandello in 1936, poets Salvatore Quasimodo in 1959 and Eugenio Montale in 1975, satirist and theatre author Dario Fo in 1997. Carlo Collodi’s 1883 novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio, is the most celebrated children’s classic by an Italian author.
Giacomo Puccini, an Italian composer whose operas, including La bohéme, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot, are among the most frequently performed worldwide in the standard repertoire.
From folk music to classical, music has always played an important role in Italian culture.
Instruments associated with classical music, including the piano and violin, were invented in Italy, and many of the prevailing classical music forms, such as the symphony, concerto, and sonata, can trace their roots back to innovations of 16th- and 17th-century Italian music.
Italy’s most famous composers include the Renaissance composers Palestrina and Monteverdi, the Baroque composers Scarlatti, Corelli and Vivaldi, the Classical composers Paganini and Rossini, and the Romantic composers Verdi and Puccini. Modern Italian composers such as Berio and Nono proved significant in the development of experimental and electronic music.
While the classical music tradition still holds strong in Italy, as evidenced by the fame of its innumerable opera houses, such as Milan’s La Scala and Naples’s San Carlo, and performers such as the pianist Maurizio Pollini and the late tenor Luciano Pavarotti, Italians have been no less appreciative of their thriving contemporary music scene.
Luciano Pavarotti, one of the most famous tenors of all time.
Italy is widely known for being the birthplace of opera. Italian opera is believed to have been founded in the early 17th century, in Italian cities such as Mantua and Venice. Later, works and pieces composed by native Italian composers of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi and Puccini, are among the most famous operas ever written and today are performed in opera houses across the world. La Scala opera house in Milan is also renowned as one of the best in the world. Famous Italian opera singers include Enrico Caruso and Alessandro Bonci.
Producers/songwriters such as Giorgio Moroder, who won three Academy Awards for his music, were highly influential in the development of EDM (electronic dance music). Today, Italian pop music is represented annually by the Sanremo Music Festival, which inspired the Eurovision song contest, and the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto. Singers such as pop diva Mina, classical crossover artist Andrea Bocelli, Grammy winner Laura Pausini, and European chart-topper Eros Ramazzotti have attained international acclaim.
A Golden Lion from the Venice Film Festival, one of the world’s most prestigious and publicized film festivals.
The history of Italian cinema began a few months after the Lumiére brothers began motion picture exhibitions. The very first Italian film lasted only a few seconds, showing Pope Leo XIII giving a blessing to the camera. The Italian film industry was founded between 1903 and 1908 by three companies: Società Italiana Cines, Ambrosio Film and Itala Film. Other companies soon followed in Milan and in Naples. In a short time these first companies produced films of a reasonable quality, and were soon selling films outside of Italy. Cinema was later used by Benito Mussolini, who founded Rome’s renowned Cinecittà studio for the production of Fascist propaganda until World War II.
After the war, Italian films were widely recognised and exported until artistic decline hit in the 1980s. Notable Italian film directors from this period include Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Sergio Leone, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Luchino Visconti, Michelangelo Antonioni and Dario Argento. Movies include masterpieces such as La dolce vita, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Bicycle Thieves. The mid-1940s to the early 1950s was the heyday of neorealist films, reflecting the poor condition of post-war Italy.
As the country grew wealthier in the 1950s, a form of neorealism known as pink neorealism arrived, followed by other film genres, such as sword-and-sandal and spaghetti westerns, which were popular in the 1960s and 1970s. In recent years, the Italian scene has received only occasional international attention, with movies like La vita è bella directed by Roberto Benigni and Il postino with Massimo Troisi.
Galileo is considered one of the fathers of modern science.
Through the centuries, Italy has given the world some of its most notable scientific minds. Polymaths such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Leon Battista Alberti made important contributions in a variety of fields, including biology, architecture, engineering. Galileo Galilei, a physicist, mathematician and astronomer, played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include key improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations, and ultimately the triumph of Copernicanism over the Ptolemaic model.
Other astronomers, such as Giovanni Domenico Cassini and Giovanni Schiaparelli, made many important discoveries concerning the Solar System. In mathematics, Joseph Louis Lagrange (born Giuseppe Lodovico Lagrangia), Fibonacci, and Gerolamo Cardano made fundamental advances in the field. Physicist Enrico Fermi, a Nobel prize laureate, led the team that developed the first nuclear reactor and is also noted for his many other contributions to physics, including the co-development of quantum theory. Other prominent physicists include: Amedeo Avogadro ( most noted for his contributions to molecular theory, in particular Avogadro’s law and the Avogadro constant), Evangelista Torricelli (inventor of the barometer), Alessandro Volta (inventor of the electric battery), Guglielmo Marconi (inventor of the radio), Ettore Majorana (who discovered the Majorana fermions), Emilio G. Segrè (who discovered the elements technetium and astatine, and antiproton), Carlo Rubbia (1984 Nobel Prize in Physics for work leading to the discovery of the W and Z particles at CERN).
In biology, Marcello Malpighi founded microscopic anatomy; Lazzaro Spallanzani conducted important research in bodily functions, animal reproduction, and cellular theory; Camillo Golgi, whose many achievements include the discovery of the Golgi complex, paved the way to the acceptance of the Neuron doctrine; Rita Levi-Montalcini discovered the nerve growth factor (awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine). In chemistry, Giulio Natta received the Nobel laureate for his work on high polymers in 1963.
The Azzurri at the 1982 FIFA World Cup (one of four won by Italy)
Football is by far the most popular sport in Italy. Italy’s Squadra Azzurra has won four FIFA World Cups (1934, 1938, 1982, and 2006), currently ranking as the world’s second most successful national football team after Brazil. Italy’s club sides have won 27 major European trophies, making them the most successful nation in European football. Other popular team sports in Italy include volleyball, basketball and rugby. The male and female national teams are often in the top 4 rankings in the world, and Italy is regarded as the best volleyball league in the world. The Italian national basketball team’s best results were gold at Eurobasket 1983 and EuroBasket 1999, as well as silver at the Olympics in 2004. The Italian League is widely considered one of the most competitive in Europe. Rugby union enjoys a good level of popularity, especially in the north of the country. Italy’s national team competes in the Six Nations Championship, and is a regular at the Rugby World Cup. Italy is ranked as a tier-one nation by the International Rugby Board.
Felipe Massa at the 2008 Italian GP
Italy has a long and successful tradition in individual sports as well. Cycle racing is a very familiar sport in the country. Italians have won the UCI World Championships more than any other country, except Belgium. The Giro d’Italia is a world famous long distance cycling race held every May, and constitutes one of the three Grand Tours, along with the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana, each of which last approximately three weeks. Alpine skiing is also a very widespread sport in Italy, and the country is a popular international skiing destination, known for its ski resorts. Italian skiers achieve good results in the Winter Olympic Games, Alpine Ski World Cup, and the World Championships. Tennis has a significant following in Italy, ranking as the fourth most practiced sport in the country. The Rome Masters, founded in 1930, is one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world. Italian professional tennis players won the Davis Cup in 1976 and the Fed Cup in 2006 and 2009.
Motorsports are also extremely popular in Italy. Italy has won by far the most in world Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Italian Scuderia Ferrari is the oldest surviving team in Grand Prix racing, having competed since 1948, and is statistically the most successful Formula One team in history with a record of 15 drivers’ championships and 16 constructors’ championships.
Historically, Italy has been a very successful nation in the Olympic Games, taking part from the first Olympiad and in 47 Games out of 48. Italian sportsmen have won 522 medals at the Summer Olympic Games, and another 106 at the Winter Olympic Games, a combined total of 628 medals with 235 golds, which makes them the fifth most successful nation in Olympic history and the sixth for total medals won. The country has hosted two Winter Olympics (in 1956 and 2006) and one Summer Olympics (in 1960), and is bidding to hold the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Fashion and design
Emporio Armani shop in Hong Kong.
Italian fashion has a long tradition, and is regarded as one of the most important in the world. Milan, Florence and Rome are Italy’s main fashion capitals. According to the 2009 Global Language Monitor, Milan was nominated the true fashion capital of the world, surpassing other major capitals, such as New York, Paris, London and Tokyo, while Rome came 4th. Major Italian fashion labels, such as Gucci, Prada, Versace, Valentino, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Missoni, Fendi, Moschino, Max Mara and Ferragamo, to name a few, are regarded as among the finest fashion houses in the world. The fashion magazine Vogue Italia is considered the most important and prestigious fashion magazine in the world.
Italy is also prominent in the field of design, notably interior design, architectural design, industrial design and urban design. The country has produced some well-known furniture designers, such as Gio Ponti and Ettore Sottsass, and Italian phrases such as “Bel Disegno” and “Linea Italiana” have entered the vocabulary of furniture design. Examples of classic pieces of Italian white goods and furniture include Zanussi’s washing machines and fridges, the “New Tone” sofas by Atrium, and the post-modern bookcase by Ettore Sottsass, inspired by Bob Dylan’s song “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”.
Today, Milan and Turin are the nation’s leaders in architectural design and industrial design. The city of Milan hosts FieraMilano, Europe’s largest design fair.
Milan also hosts major design and architecture-related events and venues, such as the “Fuori Salone” and the Salone del Mobile, and is the home town of the designers Bruno Munari, Lucio Fontana, Enrico Castellani and Piero Manzoni.
Some of the most popular Italian foods: pizza, pasta, gelato and espresso.
Modern Italian cuisine has developed through centuries of social and political changes, with roots as far back as the 4th century BC. Italian cuisine has many origins, including Etruscan, ancient Greek, ancient Roman, Byzantine, and Jewish cooking. Significant changes occurred with the discovery of the New World and the introduction of items such as potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and maize, now central to Italian cuisine but not introduced until the 18th century. Italian cuisine is noted for its regional diversity, abundance of different flavours, and is known to be one of the most popular in the world, wielding strong influence abroad.
The Mediterranean diet forms the basis of Italian cuisine, rich in pasta, fish and vegetables and characterized by its extreme simplicity and variety, with many dishes having only four to eight ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation. Dishes and recipes are often taken from local and familial tradition rather than created by chefs, so many recipes are ideally suited to home cooking, one of the main reasons behind the ever increasing worldwide popularity of Italian cuisine from America to Asia. Ingredients and dishes vary widely by region.
A key factor in the success of Italian cuisine is the country’s food industry, which relies heavily on traditional products: Italy is the country with the most traditional specialities protected under EU law. Cheese, cold cuts and wine are a major part of Italian cuisine, with many regional declinations and Protected Designation of Origin or Protected Geographical Indication labels, and along with coffee (especially espresso) make up a very important part of Italy’s gastronomic culture. Desserts have a long tradition of merging local flavours such as citrus fruits, pistachio and almonds with sweet cheeses like mascarpone and ricotta or exotic tastes such as cocoa, vanilla and cinnamon. Ice cream, tiramisu and cassata are among the most famous examples of Italian desserts, alongside cakes and patisserie.