Milan, Florence, Venice and Rome: Italy says Ciao!
The Italian greeting “ciao” means hello as well as good bye, but you will be very sad when you use it as a good bye from Italy. After having been here a while with your comfortable Lufthansa flight you don’t want to leave ever again. Everything anyone could wish for is compressed in this boot-shaped country that spans 736 miles from the upper Alps to the beaches of Sicily. Every step is steeped in history, arts and culture, but also in beautiful landscapes and the finest food and wines (here the French disagree, but Italians still insist on it). Where to start? How about Milan in the northern province Lombardy? It is definitely the economic center of Italy, but has a lot to offer for sightseeing and shopping. Arts and culture are there in abundance, topped by Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper”. The world’s most famous opera house, La Scala, is in Milan. For the fashionistas of the world Milan is the ultimate shopping town, with more than 6000 boutiques, outlets and luxury stores from designers like Armani, Versace or Valentino.
If you travel east you will see mythical and beautiful Venice, the City in the Lagoon, once richest town on earth and center of a vast empire. See the famous San Marco Cathedral, the Rialto Bridge and the Doge’s Palace with the fabled Bridge of Sighs. Walk from the Piazza San Marco along the Canale Grande or explore the city with one of the gondolas, the black long boats that were designed especially for the narrow waterways of Venice. Visit the world famous glass makers, who have hundreds of years of tradition in their craft, or get one of the Venetian masks as a souvenir, famous from the carnival in Venice with its baroque costumes.
Have a walk through Bologna, where the first University of Europe was founded. See the beautiful landscape of Tuscany, with Florence at its center, where the renaissance art was brought to ever new heights. The famous Venus of Botticelli is here, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo left countless works of art in the hands of the ruling family, the Medicis. To get a feel for an Italian renaissance town go to Siena, where they have the Palio, a horserace on the Piazza del Campo. It takes place twice each summer, on July 2nd and August 16th and is a tradition going back to renaissance times.
All roads lead to Rome, as the saying goes, so you will find yourself in the Italian capital and former ruler of half of the known world. The “eternal city”, full of monuments from the Roman Empire and Republic, is a tough challenge for the serious sightseeing tourist. Only trying to see the most important monuments like the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, Trajan’s Column and the Circus Maximus will keep you occupied for days. Down the river Tiber lies the former Port of Ostia Antica, a whole city from the republican period that has been excavated, featuring beautiful mosaics, paintings, a public latrine and even the oldest synagogue in Europe. Then head over to the new Ostia for a day on the beach, which is central to modern Italian life.
Going south brings you to Naples and the famous Islands of Capri and Ischia, to the Volcano Vesuvius and its most famous victim, the roman town of Pompeii. Try to get to the Island Sardinia and get lost in the beauty of Sicily. Even after a tour like this you have seen only a part of what is well known, let alone the really secret spots. So get your Lufthansa ticket to Italy and try to come again to say "ciao" as a "hello again", not as "good bye".
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