Italy is one of the most popular destinations in world due to its unsurpassed cultural heritage - this country has got some of the finest monuments of architecture and art in world.
Italy has several interesting volcanoes. Stromboli (Sicily) is on its own small island and has been erupting nearly continuously over the last 2000 years. Mount Etna (Sicily, 3329 m) is equally active and the eruptions of this volcano have caused much damage. Also of interest is the Solfatara volcanic crater (Campania) with its fumaroles and mud pools.
Cascate del Serio (Lombardy) is 315 metres high with powerful waterfalls in three cascades - the most impressive in Italy. Cascata delle Marmore (Umbria) is a man-made, powerful, 165 metre high waterfall. Grotta Cascata Varone (Trentino-Alto Adige) is a narrow gorge with a 98 metre high waterfall falling into it.
Among the most impressive caves are the Castellana Caves (Apulia) with their impressive 60 metre high vertical entrance. The second deepest known underwater sinkhole - cave system is the 392 m deep Pozzo del Merro (Lazio). Grotta Gigante (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) has the largest cave hall of the world available for tourists. The beautiful effect of sunlight in water is seen in the Blue Grotto (Capri, Campania), and the huge underwater Nereo Cave (Sardinia). Grotta Ispinigoli (Sardinia) reportedly has the highest stalagmite in Europe - 38 metres. Complesso del Monte Corchia (Tuscany) is the longest cave in Italy with a length of 53 kilometres.
Unusual and impressive biotope is (an area of uniform environmental conditions providing a living place for a specific assemblage of plants and animals) Campo Imperatore (Abruzzo) - the "Little Tibet" of Europe - an enormous mountainous grassland.
Man made landmarks
Italy is the birthplace of the Etruscan and Roman civilisations of which the latter has left numerous impressive monuments. But its heritage of Renaissance and Baroque architecture is especially rich, and has left many thousands of buildings and urban planning monuments which individually would serve as a central attraction in any other country of the world. Most likely no one would be able to see them all in his or her lifetime.
Urban planning monuments
Among the countless beautiful and interesting cities and towns there are several that deserve special notice:
- Venice - Veneto. One of the most unusual and most beautiful cities on Earth, containing an unbelievable amount of art and architecture values
- Centre of Florence - Tuscany. One of the most important centres in history for the development of art with numerous unique and beautiful monuments.
- San Gimignano - Tuscany. Medieval town with 14 defensive towers still standing.
- Crespi d'Adda - Lombardy. Fully realised idea of model factory town from the late 19th century.
- Centre of Siena - Tuscany. One of the most authentic, very impressive medieval cities.
- Urbino - Marche. Small but impressive Renaissance town, once an influential cultural centre.
- Noto - Sicily. Planned, beautiful Baroque town from the 18th century.
- Amalfi - Campania. Beautiful medieval town on beautiful, steep coast.
- Cinque Terre - Liguria. Five medieval towns set in dramatic coastal scenery.
- Pienza - Tuscany. Planned, ideal Renaissance town from the 15th century.
- Alberobello - Apulia. Picturesque town with numerous trulli - houses built in unusual technique, without mortar.
- Locorotondo and Ostuni - Apulia. White, beautiful, dense hilltop medieval towns.
The Byzantine style has several important representatives in Italy. The Basilica of San Vitale (Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna) is one of the best examples of this style, built in 548. One of the major architecture monuments of world is Saint Mark's Basilica (Venezia, Veneto), built in 1094.
Castle of Sant'Aniceto (Calabria) is one of few remaining Byzantine fortifications in the world.
Sicily has buildings in a unique style, which is a mix of Norman, Italian and Arab influences. The Norman style unites some features of Byzantine and Romanesque styles and is a predecessor for the Gothic style. Palazzo dei Normanni in Palermo, Sicily (the 9th - 12th centuries) is a palace of Sicilian kings. Another unusual palace, also in Palermo, is La Cuba (1180). Powerful expressions of the beautiful Norman-Arab architecture are Monreale Cathedral (1180s) and Cefalù Cathedral (1131) - both in Sicily.
Many numerous defensive towers built by warring families have been preserved from this time period. The most impressive, besides San Gimignano, are the Two Towers of Bologna (Emilia-Romagna).
Some of the early examples of Romanesque architecture are San Pietro in Agliate (Lombardy, 875) and the Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio (Milan, Lombardy), which was rebuilt in 1099. Other notable Romanesque monuments are: Pisa Cathedral, Pisa Baptistery, the Leaning Tower of Pisa (Tuscany), Santa Maria in Cosmedin Church (Rome), Florence Baptistry (Tuscany), Modena Cathedral (Modena, Emilia-Romagna).
Some of the most impressive Gothic style monuments in Italy:
- Milan Cathedral (Milan, Lombardy) - one of the most impressive buildings in world, built in 1386 - 1965
- Siena Cathedral (Siena, Tuscany) - this beautiful building unites Romanesque and Gothic styles, built in 1215 - 1263
- Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi (Assisi, Umbria) - Christian pilgrimage site of global importance, built in 1228 - 1253
- Santa Maria della Spina church (Pisa, Tuscany) - small but very beautiful church, built in 1230
- Castel del Monte (Apulia) - mysterious, impressive building resembling a fortification, built in 1240-1250
- Doge's Palace (Venice, Veneto) - main power seat of once powerful state, unusual building built in 1309-1424
- Orvieto Cathedral (Orvieto, Umbria) - very ornate building, built in 1290 - 1591
In this time period the Ponte Vecchhio (Florence, Tuscany), was also built. It is an unusual structure consisting of a bridge covered with numerous buildings and shops.
The Renaissance style originated in Italy and this country by far has got the best examples of this style. Among the most famous ones should be mentioned:
- Basilica di San Lorenzo (Florence, Tuscany) - one of the first Renaissance buildings, 1419 - 1480s
- Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral, Tuscany) - one of the most impressive buildings in world, mostly in Gothic style, but seen as one of the first Renaissance buildings, 1296 - 1469
- Palazzo Rucellai (Florence, Tuscany) - palace, in many respects a prototype for numerous future buildings, built in 1446-1451
- Villa Capra "La Rotonda" (Vicenza, Veneto) - prototype for many thousands of villas across the world, built in 1566-1592
- Villa d'Este (Tivoli, Lazio) - impressive villa and Renaissance garden, built in 1550-1570s
- Palazzo Farnese (Rome, Lazio) - impressive palace, built mainly in the first half of the 16th century
- Tempietto (Rome, Lazio) - small but harmonious and beautiful building inside San Pietro in Montorio church, built in 1502
- Certosa di Pavia (Lombardy) - enormous, beautiful Gothic - Renaissance monastery complex, built in 1396 - 1495
- Santa Maria delle Grazie (Milan, Lombardy) - impressive church, built after 1490
- Palazzo Medici Riccardi (Florence, Tuscany) - palace with innovative rusticated facade, built in 1445 - 1460
- Castelbrando (Veneto) - one of the most impressive Italian castles, rebuilt in the first half of the 16th century.
The Baroque style also originated in Italy, many of the best examples of this opulent style are found here:
- Church of the Gesu (Rome, Lazio) - one of Baroque prototype buildings replicated by Jesuits around the world, built in 1568-1580
- Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza (Rome, Lazio) - impressive church forming a single building with Palazzo della Sapienza, built in 1642-1660
- Palace of Caserta (Caserta, Campania) - the largest building built in Europe in the 18th century, built in 1752-1780
- Palazzina di caccia of Stupinigi (Stupinigi, Piedmont) - enormous royal hunting lodge, the early 18th century
- Basilica of Superga (Turin, Piedmont) - beautiful building on top of hill, built in 1717-1731
The flamboyant Sicilian Baroque style is unique. Distinctive examples are:
- "Collegiata" in Catania (1768)
- Cathedral of San Giorgio in Ragusa by Rosario Gagliardi
- Cathedral of San Giorgio in Modica (1693)
- Palazzo Villadorata in Noto (1733)
- Villa Palagonia in Bagheria (started in 1705)
- Church of San Benedetto in Catania (started in 1705)
- Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi - palace with opulent interiors in Palermo (sometimes around 1780)
One of the most impressive buildings from the late 19th century is the 167 metres high Mole Antonelliana (Turin, Piedmont). Highly controversial and nonetheless impressive is the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II (Rome, Lazio), 1935.
Parks and gardens
The oldest academic botanical garden of world is located in Italy - Orto Botanico di Padova (Veneto, established in 1545). Also very impressive are the Parco dei Mostri and Villa Lante gardens (Lazio) - some of the most interesting Mannerist gardens from the 16th century.
One of the largest recent civilisations - the Roman Empire - rose up in Italy, leaving countless valuable artefacts. But there have been numerous other ancient cultures in Italy, each of which left behind interesting monuments.
Val Camonica valley in Lombardia has one of the richest collections of petroglyphs in the world - up to 300 000, made in the period over 9000 - 1000 BC. Paglicci Cave (Apulia) has Paleolithic cliff paintings and numerous interesting ancient artefacts, as does the remote Grotta del Genovese (Levanzo island, Sicily).
Sardinia has more than 8000 specific megaliths - nuraghe. The most outstanding complex of these structures is Su Nuraxi di Barumini, built sometimes around 1 500 BC and Nuraghe Sant'Antine. Somewhat similar are Sesi of Pantelleria (Pantelleria island south from Sicily).
Other unusual ancient cultural monuments are the Necropolis of Pantalica (Sicily, the 13th - 7th century BC) and the prehistoric cave dwellings which are still in use - Sassi di Matera (Basilicata).
An influential local culture was the Etruscan civilisation which left such monuments as the Tumulus of Montefortini (Tuscany, 7tc c. BC), necropolis of Cerveteri (Lazio, the 9th - 2nd century BC) and necropolis of Tarquinia (Lazio) as well as the unique Tomb of the Roaring Lions (Lazio, the 7th century BC).
Greek colonies in Sicily have left some of the best examples of Ancient Greek architecture - such as the Valle dei Templi (at Agrigento, the 5th century BC) and the ancient city of Selinunte. On the mainland some of the most interesting ancient Greek sites are Paestum and Velia (both in Campania).
The Roman civilisation has left numerous diverse monuments and it is impossible to list all of the significant ones. Here one could mention:
- Roman Forum (Rome, Lazio) - ancient centre of Roman civilisation with ruins of numerous important buildings
- Colosseum (Rome, Lazio) - the largest Roman amphitheatre ever built, 70 - 80 AD
- Trajan's Market (Rome, Lazio) - very impressive complex of Roman ruins
- Pompeii (Campania) - the best preserved ancient Roman town eliminated by volcanic pyroclastic flows in 79 AD
- Herculaneum (Campania) - Roman town eliminated by volcanic pyroclastic flows in 79 AD and thus - well preserved
- Stabiae (Campania) - one more well preserved Roman town covered by ashes of Vesuvius
- Hadrian's Villa (Lazio) - suburban government complex of Emperor Hadrian, the early 2nd century AD
- Baths of Caracalla (Rome, Lazio) - complex of Roman baths, area 13 ha
- Via Appia (starts in Rome, Lazio) - one of the most impressive Roman roads
- Aurelian walls (Rome, Lazio) - some of the most impressive city walls in world
- Catacombs of Rome (Rome, Lazio) - important heritage of early Christian art, the 2nd - 4th century AD
List of described attractions by regions
Italy is divided in 20 regions.
|Ostuni - the White City||Cities and towns, Ancient cities and towns|
|Blue Grotto in Capri||Caves|
|Grotta dello Smeraldo||Caves|
|Lazio (includes Rome)|
|Pozzo del Merro||Sinkholes, Caves|
|Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi||Churches|
|Cathedral of Santa Maria and San Donato||Churches, Fossil finds|
Map of Italy
Featured: Cathedral of Santa Maria and San Donato
One of the oldest churches in the Venetian lagooon is the Cathedral of Santa Maria and San Donato on Murano island. It seems to be little changed since the last rebuild around 1140 and serves as an excellent example of authentic Byzantine style architecture.
Behind the altar there is a unique relic: four large bones hanging on the wall. These enormous bones are said to belong to a dragon slain by St. Donato.
From the beaches to the Alps, from fine art to fine pasta, Italy has it all. With this book, you'll trace Italian culture from Rome's Colosseum to Michelangelo's David to the bustling elegance of Milan. Experience the art-drenched cities of Venice and Florence, explore the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum, and learn how to avoid the lines at the most popular museums. Discover the villages of Tuscany and Umbria and the lazy rhythms of the Cinque Terre.
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Italy is your in-depth guide to the very best of Italy. From touching the stones of the Colosseum in Rome to gazing up at Michelangelo's David in Florence to savoring a gelato along the canals of Venice, experience the rich cultural treasures this beautiful country has to offer.