As the warmer weather and seasonal changes rapidly approach, thoughts of travel and vacations spring to mind (apologies for the pun). If you are considering a trip to Italy, you are not alone. Italy’s cultural minister has recently announced that last year a record 60 million foreign tourists visited the country. That is up by 5.5 million visitors over 2016. It is not only foreigners who are touring in the country, over 62 million Italians opted to vacation in the country as well. Foreign tourist spending totaled about 37 billion euros, a sure sign that current policies for tourism are working as intended.
It is difficult not to become excited when considering all that Italy has to offer. It is also welcomed news to find that U.S. News and World Report has voted Rome as the #1 city to visit in its Best Vacation Rankings for 2018. Rome finished first in seven out of ten categories, including the top spots as “World’s Best Places to Visit,” “Best Affordable Vacations in Europe,” “Best Places to Visit in Europe” and “Best Places to Visit in Italy.” In fact, among its top 12 best places to vacation, Italy claimed three spots – 25% of the results. The country with the next highest score was a nine-way tie with one each!
Rome – the City of Seven Hills, enjoyed a mythic beginning with its founding by Romulus and Remus, but regardless of the questionable aspects of the tale, travelers are absolutely certain that there is something magical about Rome. We recently featured the Eternal City in Part 6 of the Publisher’s Tour. Whether it is the mystery of Vatican City, the ghosts of the Colosseum, an afternoon in a café at Piazza Navona or shopping along Via Condotti, Rome is sure to enchant. There is so much to Rome – history, culture, art and fabulous cuisine. Rome is known for its antiquities from the Roman era, such as the Pantheon, the Roman Forum and the Colosseum (the sixth most visited exhibit in the world). It contains dozens of churches whose interiors are historic gems. Art enthusiasts become absolutely giddy over the trove of art housed at the Vatican Museums and though we often think of its momentous past, Rome is also a fast-paced and modern city, with gleaming designer storefronts, sleek hotels and cutting-edge restaurants.
Seventh in the World Ranking was Florence. This little city, tucked amid the Tuscan hills, casts a long shadow through history. Florence, the wellspring of the Renaissance, was the home of the powerful Medici family and the inspiration for geniuses including Michelangelo and Brunelleschi, the architect of the Duomo’s iconic dome. If it weren’t for the fashionable Italians and chic shops lining Via Tornabuoni, you might think you had traveled back in time to the 15th century. Renaissance art is not the only reason to visit Florence, there is an undeniable romantic charm to the city, perhaps the reason that it was voted as the Top Affordable European Honeymoon Destination.
The Amalfi Coast was ranked as Eleventh in the World for vacationers. One look at the Amalfi Coast and you’ll believe that you have found heaven on earth. This stretch of Italian coastline has a spellbinding effect on visitors. Located along the Sorrentine Peninsula in the Campania region of Italy, this UNESCO World Heritage site covers 34 miles of majestic terrain. Sky-high costal cliffs display vibrant vegetation and multicolored towns, which live side by side amid the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Salerno.
The coast and 13 seaside towns are all connected by SS163 highway, one of the most scenic drives in the world. Each town not only exhibits the world-renowned Amalfi topography, but have unique attributes of their own. Pastel-colored Positano draws in the rich and famous for its luxurious cliff-side resorts and fine dining, while the town of Amalfi is Italy’s oldest maritime republic, once serving as a commercial and technical hub in the Mediterranean. The beauty of Ravello, with its ancient villas and stunning ocean views become etched in the memory of visitors for years to come. The Amalfi Coast has been voted as having the Best Beaches in Italy and the Second Best Beaches in the World. Praiano’s secluded shorelines will cause beach goers to fall in love and Minori, home to one of the oldest pastas in the world, is a mecca for foodies. And if you plan on passing through Cetara you can stop at an ancient Norman tower, which according to legend, was founded by Hercules himself.
It is actually a shock that Italy did not have at least four destination in the Top 12. Somehow, U.S. News and World Report forgot to include Venice! The city is enchanting and although it may sound like a cliché to say, once you see the city for yourself, you will undoubtedly agree. A perfect destination for a honeymoon, gondolas carrying smitten couples glide through the web of the city’s many waterways. Gondola drivers are known to sing when the moment feels right. On land, narrow passageways twist past Old-World storefronts, markets, villas and over the city’s countless bridges.
This canal city’s main draw is its magical atmosphere, but you’ll also find quite a few diversions, too. The tour guides at Saint Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace give great historical insights; the Gallerie dell’Accademia houses works by Titian, Veronese and other famed Venetians. And in the historic Teatro La Fenice, world-renowned operas are performed. You can also travel to nearby islands such as Lido for its famous beach, Murano for the well-known glass and Burano for its lace.
As romantic as Venice is, it was Tuscany that was voted as the #1 Honeymoon Destination in the World and the #1 Best Destination Wedding Spot in Europe. Tuscany is a place of romance, delightful wines, olives, extraordinary cooking and sunshine that kisses the land as though directly from the lips of the Almighty. Today, many travelers visit this glorious region either before or after a visit to Rome. The contrasts are remarkable, but with the combination of castles-turned-wineries-turned-hotels, elegant cypress trees, cascading hills and sprawling vineyards, the effect is heavenly.
U.S. News and World Report ranked Cinque Terre as the sixth best place to visit in Italy. Covered in Part 5 of the recently concluded Publisher’s Tour, Cinque Terre is a collection of five towns along Italy’s Ligurian Coast – the famed Italian Riviera. Formerly remote fishing villages, Monterosso, Manarola, Vernazza, Corniglia and Riomaggiore are now connected by train and the rest of the world has taken notice. The scenery is spectacular, the food delicious and wine is exceptional. The entire area has been a designated a national park as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is definitely a destination worth adding to your Italian vacation itinerary. Many visitors spend a few days in Cinque Terre to stretch their legs and relax after days of touring remarkable Rome and art-filled Florence.
The final entry for U.S. News and World Reports’ Top Seven Places to Visit in Italy is Lake Como. Just north of Milan, if you really want to treat yourself on your next vacation, Lake Como is the destination to do so. Lake Como invites travelers to kick back, relax and bask in the luxury of the region. Here, opulent villas and hotels line the shores and beaches beckon sun seekers. You’ll also see sleek sailboats and speed boats coasting in the middle of the water, which is the perfect place to admire the lake’s surrounding hills.
These destinations barely scratch the surface of the many dozens of destinations in Italy. If you have traveled to the country before, you probably began planning another trip shortly after arriving home. If you have yet to visit Italy, what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip and chase away any lingering winter blues!