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An Italy travel guide – a grand tour of medieval hill towns, Renaissance culture and Mediterranean resorts

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Holidays in Italy take in ancient Roman ruins, baroque palaces and the canal cities of the Veneto. Book an Italy hotel in Tuscany’s Renaissance heartland or the capital city Rome and discover the beauty of Bella Italia.

Get your bearings

Boot-shaped Italy points into the Mediterranean between France and Slovenia, with the island of Sicily a triangular-shaped football off its ‘toe’ and Puglia its stiletto ‘heel’. Studding the northern borders with France, Switzerland and Austria, the Italian Alps overlook resort towns running from Lake Maggiore to Lake Garda. In the east, the chic ski resorts and Alpine walking trails of the Dolomites run down to the marshes of the Veneto and the fertile Po River valley. The Apennine mountains stretch from Liguria in the north-west, through the vine- covered hills and Renaissance cities of Tuscany to Lazio, home to the capital Rome, and on to Calabria in Italy’s rural south.

Historic Italy

History is tangible in Italy, with millennia of stories to tell. Feel the wind rush in from the sea at Sicily’s time- eroded Greek Valley of the Temples and see enigmatic Etruscan tombs in Cerveteri. There are layers of history to unravel in Rome, from the mighty Colosseum and Forum of the Caesars to the Vatican’s Papal treasures. Admire Byzantine mosaics of Jesus and his Apostles in Ravenna, home to Dante’s tomb, and the spangled Byzantine domes of San Marco Basilica in Venice. Sicily and southern Italy are dotted with Norman castles and towers. Florence is home to the Renaissance, which flowered under the Medicis.

Flavours of Italy

Milanese risotto and Sicilian cannoli pastries are just two ways in which Italy tantalises the tastebuds. Locals dine on bistecca steak in low-key trattorias or splash out on fine dining in a grand Italian hotel. Meaty bolognese sauce is served with tagliatelle in Milan, and basil pesto adds a kick to Liguria’s coastal cuisine. Specialities from Rome include veal saltimbocca and herbed artichokes, washed down with Tuscan Chianti, Frascati white wines or Veneto Valpolicella

Relaxing pursuits

A slow cycle from Florence to Fiesole is a relaxing way to explore the countryside. Lovers Lane in the Cinque Terre lures walkers to clifftops overlooking the Ligurian Sea and shaded pathways wind through cypress gardens at Lake Como. Recline on the sands at a sophisticated beach resort on Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda or sink into a spa on the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples. The gentle lapping of water against Renaissance palaces encapsulates the romance of a gondola ride in Venice. Or sail to the opalescent Blue Grotto sea cave on Capri

Shopping list

Italy’s traditional ceramics are hard to resist, with glazed majolica ware from Faenza and playfully colourful ceramics from the Amalfi Coast. Italian glassware usually means Murano, in the Venetian Lagoon, producing rainbow-coloured vases and ornaments. The latest by the world’s top fashion designers fill the shops in Milan’s style- conscious Via Montenapoleone district. For handmade Italian lace, Venice and Florence are the best destinations. For quality leather shoes, jackets and bags it is Rome