Printer Friendly

Chapter 16 Italy Pisa and pizza.

How often have you heard a child confuse Pisa and pizza? Well, that child grows up and one day becomes a tourist. Even as adults, people think of Italy in terms of ancient ruins and pasta. The country, however, is much more; indeed, it's one of the richest experiences in Europe. Just pizza? Hardly. It's a banquet.

Italy is about the size of Arizona and is easily recognized by its famous boot shape. The country is so full of attractions that there's really no center-point to tourism. In fact, it could be said that there are four Italys: first, there's northern Italy, with its mix of mountains, lakes, and the Italian Riviera; then comes the Italy of great cities, including the art, history, fashion, and commerce of Venice, Florence, and Milan; next are Rome and its environs, the country's political and cultural center and once the hub of the world's most powerful empire; finally, there's southern Italy, with the area that surrounds Naples, as well as the islands of mountainous Sicily and of resort-lined Sardinia.







POPULATION: 57,700,000

RELIGION: Roman Catholic


CURRENCY: 1 euro 5 100 cents

ELECTRICITY: 220 volts, 50 cycles AC

CAPSULE HISTORY: Rome settled, about 800 B.C.; Roman Empire falls,
476-493; France, Austria, and Spain control parts of Italy,
1494-1815; Italy unified, 1861; Mussolini dictatorship, 1922-1943;
free elections, 1946; many government changes and controversies

For reference sources, tourist bureaus, and suggested lengths of stay,
see the Appendices.

How Travelers Get There
Rome's Colosseum was
built with 750,000 tons
of stone, 8,000 tons of
marble, and 6,000 tons
of concrete.

The major international gateways into Italy are Rome's da Vinci Airport (FCO) and Milan's Malpensa Airport (MXP). Venice (VCE), Pisa (PSA), Florence (FLR), and Naples (NAP) all handle shorter flights.

Alitalia (AZ) is Italy's national airline; of course, the country is also served by U.S. carriers. Flying time to Rome from New York is eight hours; from Chicago, nine-and-a-half hours; and from Los Angeles, 12 hours. Cruises also stop at dozens of Italian mainland and island ports. Indeed, Rome's Civitavecchia [chee-vee-tah-VECK-ee-ah] and Venice are two of the Mediterranean's busiest ports. Visitors can also drive into the country from the north, often via trans-Alpine tunnels.

Weather Patterns

Who hasn't heard of "sunny Italy"? It's a well-earned reputation, but Italy's climate is a little more complicated than that.

Italy has three climate patterns. The northern Alpine area has cold winters and mild, sometimes rainy summers. The region between Milan and Venice has hot, sunny summers, but winters are chilly and misty. The rest of Italy is like California, with dependably hot, dry summers. Winters are mild, with changeable, unpredictable weather (see Figure 16-1). Occasionally in the summer and fall, a hot, humid Sirocco wind blows from the south, while in the winter, a hot, dry Foehn wind from the north sometimes increases temperatures and lowers humidity in the Alps. Waters around Italy are pleasantly warm from May to October but chilly the rest of the year.

A 2,000-year-old
underground aqueduct
feeds many of Rome's
most famous fountains.

The Golden House,
which was home to the
Roman emperor Nero,
has recently been
opened to the public

June, July, and September are the busiest tourist months. There's a small drop-off in major cities in August, when Italian tourists head for other countries or for the Riviera.

Getting Around

Italy's train system is inexpensive and fast, though efficiency is not its strong suit. The Pendalino, or ETR, is Italy's fastest train. Travelers can also fly between major cities. Car rentals are readily available; however, Italian cities, especially Rome and Milan, are treacherous for "amateurs." Escorted city tours are the best bet. Taxis are fairly priced, but they can be expensive, and cab drivers have been known to play loose with the meters.
Eurail passes and
Italy rail passes for
unlimited train travel
can be bought only in
North America.

In Rome, the subway and bus system are very good, with many lines traveling beyond the city. Buses and trolleys are also good in Florence, but just so-so in Milan (which also has a subway).

A unique transportation system, of course, is found in Venice. No cars are allowed in the city. (Those driving to Venice must park in one of several huge garages on the city's perimeter.) Boats are the way to get around. The most famous, romantic, and expensive are gondolas. Water taxis are fast but also expensive. Vaporetti are slow "water buses" and moto-scafi are express ones.

Important Places

Italy is a treasure trove of diverse places to experience. Among its most popular cities and attractions are:


The Eternal City was originally built on seven hills along the Tiber River; its center today is on the river's left bank. Rome is the political, cultural, and religious heart of Italy. Among its attractions are:

* The Colosseum, one of the most recognizable structures in the world. It's an ancient stadium where gladiators fought and Christians were martyred.

* The Forum, once the center of the Roman Empire and now a broad area of ruins.

* The Spanish Steps, a place where locals and tourists have gathered for centuries.
The Forum is best
viewed from Capitoline

* The Trevi Fountain, of Three Coins in the Fountain fame. Throw a coin over your left shoulder and you'll return to Rome, says the legend.

* The Pantheon, renowned as a remarkably preserved domed Roman building.

* Vatican City, actually one of the smallest nations in the world. The seat of Roman Catholicism and home to the pope, it's the site of St. Peter's Basilica (the largest church in the world) and the overwhelming Vatican Museum. Michelangelo's Creation is painted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, his Last Judgement on its wall.

Outside Rome are wonderful attractions. Some popular day trips:
Visitors to St. Peter's
must not wear shorts.

* The Villa d'Este in Tivoli is famed for its majestic, terraced water gardens and fountains. Nearby is Hadrian's Villa, a remarkable archaeological find.

* Ostia Antica contains the vast excavated ruins of an ancient port.

* The Catacombs--where early Christians secretly buried their dead--are located just outside town (there's a smaller version near the Via Veneto), as is the Roman Empire's principal road, the Appian Way.



Venice could never happen again. One of the truly unique cities of the world, it was built on 118 islands connected by 160 canals and more than 400 bridges. Located on the Adriatic, the city is expensive, with polluted waters and crowds of tourists (more than two million each year, for a city whose population is less than 80,000). Yet a walk through its back alleys opens up a quiet, romantic, fragile world of another time. Among its attractions are:
The view from the tower
at St. Mark's is best at

* St. Mark's Square, the city's busy gathering place. It's enclosed at one end by the fanciful St. Mark's Basilica and has numerous outdoor cafes, each with "dueling" orchestras.

* The Doge's Palace, near the basilica, reflecting a Moorish architecture. It houses one of the world's great collections of maps and globes. The famous Bridge of Sighs is nearby.

* The Rialto Bridge, one of Venice's most photographed bridges. It crosses the Grand Canal, the city's main waterway.

* The Lido, a trendy, luxury beach resort, on its own island across from the Grand Canal.

Here are some of the most popular day or half-day trips:

* Murano is a touristy island where glass has been made for some 700 years. (The sales push to buy can be very aggressive.)

* Burano is the quaint island-capital of lace making.

* Padua [PAD-yoo-wah] is a town with charming medieval buildings.

* Verona has noteworthy architecture and a renowned outdoor opera festival. "Juliet's balcony" is here, as well. Verona can also be visited en route to Milan or the Lake District.
Address an Italian by
his or her first name
only when invited to
do so.

By law, Venice's
gondolas must be
painted black. The one
exception: those owned
by city officials.


A city of art and architecture with a strong intellectual community, Florence is where the Renaissance began and flourished in the fifteenth century under the Medici family. It's located on the Arno River in the beautiful Tuscany hills. This international city remains, in many ways, a town of artisans and elegance. Among the many sites to see:


* The Duomo, one of the most architecturally important cathedrals in the world. Started in 1256, it took 173 years to finish.
Duomo is an Italian
term for any large

* The Galleria delle'Academia, with its very fine collection of Florentine art, best known for Michelangelo's David.

* The Church of Santa Croce, where Michelangelo is buried.

* The Vecchio Palace, an opulent "town hall" built by the Medicis.

* The Ponte Vecchio, the renowned bridge over the Arno, lined with gold and jewelry shops.

* The Pitti Palace, a lavish home of the Medicis, which is so large it houses several museums.

* The Uffizi Gallery, a Renaissance palace housing one of the premier collections of art in Italy.
Because of all the
noise from mopeds, it's
best not to have a room
facing a busy street in

The following day trips from Florence are very popular:

* Pisa is world renowned, of course, for its leaning tower.

* Fiesole [FYAY-zo-lay] is a beautiful old Etruscan village. Plays are still performed in the amphitheater, built in 80 B.C.

* Siena is a pretty Renaissance village in the hills of the Tuscany wine country.


The Italian Riviera

An extension of the French Riviera, the Italian Riviera offers stunning scenery along a mountainous coast. It's very crowded in the summer.
The Portofino Bay Hotel
in Orlando, Florida,
was built to look like
Portofino, Italy.

Portofino, an exclusive and high-priced resort town, is perhaps the most beautiful on Italy's Riviera. Santa Margherita Ligure and San Remo are popular beach resorts, as well. Genoa is a major Italian port and the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. It has many fine museums and Gothic architecture.


Milan is the financial, business, fashion, and publishing center of Italy. The city has a sophisticated cultural life and is the gateway to the Alps and the Lake District. Among the major attractions:

* The Church of St. Mary of Grace, the location of da Vinci's The Last Supper.

* The Duomo, an intricate marble structure and one of the world's largest cathedrals.

The square that fronts it is famous for its pigeons.

* La Scala, perhaps the world's most famous opera house. Its season runs from December to June.
To see its intricate
carvings, go up to the
roof of Milan's Duomo.

The Lake District

This Alpine region near Switzerland is one of magnificent scenery and charming villages. The many lakes and surrounding Alps are part of the same geologic development, which glaciers carved out millions of years ago. Among its key towns:

* Como, on Lake Como (one of two main lakes in the district), with wonderful architecture. Its structures include a 700-year-old palace and a Renaissance Gothic cathedral.

* Stresa, the largest town on the area's other major lake, Lake Maggiore, with extremely beautiful villas.

* Bergamo, a two-level city. Its main plaza is surrounded by stunning medieval buildings.
Aosta is off the tourist
beaten path but has
a picture-perfect


Not far from the lakes are the ski resorts of the Italian Alps. Among the favorites are beautiful Cortina d'Ampezzo and Courmayeur, the area's largest, with a very busy nightlife.


Naples is crowded and a bit run-down, but does boast some interesting churches and museums. Though it may not be Italy's most popular place to visit, the region nearby offers fascinating attractions:

* Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii had their histories intertwined in 79 A.D., when the volcano (now dormant, but potentially still active) erupted and buried the town. The ruins have since been excavated. A second nearby town, Herculaneum, was also buried. Like Pompeii, it has been uncovered and can be visited.

* The Isle of Capri is a trendy resort. Though there aren't many beaches, it's an area of charming villages and great vistas. Here, too, is the Blue Grotto, a watery cave of eerie azure light.

* Sorrento has long been one of the most beautiful, romantic, and famous resort areas in Italy. Unfortunately, it's becoming rather crowded, worn, and expensive.

* Amalfi Drive, along the peninsula of the Amalfi Coast, offers breathtaking views past cliffs, coves, and villages.

Buy detailed
guidebooks for each
city. Many of Italy's
attractions have poor
signage and no guided

Located just off the toe of Italy's boot, this beautiful island is mountainous and dry. It's excellent for water sports and has very good beaches. In the winter there's also some good skiing in the mountains. Among its attractions: Mt. Etna, a still-active volcano; Taormina, a charming and popular beach resort town; and Palermo, Sicily's seaport capital, with ancient buildings and Norman palaces.

Milan is closer to
London than it is to the
tip of Italy's boot.

About 100 miles off Italy's west coast, this sparsely populated island is known for its beaches and water sports, especially fishing. The beautiful countryside and picturesque villages hold remnants of many ages. Easily the most popular beach area on Sardinia is Costa Smeralda (the Emerald Coast), one of the trendiest luxury resorts in all of Europe.

Possible Itineraries
Many attractions and
most businesses,
except restaurants,
close between 1:00
P.M. and 3:30 P.M. but
stay open as late as
8:00 P.M.

First-time travelers to Italy visit Rome and other great cities, perhaps Venice and Florence. A week is the bare minimum. Seasoned travelers will probably want to explore the other areas of the country, as well as spend perhaps a bit more in-depth time in the major cities. A week concentrated in any one area, such as the Lake District or the region south of Rome, is just about right. Two weeks in Italy, however, provides ample opportunity to visit several major regions and cities.

Lodging Options

There's a wide range of hotel chains to choose from in Italy. At the expensive end are such organizations as CIGA [CHEE-gah], Atahotels, Starhotels, and Jolly Hotels (some of whose hotels are more moderately priced than others). Many North American chains are also represented in Italy.

Hotels in Rome are concentrated around the rail station, the Spanish Steps, and the Via Veneto (famed for its many sidewalk cafes). In Venice, most lodging is along the Grand Canal and near St. Mark's Square. Hotels in Florence are mostly to the north, along or near the Arno River. On Sicily and Sardinia, most of the accommodations are on the northern parts of the islands.

Italy has several famous, luxurious hotels. In Rome are the Hotel Hassler and the Hotel Excelsior, both with superb locations. Venice has several renowned hotels, including the Cipriani, Danieli, and Gritti Palace. Outside of Florence is the Villa San Michele, a former monastery with a facade designed by Michelangelo. Hidden in a cove on Sardinia is the opulent Cala di Volpe.
Request rooms in the
oldest section of the

Although lower-rated hotels may present unwelcome surprises, Italy does offer wonderful alternative lodging, notably the chance to stay in old villas. Though some are expensive, many are moderately priced.

Allied Destinations

Although most of the country is surrounded by water, Italy is bordered on the north by France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. The lovely French island of Corsica is just off the west coast, and the island-nation of Malta is to the south of Sicily. Moreover, located as it is at the southern tip of Europe, Italy is also a perfect jumping-off point to Africa across the Mediterranean Sea. Nearby are Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt. Note that many Eastern Mediterranean cruises start out in Venice, while Western Mediterranean cruises often begin at Civitavecchia.
Ancient Romans placed
chickpeas and bacon
in sealed jars and
exported them to the
rest of the Empire.
That's where our pork
and beans came from.

Cultural Patterns

Italy has a rich, exuberant culture, but with traditions that can be quite different from those to which most Americans are accustomed. Business travelers should pay close attention to the customs with which they come into contact.

* The daily pace is slower in southern Italy than in the north.

* Dinner can be a long, social event, but lunch is generally the day's biggest meal. Visitors shouldn't rush their meal, and they should try their best to eat everything placed before them.

* When doing business, travelers should wear their finest clothes. In Italy, great clothing is a badge of success.

* It's appropriate for a guest to bring a small gift to an Italian home.

* The American gesture for one (the index finger raised) means two in Italy, since the thumb is counted as one.

* Don't eat fruit (except grapes and cherries) or cheese with your hands. Use utensils.
Extra tips are expected
for most service-related
jobs. Waiters should be
tipped a few euros in
addition to the service
charge on the bill.

Factors That Motivate Visitors

For as diverse a country as Italy, it's important to understand precisely what motivates people to go there. Among their reasons might be:

* Some of the world's best-known ancient sites are here.

*_ The food is familiar and wonderful.

* The country serves as a center for Christian religious pilgrimages.

* The culture is rich with opera, art, architecture, and history.

* There's the opportunity for water sports in summer and skiing in winter.

* There's great shopping.

* Many Americans have their cultural roots in Italy.

* Some of the world's finest resorts are here.

* Italy is a major departure point for cruises.
Trattorias are less
expensive for dining
than ristorantes and
offer very good food.

San Gimignano, outside
Siena, is famous among
architects for its many
medieval towers.

Possible Misgivings

For all Italy's attributes, certain concerns regularly arise:

* "Everything's so expensive." Italy is indeed expensive; prebooked tours and cruises can blunt the cost a bit.

* "It's so disorganized." On an escorted tour, the tour manager will deal with whatever problems may arise.

* "There's a lot of crime." Most are petty offenses. But crime does happen, and normal precautions must be taken.

* "It's so hot." Spring or fall offers nice weather. Italy's northern regions are cooler.

* "Driving in cities is dangerous." Fine public transportation helps visitors get past this concern.
Best time to see the
Sistine Chapel: at
opening (bypass the
museum, go straight to
the Chapel, then work
your way back) or in

Sales Strategies

Italy offers unique selling avenues. With city driving so treacherous, city tours and train transportation become especially attractive. For that matter, with so many different attractions in Italy, escorted tours or day trips can be excellent ways to see the country. So, too, are cruises, which often call on Italy's less visited areas (for example, Sicily and Sardinia) before continuing on to other countries.
The famous architect
Frank Lloyd Wright
applied for permission
to build a home on
Venice's Grand Canal.
He was refused.

Lodging in villas ranges from inexpensive to costly, but all offer a way to help make Italy memorable. Hotels along Venice's Grand Canal or with views in Florence may be expensive, but they're worth it. Their drama can cap off any guest's trip.

The World's Top Ten Cities

(1) Florence
(2) Rome
(3) Paris
(4) New York City
(5) San Francisco
(6) Venice
(7) London
(8) Sydney
(9) Hong Kong
(10) Vienna

SOURCE: Travel & Leisure readers' poll



A traveler wants to visit the places listed below. Which number
represents each on the map?

Place/Attraction             In/Near Which City?     Number on Map

A. St. Mark's Basilica       A. --                   A. --

B. The statue of David       B. --                   B. --

C. The Trevi Fountain        C. --                   C. --

D. Pompeii                   D. --                   D. --

E. La Scala Opera House      E. --                   E. --

F. Gondolas                  F. --                   F. --

G. The Last Supper           G. --                   G. --

H. A leaning tower           H. --                   H. --

I. The Doge's Palace         I. --                   I. --

J. Hotel Hassler             J. --                   J. --


Thomas and Jeannette Blair love food; they're taking a two-week
culinary trip to Europe with Nancy and Sam Armato, who are also
gourmets. Both couples are in their early sixties and have been to
the Continent many times. What attracts them, in addition to the
food, is the history of the cultures. They plan to go to Italy,
France, and Spain.

Circle the answer that best suits their needs:

(1) How many total days in Italy would you recommend for their trip?

Two                 Three

Five                Ten


(2) Which of the following Italian destinations could you suggest?

Costa Smeralda      Bimini

Corsica             Santorini


(3) Which of the following tips would the couples find most useful
in Italy?

Vatican City is right next door to the Colosseum.

Leave a tip, even when there's already one on the bill.

Car rentals in Rome are inexpensive.

Milan's Last Supper is its finest restaurant.


(4) Which of the following services should you not offer?

A hotel suite A city tour

A luau A Eurail Pass



Thanks to television, nearly a billion people see the Rose Parade
each year. That's why so many countries sponsor Rose Bowl floats.
This year, Italy will create a float. What do you think it should
look like? Describe it very specifically or, if you're artistic,
draw it below.


Marc Mancini, PhD

Department of Travel

West Los Angeles College
Figure 16-2
Qualifying the Traveler




Historical and                *
  Cultural Attractions
Beaches and Water Sports              *
Skiing Opportunities          *
Lots of Nightlife                     *
Family Activities                     *
Familiar Cultural                             *
Exotic Cultural               *
Safety and Low Crime                          *
Bargain Travel                                *
Impressive Scenery            *

Peace and Quiet                       *
Shopping Opportunities        *

To Do Business                        *


Historical and               Cities are virtual museums
  Cultural Attractions
Beaches and Water Sports     Especially Riviera and Sardinia
Skiing Opportunities         Northern Alps
Lots of Nightlife            Especially Rome
Family Activities            Mostly sightseeing
Familiar Cultural
Exotic Cultural
Safety and Low Crime         Petty crime frequent
Bargain Travel               Venice especially costly
Impressive Scenery           Especially countryside and the
Peace and Quiet              Countryside
Shopping Opportunities       Designer items, glass, gold,
                               jewelry, high fashion
To Do Business
COPYRIGHT 2004 Delmar Learning
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:PART IV EUROPE Continental Flair
Author:Mancini, Marc
Publication:Selling Destinations, Geography for the Travel Professional, 4th ed.
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Previous Article:Chapter 15 France the movable feast.
Next Article:Chapter 17 Spain and Portugal everything under the sun.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters