by Gillian Dearnley.
Here are some important things about Italy that you may not know which will be helpful if you decide to visit.
Italy is home to many of the world’s historical and cultural treasures. What’s more, 41 of the UNESCO World Heritage sites are located there. Whether you are interested in art (Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo), opera (Puccini, Verdi) or architecture (Venice, Rome, Florence), your senses will be aroused by the beauty all around you.
There is a strong regional influence which runs through Italian life. One of the things about Italy many people do not know is that it was only unified as a nation state at the end of the 19th century. So the role of regions, their food, their customs and individual laws is still important. Having said this, Italy was one of the 6 founder members of the European Union in 1957, and has always been at the heart of the European integration movement. It was one of the first countries to adopt the Euro.
Italy has many national public holidays throughout the year (as well as a few regional ones) and these can catch the traveller by surprise if he is not forewarned! It is always best to check opening times of museums and galleries on such days, as well as paying extra attention to railway and bus timetables. Banks are usually closed on these public holidays:
1st January, 6th January, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, 25th April (Liberation Day), 1st May, 2nd June (Republic Day), 15th August, 1st November, 8th December, 25th and 26th December.
Visitors are often impressed by the stylish dress of the Italians they meet. But did you know that you can buy designer clothing at a fraction of the original price by taking a short tour out of Florence? This is one of the things about Italy that makes it so attractive for the bargain hunter. There are Prada and Gucci designer outlets at 30% -50% discount, so you can stock up on fashion items and leather goods.
Food and Drink
Italian food and drink is not all pizza, pasta and Chianti wine! Look out for these special things: extra virgin olive oil (which is claimed to have health-giving properties), Parmesan cheese (which strictly speaking should only come from the Parmigiano Reggiano area to be truly authentic), Brunello di Montalcino (particularly fine red wine which is sometimes kept for 50 years before drinking) and finally the famous truffles (tartufi) which taste fantastic grated over pasta.
As well as hotels there are lots of other accommodation possibilities. Why not relax in your own Italian villa, to use a base for tours and excursions? Or a farmhouse with original features like wooden beams, vaulted brick ceilings and arches? If you have children, perhaps a stay in an “agriturismo” – an Italian working farm – where you can immerse yourself in the rural Italian way of life and enjoy the hospitality of the owners.
There are so many things about Italy to discover and enjoy. It is the perfect vacation destination!
Copyright Gillian Dearnley 2006.
Gillian Dearnley has been a lover of all things Italian for 20 years. Her company One Stop Italy arranges self-catering vacation accommodation throughout Italy. Visit her website at https://www.onestopitaly.com/ and browse the online catalogues with over 3000 accommodation possibilities. Help and personal advice a speciality.
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