Italy A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority - Samuel Johnson

About Rome: the Eternal city

ROME, Caput Mundi during the Roman Empire, capital of Italy since 1870, home of the Catholic Church and the Italian government, is placed on the banks of the Tiber, there where the river, running weakly among the seven hills, creates vast meanders which originate little plains.

With its 2,459,776 inhabitants (2001), Rome is today the biggest and most populous city of Italy. Located in the middle of the Italian peninsula, the city is easily accessible from most important places both in Italy and abroad. Fiumicino airport (also called Leonardo da Vinci), 26-km south-west of Rome, is the airport for both international and domestic air services. Non- stop trains run from Stazione Termini every half hour from about 07.00 to 21.15 and metropolitan trains every 15 minutes from Stazione Roma Tiburtina via Ostienze and Transtevere from about 05.00 to 23.00. A network of motorways approaches Rome, including the A1 from northern Italy (Milan, Florence), this joins the busy Rome ring-road (Grande accordo Anulare) at settebagni, from which there are well sign-posted exists to all districts of the city. The city is well served by two underground railway system besides the fairly efficient bus and tram services. The climate is temperate, with breezy winters and hot summers.

The Colosseum

Even after the decadent Roman emperor Nero took his own life in A.D. 68, his misrule and excesses fueled a series of civil wars. No fewer than four emperors took the throne in the tumultuous year after Nero’s death; the fourth, Vespasian, would end up ruling for 10 years (A.D. 69-79). The Flavian emperors, as Vespasian and his sons Titus (79-81) and Domitian (81-96) were known, attempted to tone down the excesses of the Roman court, restore Senate authority and promote public welfare. Around 70-72, Vespasian returned to the Roman people the lush land near the center of the city, where Nero had built an enormous palace for himself after a great fire ripped through Rome in A.D. 64. On the site of that Golden Palace, he decreed, would be built a new amphitheater where the public could enjoy gladiatorial combats and other forms of entertainment.

Colosseum structure

After nearly a decade of construction–a relatively quick time period for a project of such a grand scale–Titus officially dedicated the Colosseum in A.D. 80 with a festival including 100 days of games. A well-loved ruler, Titus had earned his people’s devotion with his handling of recovery efforts after the infamous eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79, which destroyed the towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii. The final stages of construction of the Colosseum were completed under the reign of Titus’ brother and successor, Domitian.

While the Coliseum stands, Rome shall stand; when the Coliseum falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, the world shall fall. - Venerable Bede

Milan: the world's capital of fashion and design

Even though the capital of Italy is Rome, Milan is the center of fashion and design. This northern Italian metropolis is much more than the gray and industrial city that meets the eye. A leisurely stroll by the trendy neighborhood of Brera confirms that Milan deserves a second chance. Beyond postcards depicting its classic Gothic cathedral, the impressive Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the Teatro alla Scala, emerges another Milan, enjoyable and always elegant. One of the city’s noblest areas is the "fashion quadrilateral" comprising four streets: Via Monte Napoleone, Via Manzoni, Via della Spiga and Corso Venezia. The most luxurious firms—both Italian and foreign—are based there: from Bottega Veneta, Alberta Ferretti and Prada to Chanel, Dior, Hermes, Burberry and Kenzo, among others. Nearby, you find imposing houses with beautiful courtyards, simple on the outside, but flowery inside. To poke around this neighborhood is to discover high ivy-covered walls, lattice doors, miniature fountains and stony soils unsuitable for the high heels worn by the Milanese women. Here luxury is understated, and facial surgery seems less obscene than in other latitudes. This is also the fashion district, the place where you need to be and where you can spot, among bikes and trams, celebrities like filmmaker Nani Moretti.

Brera is an ode to romance, which is evident in every little boutique offering unique and delicate items. Giusy Bresciani with its original raffia hats, Callegaro serving its famous raspberry tarts or the always-crowded Mozzarella Bar with its appetizing proposals are fine examples of classic Milanese style. Life explodes in Brera during the aperitif or cocktail hour, which is a favorite after-work activity. In Milan, one always feels underdressed among the comings and goings of the stunning and elegant Milanese: not surprising, design is in the city´s DNA. But it is not advisable to categorize these city dwellers as trendy. Remember that Milan is also the city that lovingly preserves Da Vinci’s The Last Supper in the refectory of the 15th-century church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Venice: The floating city

Venice, the capital of the Veneto region, has a population of more than 270,000, according to the latest census (2004). It is located in the north-east of Italy on numerous small islands in the Venetian Lagoon.

The "City of Bridges", as it is usually called, stretches along the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers. Out of the 270,000 inhabitants, about 62,000 live in the historical center, or city of Venice, about 176,000 live in the mainland or "Terraferma", behind the lagoon, in locations like Mestre and Marghera, and all others live on islands throughout the lagoon (there are about 100 islands around Venice). Also known as a famous place for sweethearts, lovers, artists and poets, Venice is a magical city, which stretches across numerous small islands. It is often refered to as the city of "gondole", which are the means of transportation used to cross the numerous canals passing through the city.

In the center of Venice; typical view from the street

In Venice you'll find many historical buildings, both with modern interiors and also with the traditional designs which are common all over the city. Renting a holiday apartment in Venice means you can soak up the romantic atmosphere at affordable prices. If you prefer more traditional accommodation, there are many cheap hotels in Venice. Gondolas, in fact, are the most famous and romantic means of transportation for experiencing the city. The gondola is the symbol of Venice, which has made it famous all over the world.

The one and only Italian food

Typical ingredients of Italian home made food

There are not many nations that can say their national dish has become an international phenomenon. Italy has two such dishes, pasta and, of course, pizza. Both are famous all over the world, both have made the history of Italian food.

In America pizza usually falls into two categories: thick and cheesy Chicago style or thin and more traditional New York pizza. In Italy pizza also falls into two distinct categories: Italian pizza and the rest of the world. It might seem silly considering the basic ingredients, but one taste of a true Italian pizza and that's it. You will never feel the same about this simple and delicious food again.

Italian Pizza Margherita

Pizza in its most basic form as a seasoned flatbread has a long history in the Mediterranean. Several cultures including the Greeks and Phoenicians ate a flatbread made from flour and water. The dough would be cooked by placing on a hot stone and then seasoned with herbs. The Greeks called this early pizza plankuntos and it was basically used as an edible plate when eating stews or thick broth. It was not yet what we would call pizza today but it was very much like modern focaccia. These early pizzas were eaten from Rome to Egypt to Babylon and were praised by the ancient historians Herodotus and Cato the Elder.

Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life -- come and experience it yourself

Credits:

Created with images by Moyan_Brenn - "Italy" • kirkandmimi - "rome pantheon piazza" • DigitArtClips - "collosseum romans acting" • AlexVan - "colosseum europe rome" • spookypeanut - "Colosseum" • HarshLight - "Gondolas!" • Oldmermaid - "pasta fettuccine food" • ponce_photography - "pizza cheese margarita" • Moyan_Brenn - "Italy"

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