Italy is a country in the south of Europe, famous for its food, fashion, art, architecture, landscape, and diverse culture. The country’s origins begin with the city of Rome, which began as a tiny village in the 700s BC, growing to a huge empire through the next several hundred years. Over the course of this time, Italy has been constantly invaded, successfully and unsuccessfully, even through World War II. In 1946, Italy switched from a monarchy to a republic, and joined NATO by the 1950′s, allying itself with the USA. But economic downfall and political instability in the country began during the 1980′s, continuing through the 2000′s. At present, the country is on an economic and political mend.

de_0046_italy - San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy


Italy’s rich history and modern flair provide ample opportunities for things to see and do. The following is but a hint of the attractions you can find in the country:

  • The 47 UNESCO World Heritage Sites: situated throughout the country, Italy has more than any other country on Earth. For instance, The Dolomites, the archeology of Pompeii, The Sassi Caves, the Volcanic Islands, and the historical centers of Rome and Florence.
  • The Leaning Tower of Pisa: Located in the city of Pisa, this famous tower was built in 1174 but construction halted as the tower started to sink into the earth. It wasn’t until the 14th Century that the tower was completed. But even today, the tower continues to sink at a rate of 1mm per year. Inside the tower are 294 steps spiraling upwards to a belfry.
  • Lake Como: Located in Lombardy, this 146 square kilometer (1320 feet deep) glacial lake is home to stunning vistas of water, valleys, wildlife, and mountains. Also on the lake are beautiful villas and resorts, with ferries to take you to and from destinations along the lake.

de_0044_italy - Typical view on small street in Venice, Italy.

Local Food & Drink

The cultural and regional diversity of Italy makes its food and drink options just as diverse. For food, one specialty is Risotto, which is Arbrio rice mixed with a creamy stock, and added with seafood, vegetables, and meats. Arancini is another specialty, consisting of deep-fried balls of rice served with cheese, eggs, and tomato sauce. Of course, pizza is abundant in the country, as is the over 800 varieties of cheese and 400 varieties of sausage! For drinks, Italy is known for its wine, beer, and coffee. Regarding wine, the Italians are experts at pairing wine with food. Red wine is served with meat; white wine with fish. Also, depending on the region you are traveling in, certain areas prefer certain wines over other wines. Thus, be sure to brush up on regional wine preferences when traveling. Beer is also popular in Italy, and over the past 30 years or so, many micro-breweries and pubs have popped up throughout the country. Finally, coffee is available in many variations. For example, Caffe Ristretto is coffee with very little water added, so it is very strong. The same can be said for the Espresso. Also available are coffees added with milk, such as a Cappuccino or a Caffe Latte, which is served in a glass with hot milk.

de_0045_italy - the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence


Italy is a very safe place to visit, with a low rate of crime, and the majority of crime happening in the form of political unrest or organized crime. Travelers are rarely attacked. However, here are a few tips to keep in mind while visiting the country:

  • When exiting bars or restaurants, it is common to be stopped by Italian border/immigration police officers asking to see your documents – do not be worried.
  • Beware when drinking in pubs and bars, as often locals may attempt to take advantage of a person who is drunk. Stay in groups when participating in Italy’s nightlife.
  • When driving, stay out of driving in what are known as pedestrian-only zones. There is a strict one hundred Euro fine for this offense.
  • Watch out for scam artists such as fake taxi cabs and men impersonating undercover cops, both of which are looking to take your money.
  • Racism does exist throughout the country. It’s only been the last 20 years that the country has seen an influx of non-whites. Often a person of color will be viewed as an immigrant, and bigotry and racial remarks may occur.