History, art, and warm coastal beaches: three words that perfectly sum up the country of Italy. The different regions of Italy each have their own personalities, some a vibrant blend of Italian and neighboring regions, others a laid-back Mediterranean coastal town. It’s no wonder Italy is the height of European history and culture, and Culturally Creative Travel is your guide to this amazing country.
60-Second Geography –Italy
- A melting pot of Italian, African, Greek, and Arabian cultures, Sicily is one of the most unique regions of Italy. At the southern tip of the country, Sicily’s warm climate creates mild autumns and winters, but much hotter summers, making it a fantastic getaway for snow bunnies looking to escape the cold. If you’re looking to explore a wide range of architecture, from Byzantine mosaics to Arab arches, then Palermo is where you want to be. The capital of Sicily, Palermo is a bustling city full of architectural wonders, including the Quattro Canti, a Baroque piazza; the Palace of the Normans (Palazzo dei Normanni), the home for the kings of Sicily during the Norman’s conquest; the Palatine Chapel (Cappella Palatina), the royal chapel of the Norman kings; and the Benedictine Abbey of Monreale.
- A modern town with a medieval façade, Padua is home to one of the oldest universities in Italy, the University of Padua, which had the honor of having Galileo Galilei as a lecturer. One of the most incredible sights in the city is the Basilica of St. Anthony, an important site for pilgrims who cover the saint’s tomb with prayers and requests for healing and help in finding that which is lost. The chapel is a beautiful Renaissance masterpiece, with nine panels depicting the life of Saint Anthony, and also features bronze sculptures by the famous Florentine artist Donatello. The city was also the setting for Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew, where sly Petruchio married the violent Katherine and tamed her.
- A city floating on a lagoon, Venice is made of 118 islands connected by canals and bridges. While the city can be seen on foot, it is infinitely more enjoyable to see riding in a gondola along the famous canal. One of the highlights of Venice is the Basilica of St. Mark, originally built in the 13th century to house the remains of St. Mark but was embellished upon over the next 500 years with gold and jewels from the East. The Doge’s Palace is another architectural treasure, the former residence of the Doge of Venice in the 9th century when Venice was its own republic. A poignant sight to see is the Bridge of Sighs, a limestone bridge that connected the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace. The bridge was the last thing that prisoners would see before being taken to their cells, implying that it was the last beautiful thing they would see.
- The site of the ancient volcanic eruption that destroyed a city, Pompeii is one of the most significant archeological finds of the last few centuries. The city was perfectly preserved under layers of ash for centuries until the late 18th century, keeping the ruins in almost pristine condition. Pompeii offers a unique perspective of the ancient Romans, not only in the architecture but also the people. One of the most poignant sights is the resin and plaster casts of the people who perished, made by pouring plaster or resin in the hollow spaces around the skeletons to create a cast of the resident in their final moment. Over 2.3 million visitors come to see the ruins of the city and the casts of the residents, to walk the streets that have been empty for so long.
- Considered one of the most picturesque towns in all of Italy, Positano is a popular destination along the Amalfi Coast. Thousands of visitors stream into the coastal town every year to enjoy the beautiful scenery, but the best time to visit is in the spring when the crowds are thinner. The Franco Senesi is a great gallery to stroll through, featuring the work of over 20 Italian artists and sculptors. The Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta is one of the most popular churches in Positano, with beautiful Classical elements in the interior, including a Byzantine black Madonna and child and winged cherubs across the ceiling. Positano’s two beaches, Fornillo and Spiagga Grande, are both peaceful and relaxing, with Fornillo being the more secluded and Spiagga Grande full of activity.
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