Italy, a European country with a long Mediterranean coastline, has left a powerful mark on Western culture and cuisine. Its capital, Rome, is home to the Vatican as well as landmark art and ancient ruins. Other major cities include Florence, with Renaissance masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s “David” and Brunelleschi’s Duomo; Venice, the city of canals; and Milan, Italy’s fashion capital.
ROME – Italy’s capital, is a sprawling cosmopolitan city with nearly 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture and culture on display. Ancient ruins such as the Forum and the Colosseum evoke the power of the former Roman Empire. Vatican City, headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, has St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, which house masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes.
FLORENCE – the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, is home to many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture. One of its most iconic sights is the Duomo, a cathedral with a terracotta-tiled dome engineered by Brunelleschi and a bell tower by Giotto. The Galleria dell’Accademia displays Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture. The Uffizi Gallery exhibits Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and da Vinci’s “Annunciation.”
SIENA – a city in central Italy’s Tuscany region, is distinguished by its medieval brick buildings. The fan-shaped central square, Piazza del Campo, is the site of the Palazzo Pubblico, the Gothic town hall, and Torre del Mangia, a slender 14th-century tower with sweeping views from its distinctive white crown.
SAN GIMIGNANO – is an Italian hill town in Tuscany. Encircled by 13th-century walls, its old town centers on Piazza della Cisterna, a triangular square lined with medieval houses. It has a skyline of medieval towers, including the stone Torre Grossa. The Duomo di San Gimignano is a 12th-century church with frescoes by Ghirlandaio in its Santa Fina Chapel.
VENICE – the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It has no roads, just canals – including the Grand Canal thoroughfare – lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces. The central square, Piazza San Marco, contains St. Mark’s Basilica, which is tiled with Byzantine mosaics, and the Campanile bell tower offering views of the city’s red roofs.