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Touring Italy's Big Three Hot Spots

Apr 12, 2008
Visiting Italy will always be an unforgettable experience, but those heading to this amazing country for the first time should be sure to hit all the major highlights before returning home, armed with hundreds of pictures, souvenirs, and memories that will last a lifetime.

The best way to get a taste of Italy is to be sure to include the Big Three on your itinerary; Rome, Venice, and Florence. These three cities have and always will be Italy's most popular tourist spots, each offering something unique for those who vacation there. With just 7 to 14 days of vacation time, travelers can get a good idea of what each city offers. In addition, travel between the cities whether by car or by coach provides a look at more of Italy's beautiful terrain since the cities are each located in a different region of the country.

The best way to see these three lovely cities, especially on a first visit is to book an escorted tour with a company that knows Rome, Venice, and Florence inside out and backwards. This way, you're hitting all the major attractions but also those little out-of-the-way places, like a favorite cafe or gelato shop you might not find on your own.

Rome

Rome remains Italy's most visited city. After all, The Eternal City is so full of things to see and do, no matter what your particular interest. Of course, if you're a history buff, you'll probably head straight to the buildings and remains of the Roman Empire and other early civilizations. You'll want to visit the Colosseum, built by Emperor Vespasian and his son Titus in 80 A.D.; the triumphal Arch of Constantine, erected in 315 A.D.; St Peter's Basilica with Michelangelo's renowned frescoes; the extraordinary Pantheon, the first temple built for the common people; and the Roman Forum, once the center of political and commercial life in ancient Rome.

Museums abound, including the wonderful Vatican Museums, housing the most extensive and impressive collection of fine art found anywhere in the world. You'll also want to include visits to The Spanish Steps, the renowned Trevi Fountain, the Via Appia Antica (Appian Way), Castel St. Angelo, and Rome's beautiful churches.

Dining is a joy, whether you're in search of a five-star restaurant experience or would prefer to take a seat in a small outdoor cafe on the Piazza della Rotonda and do a little people watching. Either way, the food is stellar!

Try to allow at least 4 full days to enjoy the capital city and if you're on an escorted tour, do a little research ahead of time to decide which sights you'd like to explore during your free time when specific activities are not scheduled.

Venice

Situated in Northern Italy, Venice is one of the most romantic cities in the world and is often a top choice for honeymooners. But, of course, anyone can enjoy this spectacular city, which stretches across about 110 small islands along the Adriatic Sea.

You'll need at least two full days to see all the highlights. First time visitors to Venice will certainly want to hop aboard a gondola or a vaporetti (water taxi) and explore the city's system of canals, which take visitors past most of Venice's prime attractions. (The canals serve the same function as roads because Venice is a car-free city.) While on your canal tour, you can decide what you'd like to see once you're back on foot.

Top attractions include pigeon-filled St. Mark's Square, home to St. Mark's Basilica, the magnificent gothic Doge's Palace, and many other buildings and sites. You'll also want to make your way to the Bridge of Sighs, one of Venice's many bridges, known as such because it passes over the Rio di Palazzo and connects the old prisons to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace. It was often the last place prisoners could view the city before their incarceration or death.

Be sure to sample the local seafood as well as the innovative pasta dishes. Venice is also known for its wonderful sweets, so you'll want to include a stop at a patisserie or two while exploring this breathtaking city.

Florence

Florence, the gateway to Tuscany, has become more and more popular during the past few decades. Always Italy's most cultural city, it's been as such since the Renaissance, when Florence families such as the Medicis sponsored artists like Michelangelo and others.

The centerpiece of Florence is the Duomo, or Santa Maria del Fiore. A must see, with its magnificent dome and baptistery, this is the architectural jewel in Florence's crown. After you've seen the cathedral, head to the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), the only to survive World War II, lined with interesting shops help up by stilts. And stop at the Uffizi Gallery, one of the finest art museums in the world, or visit the Academia to view Michelangelo's David.

Wherever your first (or second or third) Italy tour takes you, you're sure to be mesmerized by all this wonderful country offers, from its vibrant cities to its bucolic countryside to its friendly people who welcome you with open arms. Take time to savor the moments!
About the Author
Dominic Siano is President of Tour Italy Now (www.touritalynow.com, the largest online travel tour operator to Italy. A lover of all things Italian, Dominic has worked extensively in the Italian tourism industry. To learn what Dominic can do for you visit his blog at www.domsiano.com.
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