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Traces of Italy's glorious past can still be seen all over the country, including of course in its capital, Rome. Important cultures and civilizations have existed in Italy since the pre-historic era, while the Etruscan civilization and the Roman Empire have shaped the European cultures for centuries.
Italy boasts quite a few personalities who have left a permanent mark in history. For example, Marco Polo was 17 when he left Venice, and was the first European to reach China. Christopher Columbus was the first sailor to reach the West Indies and find the American continent shortly after. Leonardo Da Vinci was a renaissance painter, architect, engineer, mathematician and philosopher, a genius the world has never seen again so far. Galileo Galilei invented the telescope and made important discoveries in the field of mechanics, and especially of dynamics. In addition, the most beautiful masterpieces of the Renaissance art were realized in Italy. For instance, Michelangelo completed the statue of David in Florence in 1504, and began to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome in 1508, while Leonardo Da Vinci started the portrait of Mona Lisa in 1503.
Monuments to the events of modern history also may be seen throughout Italy. You may remember that during the Italian campaign (1943-45), German and Allied armies battled from one end of Italy to the other. Today you can visit the monuments, museums, and battlegrounds dedicated to those who fought in World War II. Many of these deeply moving places are in or near Rome, Florence, and Bologna. There are also many sites to visit in smaller towns.