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Rome wasn't built in a day--and you'll need much more than a day to take in this timeless city. The city is a real-life collage of piazzas, open-air markets, and astonishing historic sites. Toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain, contemplate the Colosseum and the Pantheon, and sample a perfect espresso or gelato before spending an afternoon shopping at the Campo de’Fiori or Via Veneto. Enjoy some of the most memorable meals of your life here, too, from fresh pasta to succulent fried artichokes or a tender oxtail stew.
Florence is an art historian’s dream. The Galleria dell'Accademia bursts with works by Michelangelo, who is entombed within the frescoed walls of the Basilica di Santa Croce. Budding photographers can snap pics of the Ponte Vecchio bridge, and serious shoppers can spend a blissful afternoon wandering the shops of Piazza Santo Spirito. Tuscan cuisine pays homage to the region’s bounty. Swipe a hunk of crusty bread across a pool of local olive oil and you’ll be instantly transported to your happiest place.
With its gondolas, canals, amazing restaurants, and unforgettable romantic ambiance, Venice is definitely a city for one's bucket list. Waterfront palazzos, palaces, and churches make drifting down the Grand Canal feel like cruising through a painting. To really experience Venice you must go to the opera or to a classical music performance, nibble fresh pasta and pastries, and linger in the exhibit halls of an art gallery. Label lovers will drool over the high-end shopping in Piazza San Marco.
Land of Mermaids. Land of Orange and Lemon Groves. Land of Colors. This small city in Campania has earned a plethora of alluring names. Famed for its sea cliffs, the town's steep slopes look out over azure waters to Ischia, Capri and the Bay of Naples. The birthplace of Limoncello liqueur offers some good diving, great sea fishing, boat cruises and appetizing restaurants. Excellent hiking trails cross the peninsula. Rent a car or take a taxi if the steep streets look too intimidating.
The biggest beach resort on the Adriatic Sea, Rimini is a favored Italian seaside holiday destination for Italians themselves. The city offers an impressive nine miles of beaches, though many of these have private access for the scores of hotels facing the shore. The old town, about a 15-minute walk inland, has many interesting sights, including the Arch of Augustus from 27 BC, and Tiberius Bridge from the early 1st century. Rimini also boasts many great restaurants and an energetic nightlife.
One of the world’s fashion capitals, Milan offers endless opportunities for chic shopping. Hit the artsy neighborhood of Brera for leather goods and Via Monte Napoleone for exclusive, expensive boutiques. The enchanting mosaics and glass vaults of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II make shoppers feel like they’re wandering inside a painting. Take break from your spree to gape at the iconic Duomo, then grab tickets to a performance at La Scala. Post-opera, the Navigli district pulses with late-night activity.
The largest and many say most beautiful island in the Bay of Naples, Ischia is renowned for its curative spas. Ferries and hydrofoils connect Naples to Ischia Porto, the main town. Nearby at Ischia Ponte (connected to the main island by a foot bridge) are the magnificent Castello Aragonese and Guevara Tower. Forio on the island’s west coast, Lacco Ameno in the northwest and Sant’Angelo in the south are the liveliest resort towns. Casamicciola Terme in the north is one of Europe’s oldest spas.
Romantic Naples, two hours south of Rome, is the largest city in southern Italy. It has some of the world's best opera and theater houses and is often called an open-air museum, due to its many historic statues and monuments. Join families on promenade as the sun sets on the Bay of Naples. View finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum, destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale or revel in the art and architecture of Museo Cappella Sansevero, built in the late 1500s.
Once a vital part of a mighty sea power, Positano is today a sophisticated resort on the central Amalfi Coast. Moorish-style architecture rises up steep slopes that gaze out on the Sirenuse Islands. Smart boutiques, selling fashions for visitors to display on Grand Beach, abound in the village. And it’s a great base for exploring the area—you can easily travel by boat to Capri, Ischia and the Grotta dello Smeraldo cave.