Lack of space prevents us from elaborating on the innumerable attractions which can be qualified as a «must» for visitors to Italy. Much depends, of course, on the time available and, above all, on personal taste, interest and disposition.
Generally speaking, first-time visitors should not miss the following cities: Rome is a challenge to the visitor with its rich profusion of monuments and sights.
Everyone should try to see: the Capitoline Hill and the Forum, the Colosseum, St. Peter's, the Vatican and Vatican Museums, the Pantheon, the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, the Trevi Fountain, the Old Appian Way and the Catacombs, the Baths of Caracalla, the Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese and the views of the city from the Pincio and the Janiculum Hill.
Florence is the intellectual capital. Florence began as an unimposing city, surrounded by Tuscany's rolling hills, divided by the Arno River, lying almost in the country's exact geographic centre.
This is the city of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante, Machiavelli, Galileo and the Medici's. Here, in this small city of money lenders and cloth makers, the Renaissance began.
Florence can be seen on foot. One should see: the 384-foot cathedral dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. The cathedral is equally known for its bare interior with High Gothic vaulting and for its attendant buildings. The Church's bell tower, by Giotto, is of multicolored marble; the Romanesque green-and-white marble Baptistery is best known for its East Door known as the Gate to Paradise.
The Ponte Vecchio is a Florentine landmark, a covered bridge dating from the 14th century. Jewelry shops have lined both sides since the 16th century. Piazza della Signoria, surrounded by the Loggia della Signoria, the old palace and the Uffizi Museum, is a museum in itself, decorated with statues, including a copy of the famous David by Michelangelo (the original is across town in the Academy of Fine Arts). Michelangelo is buried, along with Galileo and 274 others, in the Church of Santa Croce. Located on one of Florence's oldest squares, the church's vast 400-foot long interior contains works by Donatello, Giotto, Cimabue and Brunelleschi.
Venice: St. Mark's Square with the Cathedral of San Marco, the towering Campanile and the Doge's Palace.
Venice is the dream city of palaces and gondolas, built on water, crisscrossed by canals, capital of a one-time powerful republic, home of famous painters.
Naples: the Museo Nazionale, the Royal Palace, the Cathedral, Castel Nuovo and the old Carthusian monastery of San Marino. Nearby excursions from the city take you to Herculaneum, Pompeii, the Amalfi Drive, Sorrento, Paestum and Caserta, where you can see the 18th century Royal Palace (La Reggia). By boat you can visit the islands of Ischia and Capri.
Genoa: the birthplace of Columbus and the gateway to the Ligurian Coast (or Italian Riviera) lies directly south of Milan.
Pisa: at the western end of the Arno River lies Pisa, home of the famous Leaning Tower (Torre Pendente), completed in 1350. This Romanesque white marble bell tower leans for one of two reasons: a settling of subsoil or a defect in the foundation.
Pisa echoes with past grandeur. This was Galileo's home city and Byron wrote Don Juan here.
Milan: Italy's commercial, industrial, musical and cultural hub, close to the scenic Lake District of Lombardy, boasts La Scala Theatre, the white marble Cathedral, the Sforza Castle, Basilica of St. Ambrogio, and the Church of S. Maria delle Grazie (Da Vinci's «Last Supper»).
Ravenna: unequalled nucleus of Byzantine art. Visit the Galla Placidia Mausoleum, the Baptistery of the Cathedral, the Basilica of San Vitale and those of S. Apollinare Nuova and of S. Apollinare in Classe.
Turin: the first capital of united Italy lies on the banks of the Po River in sight of the Alps. It is an important cultural and artistic centre and has elegant shops on the arcaded Via Roma.
See the Piazza San Carlo, Palazzo Madama (with its museum of ancient art), the Egyptian Museum, St. John's Cathedral, the Royal Palace and the mile-long Valentino Park with its Castle.
Other important cities are: Siena, for its art treasures: the picturesque hill towns of Perugia and Assisi; Bologna, a medieval, arcaded city famous for its University (the oldest in Europe) and its excellent food; Orvieto, for its magnificent black and white marble Cathedral;
Bergamo, in the North, at the foot of the Bergamese Alps for its unusual position and its monuments, and the island of Sicily for its Greek temples.
Italy is the land of art, culture and history: state and city museums, galleries, archaeological sites, and private collections bear witness to our roots and civilization which, over the course of the centuries, have made Italy famous throughout the world. Visits usually take place from Tuesday to Saturday from 9.00 to 14.00 and, in some cases according to the season, also from 15.00 to 20.00. Sunday openings depend on the city and museum. Churches are always open, sometimes until late in the evening. The weekly closing day; for state and city museums is Monday unless a national holiday falls on the same day; in each case the museum will also be closed on Tuesday.
Other days in which they are closed are January 1st, Easter April 1st, May 1st, August 15th and Christmas Day. Entrance charges range from € 3,00 to € 9,00 per head, while young children or student and pensioners aged over 60 years are often admitted free or with a reduced rate. Since few years in the main important cities: Roma, Florence, Venice and Milan, it is possible to reserve the entrance to the main important museums in advance in order to avoid unpleasant queues.
They are all in Italian, even foreign films are always dubbed (no subtitles) and shows are continuous, from about 4 p.m. on onwards. Smoking in cinemas is strictly prohibited.
In Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice there are theatres currently showing films in English, French and German.