An emblematic tourist attraction, the Blue Grotto Grotta Azzurra is reason enough for any visitor to Naples to make the short trip across to the island of Capri. A world-famous sea cave, the Blue Grotto is perpetually filled with brilliant sapphire light, caused by sunlight entering through an underwater cavity and shining through the seawater from beneath. The cave also contains a smaller opening right at the level of the waterline, through which bright sunshine pours, and through which tourists are admitted by row-boat.
Gaze in wonder at the spectral water, more light-filled than the air in the cave, and be sure to dip your hands and watch them glow an eerie silver-blue. Since row-boats entering the cave can only take a maximum of three passengers, you are ensured a private and truly unforgettable experience in the Blue Grotto, one which you will treasure for the rest of your life.
Blue Grotto Tours is a popular tour company which guides trips into the mystical blue cave and has earned rave reviews from tourists. Of course, the island of Capri is beautiful and a hop across the water from Naples is worthwhile just to see the lovely landscape and experience the atmosphere of this famous island. Located just 50 miles 80km from the region of Umbria, the city of Genga's Frasassi Caves complex is considered to be one of the most wondrous in Italy.
A remarkable karst cave system - that is, a system comprised of limestone that has been dissolved over millennia - the site has been well-prepared for visitors over the years. Known as a 'show cave', the complex is fitted with safe, comfortable walkways and theatrical lighting to bring the otherworldly stalactites and stalagmites into even greater relief.
The walkways are easy to traverse and you don't have to be particularly fit to manage it. You will experience a genuine thrill as you make your way down into the 'centre of the earth', as the temperature drops and your breath begins to mist, and the overwhelming silence is broken only by the resonant sound of dripping water. Tours are in Italian but audio sets are usually available for foreign visitors. Note that, despite the many photos on the internet, photography is not allowed in the caves and cameras probably won't be allowed in. One of Italy's most talked-about tourist attractions in recent years, if your travel itinerary includes a stop in Umbria, be sure to make the short trip to the Frasassi Caves.
Surely one of Italy's most iconic images is that of gondolas being oared through the narrow canals of Venice by stripe-shirted, serenading gondoliers.
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These flat-bottomed boats are unique to the canals and waterways of Venice, and taking a ride in one is considered by many to be an obligatory tourist activity while on holiday in Italy. Tourists are encouraged to make the most of the investment, however: take a trip down the back canals of Venice, and not the Grand Canal which is too crowded and impersonal; pick an ornately-carved gondola, with a comfortable seat and blankets if it's cold; and be sure to ask your gondolier if he is of the singing variety before getting into the boat - although it is compulsory for them to wear black pants, striped shirts, closed shoes and weather-permitting their straw hats, they are not actually required to sing.
Gondolas are available throughout Venice and can be hailed as one would an ordinary taxi. If you book one through a hotel or tour company, you will probably end up paying a surcharge. Separated from central Rome by the Tiber River, Trastevere is a picturesque medieval neighbourhood characterised by a quirky Bohemian atmosphere. Its narrow cobblestone streets are lined with overhanging flower boxes and washing lines and are home to numerous cafes, boutiques, pubs and restaurants. The area has long attracted artists, famous people and expats, and is a charming place to explore, having escaped the grand developments of central Rome.
Trastevere looks like most foreigners expect an Italian village to look, which is partly why tourists find it so enchanting; the photographic opportunities are endless! There are some glorious old churches in the area, perhaps the most lovely of which is the Basilica of Santa Maria, which has wonderful mosaics and draws many visitors into the area for the first time. The best way to explore is just to wander aimlessly and see where your feet take you.
It is quite different at night time, when it seems more elegant, and it is worth visiting more than once. As a result of the areas popularity and bohemian atmosphere beggars and scam artists can be a problem and travellers should be wary of unwanted attention.
It is the official ecclesiastical seat of the Pope, and it is here that he celebrates Mass on certain religious holidays. The building has suffered much damage in the past and has been rebuilt several times, leaving only fragmented parts of the original church. Inside are numerous statues, paintings, the High Altar that can only be used by the Pope, and a cedar table that is said to be the one used by Christ at the Last Supper.
Across the street is one of the holiest sites in Christendom, visited by pilgrims from around the world: the Palace of the Holy Steps, believed to be the 28 marble steps originally at Pontius Pilate's villa in Jerusalem, that Christ climbed the day he was brought before Pilate. They have been in Rome since On the Lido de Jesolo is Aqualandia, an extremely popular water and theme park that has been earning rave reviews from visitors to Italy.
Aqualandia is situated on an island near Venice, and just strolling around the place and lounging on the beaches is an adventure. Much more than a water park, Aqualandia has something like 26 attractions, including one of the highest water slides in the world and one of Europe's highest bungee jumping towers. All the expected, tried and tested water park attractions can be found, as well as lots of extra entertainment. A huge central pool is the hub for swimming and relaxation on the many comfortable loungers, and there are some fun shows and music events as well as lots of restaurants and shops, and the popular Vanilla Club for those who want to party.
There is plenty to entertain people of all ages. A fun day at a water park is a great treat for children and a nice break from traditional cultural sightseeing. All attractions, shows and activities are included in admission, except bungee jumping. In the peak summer period visitors should be prepared for long queues; it is best to arrive early to avoid a long line at the entrance.
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Padua is often tragically overlooked due to its close proximity to Venice; it is also almost always described in terms of comparison with Venice. Luckily, Padua, once second only to Rome in terms of wealth, is a gorgeous city with lots to offer visitors and plenty of charm all its own. The fabulous architecture of the old town, dating back as far as 1, AD, is a magnificent backdrop for the wealth of culture the city contains.
The main attraction is the cathedral dedicated to St Anthony. The high altar is decorated with bronzes by Donnatello, who is also responsible for the proud equestrian statue of General Erasmo da Narni il Gattamelata that stands in the Piazza del Santo. Padua also has picturesque canals, a number of interesting markets, and many impressive landmarks.
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It is a city seemingly full of beautiful frescoes, with many lovely churches to house them. It also boasts Europe's oldest botanical garden, established in Some people argue that the city also has a more fun and festive nightlife than Venice, due to its youthful population - the University of Padua is Italy's second oldest, established in Padua is situated just 21 miles 35km west of Venice, and is a very worthwhile daytrip destination.
The medieval fortress town of Orvieto is perched on a hilltop overlooking the Umbrian countryside, just over an hour north of Rome by car and also accessible by train. The dramatically situated town, with ancient fortifications that seem to grow out of the cliffs, has been permanently inhabited since the Etruscans. It is thought to have been an important centre for Etruscan civilization and many impressive artefacts can be viewed in Orvieto's archaeological museum.
Situated as it is on the route between Rome and Florence, Orvieto has been a vital defensive outpost at various points in its long history. The famous Christian philosopher, Thomas Aquinas, once lived and taught in Orvieto. The town remains almost unchanged since medieval times, and even in summer is not too packed with tourists.
The 13th-century Duomo of Orvieto, with its magnificent facade and frescoes, dominates the skyline. The cathedral is Orvieto's must-see attraction, but visitors should also take time to wander around the town's backstreets to find hidden gems and amazing views over the city walls and battlements. The best restaurants are tucked away in the side streets off the main square. The picturesque hill town of Assisi, to the east of Perugia, is famous as the birthplace of St Francis, a 12th-century monk who founded the Franciscan order, devoted to achieving an 'abundance of the divine' through the practices of ascetism, poverty and chastity.
Tourists and pilgrims flock to the bustling town for inspiration and worship, and a multitude of annual conferences, festivals and other religious activities. Assisi is a visual spectacle of shimmering white marble buildings perched halfway up Mount Subasio. The town is set against the backdrop of the towering 14th-century hill fortress of the Rocca Maggiore, a landmark with which to orientate oneself from inside the city's medieval ramparts while on holiday. One of the most loved and visited churches in Italy is the 13th-century Basilica di San Francesco, containing frescoes by Giotto commemorating the life of St Francis.
Other notable works include paintings by Pietro Lorenzetti and Simone Martini's frescoes based on the life of St Martin. St Francis' tomb rests below the lower church, also worth visiting when on holiday in Assisi. Almost all of the four million tourists who travel to Assisi each year come primarily to see the Basilica di San Francesco, but other popular sights include the 13th-century Basilica di Santa Chiara, the 12th-century Romanesque Duomo di San Rufino and the Eremo delle Carceri monastery, situated in the woodland outside the walls of Assisi.
Assisi is a beautiful city with winding streets, Roman ruins and magnificent churches, and it feels like it has changed little since medieval times. Assisi is a destination where you should aim to get lost in the charming, winding streets, because the greatest gems are the small medieval treasures and glorious views to be found all over the small city. It is considered a highly spiritual place and attracts many pilgrims - it is common to see nuns in the streets and there is a peaceful, ancient atmosphere. Housing one of Italy's finest collections of medieval and Renaissance art, the 17th-century Pinacoteca di Brera is by far the best collection of northern Italian paintings.
Many of the masterpieces here were secured by Napoleon, who used the Palazzo as a storeroom for all the art he confiscated from public and private holdings. An imposing bronze sculpture in his likeness greets visitors as they enter the courtyard. The collection also includes notable works by Caravaggio.
One of Milan's most popular tourist attractions, the Pinacoteca di Brera houses mostly religious art and will impress even the uninitiated with its vast collection and the stunning building, which is an attraction in its own right. The paintings and sculptures are well arranged and, unlike some galleries in Italy, there is a decent audio guide in English to supplement the information mounted for each painting, the majority of which are in Italian. There is a student cafe off from the main courtyard where visitors can get refreshments. The garden was established in under the direction of Maria Theresa of Austria, transforming an existing Jesuit garden used by students of medicine and pharmacology.
The garden has greenhouses from the 19th century that are now used by the Academy of Fine Arts, as well as flowerbeds and elliptical ponds from the 18th century. Orto Botanico di Brera is home to one of the oldest ginkgo biloba trees in Europe, and various other mature botanical specimens can be found within the grounds. It is a true plant-lover's paradise and a wonderful place to take a stroll and admire the romantic features.
The Orto Botanico di Brera is small by botanical garden standards but is well worth visiting for its historical charm and the originality of the mixture of art and nature that often results from the influence of the Academy of Fine Arts. Locals enjoy reading, relaxing and soaking up the sun in this lovely green area and the fact that most tourists never discover the rather well-hidden garden is probably a blessing, as it remains a peaceful and beautiful refuge.
Located in an area where numerous martyrs of the Roman persecutions were buried, it was originally called Basilica Martyrum.
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