Italy is a country with many reasons to visit; beachgoers will love it, with its long coastline and sandy beaches, the most popular including Rimini, Riccione, and the Amalfi Coast. However, a visit to the beach can be combined with many cultural and historic interests. If this isn't enough, Italy is home to fantastic cuisine and it's for good reason that Italian menus can be found worldwide.
Cities with household names such as Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, and Naples are home to some of the country's most famous landmarks, including the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the canals of Venice, though hundreds of other buildings and ruins exist in what is really an extensive, open air, 2500 year old museum.
History of Italy
The Italian peninsula was home to a number of different civilisations, the first being the Etruscans who lived in central Italy, alongside Rome from the 8th to the 3rd century BC.
Greek and Phoenician colonisers founded a number city states along the southern coast but it was Rome that got the upper hand, assimilating the Etruscans and gradually conquering or absorbing the entire peninsula.
Rome grew into one of the most powerful and largest empires in world history. The Roman state in the west from the time of the monarchy lasted about 1200 years and eventually fragmented and transformed into different kingdoms rather than suffer a sudden collapse.
Although the Western Empire came to an end in 476 AD, Roman culture lived on through the Eastern Roman Empire for another 1000 years until 1453. Called 'Greeks' by those in the west, today it is named the Byzantine Empire but to the inhabitants at the time, they considered themselves to be Romans.
Rome's legacy has shaped most of the modern world, these being the Romance languages derived from Latin, the Western alphabet and calendar, and Christianity which itself greatly influenced major world events.
In the Middle Ages, Italy divided into a number of warring city-states. Renowned cultural and artistic achievements were made and some of the most accomplished artists, explorers and thinkers in history, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo, and Marco Polo lived in this age.
Many Italian cities became great maritime powers, the most powerful being Venice and Genoa. Florence, most famously through the Medici family thrived through banking. All this commerce and wealth made the Renaissance possible during the 1400s and 1500s.
After internal and external conflict, Italy was unified into a single country, ending the temporal power of the popes who controlled the Papal States that covered much of central Italy. Papal control shrunk to Vatican City State, a tiny area in Rome that is the sovereign territory of the Holy See.
Victorious in World War 1, Italy chose Mussolini and the path of fascism in 1922, and chose to ally itself with Nazi Germany in Word War 2. For this, Mussolini found himself hanging from a lamp-post in 1945, and from the devastation Italy emerged a democratic republic and a cultural superpower.