WHY TO VISIT ITALY:
Italy is a moveable feast of seemingly endless courses. No matter how much you gorge yourself on its artistic and architectural wonders, its culinary delights, its natural splendours, you always feel you haven’t made it past the antipasti. Few countries offer such variety and few visitors leave without a fervent desire to come back. There is nothing new in that Italy has kept travellers spellbound since the earliest times of the Grand Tour. The great città d’arte (cities of art) are high on everyone’s list and all are intrinsically different. Rome bristles with proud reminders of its imperial Roman past, while Florence and Venice, two of the most powerful trading city-states of Renaissance Italy, are virtually outdoor museums. Many visitors don’t stray from these tried and true options but the entire country is strewn wuth artistic jewels, from the Norman-Byzantine wonders of Palermo to the Baroque marvels of Lecce. Italy exerts as much fascination beyond the cities: from the the walls of the Alps to the splendid beaches of Sardegna, there is something from everyone.
An extraordinary variety of climate and land can be found in the boot-shaped peninsula, that stretches out into the Mediterranean Sea. Only a quarter of Italy’s total surface area is occupied by plains; Italian coasts are pounded by the gentle waves of the coastal seas: Mar Ligure, Mar Tirreno, Mar Jonio and Mar Adriatico. Yo yhe north the barrier of the Alps, a mountain chain that includes the tallest peak in Europe (Mont Blanc), protects the peninsula from sudden changes in weather, as well as providing an immense reserve of hydroelectric power. The product of more recent geological formation, and with lower altitudes, the mountains of the Apennines extend from Liguria to Sicilia and form the backbone of the entire country. From Napoli to Sicilia the volcanoes are warning lights of a land that still experience eruptions and earthquakes.
FACTS OF SOCIETY AND STEREOTYPES:
Regional sentiment runs quite strong in all of Italy, the heritage of Italy’s history of division into a multitude of independent states, often warring one against another. The former capitals of these numerous states still have distinct identities: bureaucratic and administrative activity in Roma, business and finance in Milano, intellectual activity in Firenze and Bologna. In the other major cities (Torino, Genova, Napoli, Palermo) manufacturing and service industries coexist.
Foreigners may think of Italian as passionate, animated people who gesticulate wildly when speaking, love to eat and drive like maniacs. There’s a lot more to it than that, however. Italians have also been described as hard-working, resilient, optimistic and resourceful people with a good sense of humour; they are passionately loyal to friends and family(specially in the south): a happy private life seems to help them to tolerate an appalling public life. It is said that they have a strong distrust of authority and when confronted with a silly rule, an unjust law or a stupid order they do not complain or try to change rules but rather try to find the quickest way round them. Anyway, these are mere stereotypes; you may find something true in them but you’ll also discover that Italians can be very pleasant and hospitable people.