During the nineteenth century, traveling in Italy was considered one of the essential destinations for the grand tour of Europe. Travelers knew its aesthetic and educational aspects were the finishing touches to their cultural foray. They visited Naples, Rome, Venice and Florence with small towns and villages in between.
Author Henry James set many of his novel and stories in Italy. He often spent six months at a time working in a villa in Florence, or a palazzo in in Rome. In his later years he fell in love with Venice. He wrote descriptively of the pure light air, the splendid golden light and wonderful views. The spell was often so seductive he was unable to work.
Mr. James was able to show with a few succinct passages the sumptuous spell the cities possessed. In his novels, stories, travel writings and letters readers were brought into the colorful Italian life. With a few skillful descriptions, he could conjure up the essence of Venice or Florence. He dreamed of Rome while residing in London.
Italy perhaps has seen some changes since the nineteenth century but much is the same. Just as then, tourists flock to its attractions. History buffs, art aficionados, pleasure-seekers and religious pilgrims all convene in the squares this country is famous for. It would take many visits to do justice to the art, architecture and archeology. UNESCO reports that two thirds of historical and artistic heritages are in Italy.
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If you are a gourmand, Italy boast a marvelous cuisine that is not just about pasta and pizza. Italians pride themselves on inventive dishes with the freshest ingredients, presented to seduce not just the palate, but the eyes. They are also proud of their cheese and gelato. For three thousand years, it has been a major wine-growing country. The wines pair perfectly with the food. Italians know a thing or two about eating and drinking.
Italy sits on the Mediterranean with 7,600 miles of shoreline. The sunny beaches rival those anywhere and are a perfect place to relax after all those museums and ruins. Mineral spas surrounded by beautiful parks are another luxurious way to unwind from steeping yourself of the history of civilization. Perhaps a way to shed a few pounds after those Italian indulgences.
Italy is also know for designer fashion. The list of easily recognizable names will turn any fashionista into a convert to Italian travel. The country is famous for its gold jewelry, where the standards in design, casting and weaving is unsurpassed. It is also known for leather goods, those exquisite shoes and handbags we covet.
Italy will never be remiss in offering intellectual and pleasurable stimulation. It is easy to find all the itineraries and accommodations you seek. You can opt for a first-class hotel or a charming boutique hotel. Maybe your budget does not allow for charming or first-class. There are many small family-run hotels, pensions and youth hostels for the budget-conscious. Apartments with kitchens can be rented if you are traveling with a family. The options for group tours are endless. A quick look online will have you dreaming like Henry James, of those Italian hours.