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Italy is old, exotic, well-preserved, warm, friendly and delicious. These are plenty of reasons to visit the country, and there are many beautiful regions and cities that draw millions of tourists each year. Here is a look at some of the most beautiful and best cities in Italy to visit.
Famous Verona, of Romeo and Juliet fame, is a stunning historic city on the Adige River. The city’s pleasant and laid-back atmosphere hides historic sites including a 2000-year-old Roman opera that is still in use today, many preserved Roman-era ruins, beautiful 12th century churches, art museums, Roman stone bridges and views across the picturesque rooftops of the city. Verona also offers excellent shopping on the golden mile, delicious gelato, classical music performances, and plenty of walking routes.
Venice doesn’t need an introduction, but even after decades of being a popular tourist attraction, first-time visitors are left awe-struck at the marble palaces that disappear into fogs, maze-like streets and mysterious passageways of the Palazzo Ducale, lavish Venetian feasts and gentle boat rides to find some of the world’s masterpieces housed in the epic grandeur of the city’s art museums. Venice also boasts of modern opera and baroque music concerts that will appeal to the music lover.
Like many of Italy’s modern medieval towns, Bologna houses a gorgeous orange and ocher terracotta medieval grid on one hand, and a modern, hi-tech city in the super-wealthy Po valley on the other. Bologna is also home to the world’s oldest university, where you’ll find piazzas scrawled with graffiti, and some of the finest Italian food you’ll find anywhere. It’s also a city where you can engage in left-wing politics.
Known to the rest of the world as Florence, Firenze is a paradise of art and architecture, and the birthplace of Renaissance. Even if you don’t take an interest in architecture, the beauty of the city’s skyline is indisputable. You can stand on a bridge across the river Arno at different times of the day to see the different moods and faces of the city. The city’s rich history, stunning architecture, lovely gardens and simple, high quality Florentine food makes it one of the most beautiful cities in Italy to visit.
Napoli, or Naples as we know it, is a scenic seaside city of contrasts. When you look deeper into the city’s sprawling urban chaos and graffiti, you’ll find gorgeous frescoes, impressive palaces, churches and castles with priceless archaeological treasures, surprisingly beautiful panoramas in unexpected places and a warm, hospitable people with some of the best cuisine in Italy. The looming ever-present dangers of Vesuvius offers, on the flip side, rich volcanic soils and excellent local produce that goes into making some of the best coffee, pizzas, pastas and seafood dishes in the country.
Saint Vincent, Valle d’Aosta
The beautiful summer resort of Saint Vincent lies on a gentle hillside near the Swiss border, and draws visitors to its Romanesque churches, the Fons Salutis mineral springs, skiing facilities and the gambling paradise of the Casino de la Vallee, Europe’s largest casino with over 500 slot machines and nearly 100 game tables. The rich natural heritage, mild winters and pleasant summers, and charming hillside villages make it an ideal destination for the many exhibitions and film awards held there.
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Whether you’re in Italy for its scenery, for business, your honeymoon, an art tour, for outdoor adventures or gambling, you can’t ignore the food. Travelers are drawn to Italy for its gastronomic delights that go beyond pizzas, gelato and spaghetti. Many famous traditional dishes, both savory and sweet, are rooted in local culture and are often old recipes passed down through generations and still enjoyed today with authentic flavors.
Italy’s cuisine is divided by twenty different regions. Here is a look at some of the must-try regional specialties and flavorful Italian food that you’ll find in Italy and in many truly authentic Italian restaurants around the world.
Bigoli, Veneto region
Spaghetti has become popular all over the world, but the Veneto region’s Bigoli is a signature dish that you’ll want to keep eating again and again. Bigoli uses thick tubular noodles that are coarse, unlike the smooth spaghetti. The buckwheat flour pasta is served with a simple and delicious sauce of vegetables, red wine and roast duck, which is perfect for the coarse noodles. The dish is further flavored with Parmesan and parsley.
Ribollita is a hearty Tuscan soup that clearly has its origins at the poor man’s table, but is today a delicacy on its own. The soup is made of vegetables and bread boiled together to make a rich, creamy soup that is thickened by the bread. The dish was traditionally made by servants who collected the leftover breads, cannellini beans and a variety of other inexpensive vegetables like onion, cabbage, carrot, chard, kale etc.
Another Tuscan specialty, Gnudi (meaning 'naked’) is simply a type of ravioli filling minus the pasta sheets that enclose them. This is a traditional Tuscan food made of ricotta cheese (made from sheep’s milk), egg, flour, spinach and a dressing of pecorino cheese, sage and olive oil. Clearly a farmer’s specialty, Gnudi is simple to prepare but delicious, especially when paired with Tuscan red wine.
Osso buco alla Milanese, Milanese
The Milanese invented osso buco, and this meat dish is deeply rooted in the city’s culture. You’re likely to find it in high-end Italian restaurants around the world, but the most authentic osso buco alla Milanese is a melting and creamy braised preparation of tender veal shanks in white wine. The veal is served with vegetables and aromatics like garlic, lemon zest and parsley. Another highlight of the dish is the creamy veal bone marrow that you scoop out at the end of your meal.
Risi e bisi, Venice
Risi e bisi is simply rice with peas. But this Venetian dish is more than the simple fare it sounds like. The dish is full of flavors, even though it only contains rice and peas cooked with seasoning and stock. It is prepared in much the same way as risotto, except that it is soupier. The final dish, when prepared in the traditional way, is a clean and delicious dish with an excellent balance of flavors.
Pasta con le Sarde, Sicily
This pasta dish with sardines is popular in Sicily, and its sweet and salty flavors borrow strong influences from Arab cuisine. This is not surprising, given that Sicily has been invaded by numerous foreign Mediterranean navies for thousands of years. The dish is usually prepared with the hollow pasta bucatini, done al dente and served with sardines. It also includes pine nuts and raisins, and gets its herbed flavors from saffron and wild fennel.