Italy is most famous for being the home base of the Roman Empire and a lot of the ancient history on display there is from that time period. However, there is so much more to this splendid European country than just the Romans. Italy has played a significant part in several major art movements as well as the development of architecture, technology and literature across hundreds of years. Much of this rich history can be found in the buildings, galleries and museums of modern Italy, as well as the landscape itself.
A trip to Italy can mean sampling the mouth-watering cuisine, lounging on the beaches and soaking up the sun, but it can also mean visiting some of the most intriguing historical sites in the world. Here we’ve put together a quick guide to some of the most fascinating places to visit whilst you’re in Italy.
Where better to begin your tour than the capital city of Rome? You’ll be spoilt for choice in this ancient metropolis with the Colosseum, the Pantheon and the Forum right on your doorstep. Here you can marvel at the beautiful Trevi Fountain, the majestic Vatican, and Palatine Hill where, according to legend, Romulus founded the city in the 8th century BC.
Rome was the very centre of an empire that spanned Europe, Africa and the Middle East at its peak, and is still home to the centre of the modern Roman Catholic faith. Therefore, it is a city that has always held a lot of power. However, it was also the birthplace of a thriving civilisation, echoes of which still exist today.
In modern Rome, pizza and pasta have evolved from the Roman diet rich in fish, cheese and grains; traditional table games are now more likely to be played online than in the streets; and opera and the theatre have taken over from chariot racing and the gladiator arena. But it’s still possible to see traces of this ancient society that set the bar for so much that we still enjoy in our contemporary world.
No historically-minded trip to Italy would be complete without a visit to Pompeii. Located further south than Rome, Pompeii was a city founded in the 6th century BC but destroyed by a volcano in 79 AD. Nowadays, you can walk through the startlingly preserved streets of this ancient city and see how people lived all that time ago. It makes for a poignant but fascinating experience.
As the excavation of the area is still continuing, it’s not possible to explore every nook and cranny but you will be able to see a fair amount of the site. It’s important to remember to treat the environment with respect – not just in order to preserve it for generations to come, but also in recognition of the fact that so many people tragically lost their lives here all that time ago.
Once you’ve taken a tour around the eerie streets of Pompeii, it’s a good idea to journey over to the nearby city of Naples. Here you will find such sights as San Lorenzo’s Charterhouse (Certosa di San Lorenzo), the Church of Santa Maria la Nova and San Domenico Maggiore di Napoli, alongside plenty of interesting museums and galleries.
Venice may be known as the City of Water, but it’s also known as a living museum. Whether you want to track down the house of Casanova, that of Marco Polo or Byron’s bolthole, you’ll find impressive palazzos that were lived in by many key figures in popular history strewn amongst the canals. Couple this with the breathtaking sights of Saint Mark’s Basilica, the Renaissance facades of buildings, and the Bridge of Sighs spanning the water and you’re all set for a tour through the rich history of this gateway city.
Venice’s position as an important trading port for many of the world’s merchants cemented its place in the upper echelons of society and, although it no longer trades as much as it used to, it’s still a desirable destination for all sorts of travellers. Priceless ornaments and works of art have been collected here over the centuries, but the Gallerie dell’Accademia houses the jewels in Venice’s crown. Filled with paintings from the 14th-18th centuries, it’s an absolute treasure trove that you simply can’t afford to miss.
Wherever you decide to visit in the charming country of Italy, you are sure to be captivated by its abundant and diverse history. This is where we can trace back to the beginnings of much of modern society, making it one of the most compelling destinations on your travel list.