Updated: Oct 3, 2020
What a truly enchanting country! If you have an appetite for adventure (pun intended) why not take a brief virtual tour of this "Bel Paese" with me?
Have you ever been to Italy? If not, no doubt it's on your bucket list. If it isn't on your bucket list, it should be! Italy is one of the best places to visit on earth. It's no accident that its nickname is "Bel Paese" or beautiful country.
If you think I'm being partial, you're right! I've seen less than 1% of this beautiful planet, so it might be a bit snobbish of me to say Italy is one of the best places to visit. However, I'm not alone in thinking so.
Italy was voted the MOST beautiful country in the world by a community of travelers on Rough Guides (beating 19 other gorgeous places)! In 2018, 85% of the Americans that visited Italy came for pleasure, contributing 2.8 billion euros in revenue.
What Are the Top 5 Most Visited Countries?
I'm glad you asked! Enjoy these stats from 2018. 😊
France, roughly 89 million visitors.
Spain, roughly 82 million visitors.
U.S. close to 80 million visitors.
China, roughly 63 million visitors.
Italy, roughly 62 million visitors, worth 42 billion euros in revenue.
In case you were wondering (I was) the UK came in 10th place with 36 million visitors. Click here to see the full list.
Italy (116,306 square miles) is the 5th most visited place in the world, not bad for a tiny country only slightly larger than Arizona (113,998 sq. mi.)
California is about 1.3 times bigger than Italy.
Source of map: MyLifeElsewhere
Interesting Facts About Italy
It's a peninsula and is shaped like a boot.
It's home to 61 million people.
Its capital Rome was founded in 753 BC and is known as the Eternal City.
Italy houses the 2 smallest countries in the world: Vatican City and San Marino.
The tallest peak is Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc) which is 15,770 feet tall.
The Alps, one of the world's most rugged mountains, defines it's Northern border.
The Alps separate Italy from France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia.
Italy is part of the European Union and the Council of Europe.
It's surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea.
Its longest river Po, flows east from the French border into the Adriatic Sea.
Southern Italy has 3 active volcanoes; Mt Etna, Vesuvius and Stromboli.
Italy was a kingdom until 1946.
Italy is subdivided in 20 regions, each with its own distinct dialect.
Italy is the 2nd country with the richest history (Egypt is #1).
Italy has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites (55) alongside China. 😲🆒
Visit the full list of the 55 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Italy.
No wonder Italy is a spectacular place!
There's something there to please EVERYONE.
Source image: https://mapswire.com/countries/italy/
What are you interested in?
When you consider how tiny Italy is in comparison with the United States it's mind boggling to think of how much diversity is packed into that country. Whatever flavor of adventure you are looking for, Italy seems to have it!
Beaches, lakes and rivers
Mountains and valleys
Sports (soccer, skiing, car racing, etc.)
Ancient ruins, temple ruins
Art (sculpture, paintings, etc.)
Religious relics (Churches, The Vatican and its museum)
Vineyards and wine
Music and opera (The famous opera house in Milan is called La Scala)
Chocolate (home of Perguina, Gianduiotto, Ferrero)
Vespas and cars
Boats and trains
Romance (Visit the home of Romeo and Juliet in Verona)
A city with water for its streets (Venice is enchanting)
Let's not forget the food! You haven't lived until you've had real prosciutto, pizza and gelato (ice cream) in Italy. Nocciola (hazelnut) is my absolute favorite along with Baci (Italian chocolate). If there is one thing that Italians will never sacrifice on, it is food and coffee. Even the quality of "fast food" in Italy is amazing, fresh and delicious.
TIP: When in Italy, just like anywhere, find out where the locals go to eat. Italians refuse to skimp on quality or flavor.
I've been to Italy numerous times, as a child and as an adult. I lived in Italy for two years, really experienced the culture, met my husband and was ready to come home.
For a time, I was exhausted and done with Italy. I couldn't imagine another reason to visit. I have traveled, it seems, all over the country. Below is a list of the places I've been in Italy. The idea isn't to brag, but to make a point of how I became jaded over Italy. For the sake of brevity, I'm grouping places close to each other.
Luino / Varese
Lake Maggiore / Isola Bella / Isola Madre / Rocca di Angera (Castle)
Milan / Novara
Genova / Staglieno (a cemetery with incredible sculptures)
Courmayeur / Monte Bianco / Pre Saint Didier
Florence / Empoli / Pisa / Livorno
Rome / Vatican City including Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museum
Naples / Pompeii
Capri (one of the most beautiful islands I've ever been to)
Salerno / Sala Consilina
Cappaccio / Paestum
Punta Prosciutto Beach / Baia dei Turchi / Otranto beaches
Novara di Sicilia
Taormina / Tindiri
Whew! That's not all of the towns I've been to but as you can see, I've toured quite a bit. Why go back? I was completely Italy-jaded for a while. Once you've visited the major cities and the off-beat spots what else is there to see and do? After all, there's a big, wide, beautiful world outside of Italy to explore! Even in the U.S. (where I live) there's much beauty to behold.
Returning to Italy
Well, let me tell you how wrong I am! There are plenty of gorgeous and interesting places to discover in Italy that I am itching to see. The cure for being Italy-jaded? Coming across spectacular photos on the internet of beautiful places in Italy that I haven't been to yet!
I also have lots of family there, including my son's grandparents, that would be pretty upset if I said I was never going back. 😜 Plus, since I homeschool, I love using travel as education.
Here are some places in Italy I can't wait to visit
Image by Simon Steinberger from Pixabay
La Casa di Giulietta. Juliet's Balcony
I want to drive this mountain pass so bad! It reminds me of Lombard Street, the most crooked road in the word in San Francisco, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Google real life pictures of the Stelvio Pass, it's amazing!
Time doesn't permit me to find pictures of all the places I would like to go! I will list the rest and leave it up to you to google the images. When you feel like dreaming or traveling with your mind, look these places up.
Da Vinci's house and town
At the moment, travel is (wisely) restricted and many historical sites are closed to visitors. So, I can't tell you to hop on the next plane to Italy! 😢 Unfortunately, the corona virus pandemic has changed the world and in ways that will take years to understand completely.
For now, I encourage you to create a virtual itinerary and discover Italy through the eyes of people who have been there. Gather your research and drool over pictures online. Tourism will survive, although it won't look the same but it is what keeps the economy in many countries afloat. Perhaps in the future your itinerary will become a reality!
This post was inspired by me and my nostalgia for Italy, in case you were wondering if someone else put me up to writing this. (The only benefit I gain is the satisfaction of knowing you read my article. 😋)
Feel free to share your experiences, tips or photos of Italy online or below. Becoming a member of the blog is quick, easy and free. 😀 You can also find Train of Truth on Facebook or Instagram and leave a comment there!
Don't forget to check out some other articles you might have missed...
Harsh Truths From Your Introverted Friends (my post popular post so far 😀)
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Thank you and stay safe!