Sardinia used to be called Ichnusa by the Greeks, meaning 'footprint' because of the island's shape. It later became Sardinia when the Italians moved in. Located south of Corsica, the Sardinian region is divided into four provinces (Cagliari, Nuoro, Oristano and Sassari). All of these are abound with beautiful scenery, diverse nature: turquoise waters, steep coasts, granite rocks andvast dunes. Sardinia not only offers the chance for some rest and relaxation, but is also renowned for its great nightlife.
From the romantic canals of Venice to the bustling streets of Rome, from volcanic Naples to the mysteries of Sicily - there are endless reasons to travel to Italy, impossible to squeeze into one trip alone. Each region has its own distinct customs and traditions, but all come highly recommended, be it for a week's relaxing holiday or a month-long quest to discover the country as a whole.
The question is: which region to start with? Within each, you'll find different dialects, unique dishes and distinct traditions. Head north for the rolling hills and vineyards of Tuscany, the fashionistas of Milan and the frescoes of Padua, before working your way south through the art-packed galleries of Florence until you reach the lively markets of Sicily and their endless specialities. With a dolce vita that is apparent throughout the country, you can be sure of finding subtle flavours and remarkable elegance wherever your final destination may be.
If you really want to discover Italy it is worth taking the time to carefully plan your trip, according to where you most want to visit and what kind of activities you want to do during your stay. Sport lovers should head to the mountains during winter, where the Alps and Dolomites have a whole host of snow sports on offer. If it's waterscapes you're looking for, Lake Como or Lake Maggiore near Milan attract large numbers of tourists year on year. Tuscany is the ideal getaway for couples, where you will get the chance to visit cultural hotspots from Florence to Assize and Siena. Perouse, capital of the Umbria region is a little mountain paradise often nicknamed the green region. In Sardinia, Sicily and Elbe the prices are lower and the temperatures hotter. If beaches are really what you're looking for, you'll find the most beautiful ones on the islands.
The best time of year to go Italy is undoubtedly in the spring, from April to June. Temperatures will start to climb around then and will mean you can make the most of the crystal clear waters by going for a swim. Spring doesn't coincide with the high tourist season, so housing will be cheaper, especially in the south. Try and avoid travelling in peak season, particularly throughout August as accommodation prices rocket and some resorts will be closed for their own holidays. Similarly during the religious holidays of Christmas, Easter and the New Year you will struggle to find resorts that stay open.
Italy is renowned the world over for its cuisine. If you want something really refined to eat head to Langhe or Montferrato where the local cuisine has an exceptional reputation. Real Italian pizza lovers know that the birthplace of pizza is Campania, where you can still find top quality recipes for low prices. For foodies and particularly fans of truffles, make a visit to Piedmont, nestled between Tuscany and Umbria. Here and in particular in Nero Norcia truffles are in their peak season in spring, when you will also find the annual black truffle festival. And if seafood is your favourite then Apuila and Venice are the best places for fresh fish. La Pescaria, a fresh fish market in Venice, is more than 600 years old and you will find a whole array of freshly-caught seafood and shellfish.
For wine connoisseurs we would recommend the Cinque Terre region for the best bottles of white and the wine regions of Valpolicella and Soave of Piedmont for reds. If you're in Verona in the last weekend of May, make you sure join in with the Vinitaly festival - celebrated with tours of the wine cellars at the Catine Aperte where you will find the largest wine collection in the world.
When someone says Italian shopping, the first place many think of is the fashion capital of Milan - home to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, one of the oldest shopping complexes in the world. For lovers of Sunday morning shopping though, the country abounds with food and trinket markets. Italian produce is always of the highest quality, especially in Naples at the Porta Nolabna market and at Porta Palazzo - the biggest of its kind in Europe. The flea markets at Porta Portese in Rome are perfect for antique lovers as well as those in Arezzo. Try to time your visit to coincide with the first weekend of the month to get the best bargains.