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 streets and canals of Venice to bustling Rome, from volcanic Naples to the mysteries of Sicily, there are endless reasons to travel to Italy, all of which are 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? The ideal itinerary is, of course, to travel the famous 'boot' region by region at one's own pace. However, if in need of inspiration or to narrow down a shortlist, works by Stendhal or Paul Morand provide a literary guide to this diverse country (alternatively, Lonely Planet or Rough Guide offer a slightly more accessible way of finding exactly what you're looking for). 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.
When many people say the word Italy they think of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, Romeo and Juliet's star-crossed love affair in Verona, the ancient ruins of the city of Rome, the famous dome and fashion in Milan, not forgetting the romantic waterways of Venice. But Italy is a surprising country that goes beyond basic stereotypes and has a rich cultural history that stretches back over three millennia. There are over 42 world heritage sites across Italy, making it perfect for history and architect enthusiasts. 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. Staying up in the mountains the Aoste Valley possesses a real charm and is definitely worth a visit. In the Liguria region, nestled between the mountains and the sea, you will have the chance to witness the delights of the Italian Riviera. Heading downwards slightly you will reach to the Piedmont region where you can take long walks along the River Po and admire the paddy fields in Vercelli. If it's waterscapes you're looking for, Lake Como or Lake Maggiore, near Milan attracts large numbers of tourists year on year. For art lovers and romanticism enthusiasts you should make at least one trip to Venice. The long canals, the Church at Saint Mark's square along with the exhibitions at Giradini Pubblici and Biennale all merit a visit. Tuscany is the ideal getaway for couples, where you will get the chance to visit cultural hotspots from Florence to Assize, Sienna to Perouse. Perouse, capital of the Umbria region is a little mountain paradise often nicknamed the green region. In terms of ancient culture Rome and its many palaces, such as the Palazzo e Galleria Doria Pamphili, the Palazzo Farnese and the Palazzo della Civilitą del Lavoro remain unrivalled. About 170 miles away you will the towns of Naples and Pompeii, whose populations were devastated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The Dionysiac fresco in the dining room of the Villa dei Misteri is one of the largest frescos in the world. Travelling to the south of Italy you will have the choice of visiting the Italian islands which lie off the tip of the country's boot. In Sardinia, Sicily and Elbe the prices are lower and the temperatures hotter. Amongst the rolling hills of Apuila the Itria Valley and Umbria you will find several medieval villages such as Spello, Spolete and Macerata which all boast impressive architecture. For anyone who likes walking down winding cobbled streets, head to Asolo - also known as the town of 100 views. In Calabria take advantage of doing absolutely nothing laying on the sandy beach coves. When the weather is hot, the Italian Riviera is the perfect place for a summer holiday and has something to cater for all tastes. If you're after a party then head to the holiday resort at Rimini and if luxury is the way you want to go, the beach from Lido to Venice and the sandy beaches at Apulia, notably the Baia dei Turchi are all good spots. But if beaches are really what you're looking for, you'll find the most beautiful ones on the islands. Elbe in particular with Tuscany's Archipelago National Park, home to the largest marine park in Europe, makes for a great holiday location. 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. At Lake Maggiore the botanical gardens at Taranto Villa really come into their own around this time and if you find yourself on the Calabrian Mountains you will see all the wild plant life start to flourish. All of the lakes in Italy are usually accompanied by a garden, the best examples of this being the Isola Madre and the Villa Balbianello. 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 real birthplace of pizza is Campania, where you can still find top quality recipes for low prices. In Bologna you will find pasta covered in creamy sauce in the north and with tomatoes in the south. 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. If you're a real food lover head to Bra in the Piedmont region for world-class slow cooking dishes. 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 where you will find a whole array of freshly-caught seafood and shellfish. In terms of cheese, the burrata form of mozzarella is a must-try, with its creamy centre, alongside pecorino made with sheep's milk and the famous parmesan.
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 don't hesitate in doing a tour of the wine cellars at the Catine Aperte where you will find the largest wine collection in the world, Vinitaly.
When someone says Italian shopping, the first place many think of 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, you won't find a better place than an Italian market. Italian produce is always of the highest quality, especially in Naples at the Porta Nolabna market and also 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 and time your visit to coincide with the first weekend of the month to get the best bargains.