I planned a visit to Italy during the Christmas holidays. I work for Allianz Versicherungs Aktiengesellschaft, and am based in Munich. Like many others, I wanted to get a taste of the rich history, cuisine and culture of this fascinating country in Europe. Not many people are aware that Italy has more World Heritage Sites than any other country.
I started my trip with the place which is on the bucket list of almost every tourist in the world – Venezia (Venice). Despite the hustle and bustle of the visitors, this place weaves a serene magic. It is known as `La Serenissima’ and an experienced traveller will know the joy of waking up in this city.
When you take an early morning walk in Venice, you will be witnessing the entry of several cruise liners from the vantage point of the Doge’s Palace or the boardwalk at St. Mark’s Basilica. These cruise liners are waiting in line for passengers to alight. I feel that this very thing is killing Venice. These large cruise ships are polluting the waters and causing large scale erosion of the building foundations. Venice will die an early death doe to this exploitation of its tourism ministry, and it will pay a high price for it. There is still life here, as people love to experience the romantic serenades in a gondola and the unforgettable gliding along those atmospheric canals while musicians set the mood of the place with their traditional songs.
From Venice, I went to Bologna. This is one place in Italy that many tourists do not even include in their vacation plans. It is a medieval university town which is known for its history and charm and also for its delicious cuisine. You will not get better spaghetti and meatballs with brown sauce anywhere else in the world. Bologna is perhaps the best food town in Italy. Next stop was Rome.
Though I made sure that I included Italy’s capital in my vacation plans, I was not so enamoured by Roma (Rome) and the Vatican. The highlights of the `City of Seven Hills’ include a visit to the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and the stunning Trevi Fountain [picture]. This is a museum-like city which offers fabulous gelatos and pizzas [picture]. From Rome, I went to see the ruins of Pompeii.
My visit to Pompeii was inspired by the book I read by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. His classic novel of 1834 was a narrative involving swords and sandals with the backdrop of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and the destruction it brings in its aftermath. Today, this is a town that has frozen in time as it offers the Villa of the Mysteries and its quaint frescoes. This entire town was covered with ash and soil once and you can see it reflected with what the ruins here have to tell the visitors. I could not wait to see some lovely sights of the Amalfi coast after going through these ruins.
I am so happy that I included Positano in my places to visit in Italy. This is a very small town which is situated on the Amalfi Coast. It is a coastline known for its scenic beauty and its rugged terrain. The town is scattered down a hillside, leading to the coast. It reminded me of Nainital in India, where the houses scatter down the slopes of hills. John Steinbeck made this place popular as he wrote extensively about this resort in his creations. I visited Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta e Cripta Medievale. This crypt is located below the altar of the Santa Maria Parish Church and it was built in the 12th century. After Positano, I had only one place left to visit to complete my travel itinerary.
I was totally enamoured by my visit to Florence. It is the city that instantly gives you an ancient world feel; a feel of the Renaissance Age. I took the `Inferno Tour’ that has become a popular tourist attraction after Dan Brown’s exciting novel of the same name. I was also impressed by the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. This is an iconic monument here. It is one of the largest churches in Italy and till the modern age, its dome was the largest in the world. It is the largest brick dome ever constructed. The Inferno Tour took me to other two other great attractions – they were the Palazzo Vecchio and the Boboli Gardens. I have never seen more exquisite gardens anywhere in the world.
I have experienced the essence of historic cities, exquisite resorts and rustic towns which many people do not include in their itinerary when they plan a visit to Italy. – Mumtaz Nakavi