With 44 World Heritage Sites strewn across the country, Italy can lay claim to being the planet’s treasure attic, in whatever sense of the word. The country is filled with such exquisiteness all throughout that you can spend a month in, say, Rome and still not exhaust all the city has to offer. The capital is not the Eternal City for nothing. It’s a city that served as the seat of a powerful empire, and stood witness to numerous pivotal points in history. As such, various sites within its borders have gone on to modern times still carrying the weight and prestige of its grand history. And tourists come in droves.
Refined and gritty in equal doses, Italy’s charms will definitely bowl you over for some time until, just like your grandpa’s attic, its less endearing qualities soon get under your skin. Traffic grinds to a halt at rush hour, organized crime continues to provide headache for the police, immigration issues still haunt certain regions, and petty thieves proliferate as pockets of poverty greets unsuspecting visitors who come armed with nothing but the oh-so romantic version of the country that features prominently in Hollywood and glossy travel publications.
Nevertheless, Italy justifiably retains its status as one of the more popular destinations. Its richness is a smorgasbord for all senses and with such iconic sights like the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the gondolas of Venice strewn across the country, it’s hard not to be mesmerized. Sure, they’re touristy but they’re drawing visitors by the busloads for a reason: they provide a great glimpse of the grandeur of the il bel paese.
First published in TravelBlog on July 12, 2010.