Kicking at the waves of the Mediterranean, the boot-shaped peninsula of Italy swings saucily from Europe’s southern shore. In addition to its peninsula, Italy claims the islands of Sicily and Sardinia as its own. The landscape includes alpine mountains to the north, and coastal lowlands in the south.
Italy’s abundant archeological riches are scattered like the seeds of civilization across the land: Rome’s Colliseum, Sicily’s Valley of the Temples, Pisa’s Leaning Tower all testify to the historic significance of the country. Italy is epic in its reputation as a vortex of artistic treasures. This is the homeland of Michelangelo and Da Vinci, and the world famous La Scala opera house. The Italian appreciation of art is equaled by its enthusiasm for gastronomy. Cappuccino, parmesan cheese, antipasti, pesto, cannoli, the vast menu of Italian epicurean victories tempts visitors to its myriad trattorias, cafes and elegant restaurants. And then of course, there is the wine. Italian vineyards spring from the fertile soil of Tuscany, Umbria and other sun-drenched regions. Milan is a destination for fashionistas. Venice draws millions to its romantic canals. Tourism is, understandably, one of Italy’s most profitable industries.