Italy is perhaps the hardest to classify of all European countries, It is a modern industrialized nation. It is the harbinger of style, its designers leading the way with each season's fashions, but it is also to an equal degree, a Mediterranean country.
Italy provokes reaction. Its people are volatile, rarely indifferent to anything, and on one and the same day you might encounter the kind of disdain dished out to tourist masses worldwide, and an hour later be treated to embarrassingly generous hospitality and Travelrobe thinks the latter is true after winning the world cup.
Mark Felix Travelrobe's MD says the easiest way of traveling around Italy is by train and its train system is one of the least expensive in Europe, reasonably comprehensive, and in the north of the country at least very efficient.
The economic boom In recent years and the glut of visitors in the more touristy cities have conspired to increase prices in Italy. However, the weak lira or euro - often results in highly favourable exchange rates for sterling and US dollars, which helps keep real costs down.
In general you'll find the south much less expensive than the north: as a broad guide, expect to pay most in Venice, Milan, Florence and Bologna, less in Rome, while in Naples and Sicily prices come down to fairly reasonable levels.
Italian food occupies a revered place as one of the world's great cuisines. The southern Italian diet especially, with its emphasis on olive oil, fresh and plentiful fruit, vegetables and fish, is one of the healthiest in Europe, and there are few national cuisines that can boast so much variety in both ingredients and cooking methods.
Italy's wines, too, are among the finest and most diverse in Europe and the international image of cheap fizz and rough reds is long out of date.
In Italy facilities aren't particularly geared towards disabled travellers, though people are helpful enough and progress is gradually being made in the areas of accessible accommodation, transport and public buildings.
There's no reason to be intimidated by the art and architecture of Italy. If you want to lie on a beach, there are any number of places to do it and many resorts are still largely the preserve of Italian tourists. Other parts of the coast, especially in the south of the country, are almost entirely undiscovered and here are a few cities to visit - Florence, Genoa, Milan, Naples, Padua, Palermo, Pisa, Rome, Siena, Turin, Venice, Verona, Vicenza.
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