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Michelin Must Sees Italy Most Famous Places

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New release: Michelin Must Sees Italy 10 Most Famous Places presents the ten most essential, not-to-be-missed cities and regions of Italy for a memorable trip even when time is limited. Renowned Rome and Venice head up this short list, along with Milan and the Italian Lakes, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast, just to name a few. This pocket-size guide helps you do it all with detailed maps, recommended hotels and restaurants, and the Must Sees star-rating system for attractions, sights and activities.

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Lombardy and The Lakes

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Milan prides itself on its knack for innovation. The design capital of Italy is the financial and marketing base for mega-brands such as Gucci, Versace and Giorgio Armani. Determined that luxury goods have a market even during an economic downturn, Milan has numerous urban renewal projects in progress awarded to high-profile international architects. MiCo (Milano Congress) is its recent 18 000-seat convention centre, the largest trade show space in Europe (www.micmilano.it).

Sustainability projects include the reclamation of an Alfa Romeo industrial area for an urban park. Expansion and renovation of Teatro alla Scala completed in 2004.

The European Library of Information and Culture, (www.beic.it) designed by Peter Wilson, is projected to open June 2013, transforming the area around the abandoned Porta Vittoria station. Italy’s second largest industry is food, which will also be the central theme in 2015 when Milan hosts the Universal Exposition (Expo), “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”.

 

Genoa & Portofino

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Terraced vineyards of Cinque Terre
© Tony Steinhardt/Author’s Image/Photononstop

Practical Information

Getting There and Around

Genoa (Genova) is connected by motorways to Milan (140km), Turin (170km), the Rivieras, and by tunnel through the Alps. The port has five passenger terminals: three for ferries and two for cruise ships.

The city is enclosed by a mountain range curving around 30km/18.6mi of coastline. The historic centre surrounding the port is a maze of alleyways (carruggi); the modern part of the city is crossed by wide avenues. Genoa’s well-organised public transport includes buses, an underground line, funiculars, lifts and a ferry service.

GenovaPass permits travel on all forms of public transport. 4.50for a 24hr pass. www.amt.genova.it

Volabus – This hourly bus links Cristofo Colombo airport with the city centre, stopping at both Brignole and Piazza Principe railway stations (6allows up to 1hr on all public transport; t800 085 311; www.airport.genova.it). Ferry and cruise ships info at www.porto.genova.it.

 

The Alps

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RIVIERA DI PONENTEa

Via Aurelia is the busy, winding main road of the riviera, parallel to the A 10 motorway. Of Roman origin it has some remarkable coastal viewpoints and passes resorts with villas and luxuriant gardens. Climate and position make the riviera a specialist in the flower industry.

Bordigheraaa – The villas and hotels of this resort are scattered among flower gardens. The old town still has fortified gateways.

Sanremoaa – The capital of the Riviera di Ponente boasts coastal Liguria’s longest hours of sunshine, with spas, a marina and cultural events. Sanremo is the main Italian flower market, exporting all sorts of blooms worldwide.

Taggiaa – Set amid vineyards and olive groves, dominating the Argentina Valley, this 15–16C arts centre features fine worksa by Louis Bréa (Virgin of Pity and the Baptism of Christ) in the church of San Domenico. t0183 29 57. Imperia has the Museum of the Olive, www.museodellolivo.com.

 

Venice and Around

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Gondolas

H1

For centuries gondolas have been the traditional means of transport in Venice. An austere craft, its iron hook acts as a counterweight to the gondolier. The curved fin resembles the doge’s hat and the prongs represent the sestieri or districts of the city: the opposite prong symbolises the Giudecca. The unique experience of a ride is justifiably costly. Six people may share a gondola. A 40 min journey without a musical accompaniment costs day 80€/night 100€. Each 20min after the initial 40min costs day 40€/ night 50€) For information contact the Istituzione per la Conservazione della Gondola e la Tutela del Gondoliere, t041 52 85 075. For a budget gondola experience, a traghetto (gondola ferry) ferries passengers for 0.50€ across points along the Grand Canal (San Marcuola, Santa Sofia, al Carbon, San Tomà, San Samuele, Santa Maria del Giglio and Dogana). A limited number of bridges cross the Grand Canal (Scalzi, Rialto, Accademia and Costituzione), so the traghetti are fundamental transport for Venetians.

 

Tuscany and Umbria

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Florence viewed from Piazzale Michelangelo
© Britta Jaschinski/Apa Publications

THE CITY TODAY

Florence has long depended on its legacy of the Renaissance to market itself, particularly to the millions of foreign tourists who swarm its streets and fill its coffers year after year. High prices and crowds have driven much of the native population to the suburbs. Some of the centre is closed to car traffic (Duomo and Santa Maria Novella) and major exhibits are now often held in outlying areas; an opportunity to see less explored districts and to once again rub shoulders with Florentines.

A BIT OF HISTORY

Italian genius flourished in Florence in a peacock display of brilliance. For three centuries, from the 13–16C, the city’s exceptional artistic and intellectual activity left its mark on civilisation throughout Europe. During the Renaissance, a receptivity to the outside world, a dynamic open-minded attitude, and funding lured inventors, men of science and art to re-interpret and even surpass the achievements of the ancient world.

 

Emilia Romagna

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A BIT OF HISTORY

The Etruscan settlement of Felsina was conquered in the 4C BC by the Boïan Gauls, whom the Romans then drove out in 190 BC. Their settlement, Bononia fell under the sway of the barbarians until the 12C. In the subsequent century, the city enjoyed the status of an independent commune and developed rapidly. A fortified city was built, and the university flourished. Against the Ghibellines and the emperor, Bologna supported the Guelphs, partisans of communal independence. The latter won, defeating the Imperial Army of Frederick II at Fossalta in 1249.

In the 15C, following violent clan struggles, the city fell to the Bentivoglio family who ruled until 1506. The city then remained under Papal control until the arrival of Napoleon. The Austrians severely repressed several insurrections in the early-19C. Bologna was united with Piemonte in 1860. The Bologna school of painting was an artistic movement founded by the brothers Agostino (1557–1602) and Annibale (1560–1609) with their cousin Ludovico (1555–1619) Carracci. They reacted against Mannerism with more “Classical” compositions that tried to express a simple spirituality. Numerous artists – in particular the Bolognese painters Francesco Albani, Guercino, Domenichino and the celebrated Guido Reni – followed this movement, known as the Accademia degli Incamminati (Academy of the Eclectic), focusing on the study of nature. In 1595 Annibale Carracci moved to Rome to work on a commission for the Farnese family. His frescoes at Palazzo Farnese veer towards an almost Baroque illusionism.

 

Rome

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ROMEaaa

The “Eternal City” is a rich contrast of monuments that testify to its ancient glory, of opulent Papal courts, and infinite intrigues. Italy’s capital did suffer from some uncontrolled expansion following the Second World War, but admired from the Janiculum Hill, Rome’s seven hills still beckon with domes and towers that often guard rich, inventive interiors. Rome’s piazzas and streets remain the social networks that they have been for millennia, bursting with news, as well as fountains: elegant Piazza Navona, the market at Campo de’ Fiori, folksy Trastevere– all lively at night, too. Rome’s monuments – famous the world over – are interwoven with artisans, luxury shops and daily Roman life: the Pantheon and Roman Forum, the massive Colosseum, St Peter’s, Castel Sant’Angelo, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and the Villa Borghese. A golden luminous atmosphere marvellously surrounds Rome and extends out into the Roman countryside; a choice for idylls full of cypresses, olives and pines.

 

Naples & Amalfi Coast

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NAPLES & AMALFI COAST

Campania owes its rich heritage to several civilisations, from the ancient Greeks and Romans, to the French/Spanish Bourbons. Naples, a chaotic but cultured metropolis, pulses in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. Sunny Campania offers spectacular settings. The Island of Capri, the hilltop village of Ravello on the Amalfi Coast and the ruins at Pompeii and Herculaneum, all boast sea views. Not surprisingly, its fertile volcanic soil yields products used in some of Italy’s best cuisine.

NAPLESaaa

Naples is an energetic universe of its own, imbued with fantasy and fatalism, superstition and splendour. Chaotic and heaving with traffic, yet elegantly rich with history, art and culture, it surrender its mysteries to anyone who scratches the surface. The Naples Bay is one of the most beautiful in the world. Poets and writers have rhapsodised its charms. UNESCO declared the historic centre of the city a World Heritage site.

 

Sardinia

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SARDINIA

Sardinia offers an almost primeval landscape of rocks sculpted by the wind and sea, forests of holm and cork oaks, oleander, aromatic plants and shrubs, the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean and the silence of an earlier age broken only by the sounds of nature.

SARDINIA TODAY

Sardinia, the Mediterranean’s second-largest island, owes its modern role as a tourism hot-spot to two foreign entities. After World War II, the Rockefeller Foundation helped the island eliminate mosquitoes. With malaria gone, Sardinia was ripe for development. In 1961 Aga Khan IV invested in a tourist complex on the northeastern coast.

This development, the Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast), is today a playground of the jet set. Tourism to Sardinia’s beaches, as well as its wild interior, is a major component of the island’s economy. The military industrial complex also contributes to Sardinia’s coffers. Although Sardinia has undergone a long period of “Italianisation”, it is by definition one of the autonomous regions of Italy, which is evident in the island’s culture and language. People of the island still speak a variety of dialects, including Catalàn, a result of Spanish influence, and Gallurese, a language akin to Corsican. Sardinia is also known among Italians for its rebellious streak. The phenomenon of banditry still exists, particularly in the mountainous Barbagia region. In Orgosolo, a collection of political murals depict the struggles the natives have endured at the hands of the Italian government and fellow islanders.

 

Sicily

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SICILY

An island of mythic epics and cultural crossroads, the sun-scorched summer land of Sicily turns a brilliant green after the spring rains. Its mountainous terrain climaxes with Europe’s largest active volcano. Greek temples grace glorious coastlines and inland hills. Roman mosaics splash energy and colour. Some of Italy’s best cuisine originates here. Sicily dishes out culture and pleasure for sybarites alike.

SICILY TODAY

The long period of foreign domination in Sicily has left its imprint not only on the art, culture and literature of the island, but also on its economy.

Geographically and economically Sicily can be divided into three regions. The first region comprises the provinces of Catania, Siracusa and the southern part of Messina, which have high-quality agriculture. Palermo, Trapani and the north of Messina have a highly developed services sector and building industry. The interior is the poorest area, in the provinces of Agrigento, Caltanissetta and Enna. Fishing is still of prime importance to local economy, however the traditional tuna catch is rapidly depleting, threatening both the ancient mattanza ritual and the fishing economy.

 

For Fun

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MUST DO

MUSTS FOR FUN

Italy’s varied landscape has something for everyone. The Alps provide foot-paths and mountains suitable for all levels of athletic expertise. The Lake District, the mountain streams and rivers are ideal for fishing. Trentino-Alto Adige, the Riviera del Brenta, Tuscany and Umbria are among the more suitable regions for cycling. The Maremma offers a perfect landscape for horse riding.

The entire coast of Italy is an Eden for those who enjoy swimming, wind-surfing and the beach: the Adriatic coast with its shallow waters and long beaches is ideal for families with children. The waters of the Gar-gano, the Gulf of Policastro, Sicily and Sardinia are renowned for their crystalline purity and splendid colours, notably the emerald greens of the Costa Smeralda. The Amalfi coast and the Faraglioni of Capri are perhaps the best-known Italian coastlines; Versilia, with the Apuan Alps as a backdrop, is an essential venue for habitués of the beach, and the Ligurian Riviera offers striking views and beaches that nestle between the hills that lead down to the sea.

 

Shopping

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SHOPPING

Shopping in Italy tends to be about quality materials, fine craftsmanship and good design, rather than bargains. Gold, jewellery, textiles, leather, ceramics, paper, glass, food and wine are but a few.

OPENING TIMES

Most shops in Italy are open from 9am–1pm and 3.30pm–7.30pm. Some shops remain open at lunchtime in the centre of large towns and cities. Credit cards are accepted in some stores, rarely in small food shops and markets. In northern Italy, shops often take a shorter midday break and close earlier. Late-night shopping is frequent in seaside resorts. Many tourist resorts have a regular open-air market.

ITALIAN CRAFTS

Every region of Italy produces its own beautiful crafts of which they are justly proud.

Alabaster and stone – Alabaster in Volterra and marble in Carrara (Tuscany). Liguria crafts slate.

Leather accessories – Florence.

Paper and papier mâché – Florence, Amalfi, Syracuse, Lecce, Verona, Bassano del Grappa (Veneto).

 

Entertainment

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ENTERTAINMENT

The era of La Dolce Vita may be over, but the custom of going out has been going strong since the Empire. Many Italians entertain guests out-a chance to join the stylish, lively scene. See p12 for even more events.

MILAN, LOMBARDY AND THE LAKES
Milan
Nightlife

The villagey Brera district with its street artists and galleries is a good spot for the evening, while Milan’s canal district Navigli, is also a haven for artists. The variety of bars and restaurants is amazing – the area buzzes each evening. Milan has a very lively cultural and artistic scene. The city hosts many of musical events – classical, jazz, rock – some of the world’s most famous stars come to perform. There are also a number of theatres.

Blue NoteVia Pietro Borsieri 37, district Garibaldi-Isola. t02 69 01 68 88. www.bluenotemilano.com. Little brother of the famous New York club hosting jazz concerts.

Le ScimmieVia Ascanio Sforza 49, zona Navigli. t02 89 40 28 74. www.scimmie.it. Open 9pm–1am. Live music and good food in an attractive canalside location.

 

Bars and Caffès

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BARS AND CAFFÈS

One of the great pleasures in Italy is sitting in a caffè watching the world go by, admiring the stylish parade, sipping one of Italy’s excellent wines or coffees. Prices at table are higher than bar prices.

MILAN, LOBARDY AND THE LAKES
Milan

ChocolatVia Boccaccio 9. A contemporary ice-cream parlour close to Santa Maria delle Grazie specialising in chocolate flavours.

Gelateria MargheraVia Marghera 33. t02 46 86. Open 8am–midnight. Right by the National Theatre and the exhibition centre. Deliciously creamy ice creams.

Il Massimo del GelatoVia Castelvetro 18. This ice-cream parlour in the Sempione district has a good range of inventive flavours.

Luini PanzerottiVia Santa Radegonda 16. A local institution among hungry Milanese serving panzerotti – a speciality filled dough-based snack.

PanarelloVia Speronari 3 and Piazza San Nazaro in Brolo 15, corner of Corso di Porta Romana. These two Milanese stalwarts have been open since 1930.

 

Must Eat

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MUST EAT

RESTAURANTS

Traditional cuisine in Italy follows the seasons. Peruse the markets to see what is fresh and local. House wines are not always reliable; most owners will be glad to offer a taste, then let you choose a bottle if you prefer. Chic hotels can be a good source of creative cuisine.

MICHELIN GUIDE

We’ve selected a few restaurants from the Michelin red guide. Look for red entries in the listings:
y – Best-value

– Michelin-starred

– Charming

WHERE TO EAT
Prices and hours

Restaurant opening times vary from region to region (in the centre and south of Italy they tend to open and close later). Generally lunch is from 12.30pm to 2.30pm and dinner from 7.30pm to 11pm. Service is usually included, but tip if you like (a few euros at most, unless the establishment is elite). Restaurants where service is not included are marked; an appropriate percentage for a tip is suggested after the meal’s price. By law, the bread and the cover charge should be included, but in some trattorie and especially in pizzerie they are calculated separately.

 

Must Stay

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MUST STAY

HOTELS

Italy has the full range of accommodation, from luxurious hotels in historic castles, villas, and palaces, to thermal baths and spas, farm stays, bed and breakfasts, monasteries, hostels, and campsites. Holidays (see calendar p12) and trade fairs tend to increase prices.

MICHELIN GUIDE

We’ve selected a few restaurants from the Michelin red guide. Look for red entries in the listings and the following comfort ratings:

WHERE TO STAY

Book accommodations well in advance for popular regions and cities, especially from March to October. Typically, prices are far lower – and many hotels offer discounts or special weekend deals – from November to February, less in the art cities such as Florence, Venice and Rome, as well as other historic centres. Always check prices before booking, as rates can vary depending on the time of year and availability of rooms. The best prices may be offered through websites or from the hotel directly.

 

Must Know

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Unmissable sights in and around Italy

aaa Absolutely Must See

aa Really Must See

a Must See

No star See

aaaThree Star

Accademia, Florence x

Accademia, Venice

Aeolian Islands

Agrigento temples

Alps: Dolomites

Amalfi Coast

Anacapri

Appia Antica, Rome

Archaeolog. Museum, Naples

Assisi

Bargello, Florence

Battistero, Parma

Capitolino, Rome

Capri

Caracalla, Rome

Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome

Catacombe, Rome

Ca’d’Oro, Venice

Cinque Terre

Colosseum

Cortina d’Ampezzo, Alps

Erice, Sicily

Etna

Egyptian Museum, Turin

 

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