Italian culture is one of the oldest tourist industries in the world, having been among the principal destinations for the rich ‘grand tourists’ in the 18th and 19th centuries.
They came to sample the ancient, Renaissance and baroque delights of Venice, Florence and Tuscany, Rome, Naples and (for the more adventurous) Sicily. These places still have an enormous pull, but unless you are really short of time, don’t limit yourself to mainstream tourist Italy. Almost anywhere is within reach of little towns and villages, isolated ancient remains, mountains or the sea, so make the most of these delights for a richly varied stay in one of the world’s most beautiful countries.
Yes, Italian culture is full of stunning towns and cities full of unbelievably beautiful buildings and populated by attractive, friendly people whose musical language makes the most banal of observations sound poetic (until you understand them), but the life that is going on is just as real as it is any other European country. Sure, things don’t always work the way you would like them to, and you may spend half a day paying a cheque into your bank account or queuing up in some state office to tackle the complex bureaucracy. But a lot of this is improving and Italy is more efficient and streamlined than ever before.
Even if you are only here for a few days, with the Italian culture you are likely to have several surprises – some good and some bad. Be flexible, relax and you can’t go wrong, the museum you have gone out of your way to see may be shut when it should be open, but instead you might end up having a memorable lunch in a restaurant where, after the coffee, the proprietor plies you with some ambrosian digestivo made with fruit from his own orchard.
Richard Reeves is the founder of Essential Sailing and if you have been inspired to relax on a luxury sailing holiday, why not make this idyllic world your reality.
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