Most people come to Italy
for one thing - the food! But the land of pizza and pasta is also a culture
vulture's dream, bursting with ancient monuments, art galleries and historic
hill top villages. Best of all, it's easy to embark on a cultural tour of Italy on a
budget. Where to start? Here's a guide to the top cultural
attractions in Italy
for first time visitors.
Square, Venice: Nowhere is more quintessentially 'Venice' than this
glorious square, which is actually
several attractions in one! On the eastern side you've got the San Marco
Basilica and the grand Doge's Palace, and on the other a museum complex, scores
of chic cafes, and maybe the odd costumed performer at Carnival time. St Mark's
Square was once the political and religious heart of Venice, and the piazza still bustles with
2. Campo Dei Fiori, Pisa: Another impressive square, the
'Field of Miracles' really lives up to its name. The Campanile or famous 'LeaningTower' is the real star of the show
here, but skip past the tacky souvenir stalls and a feast of Romanesque
architecture awaits, with the Duomo, Baptistry, and Museo dello Sinopie to
The Colosseum, Rome: One of Ancient Rome's most impressive remains, the
Colosseum was the venue for some of Rome's
bloodiest sports, and constructed in AD 72-80. You might have to queue, but the
guided tour is well worth it - try to get a student guide, as they really know
their stuff! Once you've been inside, check out the other ruins nearby - the
Arch of Constantine and Nero's Golden House are well worth a look.
City, Rome: The Vatican
is proof that good things come in
small packages. The 'world's smallest nation' is home to a staggering collection
of ten Museums, the magnificent Sistine Chapel, and the ornate St Peter's
Basilica. Wander around the lush gardens for a breather, and stick around for
the Pope's mass audience on Wednesday mornings.
Supper, Milan: One of Leonardo Da
Vinci's most famous paintings, this Renaissance masterpiece is housed in a
Dominican convent, next to the church
of Santa Maria delle
The Duomo, Milan: The world's largest gothic cathedral, the Duomo took
430 years to complete. But it was well worth the wait - wandering around this
monster cathedral is a humbling experience, with 3,500 statues on the outside alone,
and stained glass windows dating from 1470 to 1988.
The Duomo, Florence:
Yes, it's another Duomo, but Florence's version
couldn't be more different to Milan's. This beautiful Cathedral boasts amazing views
over the city from the bell tower, and the top of Brunelleschi's dome. Don't
miss the Baptistry and Museo nearby for Byzantine mosaics and statues by
Uffizi Gallery, Florence: Need a
lesson on Renaissance art? Then head to the Uffizi Gallery, the former home of
the Medici family, designed by Vasari, the author of the world's first art
history book. Inside you'll find an endless collection of major works by all
the masters, from Giotto to Caravaggio, and famous paintings like The Birth of Venus.
Pompei: One of the most astonishing ancient sites in the
is a town frozen in time. Mount Vesuvius
erupted in AD 79, preserving an entire town and Ancient culture in this giant
stone time capsule. Highlights include the 90-room House of the
Mysteries, and the brothel with its erotic wall paintings!
Valle dei Templi, Agrigento, Sicily:
of Sicily is home to
hundreds of historical and architectural sights, and has an eclectic cultural
heritage thanks to successive invasion by the Byzantines,
Arabs, Normans, French, Spanish and Bourbons. The ancient ruins of Agrigento, also known as the 'Valley of the Temples' are some of Sicily's best, with several temples set into
a rugged hillside and overlooking the sea.
Remember many of the most important religious sights are free to visit, and the
thriving backpacker community means it's easy to find hostels in Italy in all
the major cities.