Italy, a country of olive oil, pizza, pasta, wine and sunshine, roman ruins and renaissance palaces, Italy has a lot to offer its visitors. Although some of these images are appealing, it would be a shame if that was the only thing you come away with. Italy is certainly much more complex and interesting.

Italy is a modern country with deep Roman Catholic roots, full of interesting stuff for the casual tourist and even more for the educated visitor. It is easy to spend two weeks in major tourist centers without any reason to get bored, but it is equally simple to get off the beaten track. In the north, next to the Alps and the flatlands of the Po River, both cultural jewels and highly developed industrial cities attract. This is where Italys economic heart beats, but even in the bustling cities, people live the "la vita Italiana".

Rome has unarguably the richest, fullest history of any town on earth. Its unique position in the worlds greatest Empire, its significance as a religious and cultural centre, its turbulent centuries of aristocratic and papal rivalries and upheaval and all the while incorporating some of the finest architecture still surviving.

Rome is far from being a museum: its a colourful and vibrant living city which is still an appealing destination for those with a phobia of history. The food, the culture, the ambience and the surrounding scenery make a great holiday even if you dont see a single ruin or statue.

Most Italians take their vacation in August, which means that many stores and shops, even in the larger more tourist-heavy cities, are closed for at least part of the month. Individual cities and towns observe their own holidays based on their patron saints, as well as many other traditional festivals. National holidays include:

New Years Day – January 1
Epiphany – January 6
*March or April – Easter Monday
April 25 – Liberation Day
May 1 – Labour Day
August 15 - Feast of the Assumption
November 1 – All Saints Day
December 8 – Feast of the Immaculate Conception
December 25 – Christmas Day
December 26 – Feast of Santo Stefano

From Milan the fashion capital of the world, to Piemonte famous for its beautiful wines, to Rome the city of the Gladiators, Italy is a diverse and exciting holiday destination!