Sandy coastlines and rolling hills, stirring architecture from the Ancient Romans to the Renaissance, and a culture that's known and loved throughout the world – Italy really does have it all. Its regions are strikingly different both geographically and culturally, with every town fiercely proud of its own traditions.
The north of the country is well-connected by both high-speed trains in the form the Frecciarossa, as well as slower regional trains. South of Rome, or worse Naples, the trains become much slower and less reliable; seeking Sicily from the north for example, your best bet is probably to fly. Ferries connect the southern tip to Sicily, and from Naples to Palermo.
Whether it's a beach holiday, a stay in a rural agriturismo, a visit to a historic city or a tour of ancient ruins, Italy is perhaps the best destination of them all. Since the days of the Grand Tour and beyond, Italy has spell-bound tourists.
Rome is a singular capital city for its intoxicating blend of Ancient Roman buildings, Renaissance architecture and more modern constructions jumbled together. Be sure to visit the Vatican City, the smallest state in the world, surrounded on all sides by Rome.
Head north to visit Tuscany, home to Florence and Pisa; the region's idyllic hilly landscapes are breath-taking. The Amalfi south of Naples is probably the most popular stretch of coastline, with little square buildings tumbling down the sheer slopes towards the sea. Less attractive, Milan has ever been a beacon for fashion lovers and creative types.
With its varied landscapes, Italy offers much to the active tourist, with scenic paths through the legendary Cinque Terre or rugged routes on the island of Sicily. Head to the Alps for skiing, football fans will be pleased to know that every city has a sizeable stadium, with tickets easy to come by (at least compared to the likes of England).
Although the main tourist attractions of Italy are popular for good reason, almost every town boasts a grand historic centre. It might be far from the beach and lack amazing scenery, but Bologna's old town is spectacular, as its food. Spaghetti Bolognese comes from the city known with good reason as La Grassa, 'the fatty', though be warned – its real name is tagliatelle al ragú.
It might not match the beauty of Tuscany, but the Marche region on the east coast boasts terrific beaches at Senigallia and Ancona, while the countryside harbours many treasures, not least Raphael's town of Urbino. For a completely different feel in culture and architecture, head to Puglia on the heel of Italy's boot.
Where to start with Italian food? Pasta and pizza are famous throughout the world, though first-time visitors might find the real thing rather different (pizza, for example, tends to be very thin, with varying shapes and focus on the quality of the bread). Each region is startlingly different. Parmigiano cheese and prosciutto crudo are synonymous with the Emilia Romagna, while rich seafood is common in the south. Sicily's centuries-long Arab rule shows up in desserts such as cannoli, as well as arancini, which are stuffed-and-fried rice balls. Wine is also cultivated with a passion across Italy.