For travelers making their way through Italy, the Colosseum is a must see. This huge Amphitheater is the largest of its kind ever built by the Roman Empire and has remained a model for sports facilities right up to modern times. Built as a venue for public spectacles and shows - even mock sea battles, it had a wooden floor that was 83 by 48 meters. Underneath it were two stories of tunnels, rooms, cells, and passages for gladiators, workers, wild animals, and storage. Today, the structure stands in stark contrast to the modern development that surrounds it and is a prominent reminder of ancient times and the extensive history of Rome.
A gondola ride through the canals of Venice is a tradition that travelers have been enjoying for centuries. Venice is a city of islands, and the canals have long been the city's main streets, connected by a labyrinth of narrow passageways. Lining the canals are old buildings that have remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years, adding to the romantic charm. The Grand Canal is the most famous of these waterways and one of the most photographed sites in Venice. The best way to see many of the grand palaces, whose fronts face the water, is from a Vaporetto ride along the Grand Canal.
The still smoking volcano of Mt. Vesuvius looks down on the remains of the city it destroyed in AD 79. But that same eruption also preserved many of the city's art treasures: frescoes, mosaics, and sculptures that were encased in the lava as it cooled. Several centuries of excavations have revealed the remains of houses, markets, baths, temples, theaters, streets, and human remains. Visitors can tour the site, walk along the old streets scarred by the tracks of chariots, and see the engineering used by Romans more than 2,000 years ago.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is actually just one of many attractions in the city of Pisa, but its fame, gained from its flaw, is world renown. Work began on the tower in the 1100s, and the sinking, which led to the lean, began by the time the tower reached the third story. Prior to restoration work in the 1990s, it was predicted to topple over by the year 2000. Today, visitors can climb up the stairs of the tower for a fabulous view over the city. The Leaning Tower, also known as La Torre Pendente, stands on the Piazza dei Miracoli, a setting it shares with the beautiful Romanesque Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and a round freestanding baptistery. Each of these features outstanding works of medieval stone carving.
Lake Como is one of Italy's most scenic areas, surrounded by mountains and lined by small picturesque towns. A haunt of the wealthy since Roman times, the lake has many opulent villas and palaces along its wooded shores, many of them surrounded by gardens that are open to the public. The mild climate that makes the lake shore ideal for gardens is also a draw for tourists, with characteristics similar to that of the Mediterranean. Along with the resort towns around the lake, there's an 11th-century abbey.
The Amalfi Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a stunning stretch of coastline along the Sorrentine Peninsula, south of Naples and Sorrento. Hillside towns are built precariously along the steep mountainsides that cascade down to the sea. The main towns along here are Positano and Amalfi, with its colorfully domed cathedral. You can tour the coast by road or hop between towns by boat for different perspectives of the dramatic and almost vertical shore.
Regarded as one of the finest cathedrals in the world, the Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore, or the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, dominates the Florence skyline. The cathedral was built between the 13th and 15th centuries, with the most famous piece being the extraordinary dome, completed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1434. The cathedral's bell tower stands close beside the cathedral in Piazza del Duomo, covered in the same patterned marble typical of Tuscan Romanesque architecture. Designed by Giotto, the campanile stands 82 meters tall and can be climbed. Its 414 steps lead up to a viewing platform with fantastic views of the city. Opposite the Duomo is a magnificent baptistery, famed for its bronze paneled doors.
Cinque Terre is a lovely coastal region with steep hills and sheer cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. The five picturesque villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore can be reached by several means, joined to each other by walking paths, a railroad that tunnels through the headlands to emerge at each town, or a scenic narrow road high on the hillside above. Hiking between the villages is one of the most popular things to do as it gives travelers the chance to enjoy the landscape. The small towns have maintained a feel of old-world fishing villages and offer a sense of remoteness even in the face of modern tourism.