Photograph by Mariusz Smiejek, My Shot
Carnival revelers take a break in one of Venice's countless sidewalk cafes. As European influences continue to trickle in from the north, Italy is experiencing a reinvention across its large cities. However, as home to the eternal city of Rome and some of the world’s greatest art and architecture, the country still clings to the roots that have provided the region’s lifeblood for centuries.
Sunset in Venice
Photograph by Maureen Greco, My Shot
Sunset bathes the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute in pastel hues. Neither land nor water, but shimmering somewhere in between, the city of Venice lifts like a mirage from a lagoon at the head of the Adriatic.
St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
Photograph by Toyohiro Yamada, Getty Images
Sunlight streams into St. Peter’s Basilica through the long barrel vault, welcoming visitors to the capital of the Catholic Church. More than four million people each year travel to the Vatican in hopes of glimpsing the masterpieces of Michelangelo and Raphael—or even the Pope himself.
Lake Como, Lombardy
Photograph by Davide Necchi, My Shot
Lights line the banks of Lake Como, as seen from Monte San Primo in Lombardy. After visiting the lake in 1875, composer Franz Liszt remarked, “When you write about two happy lovers, let the story be set on the banks of Lake Como."
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Photograph by Amantini Stefano/4Corners Images
Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" still enthralls audiences more than 500 years after it was painted. The work now hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, home to many of the country's masterpieces.
Photograph by Bob Krist
After 1,500 years of standing in ruins, the great Colosseum in Rome reopened its stage in 2000 to again entertain the public. This time, however, instead of lions and gladiators, the arena hosted Greek National Theatre performances and a concert by Sir Paul McCartney.
Orcia Valley, Tuscany
Photograph by Giovanni Simeone/SIME-4Corners
Divided by the winding Orcia River, the Val d’Orcia preserves classic Tuscan vistas—villages sitting atop rolling hills blanketed in vineyards and olive groves. A strong agricultural tradition across the valley has ensured the land remains undeveloped.
Photograph by Fantuz Olimpio/SIME-4Corners
Jutting raggedly into the sky, Italy’s northeastern border hosts the Dolomites, one end of the Alps mountain chain. The spindly crests of the Cadini di Misurina draw climbing enthusiasts with bold hopes of summitting her rocky peaks.
Photograph by Jose Fuste Raga
The Costiera Amalfitana, or Amalfi Coast, is widely considered Italy's most scenic stretch of coastline, a landscape of towering bluffs, pastel-hued villages, precipitous corniche roads, luxuriant gardens, and expansive vistas over turquoise waters and green-swathed mountains. Deemed by UNESCO "an outstanding example of a Mediterranean landscape, with exceptional cultural and natural scenic values," the coast was awarded a coveted spot on the World Heritage list in 1997.
Photograph by Jodi Cobb
More than 12 million tourists each year come to Venice to sample the area’s art, wine, and local culture. Many small towns in Italy are completely dependent on the flow of tourists for their economic survival.
Photograph by Borchi Massimo/4Corners Images
Following the arrival of South American tomatoes in the early 16th century, Naples became the home of the first pizzeria, originating the idea of individual pies cooked to order. Italian foodies don’t limit their toppings to simple sauce and cheese, with local favorites including the napoletana, cheese topped with capers and anchovy, or patate con rosamarino, sliced potatoes and rosemary.
Photograph by Antoine Tardy, My Shot
Tourists, policemen, and vendors crowd a plaza outside the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Millions of people journey to the city each year to visit its wealth of Renaissance art.
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence
Photograph by Sebastien Boisse
Florence’s Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore—popularly known as the Duomo—has been a local landmark from the moment Filippo Brunelleschi completed its record-setting dome in 1436. Taking 16 years to be fully realized, the dome holds some of the cathedral’s most notable frescoes, which were painted by Giorgio Vasari in the late 16th century.
Wine Cellar, Lombardy
Photograph by Scatà Stefano/SIME-4Corners Images
Known for its long history of earthy reds and dry whites, the Lombardy region of Italy’s north is slowly growing to rival the more prominent Chianti vineyards stretching below Florence. Sharing a border with its French neighbors, Lombardy’s local cuisine and vino are impacted by both French and Italian influences.
Head of Constantine, Rome
Photograph by Bob Krist
In 1471 Pope Sixtus IV donated several bronze statues to the Roman people, sparking the creation of the Capitoline Museums. Along with the oversized head of Constantine, the collection’s most famous sculpture is the bronze she-wolf "Lupa," whose powerful symbolism and unknown roots have sparked a hot debate among art historians.
Photograph by Huber Johanna/SIME-4Corners Images
The promise of pristine Mediterranean vistas and a moderate climate draws visitors each year to Italy’s south coast. A rise in tourism has prompted conservationists in Naples to take precautionary measures in protecting the area’s delicate artistic and cultural relics.
Pantheon Plaza, Rome
Photograph by Fan Fan/photolibrary.com
Diners fill the plaza outside Rome's Pantheon, originally built by Marcus Agrippa as a temple to the gods of ancient Rome. The original building burned down; today's was built in A.D. 126.
Nat Geo Traveler All Access
Available in print and for iPad®! See destinations come alive with 360-degree photos, videos, and more!