Italy has been at the forefront of modern culture for thousands of years. The birthplace of the Roman Empire and fountainhead of the Renaissance, Italy has retained a prominent spot atop the global radar since long before the time of Caesar. While there are million of reasons to visit Italy, to list them all would take weeks. For those interested in historical architecture, the ruins that dot the countryside are a marvel to behold. The most famous are those of Ancient Rome, where the Roman Forum, the Colosseum and Pantheon are all within a couple miles of each other. Palaces, castles, villas and gardens spread throughout the finest cities in Italy, while famous cathedrals, towering cathedrals and glittering Renaissance structures dot the skylines of Florence and Siena, Rome and Naples.

For art lovers, trips to Italy are a must. The Uffizi Gallery in Florence holds many of the grandest treasures of the Renaissance, while the nearby Galleria dell"Accademia is home to one of the most famous sculptures in all the world: Michelangelo"s David. The Vatican Museums, located within the city limits of Rome, hold all of the Catholic Church"s immense treasures, capped off with the imposing St. Peter"s and one of the major highlights of many trips to Italy, the Sistine Chapel. There are many other artistic wonders to behold in nearly every Italian city, from the northern Venetian museums all the way down to the coast of Sicily. Italy vacations can also include the sophistication and pageantry of the theater. While operas are the main draw, there are many other musical options, not to mention the chance to watch famed plays that have stood the test of time in some of the most ornate and celebrated buildings in the world.

For those more interested in culinary delights, Italy is the home of pizza and pasta, of gelato and Chianti - the importance Italian chefs place on mealtime cannot be stressed enough. Lasagna, tortellini, pesto sauce and olive oil are all trademarks of local cuisine, and the wines - primarily in the central regions of Tuscany and Umbria - are without compare.

Adventurers who visit Italy can find anything from the sunny southern slopes of the Alps to the fertile hills of the Italian Rivera and Tuscany in the northern half of the country. Some of the best hiking and skiing in Europe can be found on Italy vacations. The southern half counters with volcanoes that commandeer the rocky landscapes and mile after mile of beach resorts in Sorrento and the isles of Capri and Sicily. Upon these shores, the lolling Mediterranean Sea welcomes millions of visitors making trips to Italy each year.

Whether you stay in the bustling center of a major city or in a small medieval hamlet residing on a hillside, there are a wealth of sights and sounds to behold in this foreign land. And despite all the natural and artistic wonders available on display in this country, one of the main reasons to visit Italy is the people themselves. Warm and welcoming, they will ensure that this will not be your only trip to their homeland.

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