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100 things to do before you die: visit Italy — an emotion not a country

Thursday, August 24, 2006

60. When in Rome
The Eternal City is wonderfully ancient and every corner you turn brings a treasure to behold. Rome has at least 913 churches, many housing superb works of art, museums, monuments, statues, monuments, sculptures, fountains, baths and the Pantheon. Walking around the city is the best way to take in Rome's Etruscan, Christian, Renaissance, Baroque and Medieval glories.

Lunch is an important daily event. Shops close as everyone stops for pasta, meat, salad, bread, fruit and wine, followed by a siesta. It's a good idea to follow suite, drop your morning's shopping at your hotel and get ready for the afternoon.

Strolling along the via Condotti is popular with locals and tourists alike — as much time is spent taking in what everyone is wearing as what is new in the beautiful shops. Don't forget to throw three coins into the Trevi Fountain. That ensures a return visit!

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61. Italy by Vespa
Italian for "wasp", little Vespas scoot in and out of traffic everywhere in Italy — city and country alike. Italy by Vespa takes luxury tours with a maximum of 14 people to some of the country's most beautiful places. They capture the heart, soul and essence of Italy. You cruise along winding country roads with stunning views around every corner.

There are endless rows of grape vines, towering cypress trees, silvery olive groves, crimson poppies and golden sunflowers. Ancient abbeys are sprinkled throughout and you stop to sip espresso at outdoor cafés, taste local wines and the special dishes of every village. At night you stay at a comfortable hotel and learn more about this wonderful country from your guide, a graduate in Italian history.

62. Pompeii
One of Italy's most-visited places, Pompeii is divided into old and modern. Its first recorded earthquake hit in 62AD and survivors chose to rebuild their home. The second, in 79AD, took the lives of its 20,000 residents, but left an almost perfect city for people to look at more than 1900 years later. There are paved streets, bordered by curbs and pedestrian walkways, stables, inns, a hospital and a main street with taverns, cafés, public baths and no fewer than 27 brothels.

Mt Vesuvius rumbled violently for 18 hours before spewing an immense black cloud 15 kilometres into the air. For three days, 100 million tonnes of volcanic matter, pumice, ash and rock, lapilli and red-hot scoriae, rained over the city, settling into a blanket up to seven metres deep. Everything underneath was mummified in the ash as it cooled.

63. Fashionable Florence
The epicentre of the Renaissance, Florence produced amazing textiles, paintings, architecture and sculptures. The green and pink marble of Carrara was widely used. The façade of Duomo, Europe's fourth largest church, is evidence of the wealth enjoyed at the time.

Florence is also known as an important fashion centre and via Tornabuoni is where you will find the fashion houses of Pucci, Gucci, House of Florence, Prada, Yves St Laurent, Casadei, Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, Versace and Tiffany. Clothing and leather in the latest colours and styles are mouth-watering, but very, very expensive.

Fear not — half an hour from the city there are a number of stockhouses selling discounted and discontinued lines of well-known designers. The three main outlets are Dolce & Gabbana, Prada and The Mall. Shopping, coffee and more shopping. Perfect.

64. Pisa
A university town in the Tuscan region, Pisa has an interesting and volatile history. Building of its famous tower began in 1173, primarily to show the world, particularly Florence, its wealth and strength. By the time the first three levels were complete, the soft alluvial soil caused it to lean southwards. Architects had no success in rectifying the lean. Other matters took care of time and money, which meant the tower wasn't completed until 1350.

The tower's leaning became greater and when it tilted 5.5°, it was closed. A team from London's Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine successfully took on the enormous task of rectifying the problem and the Tower of Pisa is now back in business.

For further information:

60. World Travel Group
Ph: 1300 361 500

61. Italy By Vespa

62. World Travel Group
Ph: 1300 361 500

63. The Mall
Ph: 39 055 865 7775

64. Leaning Tower of Pisa

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