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Italy: Places to See

Whatever your interests may be, Italy will seduce you with its timeless appeal. Here, history, spirituality, romance and creativity converge to craft a travel experience like none other.

In northern Italy you'll find the cities of Venice and Milan, as well as the Italian Riviera and Lake District. Milan, Italy's most cosmopolitan city, is also one of the world's hottest fashion capitals. You'll find an endless selection of clothing, shoes and accessories from classic to cutting-edge designers. The business hub of the country and a place where creativity flourishes, Milan is also home to Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper."

Built on water and offering scenic canals and an exotic mix of Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance-style architecture, Venice is unlike any other city. At the heart of this misty place is Piazza San Marco, which houses St. Mark's Cathedral, the Campanile, the Doge's Palace, the Bridge of Sighs and many museums. Any trip to Venice requires a romantic gondola ride through the city's canals.

Running along Italy's border with Switzerland is the Lake Country. Backed by the Alps and bordered by lush forests, towns along lakes such as Lake Como and Lake Maggiore offer their own version of paradise. Just beneath the Lake Country region is the elegant Italian Riviera, fringing the Ligurian Sea with picturesque fishing towns and chic resorts. On the eastern end of the Riviera is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cinque Terre. Here five small villages are suspended between sea and sky, nestled in the cliffs overlooking the sea, and set beside hills where the land's finest wine grapes are grown.

Continue south to Florence, the countryside of Tuscany and Rome. A mecca for any art aficionado, Florence is considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. You'll find Michelangelo's David and a number of other treasures at the Galleria dell’Accademia, as well as a massive collection of Renaissance art at Galleria degli Uffizi. The Piazza del Duomo sits in the city center. Make your way through the busy square to study the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral with its Cupola del Brunelleschi, Giotto's Campanile, the Baptistery of St. John and the Museo dell'Opera where you'll find Ghiberti's original Gates of Paradise and an unfinished Pieta by Michelangelo.

The gorgeous countryside of Tuscany includes coastal plains, rolling hills and modest mountains filled with vineyards and pleasant towns. Visit Pisa to see the Leaning Tower, as well as its companion Duomo and Baptistery. Siena also offers much to see, from the fine palaces that line its cobbled streets to the celebrated Piazza del Campo where the Palio horse race is run twice each year. The nearby town of San Gimignano is a noteworthy place to visit with its medieval feel and 14 stone towers.

Rome's epic past is revealed through architectural testaments such as the Roman Forum, Pantheon and Palatine Hill. Relive the glories of the gladiators at the Colosseum and Circus Maximus, then take in the spiritual significance of Vatican City -- home to St. Peter's Basilica, Michelangelo's famed Sistine ceiling and the Vatican Museums. Piazza Navona is great for people-watching, and the charming neighborhood of Trastevere offers medieval houses and cobblestone streets to get lost in.

South of Rome is the region of Campania that includes the enchanting seaside towns of the Amalfi Coast and the excavated ruins of Pompeii. The vibrant city of Naples and the luxurious isle of Capri and its stunning Blue Grotto round out the region.

Just off the coast of Italy's southernmost tip is Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean. The cities of Palermo, Erice, Segesta, Selinunte, Piazza Armerina and Agrigento offer a host of historic treasures and ancient ruins that rival those of Rome. On the eastern edge of the island is Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe.