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Celebrating a unified Italy

Italy is home to ancient ruins and wonderful antiquities, but the country itself is comparatively young. Just 150 years ago, Giuseppe Garibaldi fought to unify a collection of separate kingdoms, and the country we know as Italy was born. Celebrations are planned in many Italian cities and towns throughout 2011, making this a wonderful year to travel there.Watched over by the graceful Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, or Duomo, the red tile rooftops of Florence haven’t changed much in the past 150 years. Those who appreciate art must see the Galleria dell’Accademia, home to Michelangelo’s David; and the Uffizi Gallery with its treasure trove of Botticellis, da Vincis and other works by Italian masters. Florence is also the leather capital of Italy, with wonderful handmade gloves, belts, bags and shoes for sale. In the evening, sip a glass of wine while enjoying a casual concert in one of the city’s beautiful piazzas.Venice, “La Serenissima,” floats serenely on its calm blue lagoon. Today’s Venice has a romantic, dreamlike feel – quite a change from the centuries when the city was a maritime powerhouse and the hub of trade between Europe and Asia. Hop on one of the many vaporetti (water busses) or hire a gondola to glide along the Grand Canal. Gaze up at soaring basilicas, medieval palazzos built by wealthy families, and the famous Rialto Bridge. Then, sit in the Piazza San Marco, dominated by St. Mark’s Basilica and Campanile, to enjoy a cappuccino, watch the people and absorb the special atmosphere of Venice.Rome is known as the Eternal City, and it’s a massive city with incredible treasures in its historic heart. Everywhere you look, you’ll see sights that may be familiar from movies or television, but are much more stunning in person – the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, St. Peter’s Square and many more. Don’t forget to take a break from visiting the ruins, churches and museums of Rome to indulge in some shopping for chic Italian fashions, indulge in fresh pasta and Italian bread or cool down with a dish of smooth gelato.Italy is a peninsula, and there are miles of Mediterranean coastline to enjoy. One gorgeous stretch is the Amalfi Coast, just south of Naples. Dramatic limestone cliffs rise from the blue Tyrrhenian Sea; pastel-colored houses and lemon trees cling to the hillsides, overlooking tiny towns and fishing villages. Hiking and boating are favorite ways to enjoy the stunning scenery, along with sunbathing on the small beaches tucked into the base of the cliffs.For more ideas on appreciating the history, sights and tastes of Italy, talk with a travel professional.

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