Home of Michelango, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante, Amerigo Vespucci, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Florence Nightengale, Luigi Cherubini, Machiavelli, and the Medici family, Florence (Firenze) is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Florence was the epicentre of the Italian Renaissance and remains one of the world's top attractions for lovers of art. Located in the heart of Tuscany, a stunning province of hills and mountains, the Renaissance capital of the world is a sight not to be missed. The world famous Duomo with the Brunelleschi cupola and the marble clad baptistry are simply stupendous. Florence is a city of incomparable pleasure concerning churches, monasteries, museums, galleries and palaces. Among the things you can't afford to miss are the Uffizi Galleries, one of the best art museums in the world, the cathedral with the baptistry, the Santo Spirito church and the Ponte Vecchio. To get a great overview of the city, head for Piazza Michelangelo in Oltrarno (other side of river Arno) or farther up to the church of San Miniato.
Rome is a blend of artistic and architectural masterpieces, classical ruins, and extravagant baroque churches and piazzas. The places evoke the people -- Roman emperors concerned with outdoing their predecessors in grandeur, powerful prelates enmeshed in intricate scandals, geniuses summoned by popes to add to the Vatican's treasures, a dictator who left his mark on the city before his imperial dreams were shattered, and the contemporary Romans, full of the earthy energy that makes this a city of unique vitality.
Rome is Italy's treasure trove, packed with masterpieces from more than two millennia of artistic achievement. It's here that a metropolis once bustled around the carved marble monuments of the Roman Forum, where centuries later Michelangelo (1475-1564) painted Christian history in the Sistine Chapel, where Gian Lorenzo Bernini's nymphs and naiads dance in their fountains, and where an empire of gold was worked into the crowns of centuries of rulers.
Greece was the birthplace of Western civilization. The period from 700BC saw the rise of the great city states of Athens, Corinth and Sparta, frequently engaged in long struggles for supremacy, and uniting only when faced with the common threat of invasion by the Persian Empire. The zenith was reached in the fifth century BC when Athens became the cultural and artistic centre of the Mediterranean, producing magnificent works of architecture, sculpture, drama and literature.
Greece today offers the traveller the comforts of modern Europe in close proximity to the stark beauty of the ancient world. There is no denying the historical and cultural heritage of Greece continues to resonate throughout the modern Western world - in its literature, art, philosophy and politics. All over Greece, are reminders of the country's glory – from Athens' Parthenon and Delphi's Temple of Apollo, to the ruins on Crete of the Minóan city of Knossós, a civilisation reaching even further back into history.
Scattered throughout the calm blue waters of the Aegean are Greece's 1400 islands, the largest of which is Crete, each with its own special story. The serenity of islands like Skópelos contrasts with the hedonistic party islands such as Myknos and Páros where the worship of Dionysus the god of revelry continues to the beat of garage and house music. Athens's previous glory in sports was restored when the Olympic Games returned home in 2004.