Like a boot that fell through a hole and got stuck there, the Italian peninsula is Europe’s foot that’s jutting out of the continent into the Mediterranean Sea. It has been one of the major tourist spots in Europe, and though tourists might remove European nations from their “to-visit” list, not one of them would remove Italy from that list. People bring their Rome map and Tuscany destination guide and flock to Italy to see the fabled country of brothers Romulus and Remus, who were said to have been born in the city that the Trojan hero, Anaeas, founded in Italy.

A tourist without a guide will be lost in Italy. There is just so much to see in this country. It was once the centre of an empire that ruled a good portion of Europe and Eurasia. However, that power disappeared in ancient times and Italy today is just another nation that has its own set of problems with illegal immigration, as well as economic problems caused by poor management and over-borrowing from the EU.

The then and the now

But that doesn’t mean that the vast empire of the old has lost its charm. Indeed, just like the Parmigiano-Reggiano, Italy just grew more charming with age. Take, for example, one of the key places in Italy, Venice. This self-styled heiress of the Roman Empire, sinking into the Adriatic day-by-day, has two groups of people fighting over whether to save it with the power of science and modernity or let it sink (along with all the annoying American tourists in it).

Then there’s the grand and manly Florence. The headquarters of the Medici family who ruled Florence and all of Tuscany for 304 years and has been one of the many cradles of the Renaissance of artists like Michelangelo. The Leaning Tower of Pisa also calls Tuscany its home.

And then, there’s the jewel of every tourist’s visit to Italy: Rome, known to many historians as the Mistress of the Old World. If you ask people what they think when they hear the name, Italy, most, if not all, would answer “Rome”. The Colosseum and the Arch of Titus are all situated there, as well as a lot of museums, ancient sculptures and monuments, and churches.

On the way to Naples from Rome, you’ll pass by Monte Cassino, the home of 70,000 cemeteries commemorating the brave Americans, Poles, and British Allies who fought against the 20,000 Nazis.

And finally, there’s Naples. The ancient Roman coastal city built beside Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii. Although Naples is a town that has as much history as its neighbours, it still loses out to Pompeii that was buried under ash and brimstone by Vesuvius’ eruption.

If you’re going to Italy to see it all, however, remember to be respectful of the locals. People shouldn’t think that tourists can only see their beautiful country as if it is a giant museum.