Italian small group tours
Heritage Italy – by Jenny Weire
Italy is a very beautiful country with a wealth of culture and history. I am passionate about the country and enjoy sharing this passion with Odyssey travellers.
Attempting to put together a brief overview of Italian small group tours is a challenge when one considers the wealth of Italian culture and history. Apart from boasting one of the most varied landscapes in the world, Italy holds undoubtedly the world’s greatest hoard of art treasures. Tuscany alone has more classified historical monuments than any country in the world; there are considerable remnants of the Roman Empire all over the country. And apart from the amazing cities of Florence, Rome, Milan, Venice wherever you travel throughout Italy there will always be a small village church that boasts a masterpiece (often more than one), and remote monasteries and small villages that hold amazing museums.
A short history of Italy
The history of Italy commences for many with the Roman Empire. Italy flourished under the Roman Empire, which ended in 476 AD; followed by the Middle Ages. Italy’s most prosperous time occurred in the 14th century, when city-states such as Florence, Milan, Pisa, Genoa, and Venice became centres of trade. The influx of wealth and increased trade contact with foreign lands, transformed Italy into Europe’s premier centre of culture. This was the birth of the period known as the Renaissance, the ‘rebirth’ after the Middle Ages. Funded by wealthy patrons, figures such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dante, Machiavelli, and Galileo, among others, revolutionised the fields of art, literature, politics, and science. Italian explorers, such as Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus, introduced Italy and Europe to the rest of the world.
Italy remained a centre of power until the 16th century, when trade routes shifted away from the Mediterranean and the Protestant Reformation resulted in the Catholic Church losing influence over much of Northern Europe. It was in the 19th century, when, with the backing of France, Italian nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi led a popular movement that took over much of Italy, ending in 1870 with the fall of Rome and complete unification of Italy. Rome became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. After the Second World War, Italy abolished the monarchy and was declared a republic.
Italy’s glory however, does not come from a unified national identity, but from its regions, with their distinctive art, cuisine, civic cultures and traditions. Italians often feel more loyalty to their regions than to the nation as a whole.
The Italian Indulgence, its food.
Nowhere is Italy more intensely regional than in its food – a dish thought to be one of Italy’s signature dishes, and enjoyed in one region, may be unheard of in a neighbouring region. The food is not complicated. Instead of complex combinations of ingredients or overelaborate processes, Italians choose to use the best fresh ingredients they can find, meaning what’s in season and available locally, creating an Italian indulgence that many seek to experience through its food and wine heritage.
Italy features fashion & festivals to enjoy.
Italy is one of the leading countries in fashion design. Fashion has always been an important part of the Italian history, influencing the country’s cultural life and society. Italians are well known for their attention of dressing well; la bella figura, or good impression, remains traditional in the Italian way of living. Italians tend to dress up for the evening passeggiata and tourists are easy to spot, less formally attired, in their travel gear.
There are literally hundreds of festivals throughout Italy every year. Many are mediaeval and cultural festivals whose origins extend back hundreds and even thousands of years (like the Palio in Siena, the Jousting carnival in Arezzo or indeed the Carnival in Venice). There are also many religious festivals and these are celebrated with special care and great pomp. Most of them are dedicated to the Madonna or Saints of the Roman Catholic religion. Almost every city and village has a patron saint and a special day to celebrate. For each festival (religious, cultural or any other) there is a special food, cake or pastry to celebrate that special day and it will be characteristic of the region
In Odyssey’s Italian small group tours, the Heritage Italy tour takes us from Rome, to the regions of Campania, Umbria, Veneto and concludes in the beautiful region of Tuscany. As well as featuring the best of the Italian countryside, we visit the great cities and icons of the regions, from the beautiful Renaissance cities of Florence, Pisa and Lucca to the Umbrian mediaeval cities of Perugia, Gubbio and St Francis’ Assisi. In the north, we visit the ancient university seats of Verona and Padua as well as stunningly beautiful Venice while, in the south, we visit the cosmopolitan city of Naples, the Roman remains of Pompeii and the island of Capri.
Heritage Italy, is just one of some 10 Italian small group tours for Odyssey Travellers offered every year, with more than 140 tours offered around the world every year to senior and mature couples or solo travellers seeking to learn as they explore.