Naples can be an acquired taste. Italy's third largest city is sure to conjure up strong feelings. For some it's an admiration of the city's authentic vibe, while for others it's a dislike for the economic disparity that exists here. Sophia Loren and Enrico Caruso are native Neapolitans, and the city is stubbornly proud of its image. One thing is certain; you will not leave Naples without an opinion.
Since late 1993, the city has sought to overcome its high crime rate by opening more museums and galleries, thereby attracting a cultured group of visitors and residents. The unconventional strategy is starting to pay off, as crime is down twenty-five percent. The resulting feeling of security has increased tourism by almost fifty percent. Naples feels like any other big city in the world, with no need to fear for your safety.
If Italy is the place to go for the best pizza and pasta in the world, and Naples is the best place to enjoy them in Italy, that would make Naples the pizza and pasta capital of the world, right? So bring your appetite!
If you have the time, try and take a side trip out to Pompeii, the ancient city buried by a volcanic eruption on nearby Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The opportunity to see a city frozen in time is rare, and well worth a visit.
Barcelona has always been a prosperous city , thanks to an exquisite harbor, fertile soil, and a population of hard working, caring citizens. This great city was a strong, incredibly diverse region when Madrid was still a fledgling town with basically no landmarks or significance. The numerous Mediterranean empires that had at one time or another conquered the area brought tremendous influences, much more so than the Iberian presence to the west. Barcelona was most influenced by Rome, Carthage, and France during the Charlemagne era.
The monuments of Barcelona open a book into the rich history of the area. These include the intricate and beautiful Gothic Quarter from the medieval times, the series of Catalan art nouveau, and the surreal artwork of Picasso and Miro. But if you are searching for a little excitement and outdoor fun to mix in with your education and culture, look no further than Barcelona.
In 1992, Barcelona was given a huge boost by serving as home to the Summer Olympic Games. This race to the 21st century was quite beneficial to Barcelona and the neighboring areas, and the restructuring program that became everyone's focus was given the name Post Olympic. As a result of all of this hard work and dedication, Barcelona has recently developed into one of the premier port cities in all of Europe. There are so many fascinating sights and wonderful events; you will be awed by your choices and so much to do. Extraordinary museums and landmarks can be found everywhere in this ancient city with a rich heritage and culture. The Museu Picasso is one of the greatest art exhibits anywhere, and through the center of the old quarter of Barcelona is the gorgeous tree-lined promenade, a visual splendor. The nightlife is truly something, and the shopping is fantastic.
The Greeks founded Nice, naming it Nike, or Victory. They could not have been more accurate, as Nice has come to represent the perfect combination of French urban chic (it's the fifth largest city in France) and laid-back European enjoyment. It's also one of the most visited locales in the world, with seemingly every student in the world converging here during the summer months. Monaco is just a short train ride away, as are Cannes and Villefranche. Even though you will be attracted to the opulence and grandeur of Monte Carlo, or the haute culture of Cannes, don't sell Nice short.
While Nice is the unofficial capital of the French Riviera, it is more than just a beach town. Seven museums, a beautiful opera house, and diverse world architecture all come together to contribute an air of culture to the city. Artists, writers, and philosophers have been drawn here throughout the centuries, with the city counting Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and Friedrich Nietzsche among its visitors over the years.
As much as Nice tries to gain a reputation as a well-rounded, cultured city, its city fathers know that tourists help pay the bills, and some gorgeous hotels and resorts extend along Promenade des Anglais and Quai des Etats-Unis, the beautiful beachside promenade in Nice. The beaches are busy virtually year round, as Nice enjoys excellent weather throughout the four seasons. There are over 300 days of sunshine per year here, so you will have no problem working on your tan.
Florence was the birthplace of the European Renaissance in the 14th Century. By the time it ended, an entire continent had been ushered through the Dark Ages and into a vibrant world full of indescribable artistic beauty. The achievements of the Renaissance have been preserved and lovingly cared for by the city, and today a visit to Italy is not complete without paying homage to Florence.
The Medici family was largely responsible for the flourishing of Florence (Firenze in Italian). Through their leadership and patronage, artists like Botticelli and Michelangelo were encouraged to produce masterpieces like the Birth of Venus and David. Advancements in architecture, the likes of which hadn't been seen before in Europe, led to the construction of the Duomo's dome and Grotto's bell tower.
But before you think that Florence is a city trapped in the past, know that it is a highly modernized Italian town, with most locals navigating the swamped city streets with cell phones in hand. They are sometimes exasperated by the influx of tourists, particularly in the summer, but they have come to accept tourism as a necessary evil that provides a healthy boom to the Florentine economy.
Florence has also emerged as one of the leading shopping and dining destinations in Italy, if not in all of Europe. While Milan and Rome best Florence in the sheer number of shops and restaurants, respectively, a case can be made for Florence's quality, especially when it comes to Florentine leather and jewelry, or Tuscan wine.
A word about street addresses in Florence. Visitors are often confused because addresses seem to overlap. The city has designated that commercial enterprises be numbered in red, and all others in black. All addresses listed in this guide are in black unless otherwise noted. Be sure to purchase a map while in town to help you get around.