Ideas for visiting Italy when you only have a week.

Focus on the south, starting with Rome.  The capital of Italy and home to the Catholic Church has thousands of years of rich history: the pull of the Eternal City is inevitable. From the Roman Forum, with the landmark Colosseum, to the Vatican City with St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, the list of what to see could be endless. But sometimes, you just want to wander around and take in all that history, appreciating the way that it creates visible layers – an ancient column worked into a modern façade, a Medieval church next to a 19th-century house.

The many fountains of Rome are another thing to look out for as they signify the strength of the various rulers and benefactors who built them. The one immortalized by films is the recently restored Trevi Fountain, where legend has it that tossing in a coin will ensure a trip back to Rome!

The food lover will find solace in Rome’s down-home trattorie, where pasta with cacio e pepe should be on most menus – creamy and simple, with the kick of freshly cracked black pepper. Vegetarians also have a blast with the many simply prepared and delicious seasonal vegetables like artichokes (in the fall), made every which way, or the bitter puntarelle served with anchovy sauce, or other bitter vegetables prepared simply on the grill.

Head south to the ruins of Pompeii, south of Naples, are on the bucket list of every art and history lover, while Naples may be given the backseat due to its gritty, chaotic reputation. But give it a moment and you’ll realize that this city has more of a bustling aura than a chaotic one. Not only is it Italy’s third largest, but also one of its oldest, artistic cities, but its city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with impressive archeological riches in the midst of an urban stretch of tumult and confusion. It may seem shabby and unkempt, but dig a little deeper, and its elegance will catch you off guard.

What art has come off the street has made it into the Naples Archeological Museum that also holds almost all of the artifacts, sculptures and frescoes found among the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Other parts of the collection come from the Farnese family. Naples is the city to use as a base when planning trips to Capri, Pompeii, Sorrento and anywhere else around the Bay of Naples.

If Italy is famous for pizza, Naples is the place you must have it, since pizza was invented here in the 19th Century, it’s safe to say the Neapolitans know how it’s done.

Pizza in Naples, Italy

It’s a simple but tasty dough that should contain nothing more than flour, salt and water, topped with fresh tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and – for purists – not much else. Colleen Colosseumnaples1

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