To stand in the shadow of this impressive structure is to connect with all of the history that came before. Built between 70 and 80 AD, it’s one of the seven wonders of the world and certainly a highlight of any trip to Rome. It’s easily accessible by cab or Metro making it one of the most crowded landmarks in Italy. Still, if you hang around until dusk, the crowds thin out dramatically, leaving you in the perfect position for a splendid night shot.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Even if you’re not religious, this is a must see location. The Renaissance architecture was designed by a number of important artists including Bernini and Michelangelo. It’s also one of the largest churches in the world. To help you learn about everything you’re looking at, I’d recommend investing in one of the small group tours. This ticket also allows you to skip the very long entry lines making it well worth the extra cost.
Gazing up at the most famous artwork of all time, you’ll see “The Last Judgement” which includes the iconic hands of God and Adam. It took Michelangelo over four years to paint this masterpiece. It’s also the place where the Papal conclave meet while deciding on the next Pope. While photography is not generally allowed, many people were taking photos on my visit.
The Florence Duomo
If you’re claustrophobic, the climb to the top of Florence’s Bell Tower may not be for you. The narrow stairs wind through an old stone passageway. It feels a bit like stepping back in time. At times, mini traffic jams occur, and you must cooperate with other visitors to keep the flow of onlookers moving. Once at the top however, the expansive views of the Duomo and surrounding city are unparalleled. If your visit is midday, use a polarizing filter to enhance the blue skies.
The city of Siena is quite small, making it possible to see most of the sights in one day. The historic gothic cathedral was one of the most impressive in all of Italy. Afterwards you can enjoy a cafe latte in the open air cafes surrounding Piazza del Campo.
To experience the authentic side of Italian life, one only needs to follow the gentle green hills that lead to Tuscany. There are no blighted views along the way, just manicured rows of vineyards, farmland, and olive trees. By bus, this is merely a three hour ride from Rome. Yet, upon reaching the peaceful Chianti region, it seems worlds away from the city’s pulsing streets.
The light in Tuscany holds a golden painterly quality that outdoor photographers dream about. To experience and photograph the beauty of this region in Autumn was a true feast for the senses. It was Allan Sichel who said, “Wine is a living thing. It is made, not only of grapes and yeasts, but of skill and patience. When drinking it remember that to the making of that wine has gone, not only the labor and care of years, but the experience of centuries.”
The majestic site of Segesta holds an unfinished temple started in 424 B.C. It’s one of the grandest Doric monuments to survive from antiquity. Walking around the site, I was amazed at how well the temple was preserved. The tall weathered columns are completely intact. Unlike the larger cities, the crowds are few less intense in the southern region of Italy.
Sicily, Where the Mountains Meet the Sea
As we pulled into the port of Trapani, Sicily, I felt an immediate connection to the land. There was an unmistakable sense that long ago, my ancestors called this home. The coast was cluttered with fishing boats and powerful jagged mountains that seemed to rise out of the deep blue sea.
The heart of Italy can’t be isolated to just these places. It’s found on every landscape, in each glass of wine, and on the faces of all who call it home. When you’re done taking in all of the historic sights, sit back and watch the natural rhythm of life in this beautiful country. As Anna Akhmatova said, Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.”