The birthplace of the Renaissance with its rich artistic inheritance, together with its Greco-Roman and medieval architecture, not to mention its contemporary, buzzing bar and restaurant scene, Italy is a must to visit.
The richness of the culture in the major Italian cities, world famous for galleries, sculptures and opera houses, is unparalleled. Venture forth on your own using the excellent and cheap train network and explore such idyllic places as Umbria, Tuscany, the Italian Lakes and the Amalfi Coast. There is something about the quality of daylight on the understated painted houses that is unique to Italy. You could even visit Sicily with its many historic attractions and take a Camilleri novel with you and pretend that you are Inspector Montalbano.
Italian food is renowned the world over. As is common in every country, there are regional variations with hearty dishes in the Dolomites to sustain the hikers, steak Florentine (T-Bone to the uninitiated) in Florence and surrounding areas, Sienna perhaps? The stunning medieval town of Perugia is famous for its truffles. Further south, when in Naples you have to try the pizza margherita with buffalo mozzarella.
Milan Opera House is well known to all opera lovers, but a particularly enjoyable classic holiday is to stay on Lake Garda and then visit the opera held every summer in the amphitheatre in Verona. If this is too pricey, do not despair as many Italian waiters have operatic voices and visitors are often serenaded in restaurants.