Frankly, if you have seen the natural beauty of the States, you won't be taken aback by anything you'll see in Europe. America is a huge, diverse continent and has everything to offer to the curious traveler. If you wish to see unique landscapes, stay home and enjoy. I have traveled Europe, I have traveled America - ain't no valley more beautiful than Yosemite, ain't no beach more stunning than the Oregon beaches, and you won't find anything even remotely close to Yellowstone/Grand Teton.
And yet... If you want to roam around, driving in your car and seeing the old that is new to you - Italy can manage wonderful times. And you don't have to drive far for beauty; just about anywhere you go you'll find a spot worth visiting.
If you set your mind on seeing unique Italian beauty, though, here a few places that might become special to you:
- Yes, you are hearing this right: Although it is the place most sung in books and calendars and kitschy touristy fliers, Tuscany is still a marvel. This region extends from the rugged mountains of the Appennines to the coast and is mostly made up of rolling hillsides that regale you with a staggered view of ridges that seem to be longing for the infinite. Here you'll find the classical vistas of fields with giant olive trees, of rows of cypress trees that lead to Renaissance villas, of rugged cities made of stone that seem not to have changed in a thousand years.
- The Alps
- Yes, folks: Cortina can rival Aspen any time. Do yourself a favor and don't go in the winter. Global warming is a reality, and there is preciously little snow to be found. Go for the pleasure of hiking and of seeing the forests and mountainsides in the summer. That's how I spent innumerable summers as a kid, wondering why my parents never understood that there is a regular shower at 2PM every day... Now you are warned!
- If you need to go during the winter or close by, Sicily is your best bet. The island is very dry in the summer, and barren. In the winter, the rains make it lush and rich with glistening green, a sight that few tourists get to see and none fails to notice.
- The Appennines
- The mountainous interior of Italy is not entirely taken by tourists, although at some point in the future, all Italians will have moved away from a region that offers no jobs. You will find wonderful cities nestled on cliffs in landscapes of rugged and cool. Assisi, L'Aquila, Perugia, even San Marino fall into this category.
- Sardinia and the isles
- The Mediterranean is an old and closed sea, so you'd expect the water to be murky as at the estuary of the Mississippi. It's the case, for sure, close to the big cities. Italy has not been traditionally a forerunner of ecology, and as a result even until recently all major cities lacked water treatment centers. The islands of Italy are unspoiled, barren after centuries of deforestation, but endowed with crystal clear waters, mostly paired with rocky shores. Sardinia is a gem, a huge island with few tourists and a wonderful and ancient indigenous culture. Elba is easier to reach if you are in Tuscany, and offers beauty beyond imagination. And then there is Capri, a tourist destination if there is one, but still rich with wonderful waters. Off the beaten track, how about a stop at the Isole Eolie, where you'll find Volcano, the island named after the god of fire, still spewing tons of rocks into the air, occasionally hitting the unwary.
- And how aboout 'x'?
- Chances are, if you've read about it and you liked it on pictures, it will be just as beautiful in real life...