6 mins

9 ancient highlights and flavours of Italy

The last stop on the spice journey is Italy, home to historic wonders, pizza and timeless cocktails, the bitter tastes of which inspired OPIHR Gin's European Edition. Here are 9 ancient highlights...

Italy travel highlights (Shutterstock)

Walk past any restaurant or bar in Italy and you're bound to see someone sipping on a negroni or an Aperol Spritz. It’s this swing in popularity towards aromatic bitters that inspired the creation of OPIHR Gin's European Edition, which blends fragrant myrrh and the distinct aromatic bitterness of cascarilla bark. We take you on a journey of the ancient sights and flavours of captivating Italy.

Here are just nine highlights...

Click here for your chance to win a £2,000 travel voucher plus loads of OPIHR Gin treats

3 must-visit sights

1. Basilica di San Marco

The Basilica di San Marco (Shutterstock)

The Basilica di San Marco (Shutterstock)

With a 500-year spice trade history, Venice is a great place to start our Italian journey. What better way to soak up some opulence than a visit to Basilica di San Marco? This gold-smothered cathedral dates back to the 9th century and with multiple domes on its roof and glittering mosaics covering the exterior walls, it makes a dazzling first impression. The inside is no less spectacular, with the walls dripping in gold, art and statues. 

After you’ve marvelled at the basilica, wander the maze of cobbled streets and canals: you’ll soon see that pretty much all of Venice oozes the same beauty and sophistication as its iconic cathedral.

2. Pompeii

The ruins at Pompeii (Shutterstock)

The ruins at Pompeii (Shutterstock)

When Vesuvius erupted nearly 2,000 years ago, a sea of burning pumice stone washed over the city, stopping everything in its path. The result of this is what can still be seen today: Pompeii frozen in time. 

From the elegant stone columns to the preserved shops on the Roman streets, exploring this fossilised town is like travelling through history. 

3. Roman Forum

The Roman Forum (Shutterstock)

The Roman Forum (Shutterstock)

From the iconic colosseum to the unmissable Sistine Chapel, Italy’s capital city offers a collection of jaw-dropping sights that mark a timeline dating back some 3,000 years, documenting the flourishing, demise and reinvention of Rome.

It’s impossible to pick just one sight in this ancient city, but one look at the sprawling Roman Forum, with its sun-bathed remains of temples and towering columns and you’ll feel the immense power and influence of this ancient civilisation.  The Arco di Tito is a particular highlight and it is believed that this grandiose arc that has stood stoically for thousands of years is the inspiration behind Paris’ Arc de Triomphe.

3 must-see beauty spots

1. Lake Iseo

Lake Iseo (Shutterstock)

Lake Iseo (Shutterstock)

You’ve probably heard of Lake Garda, but what about Lake Iseo? This turquoise lake can be found in the north of Italy, surrounded by green mountains with villages clung to their sides. Not only is it beautiful, it’s largely undiscovered by the flocks of people who gather around Garda’s shores.

Hiking in the surrounding mountains offers views over the lake and a visit to the Riserva Naturale Torbire de Sebino offers fine birdwatching. Herons, warblers, swans and an array of migratory birds can all be seen floating on the water beneath the mountains.

Don’t miss a boat trip on the lake itself for a chance to explore the charming villages along its shore.

2. Gran Paradiso National Park

Gran Paradiso National Park (Shutterstock)

Gran Paradiso National Park (Shutterstock)

High up in the alps, the oldest national park in Italy boasts snow-capped mountains, grazing ibex, glacial lakes, fragrant pine forests and some unbeatable blue sky views. Visit in the summer to discover trickling streams, green-carpeted valleys, turquoise lakes, emerald pastures and vast fields of wildflowers.

Winter is just as spectacular, when the sun transforms the snowy mountains into mirrors, reflecting the sun and causing you to squint your eyes when you steal a look at the glittering peaks.

3. The Maremma

The Maremma (Shutterstock)

The Maremma (Shutterstock)

While Chianti and the Val d’Orcia are well known beauty spots in Tuscany, the Maremma in the southwest offers the same verdant views without the crowds. Hike in the countryside for emerald views of gently rolling hills and vineyards fading into the distance.

Don’t miss Capalbio on the coast, a stretch of pristine sand you’ll have largely to yourself.

3 must-try dishes 

1. Pizza

Pizza (Shutterstock)

Pizza (Shutterstock)

When Queen Margarita visited Naples in 1889, she tried her first bite of pizza and the rest is history. Whether you go for the classic cheese and tomato topping or try out a modern twist on this traditional dish, one thing is for certain: you can’t go to Italy without trying the pizza.

2. Pasta

Pasta (Shutterstock)

Pasta (Shutterstock)

Pasta’s roots are in ancient Asian noodles and it is thought that the dish was brought to the country by ancient travellers and transformed into the dish we know and love today. Whether you go for the classic northern dish of spaghetti al pomodoro or a plate of Naples’ favourite spaghetti al puttanesca, eating pasta in Italy is a must, and something you will not regret.

3. Gelato 

Gelato (Shutterstock)

Gelato (Shutterstock)

During the summer, gelato can be found on pretty much every street and in virtually every restaurant in Italy. This historic refreshing ice cream makes the perfect desert or a great cooling snack on a warm day.

Try OPIHR's Italian-inspired cocktail

While you’re getting lost in planning your escape to Italy, make yours a spiced negroni. This twist on a classic cocktail is guaranteed to transport you there with every sip!

To the recipe

Don't miss your chance to win! 

For more travel inspiration and for your chance to win an array of travel prizes courtesy of OPIHR Gin, including a travel voucher worth £2,000, a Panasonic Lumix camera worth over £399 and the entire OPIHR Gin range, visit OPIHR.com/postcard

Enter now! 

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