Italy

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History is reflected in every aspect of Italian life from its wonderful art to its delicious cuisine and mesmerising architecture. This narrow boot of crinkled land extending gracefully into the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea has seen the birth of empires, cradled the growth of civilisations and shaped the destinies of continents. A strong cultural identity, independence and regional pride are characteristics found throughout Italy. Venice is a city that has endured both triumph and tragedy, rising from its marshy foundations to become a labyrinth of placid waterways and sweeping bridges. Rome is a heady blend of artistic and architectural masterpieces, classical ruins and extravagant baroque churches and piazzas. The city's 2,700 years of history are on display everywhere;the term 'living museum' has never been more appropriately used than with Rome. Surprisingly small but perfectly formed, history pours from every alleyway, arching doorway and soaring bell tower of Florence. As the city of art and birthplace of the Renaissance, millions throng here every year to the Uffizi, the Accademia and the Bargello to gaze upon the city's treasures. Rome, Venice and Florence are all great weekend getaways, or for longer stays, head to the glorious Tuscan countryside full of medieval towns, incredible wineries and rustic trattoria, or the sophisticated glamour, secret beaches, and sensational views of the Amalfi Coast followed by a relaxing break on one of Italy's stunning islands.

Italy with A&K
Contacts make a difference in Italy. A world of difference - and nobody knows that better than our highly qualified guides. The sun-kissed accounts of our returning guests testify to the little personal flourishes that made their Italian holiday truly memorable.

There's A&K's amazingly well-connected Donatella, who introduced guests to Siena's small but perfectly formed delicatessen, al Palazzo della Chigiana, for complementary tasting of cheese, meat and olive oil; a similarly convivial experience with decent wines in a Rome osteria; and another in Florence, where, after an introduction from A&K's guide, local artisans presented our clients' children with beautiful towels embroidered with their names.

And we're just starting. There were gifts of freshly roasted chestnuts in Verona's Piazza Erbe, and a night of free wine and mesmerising views after our guide informed a Positano bar owner that his guests were newlyweds. When you take an Abercrombie & Kent luxury holiday to Italy you'll also be able enjoy the fruits of higher level contacts: a tour of Florence's Vasari Corridor, home of the Medici's private art collection, or a visit to the atelier which makes Venice's elaborate carnival costumes.

As one part of A&K's multi-centre European team that has offered seamless travel across the continent for 25 years, we provide an insider angle on Italy's rich cultural heritage and contemporary life. Along with premium hotels and deluxe villas, we also have our nationwide 'Guardian Angels': super helpful locals who'll iron out any travel wrinkles.

You'll discover a Mediterranean country oozing with history and glorious landscapes: the north's imposing mountains and serene lakes; softly undulating central heartlands drizzled with hilltop villages and cypress trees; and the Neapolitan Riviera's ludicrously romantic resorts, across the sea from Sardinia's powder beaches.

Your A&K tour reveals centuries-old art and architecture, from Venice's palazzo-lined canals and Tuscany's renaissance showstoppers to Rome's honey-stoned grandeur and the South's ancient remains - all with a generous side serving of glorious cuisine.

Small wonder Italy's packed in high season, but, once again, our contacts make a crucial difference. 'Our guide walked us past the long snake of visitors waiting to enter St Mark's in sweltering heat,' wrote James Landsdowne. 'He took us to an innocuous side door, said "Ciao" to the guard, and we were allowed straight in. How wonderful'.

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