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history of Italy

History of Italy

Discover the history of Italy on your private, tailor-made tours with travel tips from our experts.

There are few countries in the world that can boast of histories as impressive as Italy’s. On the one hand, you have the glory and decadence of the Roman Empire, whose ruins still mark the cities and countryside of Italy, on the other, the vibrancy of the Renaissance movement with its globally renowned art and architecture. Despite its storied past, did you know that Italy as a single country is barely even 200 years old? 

Prior to the wars of independence, Italy was composed of different city-states, the Catholic Church, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Its varied history makes it a country of contrasts and contradictions –  it is both ancient and new, singular, yet many-faceted. It is this unique characteristic that brings countless travelers to Italy every year, and you too can immerse yourself in its many hues on your tailored, luxury tour of Italy.

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Colosseum in Rome, Italy - history of Italy

In Caesar’s footsteps

The story of Rome is one of the greatest stories in history – of how a small town surrounded by seven hills grew into one of the world’s most powerful empires. From the time of the Roman Republic and Julius Caesar, and the illustrious Emperor Octavian I to the age of the ‘Five Good Emperors’ in the 1st and 2nd centuries, Rome is a city that took on the world and won. In its heyday, the Roman Empire included nearly all of Europe, northern Africa, the Balkans and even some parts of the Middle East. 

Although the Roman Empire fell centuries ago, its shadow still looms large over Italy. Aspects of Roman culture still impact the world around us, from our languages to modern legal systems and politics. Beneath some parts of Rome, sections of the original Roman sewer are still being used. To visit Roman sites in Italy, is, in many ways, to visit the birthplace of western civilization. 

In the city of Rome, preserved ancient buildings stand proudly beside more modern constructions. It’s easy to casually stroll through the city and come across signs of its glorious history – The Colosseum, the ruins of the Roman Forum, and the miraculously preserved Pantheon are all a short walk from each other in the city center.

Eventually, the Roman Empire over-expanded and weakened, splitting into two – the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Roman Empire. Interestingly, though the Western Empire ended around 476 AD, the Eastern Empire, now called the Byzantine Empire, which was governed from Constantinople (modern Istanbul), lasted until 1453 AD.

History of Italy - Enchanting Travels Italy Tours Florence at the sunrise time from the viewpoint

Medieval Italy and the Renaissance 

Once Rome fell, different parts of the Italian Peninsula were ruled by different groups and kingdoms. As a result, different areas of the Italian peninsula subsequently developed their own cultures, customs, and character. 

This was a time of violence and conquest, yet it was a time that saw a revolution in art, architecture, literature, science, and philosophy. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in Florence. In its heyday, the city was home to luminaries such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Niccolo Machiavelli, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Botticelli, who lived and worked within decades of each other and shaped the world around them. Much of their work remains even today and can be seen throughout Italy and in other parts of the world as well.  

In Florence, you can head to the Galleria dell’Accademia to view Michelangelo’s sublime world-famous Statue of David, as well as the works other renowned artists of the age. Numerous works of art and sculpture that graced the households of powerful families, are housed within Florence’s several other famed galleries. Another must-visit is the Uffizi Gallery, a short walk from the beautiful Ponte Vecchio, where you can view some of the greatest pieces of the Renaissance. The building itself is tremendously historic; it was designed to be the office of the legendary Medici banking family, who governed the city during the Italian Renaissance.

History of Italy - Duomo square under a cloudy sky in world famous Ravello, Amalfi coast.

Modern Italy

In 1796, a couple of years after the French Revolution, Italy was invaded by Napoleon. Although his armies were badly outnumbered Napoleon was able to establish a client state. In 1815, this Napoleonic Kingdom was annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the idea of an independent country unifying the entire Italian Peninsula began to form. 

However, this dream didn’t come to fruition easily. Instead, over the following decades, numerous wars and insurrections managed to hammer out a unified and independent country in 1871. Despite Italy’s long, and turbulent history, it stands proudly as a jewel of Europe, a country of immense natural beauty and high culture. 

Today, Italian people are famous for embracing their traditions and heritage: from the saltless bread in Tuscany that owes its roots to an infamous quarrel between a coastal family and the Medici of Florence, to the happy hour ‘aperitivo’ embraced by Emanuele II as far back as the 18th-century. On your tailor-made tour of Italy, discover its time-honored traditions, history and heritage for yourself!

Discover the history of Italy for yourself on a tailor-made tour with us. Get in touch with us for an obligation-free itinerary.

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