Italy's fortes extend beyond its galleries, wardrobes and dining rooms. The country is one of nature's masterpieces, with extraordinary natural diversity matched by few.
From the north's icy Alps and glacial lakes to the south's fiery craters and turquoise grottoes, this is a place for doing as well as seeing. Not bad for a country not much bigger than Arizona.
Italy's most celebrated coastline is a gripping strip: coastal mountains plunge into creamy blue sea in a prime-time vertical scene of precipitous crags, sun-bleached villages and lush woodland.
Between sea and sky, mountain-top hiking trails deliver Tyrrhenian panoramas fit for a god.
The Amalfi Coast has seduced and inspired countless greats, from Wagner and DH Lawrence to Tennessee Williams, Rudolf Nureyev and Gore Vidal.
Turquoise seas and cinematic piazzas aside, the region is home to some of Italy's finest hotels and restaurants. It's also one of the country's top spots for hiking, with well-marked trails.
Mount Etna is Europe's largest volcano and one of the world's most active. The ancients believed the giant Tifone (Typhoon) lived in its crater and lit the sky with spectacular pyrotechnics.
At 3326m it towers above Sicily's Ionian Coast. Whether you tackle it on foot or on a guided 4WD tour, scaling it rewards with great views and the thrill of having come close to a towering threat.
Since 1987 the volcano and its slopes have been part of a national park, the Parco dell'Etna.
Encompassing 581 sq km and some 21 towns, the park's varied landscape ranges from the severe, snowcapped mountaintop to lunar deserts of barren black lava, beech woods and lush vineyards.
Scour the globe and you'll find plenty of taller, bigger and more geologically volatile mountains, but few can match the romance of the pink-hued, granite Dolomites.
Maybe it's their harsh, jagged summits, the vibrant skirts of spring wildflowers or the rich cache of Ladin legends.
Then again, it could just be the magnetic draw of money, style and glamour at Italy's most fabled ski resort, Cortina d'Ampezzo, or the linguistic curiosity of mountain village Sappada.
Whatever the reason, this tiny pocket of northern Italy takes seductiveness to new heights. Europeans flock here in winter for hospitable resorts, sublime natural settings and extensive ski networks.
Come for downhill or cross-country skiing and snowboarding or get ready for sci alpinismo (an adrenaline-spiking mix of skiing and mountaineering), and a range of other winter adventure sports.
This is also a beautiful summer destination, offering excellent hiking, sublime views and lots of fresh, fragrant air.