During its time as the centre of the Roman Empire, Rome attracted people from the corners of the empire which stretched through modern day Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Later, religious pilgrims made the journey to visit the home of the Catholic Church.
During the 17th-century, aristocratic tourists began to discover the appeal of the country beyond Rome, undertaking the popular Grand Tour to learn more about Italian culture. And today the peninsula remains the world's fifth most visited country by tourists.
The following quotes, from Italian natives as well as those who have visited over the centuries, are sure to awaken your wanderlust.
Siena. Photo: Phillip Capper/Flickr
“A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see.” – Samuel Johnson, English essayist.
“To Rome, for everything.” – Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, writing in his novel Don Quixote.
“In Italy, they add work and life on to food and wine.” – Robin Leach, English writer.
“And that is … how they are. So terribly physically all over one another. They pour themselves one over the other like so much melted butter over parsnips. They catch each other under the chin, with a tender caress of the hand, and they smile with sunny melting tenderness into each other's face.” – D.H. Lawrence, English novelist.
Rome. Photo: Bert Kaufmann/Flickr
“Rome, the city of visible history.” – George Eliot, English writer.
“In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” – Orson Welles, American actor, director and writer.
“Rome is not like any other city. It's a majestic museum, a living room to tiptoe through.” – Alberto Sordi, Italian actor.
“What is the fatal charm of Italy? What do we find there that can be found nowhere else? I believe it is a certain permission to be human, which other places, other countries, lost long ago.” – Erica Jong, American novelist.
The Dolomite mountains. Photo: Robert J Heath/Flickr
“I think people in Italy live their lives better than we do. It's an older country, and they've learned to celebrate dinner and lunch, whereas we sort of eat as quickly as we can to get through it.” – George Clooney, American actor.
“You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” – Giuseppe Verdi, Italian composer.
“In Paris, you learn wit, in London you learn to crush your social rivals, and in Florence you learn poise.” – Virgil Thomson, American composer.
“The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo.” – Mark Twain, American writer.
“Everything about Florence seems to be colored with a mild violet, like diluted wine.” – Henry James, American writer.
Florence. Photo: Maëlick/Flickr
“My favorite thing about Milan is that you see these guys, and it's as if a spaceship came out of the most attractive planet invented and just dropped them off all across the city.” – Brad Goreski, Canadian stylist.
“This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty this city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism.” – Thomas Mann, German novelist.
“To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius.” – Alexander Herzen, Russian writer, on Venice.
“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.” – Truman Capote, American writer.
Venice's Grand Canal. Photo: AFP
“Italy will never be a normal country. Because Italy is Italy. If we were a normal country, we wouldn't have Rome. We wouldn't have Florence. We wouldn't have the marvel that is Venice.” – Matteo Renzi, former Italian prime minister.
“I love the simplicity, the ingredients, the culture, the history and the seasonality of Italian cuisine. In Italy people do not travel. They cook the way grandma did, using fresh ingredients and what is available in season.” – Anne Burrell, American TV chef
“Move to Italy. I mean it: they know about living in debt; they don't care. I stayed out there for five months while I was making a film called 'Order Of Death,' and they've really got it sussed. Nice cars. Sharp suits. Great food. Stroll into work at 10. Lunch from 12 till three. Leave work at five. That's living!” – John Lydon, English lead singer of The Sex Pistols.
Le Marche. Photo: Eric Huybrechts/Flickr
“Italy and the spring and the first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy.” – Bertrand Russell, Welsh philosopher.
“Your Italy and our Italia are not the same thing. Italy is a soft drug peddled in predictable packages, such as hills in the sunset, olive groves, lemon trees, white wine, and raven-haired girls. Italia, on the other hand, is a maze. It's alluring, but complicated. It's the kind of place that can have you fuming and then purring in the space of a hundred meters, or in the course of ten minutes. Italy is the only workshop in the world that can turn out both Botticellis and Berlusconis.” – Beppe Severgnini, Italian author of La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind.
“I was offered a free villa in Hollywood, but I said no thank you, I prefer to live in Italy.” – Ennio Morricone, Italian composer
Want more wanderlust inspiration? Check out our travel section for all the latest lists, features, and news related to travel in Italy.
Photo: Sandy Thurmond