Italy, ah Italy - fabulous food, wine and so many historic sites.

We have houses in Tuscany, Umbria and Puglia (that bit right down the bottom of the heel).

This most beautiful of countries is proud to be the home of pasta, da Vinci and the best ice cream on the planet. The countryside is stunning and varied, the people beautiful and talented and the selection of fresh food astounding. This is the country that brought us "slow food". Originally devoted to the promotion of fresh products and fine traditional cooking, not in a hurry!

What started as a local protest against fast food has become a worldwide movement.

Fashion is so much a part of Italy: Dolce & Gabbana as well as Versace bring the Italian flair and sense of fun to their business.

With 44 sites, Italy has more Unesco World Heritage sites than any other country on earth. Its great città d’arte (cities of art), like Rome, Venice and Florence, have been attracting visitors for centuries, and with good reason.

Nothing says food like Italy and nothing says Italian food like pasta. There are over 650 different varieties of the stuff. Pasta, coupled with pizza, make up 2 of the country’s most famous exports. Italy is also famed for its risottos, bresaola, panettone, tiramisu and ossobucco. Other famous Italian staples include pancetta, proscuitto and parmesan - although exported everywhere, there aint nothing like the real thing. Fresh Italian ragu (what we call bolognaise) is a must. Italy is also home to the best ice cream in the world, often made by hand, gelato is still a traditional Italian dessert. Wine is grown all over the country, from the alps down to Puglia in the south, the climate is perfect and the stuff is fabulous! Not forgetting the coffee...cappuccino and espresso as well as cafelatte...from dawn to dusk, Italy is a foodie’s heaven.

For visitors who want to do more than sightseeing or lazing around a pool, Italy offers many varieties of activity to stimulate the body, mind and soul. There are carnevale and festivals every month the most famous being the Palio in Sienna in July. The country has high mountain ranges and beautiful countryside for skiers and walkers, lakes and seas for those with nautical inclinations, world-topping cuisine for foodies and designer outlets for shopaholics. There is also a good range of cookery courses, painting lessons, study trips and photography holidays, located in some of the most beautiful regions of Italy.

Going out in Italy can be so much fun. Italians know how to have party and live life to the full, and you can find great places all over. Generally, Italians go out much later than many other nationalities. Most don’t eat dinner until at least 9pm, and will leave to go out to stroll and party with their friends at 11.

Just where to begin...the Italians’ love of their culture and history is shown in the rich array of beautiful museums and galleries in their cities. Italy has the most famous opera house in the world, and an unrivalled artistic tradition. It also has colourful festivals, historical pageants and rituals, and one of the world’s finest football leagues. There are many famous artists (past and present) with their work on show, glorious statues in the squares of every town and fabulous modern galleries with some of the funkiest contemporary collections.

Eating your heart out, fine wines, visiting vineyards, skiing the alps, educating the mind, swimming and enjoying the beauty of the Tuscan countryside. The Italians just adore children which makes any visit extra special, the children are sometimes invited into the kitchen to sample the ice cream and pizza!

Difficult to know where to start, Colin Firth lives partly in Italy, Oprah is also a visitor, Jennifer Lopez has been papped on the beach, Marilyn Monroe loved it here and George Clooney is a regular holiday maker.

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