The most spectacular attraction is an immense botanic garden featuring dozens of caves from which limestone was extracted to build the city.
Around 8,000 Athenian slaves died in these caves after years of forced labor -- it's said that the caves still echo the prisoners' laments.
One of these is the Ear of Dionysius, a 30-meters high rock cavern. Legend has it that this is where the tyrant Dionysius jailed his enemies and could hear what they were conspiring through a side room (www.comune.siracusa.it).
Recommended restaurant for fresh fish and great appetizers: Archimede.
Hotel Gran Bretagna, housed in an elegantly renovated 19th century building, offers beautiful frescoed rooms.
Turn was Italy's first historical capital, where the country's kings lived. There's a regal feel to the city's sophisticated galleries, decorated arcades and 17th-century cafés and piazzas.
Turin is an elegant, charming spot in the wine-rich Piedmont northern region. It's nicknamed "Madama" (My Lady) and is good even on rainy days thanks to 14 kilometers of covered passages and a chessboard center: orthogonal streets make it impossible to get lost.
Majestic piazzas include Piazza San Carlo, a pedestrian open-air salon. Piazza Castello is worth visiting for a glimpse of the magnificent bronze horse statue and Piazza Vittoria provides Europe's biggest square.
The architectural symbol of the city is the Mole Antonelliana, a tall building with a superb 360-degree panorama, hosting the National Cinema Museum (www.comune.torino.it).
There are guided tours through the city's underground tunnels and passing by esoteric symbols, Masonic buildings, historic crime scenes and even some ghosts (www.somewhere.it).
Worth visiting too is the splendid royal palace Reggia di Venaria, a place of historical cafés and sophisticated aperitif lounges.
Caffé Mulassano was the meeting point of royal clerks and artists. Caffé Confetteria Al Bicerin is renowned for the "bicerin," a typical hot drink made of coffee, chocolate and cream served in a glass goblet.
Mood Libri e Caffé offers aperitifs in a trendy lounge bar setting while traditional meals -- like anchovies in green sauce -- can be found at restaurant L'Acino.
For some great shopping the comfy Hotel Victoria is close to the boutiques.
Tuscania offers a traveler's cocktail of Etruscan, Roman and the Renaissance worlds. Located in the countryside north of Rome, close to Tuscany's border, it was built by the Etruscans -- an Indo-European people wiped out by the Romans.
It's a necropolis city: once you pass the surrounding walls and enter the old city you'll see carved sarcophagi lining the streets.
There are guided tours to the Queen's Cave, Dado's tomb and the archaeological area of Colle San Pietro, featuring Roman mosaics, fragments of an ancient road and museum (www.turismotuscania.it).
The Etruscan Seven Spouts Fountain is a great sight too, but there's more to this town than medieval cathedrals and neighborhoods.
Its ancient tombs are neighbors with monumental palaces, fountains and churches of other periods. The Romanic basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore has an amazing 14th-century wall fresco dubbed by locals "The Souls-Sh***ing Devil."
Inspired by Dante's Inferno, it depicts Judgment Day with a devil eating and excreting sinners' souls -- a must see!
The most characteristic bars are Caffé del Duomo facing the cathedral (+39 (0)7614 35426) and Bar San Marco (+39 (0)7614 35586), both central.
Local cuisine is fabulous with strong flavors and original menus. Restaurant Sette Cannelle does a fantastic fettuccine either with wild boar or porcini mushrooms.
For accommodation hotel Tuscania Panoramico features a fabulous terrace overlooking the Etruscan hills.
Ventotene is a two-kilometer-long isle close to Rome and a former jail center for lustful Roman noble women and later anti-Fascists.
This is where Nero shipped his wife Claudia Octavia in the first century on false charges of adultery, and where Altiero Spinelli co-wrote the "Ventotene Manifesto," becoming one of the "founding fathers of the European Union."
The sea bed here is full of ancient relics, Roman vases and other treasures. A natural marine reserve, it's a popular diving spot.
Forget discos and wild nights, you'll be going to bed early and waking up at sunrise.
The ancient Roman port is still used today and the former prisoners' cells have been transformed into pink, yellow and purple summer houses.
Local boats offer tours to the abandoned, freaky Borbonic prison-fortress on the tiny neighboring isle of Santo Stefano, a sort of old times Alcatraz.
Things to make time for include: Calanave beach, the sunset from Parata Grande cliff (www.paratagrande.com), the Roman Villa of Giulia and the ancient fishery (www.comune.ventotene.lt.it).
The lighthouse cave bar has delicious eggplant sandwiches. Small family-run hotels overlook the sparkling sea and offer extraordinary cuisine and good prices.
If you're in for something typical and snug, cliff hotel restaurant Isolabella serves homemade pasta and artistic fish dishes on a sun-kissed terrace.
The outdoor tables of Vento di Mare bar (+39 3 4561 65571) have the best grilled octopus and aperitifs on the island.