If you've been following our Essential Backpackers Guide through Europe thus far, you have learned some helpful tips as well as discovering some of the great places to see on your journey. We left off in part three with a visit to Greece. In part four, we will be talking about Italy, Austria, and Switzerland. How you get to these three countries is entirely up to you.
Some backpackers prefer to meander up the Mediterranean coast, through Albania and Montenegro, in order to enter Austria from the south. However, we think you really ought to experience taking a short boat trip from Greece to the southern tip of Italy. You can even start in Sicily before heading to the mainland.
So let's go!
Our first stop in Italy is the famous island of Sicily. Sicily is somewhat unique from the rest of the mainland in terms of culture, cuisine, and art. It is a very hospitable island where the people make you feel like part of the family. Sicilian cuisine is one of the strong points of this region of Italy. Upon leaving the island, you might want to head up the west coast toward Salerno in Naples.
Naples is known for its pizza while Salerno's claim to fame is the oldest medical school in the world. Both towns make a great home base if you want to take day trips into the centre of the Italian peninsula. As you head further north, you must stop in Rome. Although it is a major tourist attraction, Rome is one of the few historical cities in Europe you have to see in order for your travels to be complete. There is nothing quite like the ancient Roman ruins and a visit to the Vatican.
The remainder of your time in Italy can be spent meandering your way toward the Austrian border to the north-east. However, be sure to stop in Venice and Genoa on your way.
Austria and Switzerland
Both Austria and Switzerland are countries you could combine in the same leg of your journey. Austria is known for its winter sports and rich musical history, as well as some lovely scenery by way of the Alps. Vienna is the place to go if you are a music history buff; Innsbruck is your destination for winter sports.
Your visit to Switzerland will allow you to experience three unique cultures influenced by Germany to the north, France to the north-west, and Italy to the south. Of course, the country is famous for the Alps and a very robust financial services sector, but it is also a very beautiful country with lots of rolling hills, flowering meadows and quaint country roads. Make sure Zurich, Lucerne, and Bern are on your list of cities to explore.
Leaving Switzerland will take us back into the southern tip of France and on to Spain. That's where we will pick up our backpacking tour for the final instalment of this series.