Of all European countries, Italy is perhaps the hardest to pigeonhole. On the one hand, it's a modern, industrialized nation and a major center of style and fashion. On the other hand, it's a Mediterranean country with agricultural land covering much of its countryside and a tradition–bound culture that is strongly family–oriented. With its complicated history and incredible artistic heritage, it's no wonder that Italy is among the most visited countries in the world.

If culture and art are what you crave, there's no better study abroad destination than Italy. UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural branch, reports that two–thirds of the world's historical artistic heritage can be found in Italy. The region of Tuscany alone has more classified historical monuments than does any other single country. Italy is covered with remnants of the Roman Empire, and every region retains its own relics of an artistic tradition generally acknowledged to be among the richest in the world.

If museums and galleries aren't enough to occupy your time, the Italian Alps and the Apennines offer world–class skiing, well–marked hiking trails, and challenging cycling routes. Sailing and windsurfing on the Mediterranean Sea are also popular activities; and lounging in the sun on one of the many belle beaches offers an appealing alternative. Complementing all this is, of course, Italy's world–renowned cuisine.

The Italian way of life is everywhere, in the hundreds of local festivals taking place across the country on any given day, in the importance placed on good food and drink, and in the daily ritual of the  passeggiata , or evening stroll, If Italians are marked by a single national characteristic, it's that they know how to live life to the fullest.

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