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Fascinating, fun, surprising, but above all different: Istanbul is a city with millennia of history, which has been ruled by many empires and contains the treasures and customs of a variety of cultures. In short, it's like visiting many cities rolled into one!
Among domes and minarets
It seems impossible but Istanbul is a city located in both Asia and Europe: just cross one of the bridges that connect the two edges of the center over the Bosphorus Strait to change continent. For centuries this has made it a magnet for all the conquerors who have made it the capital of their empires, thanks to its strategic location.
Comfy shoes, map and camera to hand: this is the right uniform for anyone wishing to attack all the history and culture to be found in this mystical megalopolis.
Start your visit in the Sultanahmet district, the heart of the old city, specifically at the majestic and imposing beauty of the Hagia Sophia Basilica, which over the years has acted first as a Christian church and then a Muslim mosque, and is now one of the undoubted symbols of the city. Opposite it is another of the main Turkish buildings, the magnificent Blue Mosque, so called because of the different tones of blue that can be seen inside, built by Sultan Ahmed to rival the indisputable beauty of Hagia Sophia, built by Justinian.
Then go to the Topkapi Palace, the enormous residence of most of the sultans with its harems, courtyards, kiosks, hammam and the Imperial Treasury, including the beauty of the 86-carat Spoonmaker's diamond.
Dominating the Golden Horn is the Suleymaniye Mosque, the enormous complex that can be admired from every corner of Istanbul. And from the highest points, let's move on to the lowest: take a trip to the Basilica Cistern, built by Justinian as a water store for the city, as useful as it is beautiful with its 336 columns that make it a genuine underground temple.
Other must-see sites include the ancient hippodrome, one of the few remains from Roman times, the Galata Tower, offering a splendid view over the city, the Mosaic Museum, the Archaeological Museum and the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art.
A city to experience
This amazing city is also full of entertainment and amusements, if seen from its inhabitants' point of view. To understand their culture better, wander through the Grand Bazaar and be prepared to haggle a long time to get the right discounts, treat yourself to a massage and a bit of relaxation in one of Istanbul's Turkish baths and spend an evening enchanted by the whirling dervishes' dances to Sufi music.
The cuisine also shows the fusion of continents: the Turks have made many Mediterranean and Asian recipes their own, revisiting them and merging them together to create their own unique tradition.
Every dish is full of spices, aromas, scents and top-quality ingredients, from meat to fish, lightly cooked, to be eaten in places like the lokanta, where you can eat copious, traditional courses. Every Turkish menu is sure to have kebabs (of mutton or lamb) which are now famous throughout the world, köfte, spicy lamb meatballs, and meze (hot and cold starters).
You cannot leave without trying lokum: traditional desserts prepared with fruit or flower essences.
All the magic of Istanbul is just a click away. Book your Alitalia flight now and head off in turn on an unforgettable journey.