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"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." This quotation from the English poet Samuel Johnson might be an adequate description of the city of London. Cosmopolitan, multicultural, always one step ahead of the latest fashions and trends, London has always been considered one of the most fascinating and intriguing cities of the world.
The Romans were so impressed with the commercially strategic location of the area, particularly the majestic River Thames and its proximity to the sea, that in 43 A.D. they laid the foundations for what would become the city of London. In the second century the city was one of the largest in Europe, with more than 60 thousand inhabitants. Today, London is home to more than 14 million people and is the most populous city in the European Union.
But Londoners can boast of even more prestigious accolades: they have the oldest underground railway network (the Tube), the highest number of international visitors along with five international airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and London City) making it the largest hub of global air traffic.
33 districts, each one different
Visiting London means taking the time to explore the 33 districts (London boroughs) that make up the urban area, starting with the two most central ones, the City of London and the City of Westminster: these areas are home to the political and royal institutions of Britain and to the majority of London's tourist attractions. It's enough just to list the 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in the heart of the city to justify a visit to London: Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, St. Margaret's Church and Kew Gardens.
It is hard for visitors to remain immune from the charm of the British monarchy: everywhere you go there are Union Jacks flying, kitsch souvenirs of the monarchy and, naturally, magnificent palaces and residences, many of which are open to the public and always full of curious sightseers. Start with the royal residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace, move on to St. James’s Palace, the royal residence until 1837, and finish at Windsor Castle, in the English county of Berkshire, 34 km from London's Charing Cross station; this is still one of the British royal family's favorite summer residences, together with Holyrood Palace in Scotland.
London is a city with a strong association and commitment to multiculturalism, where foreigners are not only welcome but have become an integral part of the socio-economic fabric of the city to the extent that, according to the 2011 census, almost 37% of the resident population of Greater London were born outside the United Kingdom.
Between history and innovation
The beauty and charm of this great metropolis is in its search for the perfect balance between history and modernity. The historical district of the City is a symbol of this blend of tradition and progress: the only borough with its own police force, independent of Scotland Yard, it is home to the ancient St. Paul's Cathedral and has also welcomed the Shard, a futuristic and ultra-modern building designed by Renzo Piano. This is the tallest skyscraper in the European Union with 87 floors spanning a height of 310 meters.
The passion of sport
The greatness of London is also reflected in the passion that its inhabitants have for sports including the beloved game discussed in all English pubs: football, which here in London, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, is taken very seriously. The city is home to 14 teams, 6 of which compete in the prestigious Premier League, the top division of the English football league. Each team has its own specific sports ground.
But there is also rugby (with 4 teams playing in the English Premiership) and tennis, with the prestigious Wimbledon championships, one of the most important and challenging Grand Slam tournaments, unique in that it takes place on grass courts.
The delicacy of "fish and chips"
And if you are tired after so much activity, stop and try one of the delicacies on offer from the diverse London cuisine. To stay faithful to tradition, you really need to try the classic fish and chips (deep-fried fish and fries), which is a true London dish. It was actually created by a group of Italians (from Veneto to be precise) who migrated to the United Kingdom and, in the middle of the 19th century, started to distribute "scatosso de pesse” (fried fish), to overcome their homesickness. If fish and chips is not your thing, then you could try a classic roast beef (served for Sunday lunch) or a classic, hearty shepherd’s pie, minced lamb and peas topped with mashed potato.
It is impossible to describe the beauties and traditions of this city in a few lines. We end in the same way as we began: when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.
Choose an Alitalia flight to London Heathrow or London City: London awaits you.