Italy is a bottomless well of attractions. It’s the kind of destination that travelers return to over and over. They come for the awe-inspiring antiquities, art and architecture of Rome; the alluring romance of Venice; the rolling hills of Tuscany; the renowned museums, restaurants, and shopping opportunities in Florence; and the cosmopolitan flair of Milan.
Also beckoning irresistibly are Italy’s sun-kissed olive groves and vineyards, the sparkling waters of Lake Como and the Mediterranean, and atmospheric monasteries, castles, and farmhouses. Bella Italia!
This is a list of the top 15 things to do on Italy vacations. Your itinerary will be filled with all that’s symbolic and representative of a country that may well be studied extensively, but still not entirely explored.
Overdose on Renaissance art at the Uffizi Gallery — a must-do visit for Italy. Nowhere else on earth will you see such an amazing display of timeless works of Italian Renaissance art. Its reputation for being one of the finest universally acclaimed museums of all time precedes it.
The spiritual hub of the Catholic Church and one of Rome’s most eagerly visited areas, Vatican City holds some of the city’s most spectacular sights, including St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. Get a guided tour of the Vatican Museums, which usually comes with a guided visit to St. Peter’s Basilica as well.
Climb the Duomo, the massive dome of Florence’s Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. While the cathedral’s grandeur is best captured from afar, the walk up to the top will offer a spectacular view of Florence’s historic center. Though perhaps not for the faint of heart, for an added appreciation of the place and an interesting lesson in architecture and engineering, it’s definitely worth the climb.
Tempt fate driving along the Amalfi Coast and simply stare at the stunning views. The road that snakes along this stretch of Italian coastline is well worth the trip. Precarious at best and dangerous at worst, it captures the essence of the gorgeous Amalfi Coast – a holiday paradise and a place to go for your blissful dolce vita moment.
5. The Ruins of Pompeii
Location: Pompeii, Italy Photo Credit: aptours.it
Go back in time at Pompeii, where its ruins are priceless. In 79 A.D., nearby Mount Vesuvius blew its top and covered everything in sight. Much of the site’s value lies in the fact that it gives us a unique look at a Roman city frozen in time, a remarkably well-preserved slice of ancient life. Visitors can walk down Roman streets and snoop around the well-preserved forum, the baths, millennia-old abodes, suburban villas and businesses.
Get lost in Venice, by far the best way to spend a day in the canal city. Since it’s an island, you’re not going to get too far off track. A trip down the Canal Grande, whether by a vaporetto or gondola, is a signature Italian experience. It’s like going back through centuries of history. Numerous landmarks, such as Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and the Rialto Bridge, will elicit admirable sighs along the way.
Walk in Caesar’s footsteps in Rome and marvel at the Colosseum, or stand in awe on the cobblestones of the Roman Forum. The Colosseum and the Roman Forum are remarkable ruins from Rome’s ancient past. Their world-acclaimed magnificence never fails to make their millions of visitors catch their breath. Spend an afternoon surrounded by the ruins that once made up the center of the Roman empire and think about who walked there before you.
Marvel at Torre Pendente di Pisa, the freestanding medieval bell tower of the cathedral of Pisa, famous for the settling of its foundations and its unintended tilt to one side. The tower’s tilt began during construction, soon after it reached the third story. It started sinking into the ground due to an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight. Today it continues to sink at a rate of about 1mm annually. Even the brainiest of minds can’t predict what the future holds for this Italian curiosity – an undeniably marvelous masterpiece of architecture.
Hike the Cinque Terre trail and sprawl along this scenic portion of the azure coast. This area is purportedly the cleanest in Italy and a mesmerizing jewel in the Ligurian crown. The five adorable villages that comprise the Cinque Terre defy description. Precariously nested on the rugged cliffs of the Italian Riviera, the place oozes romance and a relaxing ambiance. An absolute must-see!
10. A Night Ride On A Vaporetto On The Grand Canal
Take a night ride on a vaporetto on the Grand Canal. We previously mentioned getting lost in Venice, but a night ride on a vaporetto on the Grand Canal requires special mention and is a must-do. Hopping on the slow-moving water bus one evening before or after dinner at one end of its run and riding it to the other end is an experience to be had. This is preferably done with a few scoops of gelato in hand and someone to cuddle up with in the dark. And be sure you get a spot with a view, so you can take in the moonlit sights of Venice as you glide past.
Find all the “David” statues in Florence.“David” is all over Florence, and spotting him in various places is a delightful game you can play as you stroll around the city.Don’t believe for one second the “David” in the Piazza Signoria is the real one, and don’t be content with just seeing the real one in the Galleria dell’Accademia. Can you spot the “David” overlooking the historic center from the Piazzale Michelangelo?
Go for a drive in Tuscany, where the roads meander past centuries old farms.These roads that connect the famous hill towns of Tuscany weave through a quaint patchwork of Tuscan countryside. The views out your car window when you’re cruising along windy country roads, amidst wheat fields and tall elegant cypress trees, are enough to make anyone understand why someone might drop everything and purchase a dilapidated Italian farmhouse.
Location: Anywhere in Italy Photo Credit: commons.wikimedia.org
Enjoy at least two scoops of gelato daily.This is easy to do no matter where you are in Italy. While on your travels, you may get busy trying to see all of the sights, but no visit to Italy is complete without a taste of this well-deserved treat. Italian gelato has a rich, thick and creamy texture – though it’s made with milk, not cream, so it’s a lot less fattening. Each flavor is intense, clean and bright, as if a bottle of sunshine was poured into every batch. Giolitti, a famous gelateria in Rome, is the place that defines the idea of what gelato should taste like.
Roam the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome.This old Roman neighborhood, along the west bank of the Tiber River, is a good way to experience Italian culture and character. It’s a maze of narrow cobbled streets lined with three or four-story apartment buildings, with shops of all kinds and trattorias located on the first floors. Every street has some new interesting aspect worth exploring. You’re bound to experience peace and quiet during most days, and boisterous groups of young people at night.
Eat pizza in Naples.There’s nothing like eating something as universally well-known as pizza in the place where it was born – Naples. It doesn’t really matter where exactly you have your pizza because almost anywhere you go, it’ll be remarkably good. You can afford the luxury of picking a restaurant on a whim, rather than a recommendation, since they’re ALL recommendable! Whether you follow the crowds at lunchtime or step into a quaint little place in the suburbs, you’ll be seduced by the looks, teased by the smells, and pleased by the taste. Just pick a décor you find inviting, and enjoy your delectable pie.
And there’s our list of 15 things to do in Italy. It was hard limiting ourselves to just 15 – there are too many amazing attractions and experiences one can have in Italy. Anyway, we welcome your thoughts – what do you think of this list? What did we leave out that you would have put in? What was on the list that you would take off? And finally, if you had to list your top 5 things everyone should do in Italy, what would they be?