Spectacular Italy needs almost no introduction and is one of the most popular travel destinations in Europe. Italy’s impact on the world can be seen all over the country, in the beautiful artwork, crumbling ruins, and impressive palaces and castles that dot the horizon.
As well as vibrant cities like Rome where old and new mingle seamlessly, you can also enjoy the less crowded coastal areas where you can relax on sandy beaches and swim in limpid seas. In addition to exploring Italy proper, you can also hop over to neighboring Sicily and enjoy a different side of life that also offers some of the best food and drink in the region.
Here are the best things to do in Italy:
1. Visit the Valley of the Temples
If you are going to visit charming Sicily as part of your travels then your first stop needs to be the Valley of the Temples which is located in Agrigento.
Here you will find a huge archeological complex that has some of the most intact Doric temples that were built here in the 5th century.
One of the best things about the temples here is that they overlook the town below and you can take in the stunning views as you tour the historical site.
2. Climb Mount Vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius is one of the most famous mountains in the world, not least because of its famous eruption that covered the unsuspecting town of Pompeii in volcanic ash.
Nowadays Vesuvius is mostly considered safe to climb and you can trek to the crater of the mountain which looks like something you would find on the surface of the moon.
Needless to say the views from the top are breathtaking and the hike is suitable for a range of abilities.
3. Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as being designated as a national park.
Nestled in Liguria, the ‘Five Lands’ is made up of five distinct villages that sit atop craggy cliffs overlooking the famous Italian Riviera.
The five villages include Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore, and Monterosso, and each has its own unique charms and sights.
The area of Cinque Terra sprawls between La Spezia and Levanto and you will find romantic olive groves, traditional eateries, and azure sea views all the way along the coast.
4. Take to the waters of Lake Como
Lake Como in Lombardy spans an amazing 146 square kilometers and is the perfect place to get out on the water and explore Italy by boat.
The area around Lake Como has houses owned by some of the richest celebrities in the world, which tells you everything to know about the kind of views you can expect here.
The landscape surrounding the lake is covered with alpine forest and traditional villages as well as dainty ornate houses that make you feel as if you are in a picture postcard version of an Italian masterpiece.
5. Enjoy the art at the Uffizi Gallery
Anyone heading to Florence shouldn’t miss the chance to visit one of arguably the most famous galleries in the world.
This museum is stuffed full of the works of Italian greats such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio which are all displayed in one of the prettiest buildings in Italy, the Palazzo degli Uffizi.
The palazzo looks over the mighty Arno River and is a must visit for any art lovers.
6. Stand on Juliet’s Balcony
Verona is home to what is said to be the balcony of Juliet, the character made famous in Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet.
Unfortunately the reality is that the city of Verona bought the home featuring the balcony in 1905 with the purpose of making it into a tourist attraction and sadly the characters in Romeo and Juliet never existed in real life.
Still, the balcony is a pretty spot in the city and couples flock here to declare their love for each other beneath the famous building.
7. Marvel at the Coliseum
You can’t come to Rome and not visit one of the most famous attractions in the world, the mighty Coliseum.
The ruins of what was once a magnificent amphitheater are one of the greatest historical relics of our time and once it would have had a capacity of over 50,000 spectators.
The amphitheater is most well known for the gladiator matches that would have been showcased here and you can sit in the stands and imagine the violent spectacles that used to be performed here for the enjoyment of the crowds.
8. Take a trip to Pompeii
Pompeii is famous for the events that took place here in 79 AD, when Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered the town in ash.
The eruption meant that Roman life was captured and frozen in time, and when the site was excavated it offered a glimpse of a bygone era.
If you visit Pompeii today you can expect a kind of open air museum where you will find preserved houses, baths, and ancient Roman forums, all filled with the relics of the people who were living here when the eruption took place.
9. Take a boat trip along the Amalfi Coast
The gorgeous Amalfi Coast is one of the most scenic spots in Italy and if you want to experience as much of it as possible in the shortest amount of time then consider taking a boat trip along the shore line.
A number of companies offer boat rental and you can take in sights such as the towering Lattari Mountains as well as various cute coves and inlets.
Seemingly out of nowhere traditional Mediterranean villages will appear and boat tours usually come with food and drinks included so that you can snack on local produce as you take in the views.
10. Wander around the Historic Center of Siena
The city of Siena is often overlooked in favor of Florence, although this is unfair as there is a huge amount to see and do here, and parts of the city are as pretty as its neighboring rival.
The Historic Center of Siena in particular is well worth a visit and starts at the Piazza del Campo which leads to a historic district that is covered with Gothic architecture that dates from the 12th century.
This mingles with buildings from the Middle Ages and signature points to look out for include the mighty Duomo, the Pinacoteca Nazionale, and the pretty Palazzo Salimbeni.
11. Go on a pilgrimage to the Vatican
Vatican City is actually its own state within Italy, although you can only visit this landlocked area by first travelling to Rome.
If you are in the region then you should definitely consider swinging by one of the most important religious spots in the world, which is home to powerhouses such as the Piazza San Pietro and St Peter’s Basilica.
You can also take in the majesty of the Vatican Palace as well as the Sistine Chapel which features the Creation of Adam.
12. Visit Saint Mark’s Basilica
Venice has a range of peerless attractions although perhaps the most famous of these is Saint Mark’s Basilica which sits on the famed Piazza San Marco or Saint Mark’s Square.
The basilica is the final resting place of Saint Mark the Evangelist and started life as a Byzantine church before being developed over the years.
The church is a work of art in its own right and you will find glittering mosaics and gorgeous marble decorations all over the complex as well as bas-reliefs and touches of gold leaf.
13. Discover the Roman Forum
The Roman Forum is another one of Italy’s big hitter attractions and lies between the Capitoline and the Palatine hills in Rome.
This would once have been the center of the mighty Roman Empire and you can take in the beautiful complex here as well as enjoy views from the terraces all over the wider city.
14. Climb Stromboli
On a visit to Sicily you absolutely can’t miss the chance to climb at least part way up Stromboli, a still active volcano.
If you are looking for an easy trek then you can walk 400 meters up the sides of Stromboli by yourself, although if you want to continue on to the crater which still billows clouds of ash and fire then you will need a certified guide to take you.
To get to the top takes around 3 hours with the descent coming in at around 2 hours, so all in all you need to allow a five to six hour trek in order to see everything.
It can be quite a slog to the top but it is well worth it for the spectacular views.
15. Take a boat trip to the Blue Grotto
One of the premium sights in Capri is the Blue Grotto, also known as the Grotta Azzurra.
The grotto is the result of a cavern which is filled with water that glows a luminescent blue when the sun hits it through shafts in the sides of the rock.
The cavern itself rises to 14 meters in height in some parts and is around 60 meters long, and you can take in this amazing light show from a rowing boat inside the grotto which makes for one of the most memorable sightseeing experiences in all of Italy.
16. Take to the water at the Grand Canal
The Grand Canal in Venice is one of the most famous waterways in the world and there are a variety of ways that you can enjoy it.
One of these is to take a water bus known as a vaporetto along the various parts of the canal where you can marvel at the little bridges and traditional Venetian homes that back onto the water.
Another more romantic way to travel around the canal is to take an iconic gondola ride where you can imagine that you are back in the Venice of a different time.
17. Eat pizza in Naples
Naples has a range of pretty attractions in its own right but one of the main reasons to come here is to snack on its most famous foodstuff in the form of delicious pizza.
All over the city you will find pizza parlors and restaurants and wherever you choose to go, know that it is this city that is famed with inventing one of the world’s favorite foods.
18. Climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa in Pisa is a fluke of architecture, as when the tower was constructed it immediately started to sink into the marshy ground beneath it.
This gave the tower its signature crooked stance, and at various times in its existence it has been both open and closed to the public as architects struggle to asses if it is safe to enter.
When the tower is open you can climb to the viewing platform at the top where you can look across all of Pisa.
19. View The Last Supper in Milan
Even if you are not an art aficionado you will still be able to appreciate the splendor and religious significance of the mural of the Last Supper.
Painted by Leonardo da Vinci and on display at the Santa Maria delle Grazie, the mural depicts Christ and the apostles at the last supper before Christ’s crucifixion.
Many visitors to Milan consider this a highlight of their trip and it is an extremely moving sight even for those who do not believe the original story from which the mural was inspired.
20. Tour the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Florence is one of the most romantic and artistic cities in the world and its crowning glory is the magnificent Duomo or the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
The cathedral is best known for its rising dome that can be seen from all over Florence as well as its different hued frescoes and decorations.
One of the best things to do here is to climb to the top where you can look out across Florence and appreciate the might of this amazing feat of architecture.
21. Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain
No trip to Rome is complete without a trip to the Trevi Fountain, and in fact if you want to return here then it is considered an absolute necessity.
Local legend has it that anyone who tosses a coin into the fountain will get good luck that will mean that they will one day return to this great city.
The fountain is carved in the Baroque style and is made of glittering marble which is lit up at night to spectacular effect.
22. Journey into the Frasassi Cave
The Frasassi Cave is located deep in the grounds of Ancona and descending into this wonderful feat of nature can feel like you are travelling to the center of the earth.
The journey takes 75 minutes and you can expect to find some of the most beautiful karst formations anywhere in the world here.
The inside of the grotto is covered in walkways and lighted areas that let you take in the amazing geology within such as eerie stalactites and stalagmites.
23. Follow the Chianti Wine Route
Chianti is known for its delicious wines and so it would be impossible to come here and not go on a wine tour of this region that is nestled between Siena and Florence.
There are many different wine tours that operate in this area but many of them will take you over rambling hills and through enchanting villages, visiting the local wineries and sampling the various blends on offer.
24. Visit the Acropolis
The Acropolis in Selinunte would once have been a political hub in the region and is made up of five distinct temples.
The most famous of these is known as Temple C which dates from the 6th century and is said to be dedicated to the god Apollo.
Other temples such as Temple D also dates from the same period and is said to be dedicated to Venus and Temple A and O are said to have been constructed sometime between 490 and 480 BC. As they seem to come in a pair, they are often thought to be dedicated to the famous twins Castor and Pollux.
25. Admire Milan Cathedral
Some people may be surprised to know that the largest church in Italy is not in Rome or even in Vatican City, but actually in Milan.
The cathedral here also known as the Duomo took an impressive six centuries to build and is dedicated to Saint Mary of the Nativity.
The interior is simply stunning and features marble decorations and a pretty alter, but one of the main attractions here is actually the roof area and you can climb a staircase to the top of the Duomo and look out across all of Milan as far as the eye can see.