WWhether eating a slice of pizza in its home city or travelling through time on the canals of Venice, Italy has so much for travellers to enjoy.
1: Tuck into a Slice or Two of Pizza in Naples
Naples, Where Pizza Was Born – Image by Matyas Reha
Italy’s third largest city is filled with art, architecture and culture, the historic centre itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But it’s a particular slice of the city’s heritage for which Naples is most famous: the city is the home of the pizza.
Such is the importance of pizza to Italian culture (as well as being it’s most famous global export), UNESCO recently awarded World Heritage status to Naples’ art of pizza making, declaring the job of ‘pizzaiuolo’ (pizza maker) to be “intangible cultural heritage.”
You can tuck into slice after delicious slice of cultural heritage at restaurants, cafes and pizzerias throughout Naples. For the real deal, as good as it gets, try Pizza La Notizia.
2: Get lost in Rome
The Italian capital has a history of art, culture and architecture that can be traced back thousands of years, with treasures to explore, including like the Colosseum, the Vatican and the Roman Forum.
But one of the best experiences in Rome is just wandering and getting lost in the labyrinth of tiny streets. Every so often, you’ll come to a piazza with cafes and restaurants serving tasty Italian specialities. A walk around Rome’s historic centre will bring you to many of the main sights, such as the Pantheon monument and the famous square Piazza Navona.
3: Hike the Cinque Terre trail
Hiking towards Portovenere in Cinque Terre – Image by Magnus Kallstrom
The Italian Riviera, a strip of Mediterranean coastline set between the south of France and the Tuscany Region, is home to the Cinque Terre, a set of old seaside villages with tiny harbours and colourful houses built onto steep terraces.
The villages are connected by trails, so the best way to explore is on foot, hiking between them, enjoying beautiful coastal views along the way.
The trails have varying lengths and elevations, and they can get busy in high season, so make sure to plan well in advance for the most appropriate trail and best times to go.
For more ideas on things to do in Italy, contact us for a free travel consultation.
4: Have a muddy adventure in the Aeolian Islands
View of Vulcano island from Lipari island, Aeolian Islands – Image by Duchy
This set of tiny islands just off Sicily is worth exploring for an off-the-beaten-track experience. From Lipari, a pretty seaside village, you can rent a boat and driver from the harbour for a trip around the islands.
The island of Lampedusa is known for its white beaches and warm waters. Make sure to visit the island of Vulcano, which can also be reached by ferry, for a therapeutic warm outdoor mud bath. The entire island smells of sulphur but has unusual black beaches and water features. It’s perfect for a half day of exploration.
5: Take a road trip along the Amalfi Coast
Sunset at Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy – Image by Maraliaz
With clifftop views looking down on brilliant Mediterranean blues, secret coves and colourful villas, the Amalfi Coast road is one of Italy’s most magnificent drives. Stop in at seaside villages like Positano for art, fresh seafood and cooling summer cocktails, or visit the town of Amalfi for more fine local cuisine, limoncello liqueur and boat trips from the harbour.
The village of Ravello, set high in the hills, is home to outdoor opera performances in magnificent villa gardens with sea views.
6: Explore Venice by waterbus (and on foot)
Gondolas with San Giorgio di Maggiore Church, Venice – Image by Taweep tang
Venice is built on a lagoon, with a network of canals instead of streets, so taking to the canals is a great way to navigate between different areas, such as the busy St Mark’s Square (with the ornate Basilica di San Marco) and the Grand Canal, where you can admire waterside villas, gardens and palaces along the way. One of the most famous and much-photographed spots is the Rialto Bridge, which spans the Grand Canal.
You can rent a private gondola, of course, though they can be expensive. But a fun experience is to take the Vaporetto waterbus along the canals to cruise the city or visit one of the islands in the lagoon.
It’s also highly recommended to explore on foot. Getting away from the often overloaded tourist zones to experience the back streets and quieter canals means a chance to see the real Venice.
7: Go back in time in Sicily
Taormina’s Greek Theatre with Mount Etna, Taormina, Sicily – Image by Roy Zerloch
The largest island in the Mediterranean, off the south coast of Italy, Sicily has oodles of art and culture. In fact, Palermo, the island’s capital, is the Italian Capital of Culture 2018.
Across Sicily, you’ll find medieval towns, relaxing seaside resorts and sandy beaches, such as those at Taormina, where there’s also an ancient theatre that dates back to the third century BC.
Even older is the complex of Greek Temples at Valley of the Temples which dates back to the 5th century BC. It’s well worth a day trip. The adventurous can also climb to the summit of Europe’s most active volcano, Mount Etna.
If you are interested in more things to do in Italy, contact us for more information and a free travel consultation.
8: Experience the art of Florence
Florence sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo – Image by Emperorcosar
Tuscany is popular with visitors for its gently rolling hills, medieval hilltop villages, crumbly farmhouses and rows of olive groves and cypress trees, not to mention Chianti wine.
If you are a fan of art, though, you won’t want to miss Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. The city is famous for its paintings and sculpture masterpieces, such as Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Michelangelo’s David, as well as architectural treasures such as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo, where you can climb the dome’s 463 steps for beautiful city views.
Nearby Siena makes for a great day trip, too, not least for the piazza Il Campo, famous for horse races, as seen in Bond film Quantum Of Solace.
9: Take to the water in Lake Garda
Limone sul Garda, Lake Garda, Italy – Image by Lukasz Szwaj
Lake Garda in northern Italy is one of Italy’s most beautiful lakes thanks to its clear waters, mountainside setting and magnificent shore-line villas and palaces. If you like the idea of doing water sports in beautiful surroundings, this is the place to go.
The lake runs to 51km in length and it’s possible to enjoy a variety of water sports, including sailing, windsurfing and kite-surfing, particularly at the northern end which has the strongest winds.
A gentler way to see the lake is to explore using a rented boat or take one of the ferries that connect lakeside towns and villages, such as Sirmione, which has the 13th century Scaliger Castle and Riva, a popular resort.
10: Stay in a farmhouse in Le Marche
Urbino in Le Marche region, Italy – Image by Buffy1982
On the opposite side of Italy to Tuscany and set on the Adriatic Sea, the Le Marche region is home to a similar set of rolling hills, medieval towns and film set backdrops as its famous counterpart, but without the crowds.
The area is dotted with agriturismos and farmhouses for dining and overnight stops, where food is either grown or locally sourced at markets. Many farmhouses have gardens, small pools and self-contained apartments, and they’re ideal to rest at after exploring the region’s walled cities, such as Urbino, famous for its Renaissance art, palaces and churches, or after a day on one of Le Marche’s beaches.
Need more ideas for things to do in Italy? Contact us for more information and a free travel consultation.
Explore our other “Top 10 Things to do in…” articles:
Yvonne Gordon is an award-winning travel writer whose work has appeared in publications across the globe, including The Irish Independent, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, AFAR.com, The San Francisco Chronicle, Fodor’s Travel and TravelDK.com. Awards include Travel Writer Of The Year at the Travel Extra Travel Journalist of the Year Awards 2016.
Follow her travels at @yvonne.gordon on Instagram.