40+ Incredible Things to do in Italy 2021
Last Updated on June 29, 2021 by Anita Hendrieka
Italy is a hotspot for many tourists around the world and for good reason. It’s well known for the abundance of good quality food so be prepared to pack on the pounds when visiting, trust me it’s well worth it. But, a question that is apparent is, “What to do in Italy? There is so much and simply I cannot pick!”
I have asked some of the top travel influencers for their recommendations on the best things to do in Italy which include a good mix of delicious food, endless adventure, the best walking tours and fascinating history!
Top tip: If there’s one piece of advice I could give you about Italy, it would be to visit the big cities like Rome and Florence during Spring or Autumn, as Summer can become very crowded and extremely hot and unbearable.
Here’s your ultimate list of the best things to do in Italy!
1. Riding a vintage Vespa in Tuscany
Suggested by Our Escape Clause
We loved our morning spent zipping around the streets of Florence and the Tuscan countryside, watching the vineyards, olive trees, rolling hills, and Tuscany homes fly by.
It was an incredibly freeing experience to feel the wind in our hair as we moved through the day, and we can’t imagine a better way to see the Tuscan countryside than from the back of a Vespa.
Neither of us had any experience on a Vespa before our time in Tuscany, but it was easy enough to pick up, and it didn’t take long until we were moving through the streets with ease.
2. Truffle Hunting Food Tour in Emilia Romagna
Suggested by Travlinmad
If you love truffles – those gnarled knots of earthy goodness – one of the most unique experiences you can have in Italy is to hunt for them in the wild. The actual hunting and digging is done by a trained truffle dog (pigs are no longer used in Italy), truly man’s best friend when he goes nose-to-the-ground and comes up with a large one between his teeth!
Local tour operators in Bologna and Emilia Romagna will take you on the outdoors hunting adventure, where you’ll meet the truffle hunter and his dog, learn about the long tradition of truffle hunting and the methods they use to train the dog. After your hunt and a great day in the countryside, they’ll arrange for a delicious dinner at a local restaurant where the Chef will prepare your favorite dishes featuring the day’s truffle finds. It’s one of the most mouthwatering food tours in Italy!
3. Explore the wineries of Tuscany
Suggested by Once in a Lifetime Journey
Tuscany is well known for its wines and any time spent in Tuscany would not be complete without a visit to some Chianti wineries to learn more about Chianti Classico wines.
One of the best-known wineries in the region is Antinori, also considered as the world’s 10th oldest business and still very much a family one. The winery is state of the art and a great place to start off.
But do not let Parker’s Super-Tuscan labelling of some of Antenori’s wines impress you and make sure to try the wines from well-established and historical Chianti Classico appellation which are traditionally made with Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Trebbiano and Malvasia, the last two white grape varieties. You will recognise them because of the characteristic rooster symbol on the bottle.
The best way to learn more about them is to visit some of the smaller and more traditional wineries in the area where you may also be lucky enough to step into a beautiful Tuscan villa. If you’re wondering what to see in Italy, it definitely should be the wineries of Tuscany!
4. Ferry hopping in southern Lake Garda
Suggested by Hannah Henderson Travel
Lake Garda is blessed with an amazing passenger ferry network, that connects the idyllic towns that line Italy’s largest lake. Travelling by ferry saves you from the stress of driving on the winding Italian roads, and allows you to enjoy the spectacular lake views too. You can design your day to include multiple stops, spending a couple of hours in each place, then hopping on to the next. Sirmione is the most famous of southern Lake Garda’s gems.
Set on a peninsula jutting in to the lake, this picturesque town has hotels lining the port, and extensive fortifications in the form of Castello Scaligero surrounding the old harbour. Bardolino, on the eastern side of the lake, is excellent for shopping – especially leather-goods. And Desenzano, in the south-west, is a lively town with plentiful parking (if you need to park up to catch your ferries), and many restaurants to sate you after a busy day of ferry-hopping. Note: The ferries during high-season get very busy, and it’s a first come, first served basis for boarding – so be prepared to elbow your way on board!
5. Exploring the mosaics of Ravenna
Suggested by Boyeatsworld
Ravenna, on the Adriatic Coast between the provinces of Bologna and Forli in Northern Italy may not be as famous as Rome or Florence, but with its graceful domos, pretty palazzos and Italy’s most dazzling collection of early Christian mosaics, it is a goldmine for lovers of art, literature and history.
This remarkable city, once the capital of the Western Roman Empire, the Ostrogothic Kingdom and the Byzantine Empire, is littered with the spoils of its glorious past, including eight World Heritage listed monuments.
Visitors will be enchanted by foreboding basilicas and baptisteries that that are a bedazzled riot of sapphire blue, turquoise, red, white and gold tiles on the inside. Lovers of literature can make the pilgrimage to the neoclassical tomb of the divine poet, Dante Alighieri and the Dante Museum in the neighbouring Franciscan Cloisters of the Basilica of San Francesco.
The city’s food is as astounding as its art and culinary travelers can indulge in local dishes such as cappelletti (filled pasta), piadina (flat bread) and fish soups.
6. Do a free walking tour in Rome
Suggested by Nicolelabarge
When I visit a new city one of the first things I like to do is take a free walking tour around the town. This is great because you get to walk around town and get your bearings and also learn a bit more about the city from a local.
Free walking tour Rome have three different tours. The Vatican tour runs Monday to Saturday at 10am. The Colosseum tour runs Monday to Saturday at 4pm. The City tour runs Sundays at 10am and each lasts two hours.
The tours are enjoyable and go rain or shine so be ready to walk! The guides are extremely knowledgeable and will give you a lot of information about different sites such as the Spanish Steps or the Colosseum.
7. Visit Pompeii and Herculaneum
Suggested by Familywithlatitude
Pompeii and Herculaneum are famous for being devastated by Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Now, they are perfectly preserved time capsules of Ancient Roman life. Pompeii is a sprawling area and they keep uncovering more. It would be easy to spend a full day at the site, as there is so much to see. We would recommend a guide to get the most out of your visit and really understand what you are looking at.
Herculaneum is much more compact and easy to see in a half day. The audio guide here is excellent as well, so a guide isn’t necessary. Herculaneum is also much less crowded than Pompeii. Both sites can be reached easily from the local trains and are well worth exploring.
8. Explore the Ancient Greek ruins in Agrigento
Suggested by UntoldMorsels
Over 2,000 years ago Greeks ruled Sicily and left their mark. You can walk among some of the best preserved Greek ruins in Europe near Agrigento at a site known as The Valley of the Temples. This area was once the ancient city called Akragas. It was home to around half a million people before being abandoned after the fall of the Roman Empire. These days you can walk among the ruins of their civic buildings and even a huge bath house. Rising majestically over the site is the incredible Temple of Concordia that celebrates the goddess of harmony. It is a breathtaking sight and a highlight of any trip to Sicily, Italy.
9. Try the Street Food in Milan
Suggested by The Crowded Planet
Many Italy visitors skip Milan, thinking it’s a grey and boring city, but as a local I want to reveal you a secret about my hometown – street food in Milan is amazing! One of the coolest things is that you can find street food from all over Italy, as well as lots of international specialties, without having to travel too far.
Naturally, summer is the best time for street food – the Navigli areas are one of the best places, with lots of food trucks and restaurants selling takeaway specialties, or you can head to Chinatown for some Asian-inspired street food dishes. Two of my go-to street food places in Milan are El Caminante, making Venezuelan arepas, and Il Biroccio, an ape car dishing out Milanese risotto with saffron. Milan’s street food scene is not a famous as that in Naples or Sicily but trust me… it’s just as good!
10. Explore Verona
Suggested by Outside Suburbia
Verona still feels like a Shakespearean town, strolling around the streets you can almost feel the romance in this “city of Love”. You can recall the main moments of the timeless and tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet in Verona. Even though William Shakespeare had set two plays here – The Two Gentlemen of Verona and the wonderful love story between Romeo and Juliet that the city is best known for, it is said that Shakespeare never visited. The most famous spot to visit in Verona is Juliet’s House.
The building dates back to the 13th century, and has the Capulet’s emblem on the external façade. A gate opens onto a covered space where lovers from all around the world leave their messages. The walls and panels are covered with writings, locks, notes and cards. Every year, thousands of letters addressed to Juliet Capulet arrive in Verona, where the volunteers of Juliet’s Club read them all and answer to each one of them in Juliet’s name. The powerful love between Romeo and Juliet continues to inspire and fascinate lovers all around the world.
11. Explore Naples
Suggested by Travellingdany
Naples, in the South of Italy, has something for everyone. If you love nature, then you shouldn’t miss the chance to hike to the top of the world famous Mount Vesuvius, a dormant volcano: the Gulf of Naples seen from above is absolutely beautiful!
For those who like to explore a new area through its food, then definitely try that in Naples, the city where pizza was invented! This region has the highest number of traditional recipes in Italy… and top ingredients like mozzarella di bufala or fresh ricotta cheese. Pizza is one of the best things about Italy!
The many spas in Naples also offer a relaxing haven for those who need to unwind, away from the huge crowds. Those on the Posillipo hill, in particular, overlook the harbor and the Gulf of Naples, offering the best experience ever!
12. Have a spritz in Venice
Suggested by theworldpursuit
If you are visiting the iconic city of Venice then enjoying a spritz along the canals is a must do in Italy. A Spritz Veneziano is a wine-based cocktail served as an aperitif in Northeast Italy. The drink is typically prepared with prosecco, a dash of some bitter liqueur, and finished with soda water. Spritz are very popular in Venice, as well as many other Northern towns.
A day in the city is not complete until you have tried at least one in the company of good friends with great views. The best thing about a Spritz is they don’t cost a fortune. For just €2 you can enjoy a refreshing glass while in Italy. Just don’t have too many and fall into a canal! Enjoying a spritz on the canal is by far the best thing to do in Italy.
13. Road Tripping around the Amalfi Coast
Suggested by wanderluststorytellers
Not only does the Amalfi Coast have sensational beautiful scenery; but the region also offers unique bucket list experiences that should not be miss! The best way to explore the Amalfi Coast is by Vespa. You can easily hire a Vespa in one of the little towns situated along the coast. Simply road trip your way from one town to the next, stop in at all the beautiful little beaches and see if you can spot the stunning Furore.
Add on some more adventure with a daytrip to the famous Capri Island and be WOW’ed by the truly extraordinary Grotto Azzurra. Amalfi Coast might be an expensive destination to visit in comparison to other regions in Italy, but it remains to be one of the areas that will impress you the most and one of the coolest things to do in Italy in summer.
14. Explore the colorful island of Burano
Suggested by Ohio Girl Travels
Located in the Northern Venetian Lagoon, visiting the colorful island of Burano is like stepping into a rainbow. A 45-minute vaporetto ride from Venice makes picturesque Burano an easy day trip to escape the hustle and bustle of Venice’s over-crowded attractions. Step off the boat to meander Burano’s narrow alleyways, marvel at the vibrantly colored houses, crisscross over numerous pedestrian bridges, dine on local seafood dishes and peruse the local lace shops (Burano is famous for handcrafted needle-lace and often local women will be hand-stitching intricate lace designs in the shops). Visit mid-week as the weekend tends to bring loads of tourists to this colorful Venetian island. Visiting Burano is one of the best activities to do in Italy.
15. Do a walking food tour of Florence
Suggested by Foodieflashpacker
When visiting Italy, there’s no better way to get to know the city you’re visiting than a walking food tour. Not only will your guide give you background on the area but they will also take you to some out of the way, truly authentic food spots.
When planning your trip, check to see if Curious Appetite runs tours in your city. I love that their tours are small groups led by sommeliers, art & history experts, food connoisseurs, drink enthusiasts and passionate cooks. It makes all the difference when your tour is led by an excited foodie with real knowledge of the area.
If you’re looking for a quick overview of the history and food of a city you can do a half day tour but I always try to do a full day tour if my time allows. This allows time to visit markets, try local wines and cocktails and craft beers, and more food than any one person generally needs in a day!
16. Catch a panoramic view of Florence
Suggested by Travelbooksfood
Florence is one of my favourite cities in the world and it is difficult to pinpoint why I love this place so much. But one of the best things to do in Italy, and one that I absolutely love about the city, is the panoramic view of the city from the top of the Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence. I am pretty sure that you would have definitely seen one photo of it since that is the poster staple when it comes to photos of Florence. But photos cannot do enough justice to that place.
There are many ways that you can get to the top. You can hike upwards for around 40 minutes from the city. Or you can drive yourselves up there. We took the easy way out and took the bus to and from the place and takes approximately 20 minutes one way. Once you are there, don’t forget to check the replica of David there.
17. See the Blue Grotto in Capri
Suggested by Hoppingmiles
I am always on a lookout to enjoy unique things and have wonderful experiences in life. While planning a trip to Italy, I stumbled upon the Blue Grotto in Capri and immediately added it to our itinerary and how glad I added it to our plan. In fact, Capri happened due to Blue Grotto and we thoroughly enjoyed it! A ride inside Blue Grotto was one of a kind experience for us where we entered into a cave with a small opening of about 2 meters wide and one meter high. We were lucky that day as the sea was calm and there were low tides, otherwise the cave opening will get closed.
When we entered the Grotto, we were surrounded by a luminescent blue color water through which our boat waded through and the oarsmen sang melodious barcaroles that filled the air. It was an unforgettable experience. Do not miss this place while road tripping, it’s one of the best things to see in Italy.
18. Sailing in Alghero, Sardinia
Suggested by Eatworktravel
The island of Sardinia in Italy is most known for its vibrant blue waters and rock landscapes that surround it. One of our favorite way to experience these beaches is by sailing from Alghero, Sardinia. Alghero is located in the northwest coast of Sardinia and is bordered by ancient walls. Not only does a sailing trip allow you to get up close to the waters, you get a unique vantage point of the Catalan Gothic buildings and walled perimeter of this city.
There are several sailing options but we highly recommend one that offers multiple stops and serves lunch. We loved leisurely sailing with a drink in hand. As the boat come to a stop, we quickly jumped into the crystal clear blue waters. It’s the perfect way to get a unique vantage point of this historical city. This is one of the most fun things to do in Italy during your holiday!
19. Visit the UNESCO town of Alberobello
Suggested by Continenthop
In the south of Italy, in the town of Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage site, you’ll find conical shaped Trulli houses. These limestone dwellings found in the southern Italia region of Puglia are examples of dry-stone construction. It’s a prehistoric building technique still used in this region.
There are more than 1500 Trulli structures scattered around Alberobello. Some are still used as houses while other serve as shops. Almost all of them are white from the outside as only lime whitewash, the traditional material, is used for external decoration. Traditionally mortar was never used to build the houses as the people who first started making them did so to be able to take them down quickly to avoid paying taxes!
It’s lovely to walk to the top of the town to be able to view the pyramid-shaped houses in a row. The town is usually sparsely populated unless visitors from a cruise ship drop by making it one of the top things to do in Italy by far!
20. Visit the Colosseum
Suggested by Happinesstravelshere
Walking into the Colosseum in Rome for the first time is a truly memorable experience and one of the best things see whilst sightseeing in Rome.
Looking up from the ground level, dwarfed by the outer walls of the stadium rising steeply above, you get to appreciate the scale of the largest amphitheatre in the world.
Touring the lower level, the hypogeum, is a must do in Italy. This is where the animals and gladiators were held, below the wooden floor of the arena. The smell must have been awful. Gladiators entered the arena through trapdoors in the floor and animals were winched up in cages.
When full the Colosseum held 80 000 spectators. Brutal fights, executions and animal hunts attracted the crowds. In the early days, the hypogeum was even flooded to replicate battles held at sea.
The Colosseum is a popular Italy attraction and one of the top things to do in Italy. To avoid queues and guarantee entrance buy your tickets in advance as soon as they are released.
21. Explore Trastevere and the food
Suggested by Travelphotodiscovery
Exploring Trastevere and eating is exactly what I had in store while visiting this Foodie corner of Rome. I was signed up for a glorious food excursion with Eating Europe touring the historic district of Trastevere. This ancient food region and market area of Rome is oozing with many amazing bakers, wine purveyors, cave wine bars and delicious trattorias to experience in person. Every place we visited was family run for generations and a pass down of their craft or food business.
Passing through ancient squares, narrow passageways with businesses tucked in and open air dining with cafes spilling out into the streets, it really is Dolce Vita in Trastevere and worth visiting this unique neighborhood of Rome. Check out more of my Rome visit here for some delicious images and the complete tour of Trastevere.
22. Visit Vatican City
Suggested by Travels and Treats
A trip to Italy is not complete without experiencing the marvel that is Vatican City at least once in your life. Vatican City is the headquarters of the Catholic Church, home of the Pope, and is a city-state that sits in the middle of Rome. Whether or not you are Catholic, or even religious at all, Vatican City is a fascinating experience.
The Vatican Museums house a mass collection of art that has been collected by the church over centuries. The popular Sistine Chapel includes Michelangelo’s ceiling and altar frescoes which cannot be missed; the artwork is truly fascinating.
St. Peter’s Basilica is an Italian Renaissance church in Vatican City that was rebuilt in the 16th century. The history within the walls of Vatican City is deep and rich and worthy of a visit by any history lover or avid traveler.
23. Take a self-guided food tour of Rome
Suggested by The Thought Card
When traveling, sometimes its hard to know which restaurants to visit or avoid. One of my favorite culinary adventures in Rome is Touramisu, a self-guided food tour. It not only shares delicious foods and local bites in Rome but also takes you to some of the most iconic attractions like the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps.
The tour provides detailed directions to different restaurants and cafes, Rome price estimates, recommended food and drink tastings and detailed food descriptions. Throughout the tour, I also learned about many Italian customs. For example, like how you don’t have to tip in Rome or how a “caffe” is a single shot of expresso an a “latte” is a glass of milk. This is one of the most unique things to do in Italy!
24. Visit the city of Matera
Suggested by Merry-Go-Round. Slowly.
The cave city of Matera in Basilicata, Italy is one of the most memorable cities I have ever seen in Europe. It is nicknamed the “cave city” because the old town consists of carved caves with house facades. For a while, Matera was a very poor underdeveloped town, where people would be living in caves with no electricity or doctors.
After most locals were relocated to the new houses, the empty caves were left alone for a while. After the 1980s the churches and the cisterns were renovated, new hotels and restaurants opened, and the destination of Matera slowly became one of the trendiest places to visit.
While in Matera, there are several things you absolutely must do. First, put on your most comfortable shoes – you will do a lot of walking. Check out the main sights: Casa Noha, the Cathedral of Matera and several cave churches. Climb all the way up to admire the panorama over the whole city of Matera and then down to the underground cistern called Palombaro Lungo.
To make your stay memorable, try to catch the sunset over the city. When the sun goes down and the lights start to appear in the caves, it is a truly spectacular sight. There are many hotels located in the actual caves, so if you chose to have a stay in Matera, you will not regret it.
25. Visit Monte Isola
Suggested by Travel Hacker Girl
Monte Isola is a very special place located in the middle of Lake Iseo. Visitors, who arrive at the largest lake island in Europe will feel like they went back in time. There are no cars on the island. Locals and tourists can get around by scooters, bus, walking or cycling. You can reach Monte Isola by ferry from several lakeside towns. Despite its convenient location of being in close proximity of Venice and Milan, the island isn’t touristy at all. I suggest visiting this hidden gem before people discover the beauty this area has to offer.
There is a lot of things to do in Monte Isola. Hiking to the top of the 600 m peak is a must! You will find a Sanctuary there and of course fantastic views. Cycling around Monte Isola is another great activity for people who enjoy an active holiday. If you prefer to relax, you must visit a local cafe and sit there reading a book and enjoying the atmosphere. In the hot summer months going for a swim will feel very refreshing in the lake. There are several well-kept public beaches. You can even rent kayaks and paddleboards to discover some of the smaller islands in the lake.
26. Take a trip to Calcata
Suggested by Mind the Travel
When you talk about Italy’s Lazio region, everybody will think about beautiful seaside towns like Gaeta, Sabaudia, San Felice Circeo, Sperlonga. But somehow, the quaint and charming small town and hippie commune of Calcata is overlooked. Located about an hour outside of Rome, Calcata Vecchia (Old Calcata) has a tiny maze of narrow cobbled lanes filled with art galleries, dressmakers shops, bars, and old traditional restaurants.
Calcata has a history spanning over three thousand years. But the 20th century is the most important period in village history. In the 1930s Calcata’s houses and caves were abandoned for safety purposes because the Italian authorities feared the rock would crumble beneath the village. They built a safer Calcata Nuova nearby to relocate residents there.
Meanwhile, the village was left in disarray until the 1960s, when the 1970s Italian and international artists and hippies breathed new life into Calcata. They began squatting in abandoned buildings and later bought and restored their homes, opened studios and cafés, and rescued an ancient village from slipping into oblivion. Every story has a happy ending. Eventually, the current bohemian inhabitants succeeded in convincing the government to reverse their decision condemning Calcata.
As always, the enjoyment is in the details. The centuries-old buildings, the small alleys leading to the edge of a volcanic cliff, the houses which look haphazardly stacked on top of each other, the abundance of colourful flower pots scattered about, the vines that seemingly protect the buildings they grow on, and the many stray cats roaming the alleyways, sleeping in nooks, and mewling at passersby.
Suggested by Our Passion for Travel
When people think of the beaches of Italy, often it will be the Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast or Sicily that come to mind. Tucked away on the heel of the boot though, you’ll find arguably some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Italy. The region of Puglia is less well known but fast becoming popular thanks to neighbouring Matera being a 2019 European Capital of Culture.
A chilled out atmosphere, sensational seafood and some of the most picturesque beaches you can ask await. Otranto’s jagged cliffs and mesmerizingly coloured waters are highly popular with Italians during the summer. Ostuni, the white city has a long promenade with many cafes to take in the views when you’re done swimming. Our favourite, and perhaps the most well known though of Puglia’s beaches would be Polignano A Mare’s Lama Monachile. This beach is set between two high cliffs and beach real estate is hotly contested each day.
A pair of rock shoes is a wise investment if you plan on lazing the day away here, the beauty of Lama Monachile is matched only by the sharpness of the rocks on this beach!
Along the Pugliese coastline, wherever you find your perfect beach spot, there are plenty of free options. Typically there are paid spots, but unlike many parts of Italy and Europe, many of the best spots including Lama Monachile remain free to the public to use.
Being located far south on the Mediterranean means the warmer months of summer hang around a little longer. So if you’re looking for a European beach break in Autumn or Spring, the weather here is likely to be accommodating
28. Exploring Cinque Terre
Suggested by Something of Freedom
Taking a few days to admire the picturesque villages of Cinque Terre National Park is amongst the top things to do in Italy. The park is home to 5 small villages spread out along a small stretch of Liguria’s Mediterranean coastline. With stunning scenery to enjoy along the coast, it’s well worth spending at least 2 days in Cinque Terre if time permits.
Depending on your preference, you can get between the villages by train or hiking trails. The advantage of the latter is that you get some of the best views of the national park as you walk. Fortunately, if you travel by train there are a few stunning viewpoints easily accessible from some of the villages.
Much of Cinque Terre’s charm comes from the beautiful pastel-coloured houses found in the villages. Some of the best spots to see these colourful buildings are in the villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola and Vernazza.
Even if you take the train between villages, you’ll need to do a little bit of walking to get the best views. In Manarola head up to the outdoor Nessun Dorma bar, which provides unrivalled views of the colourful houses rising from the cliff below.
Another unmissable spot is just outside the village of Vernazza. Follow the trail as if you plan to walk to Monterosso al Mare, and you will be rewarded with a wonderful viewpoint of Vernazza from above.
With such charming villages and beautiful viewpoints, it’s easy to see why visiting Cinque Terre is one of the best things to do in Italy.
29. Learn the history of Syracuse, Sicily
Suggested by Smudged Postcard
For a brilliant overview of Sicilian history, head to the Piazza del Duomo on the tiny island of Ortigia in Syracuse. Whilst sipping a coffee or indulging in a granita, you can admire the city’s Baroque cathedral which incorporates Ancient Greek Doric columns as well as Arabic and Norman elements.
Just outside the city centre is the Archaeological Park, where you can learn more about the region’s Ancient Greek and Roman history. Don’t miss the Ear of Dionysius where legend has it the emperor listened to the wails of his prisoners in this man-made cave.
If your interests lie more in a fantastical vein, you will no doubt enjoy a trip to the puppet theatre in Syracuse where monsters and demons will have you enthralled. And if that theatrical experience has your imagination in full flow, head to the far end of the city to play at pirates in the medieval Castello Maniace overlooking the sea. Can you tell I visited Syracuse with kids?
Syracuse is located in the south east of Sicily, around an hour’s drive from Catania airport or two hours by rail from Taormina.
30. Do a parma tour
Suggested by Greedy Gourmet
One of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in Italy is visiting the Parma ham production. So, if you are planning to visit Italy, make sure you don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity.
To take part in the Parma production tour, you’re going to have to travel to the City of Parma which is located in the Emilia-Romagna region. This region is most famous for Parmesan cheese and Parma ham.
During the tour you will:
- Learn about Parma ham’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO status)
- See various types of pork legs in the different stages of curing
- Discover a special type of salt used for curing pork legs
- Understand how individual pork legs are marked with a seal
- Have the opportunity to talk to experts who explain the entire process to you
Best of all, you get to sample freshly cut slices of Parma ham using the best technology and enjoy la dolce vita. You also get the option to purchase an entire leg of Parma ham. Mine weighed a whopping 4.5 kgs (10 pounds). Try packing that in your suitcase!
Visiting the Parma ham production facility is not only the best thing to do, but it’s also a must when you are in the city of Parma.
To learn more about the city of Parma and the Parma ham production tour, visit my food and travel blog here.
31. Relax in thermal baths in Ischia
Suggested by Helen on her Holiday
There are so many amazing things to do in Italy that you can tire yourself out wanting to see everything, but one of my favourite activities is to go to Ischia and just relax in one of the island’s thermal baths.
Ischia is a volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, an hour’s boat ride from Naples and not far from more famous Italian attractions like Capri and the Amalfi Coast. It’s a laid-back, relaxing kind of place, so it’s fitting that one of the most popular things to do in Ischia is to bathe in natural hot springs.
There are over a hundred thermal springs in Ischia, and there’s one to suit every taste, and every budget. For true spa lovers, many hotels boast their own thermal pools and wellness complexes, so you can soak for as long as you want. History lovers can bathe as the ancient Romans did two thousand years ago at the Cavascura baths, while relaxation-seekers on a budget can bathe for free at the hot springs that bubble up on Sorgeto beach.
The best way to enjoy Ischia’s waters is to visit one of the thermal spa parks. I went to Negombo, a large complex where you can relax in one of 14 pools at temperatures that range from a toasty 38 degrees celsius to an invigorating 18 degrees, all surrounded by beautiful gardens and intriguing modern art. There’s a lovely beach at Negombo as well, but it’s really all about the thermal baths – if not the best thing to do in Italy then definitely the most relaxing.
32. Cycling in Alpe Cimbra – Trentino
Suggested by Nat from Love and Road
The Italian Alps are an adventure paradise in the Summer. The ski slopes become bike routes and hiking trails where you can enjoy nature, good food and sip some of the best Italian wines. Alpe Cimbra is the place to go if you like cycling, mountain bike or e-MTB. The three main cities in the region, Folgaria, Luserna and Lavarone, offer biking trails for all types of cyclists, from beginners to experienced ones. They also have themed rides, where you can go for a few hours of cycling and stop at local producers to try food and wine. A well-deserved reward after going up and down at the alps.
To plan your biking trip and things to do in Alpe Cimbra is easy, many hotels offer special service for bikers and the trails are well marked. On the Trentino Outdoor App, you can search the routes with safety instructions, and recommendations of where to stop for food and bike service. If you have an adventurous spirit you can go cycling by yourself, or you can book a private tour or a group tour. My suggestion is to mix sport, history, and wine. There are plenty of routes that you can do by bicycle and e-bike (and also hiking) where you visit forts from Word War I and try the famous Trentodoc, the local sparkling wine.
We did two days of cycling in Alpe Cimbra and loved the experience, nature is stunning and the locals super friendly. If you are an adrenaline junky, don’t forget to stop by the Mountain Bike Park in Lavarone and try your skills on the downhill piste.
33. Exploring the Città Alta of Bergamo, Italy
By Mei from Travel with Mei and Kerstin
Located in Northern Italy, Bergamo is about 50 km away from Milan. The city of Bergamo has two cores: a 19th century Lower Town, and a historic center encircled by a Venetian wall in the Upper Town. The Upper Town, or Città Alta, is not very big, but you can easily spend a whole weekend strolling around. And the best thing is that Bergamo is beautiful even if it rains !
To get to the Città Alta, you can take a local bus or a funicular. Both will stop outside the Venetian wall. But the walk to the main street of the Città Alta is just a few meters. The main street will then lead you to the Piazza Vecchia, where you can visit the majestic Duomo, the 18th century Cappella Colleoni with Tiepolo’s breathtaking frescoes, and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, where you’ll be amazed by the extravagant Baroque interior.
The Civic Tower, also known as the Campanone, is another spot you might want to visit around the Piazza Vecchia. From the top of this 53 meter high Big Bell, you can get a fantastic panoramic view of Bergamo. So it’s totally worth the climb. Besides, its entrance fee is included in the ticket to the Palace of the Podestà, one of Bergamo’s History Museum, where you can learn about the city’s rich past.
Most tourists go to Bergamo during a daytrip from Milan. But the best time in the Città Alta is in the evening. When the crowds are gone, it gets very quiet, and it’s a bliss to enjoy a candlelight dinner in one of the small Italian restaurants, before strolling through the narrow cobblestone alleys.
34. Bastione Saint Remy, Cagliari
Suggested by Layer Culture
35. Visit Bracciano
Suggested by Rome Actually
A short train trip from Rome, Bracciano is a lovely medieval town that is definitely worth a visit if you have enough time in the city. Known for its famous nearby Bracciano Lake, the town is a great travel destination for the beautiful Odescalchi Castle that defines much of its cityscape, a wonderful view of the lake and wonderful uphill/downhill little alleys that make it a truly picturesque corner of the Lazio region.
To get to Bracciano, you will need to take a train from Ostiense or Trastevere stations, from where it will take you about an hour to get there. Once at Bracciano station, the city center is a short walk away. I suggest you visit the 15th-century Orsini-Odescalchi Castle, an important part of the town’s history, in the lovely Piazza Mazzini. All around the castle is a maze of winding, charming alleys that make for a lovely walk. Here you can take perfect postcard pictures and stop for lunch at one of the traditional restaurants that in the good season keep their tables outside.
If you stay until after dark, you will absolutely love the atmosphere given by the castle, beautifully lit-up for the night, that dominates the view of the medieval center of the town
36. Hike Stromboli
Suggested by Wander-Lush
Stromboli is one of seven UNESCO-protected islands in the Aeolian archipelago off the western coast of Sicily. While the other six islands are shaped by the craters of extinct volcanoes, Stromboli remains one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. One of the coolest things to do in Italy is summit the crater to see the action up close.
One of three active volcanoes in Italy, Stromboli is in a state of almost-constant eruption. Small explosions, called Strombolian eruptions, take place every 20-30 minutes, sending out puffs of charcoal-coloured smoke and the occasional fizz of molten rock. On a clear day, the light show can easily be seen from the neighbouring islands. A few times a year, more explosive fits of activity are enough to see Stromboli’s villages (and sometimes even neighbouring islands) evacuated.
Stromboli is safe enough to support several villages and a slew of hotels and restaurants along its black-sand beaches. Every evening, groups of eager tourists congregate in the square in front of Stromboli’s biggest Catholic church to prepare for the climb. The only way to do the hike is with a professional guide. They won’t let you up without the right gear – hiking boots, head lamps and trekking poles are all available to hire from shops around town. The walk is timed so that you summit the crater just as night falls, giving you a better chance of seeing the red lava sprays. If the weather is inclement or the volcano is particularly active, the climb can be called off for safety reasons.
Although there are restrictions on how far you can actually go up, it’s absolutely phenomenal to climb into the jaws of a volcano. If you’re not a hiker, you can still get a good look at the eruptions sitting on the beach – or better still on the deck of a boat just off shore.
37. Discover Arab-Norman Architecture in Palermo
Suggested by The Nomadic Vegan
There are many reasons to visit Palermo, the largest city in Sicily. For starters, it’s a vibrant city filled with bustling markets and some of the best street food in Italy. What truly makes Palermo unique, though, is its 12-century Arab-Norman architecture, which is a cultural blend that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
In 2015, UNESCO added a new World Heritage Site to its list, called Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale. This listing includes nine different religious and civil buildings that date from the period when the Norman kingdom ruled Sicily, from 1130 to 1194. The cathedrals of Cefalù and Monreale are both easy day trips from Palermo, while the other seven buildings are churches, palaces, a cathedral and a bridge that all lie within the city limits of Palermo itself.
The Normans were quite tolerant of the Muslim, Jewish, Greek-speaking and other populations in Sicily, which resulted in an exchange of ideas and a unique mix of cultures, and this is reflected in the art and architecture from the period. The incredibly detailed mosaics that line the walls of buildings such as the Monreale Cathedral and the Royal Palace and Palatine Chapel are a true highlight.
38. Walk beside the Tiber
Suggested by Budget Travel Talk
An evening spent strolling along the banks of the Tiber River in Rome, is never an evening wasted. Whatever the time of day though, this is one interesting walk.
Start at Ponte Cavour, a five-arched bridge decorated with travertine rock. Built from 1896 to 1901 when Rome was redesigning it’s river frontages to mitigate flooding, this era signalled the end of the old elongated river port frontages. Modern day Lungotevere, the road this walk takes beside the Tiber, came into being.
Antico Café Ruschena is a lovely place to enjoy a real Italian Café. Begin by ordering at the bar inside and ask to sit at a table. There are some lovely spots to choose from both inside and out and old school waiters to serve. This is a good Cafe to eat at also.
Walk along the river beneath tall trees to the impressive Supreme Court Building (Corte di Cassazione) with it’s bronze roof top statue of four horses and chariot – you can’t get more Roman than that.
Ponte Sant’Angelo is a much older bridge and one of the few ancient Roman bridges remaining today. First decorated with a sculpture of an angel in 1535, the famous Italian sculptor Bernini eventually designed ten angels, sculpting two himself. Pope Clement VII quickly appropriated those two, placing replicas on the bridge.
Spend time walking back and forth on the bridge and inspecting the angels before visiting Castel Sant’ Angelo. Once the Mausoleum of Hadrian, it became famous when an angel appeared on the roof to announce the end of the plague.
St. Peter’s Basilica, the finishing point of this walk beside the Tiber, can be seen from the middle of Ponte Sant’Angelo. It’s a lovely cobblestoned walk down Via Della Conciliazione to reach the Vatican City and the end of this walk beside the Tiber River.
39. Admire sleepy towns around Lake Como
Suggested by Sunday in Wonderland
While being in Northern Italy, there is no better thing you can do than visiting charming sleepy towns around Italian lakes. Taking a trip from Milan to Lake Como is a valuable experience you can try in this part of the country.
Small cities and villages around Lake Como offer charming moments spent in picturesque landscapes of the Italian Alps. One of the cutest of them is the town of Varenna. You can easily reach it via train, car, or a local ferry. Varenna and other nearby towns will be a perfect location for you if you want to take relief from the big cities crowds like Milan, Bergamo or Venice.
In cities located around Lake Como, you will experience the unique Northern Italian lifestyle, having morning coffee in a cafeteria with the lake view, or enjoying delicious local meals in small family restaurants. The great way to relax is to take the ferry trip between different places and admire mountain views from a new perspective.
You should also reserve some time for taking a short mountain trips. Even as easy as climbing from Varenna to Castello di Vezio or even simply taking a funicular from the city of Como to the village of Brunate. In both places, you can watch the marvellous landscapes from the heights. Visiting Lake Como towns will not disappoint you.
40. Take a pasta-making class in Bologna
Suggested by Food Fun Travel
One of the highlights of visiting northern Italy is the fact that you can find people making fresh egg pasta daily. Having fresh-made egg pasta is a taste experience not to be missed, but what’s even better is learning the art of making this age-old pasta technique yourself. And the small pasta shop called Le Sfogline in Bologna is the ultimate place to get your hands dirty and learn to make pasta.
Le Sfogline literally translates as “The ladies who pull the pasta by hand” and the two sisters who run the store have taught the likes of Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, and Rick Steves to name a few. As their classes are very popular it’s best to book in advance. They also run a popular pasta shop at the same time where locals come to buy their pasta for the day so be prepared to work around their schedule a bit – but trust us it’s totally worth it. You’ll learn to make the famous Bologna Tagliatelle, Tortellini (The classic tiny stuffed pasta from Bologna), Tortelloni and more. Just remember to be staying somewhere with a kitchen you can use as all of the pasta you make goes home with you for eating later!
41. Hike in the Dolomites
Suggested by Mike of 197TravelStamps
Italy is an incredibly diverse country. The region of South Tyrol in the north of Italy is one of the best examples of that. Here, a majority of the inhabitants speak German as their native language. That is because this part of Italy belonged to Austria until World War I.
In addition to the amazing Austro-Italian culture mix, you can enjoy some of the finest mountain sceneries here. This is the place where the famous Dolomites Mountains are located. If you are into nature, hiking or even mountaineering, hiking or climbing in the Dolomites are an item for your bucket list.
If you are looking for easy enjoyable hikes in an incredible atmosphere, head to the Alpe di Siusi. This high alpine pasture is surrounded by the most incredible mountains. Hiking around the Alp di Siusi is one of the best day hike options in the Dolomites, especially if you are traveling with children. If you are up for something more challenging, head to the Catinaccio Mountain and try yourself in a via ferrata. The views you will be able to enjoy from the mountaintop are just unbeatable.
After a day of hiking in the Dolomites, you can enjoy some of the delicious local Tyrolean food. Make sure to try some Tyrolean bread dumplings with mushroom sauce.
42. Check out the street art in Milan
Suggested by The Crowded Planet
There are so many reasons to love my hometown Milan. One of them is that it’s probably the best place in Italy for street art! Elsewhere in Italy (and in most places around the world really) street art is a recent phenomenon. Bt in Milan it’s been a thing since the 1990s, and in the last 5 years or so it has literally exploded. Nowadays, there are entire stretches of railway walls where writers and street artists can paint freely, without having to worry about being chased by police. Sponsored street art pieces are also on the rise.
The municipality has commissioned the creation of several large scale pieces, such as the World War II themes one in Ortica or the ‘Birth of Milan’ one near Colonne di San Lorenzo, and there are more and more people paying street artists to decorate the outside of their apartment buildings. In the last 6 months, two have been painted in my street! Street art hunting is one of the best free things to do in Milan, and there are two great areas for that – Porta Ticinese, especially around Via Santa Croce and Colonne di San Lorenzo, and the Isola neighbourhood. New pieces are popping up all the time, so you may even find some I don’t know about!
If you could pick your top three best things to do in Italy, what would it be? Tell me below!
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