Ah, Italy, just mentioning its name conjures up images of love, delicious food, and ancient architecture. There are so many things to do in Italy, that it can be overwhelming to decide where to begin. From the Mediterranean to the Mountains, Italy has something for everyone. While everyone flocks to Rome or Venice, there are countless famous sights, stunning landscapes, and beautiful cities in this amazing country. Italy truly has it all.
So let’s take a look at the best things to do in Italy from our five different trips to the country. Psst, we’ll be heading back there this summer too!
Top Things to do in Italy
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We have had the opportunity to see many of the best places in Italy, and for the few that we have left, we plan to see them this summer. We’re heading back to Europe in May and are planning on visiting the places we have yet to see including a visit to Sardinia’s beautiful beaches and taking part in Sicily’s outdoor adventures. Are you ready to explore Italy with us? Let’s look at the best things to do in Italy, that we’ve done so far!
Drive the Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is what dreams are made of. This gorgeous stretch of coastline along the Mediterranean Sea spans 50 km through some of Italy’s most beautiful towns like Positano, Amalfi Town, Ravello, and Sorrento. With high sea cliffs and long stretches of beautiful beaches, this stretch of coastline is one of the most beautiful places to visit in all of Italy.
The Amalfi Coast lives up to the hype and we found that by staying in Positano with a view of the Mediterranean from our balcony, that is was definitely one of the most romantic places in Italy. Read more at 16 Best Things to Do On The Amalfi Coast
Book a Balcony Room in Positano
While there are several places to visit along the Amalfi Coast, Positano is the quintessential town where colorful terraced buildings cling to the side of cliffs along the Mediterranean Sea. Positano can be very busy, but when you book a room in one of the hotels lining the water, you can hide in a little romantic oasis as you enjoy the views. We stayed at Palazzo Talamo in Positano and were within walking distance to the beach, the old town, and to many restaurants and shops.
You can book a private transfer from Naples to Positano for a hassle-free drive to your accommodation. The cost starts at $74 USD pp and you can book here. Or this sharted transfer is only $34 USD pp.
Our hotel was one of the more affordable and basic hotels in Positano, but others we suggest are:
Hotel Eden Roc Positano – This four-star hotel is just a few meters from the beaches and the center of Positano with a panoramic pool and terrace overlooking the sea.
Hotel Poseidon – is another historical hotel in Positano that has been in operation for 60 years with a prime location on the vertical hill overlooking Positano and the sea.
Sail to Capri
While you are visiting the Positano, Sorrento or Amalfi Town, you must take a boat trip to Capri Island to see the blue grotto and catch a glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous. Capri is a beautiful island off the coast of Italy in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
Book this tour in advance from Positano to Capri. The ultimate Capri boat trip takes you on a full-day tour to Capri with a stop at the blue grotto. Also known at Grotta Azzurra, the Blue Grotto is Capri’s top attraction. But you won’t stop there, you’ll admire other grottos, the natural arch, Faraglioni rocks, and the Punta Carena lighthouse. It also includes, snorkeling, snacks, drinks, and limoncello tasting.
Go Back in Time to Ancient Rome
There is no doubt that Rome is one of the best places to visit in Italy. In fact, it should be one of the first places you should visit in Italy. How can you not visit Italy without seeing the ancient city? From the Colosseum to Pantheon, there are so many historical sites in Rome that will blow your mind. Rome is a city of ancient monuments. Just a few of the top things to see in Rome are the famous attractions such as Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, and the Pantheon. I am sure you have heard of them all. Hint – Visit the Trevi Fountain at night to avoid the crowds.
If you are planning a trip to Italy, a great place to start is Rome. The ancient ruins are strewn throughout the city and you feel as if you are walking through a living history museum.
Hot tip: Make sure to book a tour to go inside the Colosseum and view the arena floor. It is magnificent to see from the outside, but a tour takes you inside to really delve into its bloody and brutal history.
Take a Roman Holiday
One of the bucket list items to do in Italy is to drive a Vespa through the city streets just like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. However, Italian motorways can be chaotic, so book a Vespa Tour through Rome to see its top attractions.
Our Vespa Tour with GetYourGuide has us sit back and relax behind a professional driver as we whisked through the streets to see the Roman Colosseum and admired some of the Eternal City’s top neighborhoods, such as Trastevere, Centro Storico, and other sites such as the Roman Forum, Spanish Steps.
We have an entire article written about where to stay in Rome here but if you want a quick reference, here are our top suggestions.
Inn at the Roman Forum: This chic-friendly boutique hotel has its own ancient ruins and a panoramic roof terrace. It lies hidden behind a quiet street near the Imperial Forums.
Hotel Ponte Sisto: Located steps from the River Tiber with views of Renaissance and Baroque Rome. Via dei Petinari 64.
See the Pope at Vatican City
While in Rome, make sure to stop at Vatican City to see the Pope. While you may be able to catch a glimpse of him from St. Peter’s square as he gives his weekly address on Wednesdays, you will also want to take a tour to see the work of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums.
When visiting Vatican City, book your tickets in advance here. This entry ticket gets you into the Vatican Museums where you’ll see art from the Papal collections and Michelangelo’s legendary frescoes. You’ll also enjoy optional access to the Papal Villas and Vatican Gardens.
Visit the Ruins of Pompeii
Located just outside of Naples, Pompeii is one of the top tourist attractions in Italy. We popped in to see the ancient city during our road trip from Rome. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Italy. In the year 79 AD, when the entire city was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The city was frozen in time as a thick blanket of volcanic ash covered its inhabitants offering a glimpse into ancient Roman life. Pompeii Tickets can be booked in advance for a reserved timed entry.
You can visit Pompeii on your own and purchase skip the line tickets in advance here. But a tour is a great way to really enjoy the ancient city.
This guided tour from downtown Naples to Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii. They’ll explain the history and what you are seeing as you stroll through the Thermal Baths, Roman Forus, and Greek Theater. You’ll enjoy a Naples pizza lunch before heading to Mount Vesuvius.
Take a Gondola ride in Venice
No Italian vacation would be complete without a trip to Venice. Being serenaded on the Grand Canal is one of the quintessential things to do in Italy. And you must do it once, even if it is touristy. With its beautiful canals weaving through the city, a boat ride is most definitely in order. Take a gondola ride along the Grand Canal or explore the smaller canals taking you off the beaten path. Go under the Rialto Bridge and exhale as you pass the Bridge of Sighs.
This gondola tour not only takes you on the Grand Canal, you also cruise through more secluded canals going under some of its famous bridges while enjoying Italian music. Now that’s more.
Stay Overnight in Venice
Many people we meet tell us that they do not enjoy Venice, but that is because they have only visited on cruise ships or day tours. You must stay overnight in Venice to truly appreciate its charm and beauty. Walking through the streets and along the canals, after the tour boats have left is magical.
All paths lead to Saint Mark’s Square where Saint Mark’s Basilica stands proud over one of Europe’s most beautiful gathering places. And visiting Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark’s Square) at sunrise when nobody else is around is wonderful. While a gondola ride is the most famous way to get around Venice, we suggest water taxis and private taxis to truly explore its most famous sights.
Hike the Cinque Terre Villages
One of the very first places we visited in Italy was the Cinque Terre. We were on a road trip in France and decided to pop over to the famous Italian Riviera to hike along the coast to visit its five towns known as the Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre Villages are one of the most popular places to visit in Italy so expect crowds, but if you visit in the off-season, you can enjoy these beautiful places, without the crowds.
Located along the coast, these beautiful villages are connected by hiking routes where you can walk through olive groves, sip on fine wine and marvel at the spectacular sea views.
All the villages make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Cinque Terre that are connected by boat, bus, train and walking trails. They include Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Their rugged landscapes make for some of the most beautiful views in Italy. Plan your trip to the Five Towns of Italy with Hiking in Cinque Terre – Complete Guide to Italy’s 5 Villages
Climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa
If you are looking for things to add to your Italy bucket list, climbing up the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a must. We didn’t expect to be impressed with this tourist attraction, but it truly was a wonder to see. Located just one hour from Florence by train, the Leaning tower of Pisa is one of the most famous towers in the world.
It can be visited as a day trip and many people stop here when traveling between the Cinque Terra and Tuscany, but we highly suggest staying overnight to see this wonder free from crowds after the tour busses have left. No trip to Italy would be complete without seeing its most famous bell tower.
Its 294 steps to the top is worth the view and experience. When taking a guided tour, your skip the line tickets allow you to head right into the front of the tower. Apparently, you can spend over an hour in line, but we walked right in at our allotted time. Read our full guide: Tips for Visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Say Hello to David in Florence
Florence is often touted as Italy’s most beautiful city and with good reason. This city of art is filled with art museums, famous paintings, and of course the sculpture of David. It is the birthplace of renaissance art with the likes of Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Leonardo da Vinci settling here to create their masterpieces.
Take a stroll through the historic city center of Florence where the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Saint Mary) stands front and center in the Piazza del Duomo. It is certainly one of Italy’s most recognizable sights with the immense dome towering overhead.
Top things to do in Florence: Piazza del Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Statue of David at Galleria Dell’Accademia, Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral), Piazzale Michelangelo, the Uffizi Gallery and so much more.
While in Florence, don’t miss seeing the Boboli Gardens designed by the Medici Family. Boboli Gardens are a beautiful display of greenery adorned with renaissance statues, grottos, and fountains. Located behind Pitti Palace it is a stunning garden that is more like an open-air museum. Don’t miss seeing the Grotta del Buontalenti which is an artificial cave complete with stalactites and stalagmites. You can book timed entries which give access to Boboli Gardens, Bardini Gardens, and Grotta del Buontalenti.
Indulge in Italian Food
No matter where you go in Italy, it is a food lover’s paradise. While in Tuscany, a great way to immerse in the culture is to sample the local cuisine such as Schiacciata with balsamic vinegar, Cantuccini, fresh homemade pasta, traditional pappa al Pomodoro. Plus, you must eat Gelato in every city. It is heavenly. While in Florence, book this tour that takes you on a street food tour heart of the city to sample some delicious cuisine. and to visit a local market.
A Walking tour of Florence is the perfect way to get acquainted with If there is one thing you cannot miss doing in Italy is to sample its delicious food. A street food tour takes you around the Local favorites to try areand more. It may not be on the menu, but when we visited Florence, we couldn’t get enough of the gelato. During this tour, you’ll also visit a local market. Details here.
Drink Wine in Tuscany
Wine lovers will put Tuscany at the top of their list of things to do in Italy. With its green rolling hills, vineyards, and Tuscan villas, Tuscany is a dream to visit. Staying in a Tuscan villa was at the top of our Italian bucket list and Elena, the owner of Borgo Argenina was the perfect host. Read more: Tuscany Dreams – Stay in a Tuscan Villa
We made a base at a villa and took day trips around the picturesque region where we perused castles, and hill towns, and took part in many a wine tasting and cooking class as we made our way up and down the Tuscan countryside. Tuscany is the quintessential Italian Vacation. When putting together your Italy bucket list, Tuscany should go to the top.
While Florence is the Capital of Tuscany, Siena is another place you must visit in this beautiful region. Albeit, our visit was bittersweet as we got lost and ended up driving towards Piazza del Campo and had a traffic ticket waiting for us when we returned to Canada. We didn’t even know we were driving on a closed street. But I digress. Siena is worth visiting for its city center which is considered Europe’s greatest Medieval Square.
Things to do in Tuscany: sample the delicious wine of Tuscany, Chianti Classico, and explore the city of Florence, Sienna, San Gimignano and the smaller hill towns. Read more at Unforgettable Reasons to Visit Tuscany
Milan is the fashion capital of Italy, and let’s face it, it’s the fashion capital of the world. The second largest city in Italy is the center of finance, and like so many other of the best places to visit in Italy, there is an abundance of Italian art, in fact, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper is on display at Santa Maria Delle Grazie.
The beautiful Porta Sempione City Gate stands proud as trams whisk you from one grand landmark to another and shoppers will love going into Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II for dining, haute couture shopping or simply taking in the sights of Italy’s oldest shopping center.
Plus Milan houses one of the largest cathedrals in the world. Duomo di Milano is the third largest cathedral in the world. The Duomo di Milano, (Milan Cathedral) is larger than St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican and that says a lot. Don’t miss marveling at the Gothic architecture of the pride of Milan when visiting the city. Get your your rooftop tickets in advance to access all areas of the Milan Duomo, including its terracesfor a panoramic city view
Bask in the Most Enchanting Hot Springs
The Saturnia Hot Springs in Tuscany is definitely one of the most interesting places to visit in Italy. (and relaxing too!) These free outdoor hot springs in Tuscany are world famous and when visiting Tuscany you can stop to enjoy the thermal springs for a few hours.
Make sure to rent a car when exploring Tuscany, it is the best way to get around and explore the area without crowds. We made sure to go to places at sunrise before the day trippers came into town.
See the Car Culture of Emilia Romagna
When visiting Emilia Romagna, you can’t help but get excited over cars. Known as the land of motors, this Italian province takes fast cars seriously. This region of Italy is where Ducati, Ferrari and Lamborghini all originated. When there, you must have a Ferrari experience at Auto Dromo di Modena and the Ferrari Museum.
Make sure to visit the Lamborghini Museum to learn about the evolution of Ferrari. When you visit the Lamborghini museum you will also learn of its history and the rivalry between the two major car companies. Read more: Lamborghini Museum Tour with Fabio Lamborghini
Drive a fast Car – Preferably Ferrari or Lamborghini
Italy is the land of Motorsport and while visiting museums is nice to see the cars, why not drive a Ferrari and feel what its like to drive like the Italians. We drove a Ferrari on Auto Dromo di Modena near the town of Modena which is the birthplace of Enzo Ferrari. Isn’t everyone’s fantasy to get in a race car just once in their lives, why not do it in the land of motorsport? You can book your Autodromo di Modena on track race experiences here
Wine and Dine in Bologna
Bolognia is the gastronomical capital of Italy and that says a lot! It is known for its exquisite food culture making it one of the best places to visit in Italy for foodies. But there are so many things to do in Bologna such as climbing the leaning Asinelli Tower, attending the The Western World’s Oldest University – Teatro Anatomico, shopping in its porticoes and visiting Neptune’s fountain in Piazza Maggiore.
What many people say, (And we agree) is that Bologna offers the most authentic Italian experience. It’s where tourism hasn’t taken over and you can slow down to enjoy the countryside and surrounding cities such as Modena and Ravello. Read more at: The 26 Best Things to do in Bologna, Italy
Balsamic Vinegar, Gelato and Parmigiano Romano
It is in the Bolognia region that you’ll find some of the greatest balsamic winemakers on the planet. Aged Balsamic vinegar is just as important and serious as winemaking. See how Balsamic vinegar is made and also take a tour to see how the world-famous Parmigiano Romano is made. Bologna is also where you can attend Gelato University. It truly is a foodies paradise. Read more: Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, 150 Years in the Making
Bologna is truly one of the best places for foodies to enjoy in Italy and to really get a sense of its food scene you must take a food tour. This food tour in Bologna takes you on a multi-course lunch to 5 different restaurants hand-selected by local experts.
Climb Mount Etna
We have yet to climb Mount Etna, but The Gap Decaders wrote a wonderful guest post for us about how to climb this active volcano. Located in Sicily, Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and climbing to the summit at 3,326 meters above sea level. (10,912 feet) it is a thrill. If you are looking for one of the most adventurous things to do in Italy, make sure to add this to your list. The complete guide to planning and what to expect can be found here. The Best Guide to Hiking Mount Etna
We are spending the summer in Europe and we can’t wait to see more of Sicily. It has been high on our Italian bucket list. We can’t wait to see the Valley of the Temples. Yet another of Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, The Valley of the Temples looks like something right out of Greece, and it should! It dates back to the 6th Century BC by Greek settlers.
Say Hi to George at Lake Como
Okay, chances are you won’t see the most famous resident of Lake Como but when looking for romantic things to do in Italy, Lake Como is the place to go. We recently made it back to the area on the Switzerland side of this region at Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano in on the Italian border and were reminded just how beautiful this part of the country is.
Located in northern Italy, this beautiful lake region of Italy is a must-visit. Take the time to explore the small fishing villages dotting the lake. The charm of visiting Lake Como and this region is to relax in its small towns, drink wine and slow down.
Pay a Visit to Gargano
Gargano is one of the lesser-known places to visit in Italy (for tourists anyway), but if you are looking for things to do in Italy that are a little out of the ordinary, Gargano should definitely be added to your Italian bucket list. We all know that Italy is in the shape of a boot and Gargano Peninsula in Puglia is the spur of said Italian Boot.
With hundreds of kilometers of coastlines, sea caves, coastal lakes, islands, and mountains Gargano is a nature lovers’ paradise. Gargano National Park is the highlight of the region with the beautiful Tremiti Islands located just off the coast. There are sea caves and grottos and the beautiful whitewashed buildings in the town of Vieste is a great place to make a base.
And these are the best things to do in Italy. If you have the chance to visit this amazing country make sure to add all of these places to visit onto your Italy bucket list. One day, you just may see them all! It has taken us five visit and we still have so much more to see in Italy, but that’s the beauty of this country, you can go back again and again and always find something new.
Looking for more things to do in Italy? Read our other Italy travel guides for in-depth articles to help with your planning.