There’s a good reason why Italy remains one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations. Actually, when you think about it, there are about a million good reasons! With its rich history, amazing art, stunning countryside, and culturally diverse regions, Italy is a small country that really packs a punch. From walking through historic city centers to enjoying the rustic Tuscan wine region, there’s no end to the amazing things to do in Italy. Whether you want to spend your time ogling the art, tasting the cuisine, or relaxing beach-side, a trip to Italy will be one you'll never forget.
Start your trip off right by heading straight to the Colosseum. Although the Flavian Amphitheatre is impressive enough from the outside, it’s worth buying a ticket to explore the inner structure. After the Colosseum, walk through the sprawling ruins that make up the Roman Forum before stopping in one of the many restaurants or pizzerias for some of the best food you’ve ever had. After lunch, head for the 2000-year-old Pantheon to buy a ticket and snap some beautiful pictures of the famous inner dome. Next, walk down the road to the Trevi Fountain. Throw a coin into the fountain and make a wish before enjoying an aperitivo in one of the many local bars.
Pompeii is in every Italian travel guide ever made, but Herculaneum doesn’t get mentioned as much. Although Herculaneum is a somewhat better preserved archaeological site than Pompeii, both sites are amazing in their own right and you should plan on spending an entire day at each. Get to both places early and hire a guide for a two-hour tour to see the most important sights, then head off on your own for some extra exploring. At Pompeii, you’ll walk down ancient roads, houses, and even a brothel. At Herculaneum, you’ll see preserved furniture, mosaics, and terror-stricken victims, all while Mount Vesuvius looms in the background.
Once you’ve seen what Mount Vesuvius is capable of, it’s time to brave the volcano and hike all the way to the top. You’ll have a spectacular panoramic view of Naples, the ruins of Pompeii, and the stunning coastline. Pack plenty of water and some snacks so you can take your time getting to the top. If you don’t feel like walking up the entire volcano, you can grab a seat on one of the buses that takes tourists most of the way up. Once you arrive, you can walk about 30 minutes to get to the top, enjoy the view with a glass of wine, and get the bus back to Naples. The perfect afternoon!
Tuscany is known for many things, but wine is one of the first things that comes to mind. Chianti is the wine of choice in the area, but you can find a variety of reds and whites as well. Sample the wines, take a tour of the cellars, and enjoy Tuscany’s stunning natural beauty. If you're in Florence, a trip to the vineyards of Siena is a must. You’ll get to explore the famous vineyards where world-renowned Chianti Classico is made. Apart from Siena, there are plenty of other wine destinations to choose from, including San Gimignano, Sassicaia, Ornellaia, and Montepulciano.
It can be hard to know where to start when you first arrive in Florence. The city is overwhelming in the best possible way, and every square inch seems to be full of art, culture, and history. Of course, you should see David, tour the Duomo, and visit the Uffizi Gallery, but the Boboli Gardens are worth spending an entire day enjoying. Connected to the Medici’s Palazzo Pitti, the Boboli Gardens are as expansive as they are beautiful. Not only is there an impressive variety of trees, plants, and flowers, but the gardens are also home to a huge amount of classical fountains and sculptures. While you’re there, make sure you head to the Knight’s Building and Rampart to enjoy a fantastic view of the Tuscan countryside.
One of the most picturesque spots in all of Italy, the Amalfi Coast is a must-see. With all that clear blue water and pristine coastline, why explore it by land? Taking a boat ride along the coast is a unique and stunning way to experience the area. If you’re an experienced sailor, you can rent a boat and explore on your own. This is a great option because it allows you to stop wherever you please, and you can find some romantic and secluded coves on your journey. For everyone else, there are plenty of boat tours to choose from along the coast. These tours will stop at all of the essential small towns, including Positano.
No vacation to Italy is complete without a trip to Vatican City. Some of the most important religious spots in the world call Vatican City their home, and they’re worth visiting for the cultural importance alone. A ticket will get you to all of the major sights, including Piazza San Pietro, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Palace, and, of course, the Sistine Chapel. Plan on spending a whole day in the city, as lines tend to be long and there’s a lot to see.
While tourists continue to flock to Venice, the smart traveler goes straight to Chioggia. Venice’s lesser-known cousin, Chioggia is a beautiful and ancient floating city just south of Venice in the Veneto region. Walk through the uncrowded streets, take a boat ride through the canal into the Venetian Lagoon, and see the many churches, palaces, and squares that date back to the 11th century.
Lake Como is stunning, and the surrounding landscape is just begging to be explored. There are plenty of hiking routes to choose from, but the Sentiero del Viandante, which dates back to the Roman period, should be at the top of your list. To see it all without overexerting yourself, break the trail up into four sections and stop in nearby villages as you go. You’ll enjoy beautiful views of the lake and meet plenty of friendly locals.
Unfortunately, many first-time visitors to Italy don’t make it to Sicily unless they’re visiting family. Sicily is a vibrant, diverse, and under-explored part of the country, and Palermo is the cultural hub of the region. Take a few days to get to know the city and see the main sights. The 9th-century Norman palace and the Baroque Quattro Canti are must-see places while you’re there.