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Insider's guide to Italy

Experience Italy from the inside

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Insider tips for your visit to Italy

There are many reasons why Italy captures the hearts of people around the world: amazing food and wine, natural beauty, fascinating history, important works of art, and, of course, its remarkable architecture.

But if you want to go deep inside the soul of this passionate nation, you’ll find that meeting its people and going beneath the surface of its culture will open up your understanding of Italy like nothing else.

Here, we share everything from sightseeing secrets to authentic Insider Experiences.

Pompeii – An insight into Roman life

This important historic city carries a horrific story, yet also reveals a glimpse into the day-to-day life of the ancient Romans. After the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, Pompeii was buried under volcanic debris, until the preserved site was rediscovered 1,600 years later. 

Did you know, for instance, that the Romans had central heating systems? Hot air was circulated through an enclosed space below the floor, which meant that residences and bath houses had under-floor heating.

Get an insider’s perspective on Pompeii during our Italian Concerto tour.

Bologna – Towers of the Asinelli and Garisenda

The towers of the Asinelli and Garisenda are the most prominent landmarks of the city of Bologna. They date back to the 1100s, when they were built by wealthy families bearing the same name. 

There are around 20 towers in Bologna, but at one point this Italian city was a veritable medieval version of Manhattan and counted a whopping 180 of them.

Discover the towers of Bologna on our Flavours of Italy tour.

Lake Orta - A well-kept secret

Lesser known than its bigger siblings Lake Como, Garda and Maggiore, Lake Orta is a well-kept secret, even among Italians. 

With Lake Orta’s mountainous backdrop and the enchanting island that sits in its centre, you’ve a scene which looks like it’s landed straight out of a storybook. The Milanese are so enamoured with Lake Orta that they have nicknamed it La Cenerentola, or Cinderella, simply because it’s the prettiest of them all.

Witness the beauty of Lake Orta on our Piedmont and the Italian Lakes.

Rome – The secret Vatican staircase

The Bramante staircase in the Vatican, with its grand Doric columns and double-helix ramp, is a true hidden gem. 

Tucked away in a corner of the Pio-Clementine Museum, it’s normally closed to the general public; however, our Local Specialists will take you behind the velvet ropes to reveal this secret staircase. As you descend, don’t forget to look down and marvel at the dizzying shape of the stairs snaking down to the ground floor.

Access the Bramante staircase on our Italian Holiday tour.

Enjoy the insider experience on our Italy tours 

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    You’re invited for dinner at an atmospheric Tuscan farmhouse located amidst olive groves. You’ll enjoy traditional, regional dishes and local wines surrounded by magnificent views of the Tuscan countryside. Experience this on Italy Bellissimo – a Country Explorer tour.

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    One for all the family, this experience takes you inside ancient Rome’s gruesome battles to give you a fun insight into its past. While the kids get dressed up and feel the heavy weight of a sword, your expert will reveal stories and show you the basics of gladiatorial sword fighting. Join Gladiators, Gondolas and Gold - a Family Experiences tour.

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    If you want to get a feel for what it was like to live like an old-time Italian king, you’ll love staying at the Albergo dell’Agenzia. The hotel is situated in a grand country estate, which once belonged to King Carlo Alberto of Savoy. There are two hectares of gardens for you to enjoy, as well as an on-site restaurant that’s famed locally for its Slow Food. Join the Secrets of Italy - a Hidden Journeys tour.

Discover our Travel Directors' Hidden Treasures of Italy

Photographers, historians, foodies, art-appreciators: our Italy Travel Directors are as diverse as its architecture and wines. But the one thing they all share in common is a love for their country. 

Here are some of their favourite Hidden Treasures, which you can experience on our Italy tours.

Francesco's Café, Florence

“Francesco's is a family-run café in Florence that expanded a few years ago, and they discovered Roman ruins under the restaurant that no-one knew about. The family are so proud that they show them to my guests for free.”

Lynda D'Amico, Trafalgar Travel Director

Stadio dei Marmi, Rome

“The Stadio dei Marmi is a running track, built in the 1920s, which is surrounded by beautiful marble statues of athletes.”

Lisa Bottazzo, Trafalgar Travel Director

San Gimignano, Tuscany

“In San Gimignano, Marcella, who has run her own pasticceria since the 1970s, greets me in the street in front of her shop like an old friend, inviting everyone in for a cookie.”

Rachel White, Trafalgar Travel Director

Italy Rome Colosseum 2016 R 622806180

"The trip touched upon every aspect of Italy"

Kimberley - Trafalgar guest, Jul 2014

See all Italy tours

See all Italy tours

Discover your own Hidden Treasures on our tours of Italy.