Travellers never fail to fall in love with Italy. From the postcard-perfect alps in the north, to the colourful coastal towns of the south, it would take months to experience it all. Luckily for you, we’ve curated a guide to the best of Italy.
Packed with iconic landmarks, Rome is a must-see for first-time travel to Italy. This bustling ancient city is the beating heart of the country, offering adventure and delicious pasta at every turn. Start by exploring the Colosseum, the ancient home of gladiator fights. This crumbling monument is one of the most popular sites in the city because of its awe-inspiring scale and rich imperial history.
The Trevi Fountain should be next on your best of Italy hit-list. With origins stretching back to 19BC, this baroque fountain is a triumph of Roman sculpture. According to legend, when someone throws a coin over their shoulder into the water, they will be destined to return to Rome.
Any visit to Rome would be incomplete without a tour of Vatican City. This independent city-state is the home of the pope and the headquarters of the Catholic Church. First, admire the intricate beauty of the Sistine Chapel, a masterpiece of celestial frescoes crafted by Michelangelo. Then, for a truly unforgettable experience, climb to the top of St Peter’s Basilica for a staggering view of the city.
See the highlights of Italy and her ancient treasures with Trafalgar on the ‘Best of Italy’ Tour.
Once you’ve had your fill of the Capital, the question of what to do in Italy can be answered simply: visit Florence. As the cradle of the Renaissance, Florence is home to some of the most beautiful structures in the country. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is no exception. With its elaborate marble walls and stained glass windows, this church is a magnificent work of art.
The dazzling artistry in Florence doesn’t end there. The Ufizzi Gallery is a treasure trove of Italian art, featuring Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and more. But, if you can only see one masterpiece in Florence, visit the nearby Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s statue of David. Afterward, don’t forget to spend a few hours in the buzzy Ponte Vecchio. This old defensive bridge is teeming with shops peddling jewellery, antiques and art.
Travel to Italy is incomplete without a visit to the eccentric city of Venice. Meander along the winding canals by gondola. As you go, marvel at the old world architecture, soft-lit ristorantes, and shop fronts that glitter with blown glass artwork. On dry land, stop by Basilica di San Marco for a taster of Byzantine architecture. This glorious basilica is gilded with gold mosaics and flush with plundered sculptures.
Visit Venice during Carnivale to fully experience the enchanting atmosphere of the floating city. This lively celebration before Lent is a whirlwind of masks, masquerade costumes, ornate boats and live music. Top it off with a glamorous night at the Mascheranda Grand Ball at the Palazzo Pisani Moretta on the Grand Canal.
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Best places for food
The list of things to do in Italy only gets longer when your belly starts to grumble. Stay in Naples, the birthplace of the Margherita pizza, to taste the best of Italy on a plate. It is well worth the lineup for a slice of traditional Neapolitan pizza. Laden with San Marzano tomatoes and molten mozzarella, this pizza is unlike any you’ve ever tried. Round out your meal with a scoop of pistachio gelato, a favourite amongst the locals.
To fully experience the best food of Italy, a few days in the Tuscan countryside are a must. In the Chianti region of Tuscany, find gently rolling hills smattered with vineyards and olive groves. Ideal for wine lovers, this lush green region is a testament to the beauty of Italian vino, from seed to sip. Embrace the Tuscan love affair with food by pairing your Chianti wine with a crisp slice of fettunta, the “mother” of all bruschetta. This mouth-watering dish consists of wood-fired bread slathered in garlic, olive oil and salt.
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Best places for history
Work off those calories with a visit to Pompeii, the remains of an ancient Roman city. Buried under ash after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D., these ruins are a history buff’s dream. Discover the story behind this UNESCO World Heritage site by joining a Local Specialist. Famous areas include the Forum, Stabian Baths and Villa dei Misteri.
Experience romance the Shakespearean way in fair Verona. Lovers will enjoy Casa di Giulietta, the fabled location of the balcony scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Reenact the scene upon the gothic balcony, or read the modern love letters on the walls of Juliette’s house. Against the backdrop of the Arena di Verona and Castle Vecchio, Verona is fairytale perfection.
Best places for adventure
Adventure seekers never run out of things to do in Italy, thanks to the natural wonderland of the Dolomites. For idyllic alpine lodgings in this UNESCO World Heritage landscape, book a traditional rifugio (mountain hut) on the rocky mountainside.
For those wondering what to do in Italy, hiking might not seem the obvious choice. But, a day hike along the Tre Cime di Lavaredo Loop is obligatory when in the Dolomites. This track passes along the Three Peaks of Lavaredo, famous monoliths so tall that clouds caress their jagged peaks. Backed by a stunning vista of verdant pines and turquoise lakes, you’ll have to pinch yourself to check it’s not a dream.
GET INSPIRED BY: Best of the Italian Lakes
If you favour the well-beaten path, Cinque Terre boasts seaside exploration in spades. These five fishing villages in the Italian Riviera are noted for their pastel-hued beauty. Adventure seekers should balance swims at Monterosso al Mare with excursions across the ancient footpaths that link the villages. Along the way, pass rugged vineyards with sweeping panoramic views of the patchwork towns below.
GET INSPIRED BY: Northern Italy Including Cinque Terre
Best places for some R’n’R
Can’t get enough of the sea? Head to the south where the rough-hewn cliffs of the Amalfi Coast lie. Splashed with vibrant villages, this part of the Italian coastline is nothing short of picturesque. A favourite amongst travelers is the unforgettable village of Positano. Here, the streets explode with art galleries and shops hawking charming clothes, ceramics, and souvenirs. Make sure to try a zesty scoop of Amalfi lemon sorbet after spending the day sprawled out by the sea.
For the full Italian beach experience, visit the island of Sardinia. Lauded for its pristine waters, Sardinia is Italy’s answer to Greece’s Santorini. Soak up the sun on the white sand of the La Maddalena archipelago. Or explore the nuraghes, mysterious ruins of rock towers from the Bronze Age. The Su Nuraxi Nuraghe is the most visited and the only nuraghe listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Have you traveled to Italy and visited any of these unmissable destinations? Or, are you hoping to in the near future? Let us know in the comments below! Or, head to our website so you can read more about how you can discover the best of Italy with Trafalgar.