Best Things to Do in Italy

Best Things to Do in Italy

Uncover Italy's Must-See Attractions

Photo by Jaron Grobler on Unsplash
WRITTEN BYBryan Jacinto
PUBLISHED ONNovember 16, 2023
Sunset over Grand Canal with historical domes in Venice, Italy

Photo by Wolfgang: Pexels

Italy is a land of history, culture, and astonishing beauty that offers endless opportunities for explorers like you. This guide provides all the information you need for an amazing Italian adventure. It covers everything from Italy's historical attractions to its authentic food, natural wonders, and unique cultural experiences. You’ll also get practical tips on local customs and logistics.

So why wait? Begin planning your dream Italian journey with our all-including guide today.

Historical and Cultural Sites

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Italy breathes history and culture. It's a stirring catalog of time's march, providing a fascinating journey into its rich and dynamic past.

But where should you begin your exploration? Let's point you in the right direction.

  • The Colosseum: Start your historical journey with Rome's Colosseum, the iconic amphitheater that once hosted gladiator battles and wild animal fights. It's an awe-inspiring testament to the greatness of the Roman Empire.
  • Leaning Tower of Pisa: Head over to Pisa to marvel at its eponymous leaning tower that has stood, albeit slanted, for over 600 years. It's a charming example of architectural resilience!
  • The Vatican City: Home to St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican is a must-visit. Whether you're religious or not, the artistry and grandeur here are undeniably inspiring.
  • Uffizi Gallery: Art lovers, rejoice! The Uffizi Gallery in Florence hosts a stunning collection of Renaissance art featuring the works of masters like Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Da Vinci.
  • Pompeii: Step back in time to the archaeological site of Pompeii, where the once-thriving Roman city was preserved under volcanic ash following the catastrophic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Remember that the best experience at these sites can often depend on the time of year you visit them. Learning about the best time to visit Italy can enhance your trip planning and overall travel experience.

Unique Cultural Experiences

Italy's culture is rich and diverse, boasting top-rated museums, lively local festivals, and hands-on experiences with traditional customs. There's so much to explore and uncover in this vibrant country. For you, we've cherry-picked some truly unique experiences that stand out in a class of their own.

  • Ferrante Fever in Naples: Follow in the footsteps of the protagonists from the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante, exploring the neighborhoods of Naples's city center in-depth and immersing yourself in the Prosecco and Pizza culture.
  • Siena Palio: Brace yourself for an adrenaline-filled horse race held twice yearly since medieval times, accompanied by vibrant processions, historical re-enactments, and traditional feasts.
  • Murano Glass Making: Take part in a distinctive traditional glass-making workshop on the Venetian island of Murano and marvel at the exquisite craftsmanship that goes into every piece of art.
  • Mask Making in Venice: Immerse yourself in the rich tradition of Venetian Carnival by creating your masquerade mask under the guidance of local artisans.
  • Truffle Hunting in Piedmont: Venture into the lush forests with trained dogs to hunt for the world-renowned Alba white truffle before indulging in a gourmet meal featuring your finds.

Natural Wonders

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Italy is renowned for its rich tapestry of natural wonders that will ensnare your senses and amaze you. From the blue, crystal-clear seas to majestic mountains, picturesque landscapes, and stunning coastlines, a diverse range of natural attractions awaits your discovery.

  • The Dolomites: Nestled in the northeastern part of Italy, the Dolomites mountain range is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its ethereal beauty, towering peaks, and diverse flora and fauna make it a must-visit.
  • Lake Como: Noted for its stunning beauty, Lake Como epitomizes natural elegance wrapped in tranquility. Admire its serene azure waters, mountains, and charming villages for an unforgettable experience.
  • Mount Vesuvius: Known for its historic eruption in AD 79, Mount Vesuvius is now a national park offering hiking trails with panoramic views of Naples and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
  • The Blue Grotto, Capri: A mesmerizing sea cave on the coast of the island of Capri, the Blue Grotto, famed for its brilliant azure waters, offers a magical and unique spectacle.

Remember, these natural wonders represent unique aspects of Italy's geographical beauty. They offer breathtaking views and a chance to connect directly with nature and experience its serenity and grandeur.

Outdoor Activities

If you're seeking thrill and adventure or yearning to immerse yourself in nature, Italy does not disappoint. The landscape varies from coastal to mountainous regions, offering a range of outdoor activities that cater to all types of adventurers.

  • Hiking: With diverse terrains, Italy is a paradise for hikers. Try the 'Path of the Gods' on the Amalfi Coast or explore the rugged trails of the Dolomites.
  • Skiing: Italy's Alps offer splendid skiing destinations like Cortina d'Ampezzo and Livigno.
  • Cycling: Pedal through Tuscan vineyards or experience the challenging ascents of the Giro d'Italia. Bicycle rentals and guided tours are readily available in most parts of the country.
  • Boating: Sail along the Italian Riviera, discover the secluded bays of Sardinia, or rent a gondola for a romantic ride in the historic canals of Venice.
  • Diving: Take the plunge to discover Italy's vibrant marine life. Sicily and Sardinia provide many opportunities for scuba divers and snorkelers.

The beauty of Italy extends from its cities straight into its remarkable landscape. To ensure you get all the benefits, we've compiled a guide on the best things to do and places to see in Italy. Check out this comprehensive article for a wealth of information.

Local Cuisine

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If you're a food lover, Italy won't disappoint you. The Italians' spectacular local cuisine is renowned worldwide for its heartwarming taste and diversity. Each region has specialties passionately crafted with homegrown ingredients.

  • Pizza: While you can find pizza almost everywhere in the world, nothing beats the authentic, thin-crust pizza topped with fresh ingredients that originated in Naples.
  • Pasta: Of course, pasta is another staple of Italian cuisine. The range is incredible, from creamy carbonara in Rome to pesto-infused trofie in Liguria.
  • Seafood: Expect to find fresh, exceptional seafood dishes along Italy's coastlines. Try 'Sarde in Saor' in Venice, a sweet and sour sardine dish.
  • Gelato: This delightful ice cream is a must-try, especially in summertime. Traditional gelato shops, or 'gelaterias,' are scattered throughout the country. Remember, authentic gelato is served using a spatula, not a scoop.

Cuisine in Italy is more than just about food. It's a cultural experience wrapped in centuries of tradition, where family and fellowship intertwine. When you dine, remember this ethos—it's not just what you eat, but how and who you eat it with.

Transportation Options

When you're on an Italian adventure, efficient and reliable means of transportation are at your fingertips. To get the most out of your visit, it's vital to understand the various transportation options available in Italy.

  • Trains: The high-speed trains between major cities are a time and cost-effective way to travel, with amenities that ensure a comfortable journey. Remember regional trains for local explorations as well.
  • Buses: Local and intercity buses provide another option for getting around, especially in areas not served by trains. They can offer a more scenic route and take you closer to some destinations.
  • Car Rentals: Renting a car in Italy might be ideal if you value autonomy and flexibility. It helps explore off-the-beaten-path destinations, rural landscapes, and small towns, making the experience of traveling in Italy even more enriching and personal.
  • Taxis and Ride-sharing: In urban areas, taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber can be convenient for short trips, though they may be pricier than public transportation.
  • Ferries: For island-hopping or coastal trips, ferries come in handy. They provide a relaxing and scenic way to traverse Italy's extensive coastline and beautiful islands.

If you're considering taking the wheel for a more adventurous ride, look at our comprehensive Driving Guide for Italy. This detailed guide will give you everything you need about Italian road rules, parking, toll system, and other essential information, making your drive in Italy easy and enjoyable.

Safety Considerations

Traveling in Italy is relatively safe, but like anywhere in the world, you need to stay mindful of specific safety considerations to ensure a worry-free trip. Here are some valuable tips to keep in mind:

  • Emergency Numbers: The general emergency number in Italy is 112. Don't hesitate to dial this number in case of emergencies.
  • Pickpocketing and Petty Thefts: Be cautious in crowded tourist places and public transport, where pickpockets can be problematic. Always keep an eye on your belongings.
  • Travel Insurance: It's always a good idea to have travel insurance that covers health emergencies, especially with the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Road Safety: If you're driving, be aware that Italians are known for their enthusiastic driving. Always follow the country's road rules, including mandatory seat belt use.
  • Zebra Crossings: Unlike other countries, drivers in Italy sometimes continue at zebra crossings. Be sure to watch for vehicles before crossing the road.

Finally, always stay alert about the local news for potential safety issues, and follow any advice or directives from local authorities. With a bit of caution, your Italian journey will not only be an exciting one but also a safe adventure.

Visa Requirements

Before you start dreaming of sipping on your perfect cup of espresso while gazing at the Colosseum, you should know the visa requirements for entering Italy. You may need a visa depending on your citizenship, the purpose of your visit, and the intended duration. Let's break it down into different categories:

  • Tourist Visa: This is for those who intend to visit Italy for leisure or tourism. As a requirement, you must provide a confirmed hotel booking, return flight ticket, proof of financial sustenance, and a detailed trip itinerary.
  • Business Visa: If you're planning to engage in business activities or attend a conference, then a business visa is what you need. You will need to present an invitation letter from the company, your business registration proof, and bank statements, among other documents.
  • Student Visa: A student visa is mandatory for those eager to study in Italy. You'll need to present a letter of acceptance from the educational institution you'll be attending, proof of funding, and health insurance coverage.
  • Work Visa: If employment is your purpose, you'll need a work visa. A letter of employment from your Italian employer, work contract, resume, and relevant qualifications help facilitate the process.

Please note that citizens of the United States, Canada, and many other countries can enter Italy as tourists without a visa for up to 90 days within 180 days. Foreigners who wish to stay longer in Italy must apply for a long-stay visa.

Visa requirements may vary from one country to another. Hence, confirming these requirements from your country's Italian Consulate or Embassy is crucial before planning your trip. It's better to be informed than surprised, right?

International Driving Permit for Italy

Getting an IDP, specifically an International Driving Permit for Italy, is necessary if you plan to drive in Italy. Think of the IDP as a translated version of your driving license, recognized globally. It makes it easier for Italian authorities to understand your credentials, ensuring a smooth driving experience in Italy.

The IDP is not just helpful; it's required by Italian law for all foreign drivers. If you don't have one, you could face fines, and rental car companies might not even let you hire a vehicle. So, to avoid potential legal issues and ensure a smooth trip, get your IDP before you set off for Italy.

Weather Conditions

Italy's climate is predominantly Mediterranean - characterized by warm, sunny summers and mild, rainy winters. However, the country has substantial variations due to its varied geographical features. Let's break it down to help you plan your trip better.

  • North Italy: This region, encompassing cities like Milan and Venice, has a relatively humid continental climate. The winters can be pretty chilly with the possibility of snowfall, while summers are usually hot and humid.
  • Central Italy: Areas including Rome and Florence enjoy a mild and temperate climate. Winters are moderate with occasional rainfall, and summers are dry and sunny.
  • South Italy: The southern regions and islands, such as Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia, have a Mediterranean climate. Winters are mild and wet, and summers are hot and dry.

Understanding these weather patterns will help you pack suitable clothing and schedule activities for an unforgettable Italian journey.

Local Etiquette and Customs

As a visitor in Italy, it's important to embrace local etiquette and customs to create genuine connections and experience the rich culture authentically. Italians, known for their warmth and friendliness, significantly emphasize manners and etiquette. Here are a few customs you should be aware of:

  • Greetings: In Italy, greeting people with two light kisses on the cheek, starting from the left, is common. Handshakes are formal and businesslike.
  • Dress code: Italians are very fashion-conscious. Dress neatly when going out and more reserved when visiting religious sites.
  • Dining etiquette: Remember that dinner typically starts late, around 7:30-8:00 PM. Keep your hands on the table (not your elbows) during meals, and remember to say "Buon appetito" before eating.
  • Tipping: Service is often included in your bill, so tipping is optional. However, it's customary to leave small changes.
  • Language: While many Italians speak English, they appreciate it when visitors try to talk some Italian. Learn a few phrases to show respect and politeness.

These guidelines offer a broad overview of Italian etiquette and customs, but remember that practices can vary among regions.

Regional Variations

Italy is a country that's full of diversity. It characterizes regional variations, making every traveler's experience richer and more profound. The charm differs from the snowy mountains up north to the sunny beaches down South.

  • Northern Italy: Known for its affluent cities like Milan and Venice, cross-cultural influences from neighboring countries, and deliciously rich cuisine featuring risotto, polenta, and decadent cheeses.
  • Central Italy: Renowned for its art cities, like Florence and Rome, Central Italy offers an immersive plunge into the country's rich history and Renaissance art. The cuisine centers around pasta, tomatoes, and locally sourced meat.
  • Southern Italy: Exuding a laid-back atmosphere, the South offers sun-drenched beaches, ancient Greek ruins, and an aromatic cuisine based heavily on seafood, olive oil, and fresh produce.

These regional variations are one of the things that make Italy so captivating. Each offers you a unique tapestry of experiences to unravel and discover.


Primarily, Italians speak Italian, a Latin-based language filled with warmth and melody. While you may encounter English-speaking individuals, particularly in major cities and tourist destinations, many locals may not, especially in rural areas.

Don't worry, though! Here are some basic phrases in Italian that can come in handy:

  • Ciao: Hello / Goodbye
  • Buon giorno: Good morning
  • Buona sera: Good evening
  • Buona notte: Good night
  • Grazie: Thank you
  • Per favore: Please
  • Scusa: Excuse me

So, please continue practicing and incorporating these phrases in your daily interactions. You'll enrich your travel experience and earn smiles and appreciation from the kind-hearted Italians.

Health and Insurance

When it comes to ensuring your health and safety during your Italian getaway, securing proper insurance cannot be overstated. Planning and taking all necessary precautions is essential to avoid unexpected health emergencies or financial burdens.

Here are some key things to consider:

  • Travel Insurance: Always get travel insurance that includes health coverage. It can cover potential medical costs, emergency evacuations, and even trip cancellations. Ensure this is in place before embarking on your journey.
  • European Health Insurance Card (EHIC): If you are a resident of a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland, it's recommended to apply for an EHIC. This card provides access to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland, under the same conditions and at the exact cost (free in some countries) as people insured in that country.
  • Local Health Services: Italy has excellent healthcare services. Local pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics are equipped to handle most health concerns. However, you must know the locations and services of healthcare facilities in the areas you plan to visit.

While Italy's healthcare system is highly rated, reviewing your health and travel insurance coverage thoroughly is wise to avoid any misunderstanding or lack of proper healthcare service during your trip.

Currency and Budget

In Italy, they use the Euro (€). ATMs are plentiful and mostly accept Visa and Mastercards. While many businesses accept credit cards, they always carry some cash for minor purchases. Avoid ATMs with 'dynamic currency conversion' offers; always opt for charges in Euros, not your home currency.

Your budget largely depends on your travel preferences and the region you visit. Cities like Rome, Milan, and Venice typically require a daily budget of over €200 for luxury dining, accommodation, and sightseeing. Conversely, smaller towns or rural areas are more affordable, often requiring between €100-€150 per day. Please note these are rough estimates and may vary according to personal preferences and the season.

Unique Destinations

As you map out your Italian adventure, you must certainly include a visit to some of its unique destinations. These distinctive spots add a dash of novelty and flair to your Italian experience, propelling it from enjoyable to unforgettable.

  • Cinque Terre: A string of picturesque seaside villages along the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. Its colorful houses and vineyards sprawled along terraces are a sight to behold.
  • Pompeii: Explore the ancient ruins of a city perfectly preserved by the ash of a volcanic eruption. It's like taking a walk back in time.
  • Sicilian Mafia Tour: An offbeat and informative journey into the history and operations of the notorious Sicilian Mafia.
  • Alberobello: Known for its unique trulli white cone-roofed houses, it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Villa de Este: This enchanting site in Tivoli is full of fantastic fountains, grottoes, and gardens, offering a magical and tranquil escape.

Italy is filled with well-known attractions and cities, but your journey will only be complete with exploring some hidden treasures. Visiting these unique spots will offer exciting insights and pleasant surprises, making your Italy trip unforgettable.

Accommodation Types

While the country enthralls you with its many attractions, it's essential to consider the type of accommodation that suits your comfort and budget. Italy offers diverse accommodation options, each with its unique charm and characteristics.

  • Hotels: Italy's hotels range from luxurious five-star establishments to cozy boutique hotels. Whether you prefer the opulence of grand hotels or the intimate atmosphere of smaller ones, you're bound to find something you like.
  • Agriturismo: Agriturismo is unique to Italy, offering rural, farm-stay experiences. Here, you can enjoy the rustic charm of the countryside, taste local produce, and engage with friendly locals.
  • Bed and Breakfasts: For a more personal touch, try a bed and breakfast. These family-run establishments often provide a warm welcome, insider knowledge of the area, and a hearty breakfast to start your day.
  • Hostels: For the economical traveler, hostels are a great choice. Despite being budget-friendly, many hostels in Italy offer clean, comfortable accommodations and opportunities to socialize with other travelers.

Suitable accommodation can enhance your Italian vacation, making it even more memorable.

Shopping and Souvenirs

Italy is a shoppers' paradise, boasting many local markets, high-end fashion boutiques, and artisan workshops. Whether hunting for that perfect souvenir or simply indulging in some retail therapy, Italy's diverse shopping scene has got you covered.

  • Italian Leather Goods: Italy is renowned for its leather products. From Florence's traditional artisan workshops to Milan's luxury fashion boutiques, you can find fine leather goods like bags, belts, and shoes of incomparable quality.
  • Designer Fashion: As the birthplace of many globally renowned fashion houses like Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, and Gucci, Italy is a must-visit for every fashionista. Milan is the fashion capital where you can shop to your heart's content.
  • Local Crafts: Each Italy region has unique handicrafts, ranging from Venetian glassworks to Sardinian textiles. These make for memorable souvenirs to take back home.

Shopping in Italy is more than just a pastime - it explores the country's rich history, artisanship, and creativity. So, prepare to be mesmerized, and remember to leave extra room in your luggage for all the treasures you'll discover!


Staying connected when moving is essential, and Italy offers several reliable options, ensuring you're never disconnected from the world. You have numerous connectivity solutions, whether for staying in touch with loved ones, updating your social media, or navigating around Italian cities.

  • Mobile Networks: Italy has several robust mobile networks. Major operators include TIM, Vodafone, and Wind Tre. You can acquire a local SIM card for short-term use, which usually involves a straightforward registration process.
  • Public Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fi is standard in Italy and is available in coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, and even some public spaces. Beware, public Wi-Fi networks may not always be secure, so consider using a VPN when accessing sensitive information.
  • Internet Cafes: If you prefer, there's also the option of internet cafes, found in most cities and larger towns. They offer computer usage at a small hourly fee.

You will be able to find an Italian connection regardless of your needs. Italy keeps you seamlessly connected, whether it's fast mobile data for your Instagram updates or secure Wi-Fi for business emails.

Time Allocation

Whether you are planning a quick trip or a month-long vacation to Italy, time management is vital, including considering the best time to visit Italy. Allocating your time wisely, especially during the most favorable seasons, will help you fully experience Italy's alluring sites and activities. Let's dive into some recommendations to help you schedule your adventure in the breathtaking land of Italy, keeping in mind the optimal travel periods.

  • Short breaks: If your trip is short (1 to 3 days), it's advisable to concentrate on one or two major cities such as Rome and Milan. Include critical attractions, such as the Colosseum and Sistine Chapel in Rome or the Milan Cathedral and Da Vinci's Last Supper in Milan.
  • One to two weeks: For medium-length stays, you can expand your itinerary to include a combination of big cities, smaller towns, and countryside landscapes. Consider exploring the historic cities of Florence and Venice, the wine region of Tuscany, and the serene Lake Como.
  • Long vacations: If you're lucky enough to have a month or more to explore Italy, consider taking a few days to relax in coastal regions like the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre or chart a path off-the-beaten-track to the less-visited areas such as Apulia in the South or Aosta Valley in the North.

Remember, these recommendations guide your planning and do not set rules in stone. After all, the best travel experiences often come from an open schedule and the moment's spontaneity.

Local Assistance

Traveling through Italy, you'll find comfort in the availability of local help. In case of any small or big issue, many resources are at your aid to navigate your journey smoothly.

Every city, every town in Italy hosts tourist offices, known as "uffici turistici." They offer free maps, brochures, event listings, and sometimes local discount cards. With multilingual staff always ready to help, these offices act as your mini-information center.

Be bold and seek guidance from locals. Known for their warmth and hospitality, most Italians are happy to lend a hand to a fellow traveler in need.

In an emergency, you can dial several numbers for immediate help. Numbers 112 will connect you to the military police, 113 for the police, 115 for the fire department, and 118 for medical emergencies.

Hotels in Italy will have a concierge or a front-desk representative who can assist you in several ways. Be it directions, eating places, or tour bookings, always appreciate the essence of local knowledge and hospitality.

Consider downloading a few local apps, ' Italy Travel Guide by Triposo' or 'ProntoTreno,' for real-time information.

Remember, the key to a memorable trip is balancing independence with the instinct to ask for help. So, embrace the Italian culture of "l'arte di arrangiarsi" - making something from nothing - to ensure a fantastic time in the picturesque country.

Closing Thoughts

As you plan your trip to Italy, prioritize these top activities and attractions. Whether it's marveling at the architectural wonders of Florence, cruising along the stunning Amalfi Coast, or wandering through the charming streets of Venice, each experience will immerse you in this enchanting country's rich culture and history.

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