The Best Things to See and Do in Italy

Written by Rem Malloy, since 1995 Rem has been guiding and designing trips to Italy and all of Western Europe and is considered an expert in his field for over 30 years.

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Want to fill your itinerary with the best things to do in Italy? Well, that might be a challenge since there are so many great choices! However, if you’re trying to narrow down the list, we can help you out. This certainly isn’t everything, but it’s a solid starting point for planning your trip.

Here is our list of the best things to see and do in Italy:

A Road Trip on The Amalfi Coast

Aside from its famous beaches, the Amalfi coast is a destination within itself. It’s especially popular for road trips by car or motorcycle. The scenic drive offers views through winding mountains, villages and beaches.

Many people begin in Salerno and travel through Ravello, Amalfi, Duomo di Sant’ Andrea, Valle dei Mulini, and Praiano and Positano.

Wander Around Venice

Venice, Italy is a very unique city – a beautiful maze of scenic bridges and winding alleyways.

While we could recommend plenty of Venice attractions, one of the best things to do is simply “wander”. The tiny alleyways, stunningly blue canals and tiny pastry shops are enough to keep you busy for a few hours.

Let yourself get lost, but make sure to pop into a gelato shop, a cute boutique, and a tiny café while you find your way back out.

A Gondola Ride

If you’d like to take a break from wandering the streets around Venice, definitely take a gondola ride. This is a classic Venice experience and you’ll probably recognize the striped shirts and beautiful boats from pictures and the movies.

Couples traveling in Venice should particularly take advantage of this romantic opportunity.

Tour the Colosseum

Hopefully, you have Rome on your itinerary. If you do, the Colosseum is a destination to not be missed.

The Colosseum is an iconic symbol, listed in 2007 as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Located just east of the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum, the Colosseum is the largest historic amphitheater ever built. Dating back to AD 70, it is one of the best preserved ruins from the Roman Empire. Stories say that this sand and stone structure was capable of fitting 80,000 people at one time. There’s also an underground portion called the hypogeum, which is visible today. According to historians, this was the area that held animals, prisoners, and gladiators. 

More than any other monument, this iconic amphitheater symbolizes the power and drama of Ancient Rome. The massive arena once held thousands of spectators who packed the stands to watch gladiators battle and fight animals. The Colosseum still stands in the center of Rome as one of the most recognizable buildings of the ancient world. Millions of tourists visit the site every year, and it is a must-see destination for sightseers in the city.

Take a Pasta Making Class

You can take them all over Italy, but rumor has it that Bologna has some of the best classes. Learn to make traditional, Italian pasta and sample your efforts once you finish. This new skill is sure to impress your friends and family back home.

The ability to make Italian pasta anytime you want is one of the best souvenirs you could ask for!

Do a Winery Tour in Tuscany

Tuscany is full of beautiful, rolling hills and plenty of vineyards. A visit to Italy just wouldn’t be complete without touring some of these wineries and sampling the selection.

The Tuscan scenery makes this wine experience one of the best in the world. Not to mention that the wines themselves are considered top notch all around the globe.

If you ship a few bottles home for your family, they’ll probably love you even more!

See the Statue of David in Florence

If you’re visiting Florence, you’ll have the chance to see Michelangelo’s David in the flesh (or rather, in the stone). He can be found in the Accademia Gallery and is one of the top attractions the city has to offer.

Getting of glimpse of this statue is really a once in a lifetime experience. Prepare to be amazed at the scale and detail of this incredible work of art.

Take a Photo in Front of The Leaning Tower of Pisa

While there isn’t a lot to do in the area surrounding the Tower of Pisa, it’s just something you’ve got to see. Everyone will be taking goofy photos in front of it, and you won’t be able to resist the urge, either. .

Whether you’re keeping the Tower up with a fingertip, carrying it on your back, or pretending to eat it, you’ll have a good time taking photos in front of this famous leaning Tower.

Throw a Coin in The Trevi Fountain

To truly indulge in the beauty that is Rome, make sure that a visit to the magnificent Trevi Fountain is on your list. This beautiful water feature is one of the most-visited sites by tourists who come to Italy’s capital city. 

Tossing a coin into the fountain guarantees that you will return to Rome, which is certainly worth doing if you are enjoying your time in the city. Did you also know that throwing THREE coins into the fountain with a special someone leads to marriage?

At 85 feet high and 65 feet across, this fountain and its piazza take up almost an entire city block. Each section of the Trevi symbolizes a concept, all forming together to create the story. The center statue is the Greek Sea God, Oceanus, pulled on a chariot by two sea horses; one wild and one passive. These symbolize the changing moods of the ocean. It is not just a beautiful structure, but is a historic monument, as the oldest water source in the entire city of Rome. 

Tour The Ruins of Pompeii

Since Pompeii’s ancient ruins were discovered in the 19th century, it has been one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations. Pompeii, once a thriving port city, where wealthy Romans would indulge their passion for theater, cuisine, and even brothels. Pompeii was lost in history for centuries after Mt Vesuvius erupted and covered the city with a thick layer of ash and lava.

Today, you have the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of a Pompeiian and explore the ruins yourself. Visit sites such as the baths of Pompeii, see amazing villas with mosaic floors, and ancient wall paintings.

Beach Hop on The Amalfi Coast

There are so many amazing beaches on the Amalfi Coast that you’ll never make it to them all. But, you can at least try.

The Amalfi Coast is best for exploring scenic beaches, stunning towns, and spectacular landscapes. It is the perfect setting for a Mediterranean seaside holiday. Here, you can swim, sail, canoe, hike, or simply lounge on a sheltered cove all day. 

Grab your bathing suit and head over to some of the best beaches. Gavitella, Furore, and Laurito are some of our favorites!

Visit the Duomo in Florence

When in Florence, it’s impossible not to visit this beautiful cathedral. In fact, it’s so picture perfect that it almost doesn’t look real.

Enjoy the view from the outside but don’t forget to head indoors and take a tour. You can visit the crypts under the cathedral or climb the bell tower for an incredible view. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, climb the steep and narrow 463 steps up to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome! It is truly a work of architectural genius.

Tour The Vatican

It’s technically considered its own country, so a visit here will be a two for one! Vatican city has a lot going on in the ways of cathedrals, historic buildings and museums.

The independent city-state is one of Italy’s most popular attractions. Its opulent architecture and beautiful decor makes this an incredible place, providing an elegant and almost dreamlike atmosphere. 

You’ll probably need an entire day to take it all in, so be sure to wear your sturdiest walking shoes. Having tired feet is well worth it for the amazing artwork and history.

Take Photos in Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, a rugged and photogenic coastline on the Italian Riviera, consists of five beautiful hillside villages. Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore are nestled on the cliffs and linked together by narrow hiking trails stretching along the coastline. 

The entire area is made up of rugged cliffs, scenic walking paths, tunnels, and natural scenery. It looks like a postcard no matter what time of year you visit. Sip limoncello, eat anchovies and try the local wines. And after a long hike, don’t forget the gelato!

Visit The Roman Forum

Close to the Colosseum in Rome, this site is one of the top historical attractions in the city.

The Roman Forum is situated between the Palatine and Capitoline hills. Once the scene of public meetings, law courts, and gladiatorial combats, the Forum contains the ruins of Rome’s most imposing temples and monuments. It is one of the most spectacular sights in Rome — a vast, ruin-filled area that speaks to the glory days of the Roman Empire. It’s one of the most-photographed — and photogenic — areas of Rome. Take a walking tour and get a first-hand look at the ancient ruins and architectural fragments that were left behind.

Take a Boat Ride on Lake Como

One of Italy’s most beautiful lakes, Como gets its picturesque reputation from the mountains and woodlands that it borders.

Today, it is considered one of the top resort areas in Italy, and is a popular destination for vacationers. Aside from the opulent atmosphere, guests can still get a taste of Renaissance architecture in the town of Como.

Go Shopping in Milan

Milan is known as the fashion capital. From chic boutiques to high-end department stores, fashion lovers flock to this city from all over the world. Fashion Week is one of the most famous events held in Milan each year.

The fashion houses of Gucci, Prada, and Fendi are among Milan’s best known; they are found along the main shopping street of Corso Vittorio Emanuelle II. It is simply a must see for tourists.

Even if you can only afford to window shop, a visit to Milan is worth the trip. And, maybe consider splurging just a bit so that you can have a gorgeous souvenir to remember your trip.

Eat Pizza in Naples

There are tons of places to eat pizza in Italy, and Naples is known to have some of the best. Naples boasts the richest and most exciting pizza culture anywhere, and where better to try it than it is birthplace!

There are 3 variations of true Neapolitan pizza, and we recommend you try them all! Although they sound so simple, there is nothing ordinary when you dig into your first Neapolitan pizza.

When visiting Naples, you could even learn how to make authentic Neapolitan pizza and learn the mysteries of the most-loved Italian dish in the world.

Go Underwater to See The Sunken City of Baia

The city of Baia was considered a high-end resort town during ancient times. It was the kind of place where the Roman elite would gather to party.

The city became abandoned and it’s a good thing that it did. Eventually, the water levels rose due to volcanic vents and the party destination with submerged.

Today, the area is one of the few underwater archeological parks in the world. Visitors can check out the watery remains via glass-bottomed boat, by snorkeling, or by scuba diving.

Visit The Pantheon

The Pantheon is the best-preserved ancient building in Rome. Built in 125 AD, it was constructed as a temple dedicated to the Gods. It sits on the Piazza della Rotonda, a square in the historic heart of Rome.

The most impressive element is the dome – the largest ever built from unreinforced concrete – topped by a 9-meter diameter opening, the oculus. The oculus is the only source of external light and is is uncovered so rain falls directly into the building.

The Pantheon was dedicated in AD 609 as the Church of Santa Maria Rotonda, or Santa Maria and the Martyrs, and remains so today.

See The Sistine Chapel

Whether you like art or not, the Sistine Chapel is a must-see when visiting Italy. Visitors aren’t supposed to take photos, but you’re bound to see a few hundred people snapping sneaky shots.

The Vatican Museums are home to the world’s most extensive collection of precious artworks spanning the centuries. Our private guided tours take you to The Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, with its famous Michelangelo-painted ceiling – truly a breathtaking sight. It is said if you stand in front of each item in the museum for just ten seconds, you would need to be there for ten years to see everything! There are over 2000 different rooms that span nearly 10 miles.

There is a huge range of galleries and buildings to explore in the Vatican Museums, offering spectacular masterpieces everywhere you turn. It’s impossible to not be moved by the beauty and scale of these works.

Go Skiing in The Italian Alps

A great winter activity in Italy is skiing. Head north and you’ll have access to the beautiful ranges of the Italian Alps. Whether you have skiing experience or it’s your first time, a ski trip to Italy will be a great time.

Unlike other parts of Italy where you imagine a bowl of pasta or a fine glass of Tuscan wine, there are also some of the most stunning and world-class ski resorts in the Dolomites and Italian Alps.

If you want to plan a ski trip in the alps, check out these top Italian ski resorts: Cortina d’Ampezzo, Courmayeur, and Alpe di Siusi.

See St. Mark’s Basilica

If you’ve decided to take a break from wandering around Venice, visiting St. Mark’s Basilica is a great way to take a break.

This is the most famous church in Venice, and is one of the best examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. It was ordered to be built back in 828 and still holds up beautifully today.

At the very least, take photos of the outside. But, if you can, go on a tour with a guide so that you can learn more about the fascinating history.

Wander Siracusa Old Town

Located in Sicily, Syracuse (or Siracusa) is known for its architecture, culture, Greek history and amphitheaters.

The city is about 2,700 years old and used to be of major importance during its heyday. In fact, it was one of the key powers of the Mediterranean world.

It’s now considered a World UNESCO Heritage Site and is popular with visitors who love history and ancient architecture.

See The Opera at La Scala

La Scala Opera House, the official name is Teatro alla Scala, but many know it as just the “Scala.” It is considered the most popular opera house in the world, and it is a prime destination for visitors to Italy.

The interior is impressive, and after the most recent renovation, it is even better. The Scala’s history includes Guiseppe Verdi, who helped turn Milan’s opera house into an international sensation.

Visit an Active Volcano in Sicily

One of the most famous attractions in Sicily is Mt. Etna. Not only is it an active volcano, but it’s one of the largest of its kind in all of Europe. Join a group tour or rent a car if you plan on visiting. If you are feeling adventurous, there are a few hikes you can do to the nearby craters.

If you would prefer to take the easy route, there are cable cars that will take you up. In fact, these cars can get you to better viewpoints than any of the hikes! Once the cable car reaches the top, there are a few more hikes you can do from there. Also, you have the option to pay for a tour truck to drive you even higher.

If you’re visiting Italy, you may feel overwhelmed by all of the great tourist options. To make your planning a little easier, take this list and use it as your itinerary. If you’d like some more inspiration, view our featured tours here.

About the Author

Rem Malloy started Italy4real back in 1995 with his mother, Deborah de Maio.

He specialises in Italian tours as well as customised tours to France, England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Greece and Spain. He was also featured in the Travel Channel show Mysteries at The Museum in 2016.

Rem has family in Italy and his mothers home town is Cava di Terrani, near the Amalfi Coast. The family has a street named after them in Sorrento, Via Luigi de Maio; a relative who was mayor of Sorrento.

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