Between the history of Rome, vineyards of Tuscany and style of Milan – not to mention Florence, Sicily and Naples – it’s a tough task to plan an adventure in Italy. Yet, you’ll see nothing at all if you pay fleeting visits to each. Instead, use our highlights guide below to narrow down the options. And if you’d rather somewhere lesser-known, visit one of these charming secret towns before tourists discover them.
The north is where you’ll find mountainous national parks, decadent cities and the Cinque Terre, a beautiful cluster of villages along the Italian Riviera coastline. Lake Como and Lake Garda are both in Lombardy and offer a magical countryside alternative to coastal destinations in the south. Venice is perhaps the biggest headline here, but don’t forget the stylish city of Milan or the underrated cities of Turin and Genoa. Read our guide to the most breathtaking places in northern Italy to learn more.
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Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
The rolling hills, the seemingly unchanged old villages, the vineyards… Tuscany is picture perfect all over. You can’t really go wrong with travelling from town to town, be it the ancient Monteriggioni or vibrant Montepulciano. Read our guide to the most beautiful towns in Tuscany, and don’t forget to leave time for Pisa and, of course, the red-tiled beauty of Florence.
There’s so much to see and do in the capital that it can be quite overwhelming. Fear not, we’ve compiled lists of the best attractions, the spots everyone overlooks but shouldn’t and the top places for stunning views of the Eternal City. Alternatively, if you’re looking to get a real feel for modern Rome, learn about the coolest neighbourhoods, where you can discover the best food, nightlife and culture of today.
The Amalfi Coast might just be the ultimate seaside adventure in Italy. Start a little further north, in the thrilling city of Naples, before heading south past Sorrento and onto the Amalfi. From there, you can stop at every fishing village and cliffside town on a glorious road trip of sun, sea and sumptuous cuisine. Sound fun? Follow our guide to driving the Amalfi Coast and prepare to have the journey of a lifetime.
Sicily and Sardinia
It’s easy to forget that, just hanging off the tip of Italy’s boot, is the magnificent island of Sicily and a little further northwest is Sardinia. Both offer excellent hiking trails, beautiful coastlines and a laid-back approach to life. Read our in-depth guide to the best things to do in Sicily and the best day trips from Cagliari, the Sardinian capital.
Things to do in Italy
Whichever corner of Italy you choose, you’re sure to find plenty of great art, culture and nightlife. The country also has incredibly diverse geography, with snowy peaks and alpine lakes in the north, Mediterranean islands in the south and just about everything in between. Below are four must-do attractions in Italy, and if you’d like to book tours, activities and classes, check out the amazing collection of experiences we offer.
Northern Italy has a number of striking alpine lakes, none of which are more impressive than Lake Garda. The area is full of natural beauty, perfect for a calm countryside retreat, but the sheer scale of Garda makes it just about the best place in Italy for watersports. Windsurfing and sailing are the two most popular activities here but you can also kitesurf, paddleboard, go diving and canyoning or, if you’d prefer a slower pace, take a scenic boat ride across the lake. The most special activity of them all, however, is getting up nice and early and going for a morning swim. The water is calm, fresh and quiet, and the surroundings are simply breathtaking.
The capital is the greatest open-air museum in the world. From ancient ruins to remarkably well-kept monuments, Rome is covered in remnants of its storied past. So much so that even the most off-beat traveller can’t miss the likes of the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and, most of all, the Colosseum. If you want to escape the crowds, get there by 8.30am, when the gates open. But we recommend booking a night tour, when the arena takes on an even more magical atmosphere. Entry is free on the first Sunday of every month, and tickets are fairly reasonable at all times, although we recommend paying extra to tour the arena floor, the upper tiers and the hypogeum – a series of tunnels and cells built underneath the arena.
Pompeii might be mainstream but it’s also one of the most unique places on earth, offering a fascinating insight into the power of nature. While elements of Pompeii are harrowing, as you witness destruction caused by a Mount Vesuvius eruption almost 2,000 years ago, it has also allowed historians to gather a much greater understanding of Roman life at the time. This is one of the definitive historical landmarks of European history and, after a day of learning, you can always cool off in nearby Sorrento or unwind in Naples.
Where to stay in Italy
Wherever you’re looking to go, we have your dream hotels, apartments and villas bookable on Culture Trip. Check out our guides to the best hotels in Milan, Venice, Florence, Sicily and the Amalfi Coast. We highly recommend looking at villas in Sardinia, hotels with pools in Rome and the best places to stay in Tuscany. Alternatively, if you’d like to do the digging yourself, you can use our hotel search function to find the perfect place for you. In the meantime, here are four of our favourites.
Locations don’t get better than this little spot of hillside overlooking the largest lake in Italy. Lefay Resort is a huge wellness centre with sustainability at its core. Rooms are decorated with gentle colours and subtle design flourishes that put you in the right frame of mind to enjoy the extensive spa facilities. A variety of health programmes and treatments are on offer, plus beauty programmes that use the hotel’s own cosmetic line. There are six types of sauna, heated indoor pools, a gym and, stealing the show, an infinity pool with unrivalled views of the lake. After a pamper day you can explore the hills, woodland and olive groves, or simply enjoy an evening of good food and drink at one of two restaurants, a lounge bar or the pool bar.
A stay at this surprisingly well-priced boutique hotel offers luxurious furnishings and a prime location overlooking Piazza di Santa Maria Novella and the beautiful Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. This places you perfectly in the heart of Florence, ready to explore the spellbinding streetscapes and architectural landmarks on every corner. Inside has a distinctly decadent feel, with elegantly hanging drapes, bold colour palettes and beds fit for royalty. Meanwhile you can enjoy the charming surroundings without leaving the comfort of the hotel, thanks to a delightful rooftop terrace, from which you can spot the most famous landmarks in Florence with a cocktail in hand.
Enjoy mesmerising views over the Bay of Naples when you book a stay at this idyllic apartment in Sorrento, south of Naples and just north of the Amalfi Coast. The theme is very much maritime, with colourful tiles and busy decorative touches. Balconies, terraces and a small but alluring pool allow you to enjoy the sunshine from the comfort of your own space, while the lively centre of Sorrento is within walking distance. Every room is positioned perfectly for the floor-to-ceiling windows to look directly out onto the twinkling blue waters and rocky coastlines on the horizon. Not a bad sight to wake up to.
Sicily is one of the more budget-friendly regions of Italy, so you can enjoy top-of-the-range glamour at prices that match average hotels in other parts of the country. Enter Zash, a gorgeous countryside building under an hour from Catania. Sleek, modern decor blends surprisingly well with the rustic structures of the building, while the perfectly kept gardens feature a serene outdoor pool. The philosophy of this place is all about silence and relaxation. The Sicilian spa is a treasure, built using products of Mount Etna lava and looked after by top-class wellness professionals. The restaurant, once an ancient winery, is in the cellar and has a Michelin star to its name. Chef Giuseppe Raciti uses contemporary creativity to bring local ingredients to life amid the atmospheric underground dining area.
Where to eat and drink in Italy
Italian cuisine might just be the most popular in the world. It’s certainly the most appropriated, but nowhere does it quite as well. The whole country is plastered with restaurants where the best chefs use the best ingredients to make some of the most tantalising dishes on the planet. Here are four examples of such places.
Before a bite has been taken, Borgo San Jacopo will wow you with the most desirable location in Florence, overlooking the Arno, with intoxicating night-time views of Ponte Vecchio. The mastermind behind this hotel restaurant, Claudio Mengoni, works wonders with fresh meat, fish and local vegetables. And then there’s the wine. With more than 900 labels in the cellar, this might be one of the best wine spots in the city, and head sommelier Salvatore Biscotti will make sure your drink matches the richness of your food and the romance of the views.
This retro trattoria, with tiled floors and orange walls, may look like a traditional, low-key food joint, but it’s actually one of the most up-and-coming food places in Rome. Wonderkid chef Sarah Cicolini has earned herself a reputation as the queen of offal and innards but, don’t worry, weaker stomachs can opt for her much-lauded carbonara, while her use of seasonal vegetables is revered. The menu changes just about every day (a few classics are kept for the regulars) so you never quite know what you’ll find – that’s part of the thrill. The one thing you do know is that it’ll taste damn good. Who knew casual dining could be so exciting?
You can’t leave Italy without having tucked into some pizza, and there’s no better place to go than Naples, where the dish was invented. Nothing beats a good Neapolitan pizza and there are countless places to get a delicious slice, so don’t be afraid to pop into any old corner pizzeria and sample the goods – it might be the best of your life. Our pick of the bunch, though, is Starita, found in an easily accessible residential neighbourhood. They strike the perfect balance between thickness of dough, richness of sauce, and blend of herbs and cheese. If you come here on your first night in Naples, you’ll do well to eat anywhere else for the rest of your stay.
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