The 15 Ultimate Things to Do and See in Italy

Italian landscape
Italian landscape | giuseppemilo/Flickr
Ione Wang

It’s difficult to choose just 15 things in a country so diverse and full of beauty. While the timeless cities of Rome, Venice and Florence are stunning, there’s also plenty to be explored in the countryside. There’s something here for everyone, whether you’re a bohemian intellectual looking for a dark cafe, a foodie looking for gastronomic joy, or an adventurer on the lookout for a great hike. If you’re thinking of coming to Italy, here are some suggestions that will point you towards some incredible experiences.

Devour pizza in Naples

This internationally beloved dish was born in Naples, and there’s no doubt that Naples does it best. The authentic pies are baked in a wood-fired oven for the smoky flavor of the wood and there’s a careful balance that’s struck between crunchy crust, sauce and cheese.

Neapolitan pizza

Go skiing in the Dolomites

Marvel at the Valley of the Temples

These gorgeous ruins date back to the 5th century BC. That’s 2,500 years that they’ve been hanging around, which is pretty stunning in itself. The site itself is incredibly well-preserved and the grandeur and beauty of the place is incomparable. Those who love ancient history will find their paradise here in Sicily.

Valley of the Temples

Wander the glorious Uffizi Gallery

The cream of the Old Master crop floats to the top here at the Uffizi, where art lovers will find true bliss. You know that picture that’s always on postcards? The real one is probably here. You’ll be nose-to-nose with ethereal Botticelli women, eye-to-eye with Michelangelo muscle men and person-to-person with the dark beauty of Caravaggio.

Botticelli’s La Primavera

Watch an opera at Verona’s Arena

The Arena in Verona is an open-air amphitheater dating back to Roman times. It’s an astounding piece of history, but it also has a very contemporary life, with all kinds of plays and concerts being held there. Go for the summer festival when you’ll get to watch an Italian opera in a Roman ruin.

The Arena

Catch a soccer game

Roman Catholicism might be what they put on forms, but soccer is the true national religion here. There will be singing, chanting, jumping and shockingly inventive ways to curse at the referee. It’ll end in either ecstatic joy or bitter tears. You can plan a trip to the stadium, cram yourself into a sports bar, or find a public square where the games are shown on maxi-screens. Just make sure you’re cheering for Italy.

Stay in a little town in Le Marche

This is a highly underrated region in the middle of Italy that’s full of incredible natural beauty and delicious food. The rolling hillsides are dotted with medieval villages, farms and vineyards. Italians come to savor the best lentils in the country, the hearty pasta and meat dishes.

Go to a food festival in Emilia Romagna

This region is the home of delicious products like prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella, Parmigiano Reggiano and balsamic vinegar from Modena. It’s also the historic birthplace of Sangiovese and Lambrusco. All through the season, you’ll find food and wine festivals as Emilia Romagna celebrates its best. Check out the Festival del Prosciutto di Parma, or the white truffle fair at Sant’Agata Feltria.

Prosciutto di San Daniele

Swim in the Aeolian Islands

Off of the northeastern coast of Sicily, a few tiny islands are scattered across the clear, blue sea. They can be reached by ferry from Milazzo, and you’ll find a paradise of volcanic landscapes and perfect beaches.

A view of Panarea

Eat gelato on the Spanish Steps

In Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn is an unhappy princess constrained by her courtly duties. Then, for a glorious day, she escapes from the palace and meets a hunky, broke journalist played by Gregory Peck. Just imagine that you could live out that fantasy straight from the brain of vintage Hollywood – plus or minus hunky journalist.

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday

Do a farmstay in Puglia

Puglia is the heel of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula. It’s an unpretentious yet stunning place with plenty of coastline. In an agriturismo, you’ll get to experience the beauty of the landscape, get a glimpse of rural life and of course, eat some incredible homegrown food.

Eat pastries in Sicily

Italian pastries are amazing and in Sicily, you’ll find some of the most delicious sweets you’ll ever taste. They’re usually eaten at breakfast with a little cup of coffee, or whenever the fancy strikes you. Trust us, between cannoli and cassata, it’ll be hard to stop yourself.

Sicilian pastries

Drink coffee in Trieste

Trieste is the coffee capital of Italy, which is saying something. In the 18th century, it was the port where beans were brought in and traded out all across the Mediterranean. It’s still the headquarters of Illy, the famous Italian brand of coffee. To get a taste of something really authentic, head to the Caffe San Marco, which boasts a rich literary history as the rendezvous place for writers, poets and artists. All that intelligence clearly soaked into the surroundings because the interior is incredibly beautiful. There’s also a bookshop in the back where you’ll find students and writers working.

Get lost in Venice

Venice is a labyrinth, full of illogical twists and dead ends that no map can help you understand. The only way to navigate is to be adventurous and to ask people face-to-face.

Venice’s narrow alleys and canals

Taste wine on a tour of Verona

The little area is the number one producer of wine in Italy, which is saying something in a country brimming with good wine. Do a tour of the vineyards for the full experience, or head to a local enoteca to try Valpollicela, Barolo or Amarone.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

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