This must-read guide to the 20 best things to do in Italy covers it all — food, art, architecture, nature, activities, and history!
In a country so diverse, narrowing down the best things to do in Italy is a tough task. I mean, there are 20 regions in the country, each with their own distinct cultures and attractions, so how are you supposed to choose just a few for your upcoming trip?
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Italy five times now, and each time I’ve been even more stunned by the diversity, scenery, and art than the time before. I’ve explored the towns of Lake Como, hiked through Cinque Terre, traveled solo through Bologna, and saw the sites in Rome. I’ve booked pasta making classes, I’ve taken guided tours, and I’ve hung with the locals, among so much else.
Through all of this experience, I can honestly say that there is something in Italy for everyone — no matter what your interests or budget — and we’ve partnered with Klook to give you some of our favorite experiences. Whether you want to travel solo in Lake Como or take a tour through the sites of Rome, there is an option for you!
Table of Contents
Best Things To Do In Italy
Take a Gondola Ride in Venice
Whether you’re traveling solo, with your family, or on a romantic holiday with your significant other, taking a Gondola Ride in Venice is an activity not to be missed.
Gondolas can be found in the main tourist areas, but if you want to save money and avoid the hassle of negotiating a price, then booking a tour in advance is the way to go.
That said, Venice is a city consisting of 120 islands built over an ancient lagoon, so if taking a Gondola isn’t a priority or out of your budget range, then there are plenty of other opportunities to get out on the water. Also popular is the vaporetto (public ferry), the traghetto (gondola ferry), and the taxi acqueo (water taxi).
Take a Cooking Class
Let’s be real, a huge reason why you’re planning a trip to Italy is for the food — so why not learn to make some Italian specialties while you’re there?
I once took a pasta making course in Chiusi Chianciano Terme and had a blast learning all about it from the pros. Our teachers were so much fun and I took home a valuable skill.
Of course, you don’t just have to stick to pasta, as there are pizza workshops, bread baking workshops, and so much else all across the country.
Go Skiing in the Dolomites
A region that has been getting a lot of buzz lately, the Dolomites are a mountain range in Northeastern Italy that stretches across the Italian Provinces of Trentino and Alto Adige.
The Dolomites are widely renowned as a winter destination, as there is amazing downhill skiing, snowboarding, chalets, and thermal baths to indulge in, but don’t skip out on summer here too. In the warmer months, the Dolomites become a lush wonderland of beautiful lakes, hiking trails, and biking.
What’s also great about this region is that it’s one of the least traveled areas in all of Italy, so chances are you’ll be able to explore it mostly crowd-free.
Take a Gelato Making Class
Gelato is pretty much synonymous with Italy, and you won’t find a shortage of amazing Gelatarias all across the country. So why not attempt to make it yourself by taking a class?
Learn what makes Gelato so unique with fresh, local ingredients.
Read more: The Ultimate Women’s Packing Guide For Italy
Visit the Duomo in Milan
Milan is one of the most lauded cities in the world for fashion, art, and architecture, and at the center of it all is the Duomo.
This gothic cathedral is the largest in Italy and the 5th largest in the world. Construction began in 1386 and took six full centuries to complete (although it’s said that the Duomo is still not completed).
There are six areas of the Duomo to explore – the rooftops, the inside, the archaeological area, the San Gottardo Church, the Duomo Museum, and the Crypt of Saint Charles.
Keep in mind that tickets for the Duomo must be purchased in advance.
Tour the Villages of Cinque Terre
Located on the coastline of the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre (the Five Villages) is famous for being one of the most picturesque areas of the country, and that’s saying something.
Comprised of five villages – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso – Cinque Terre is characterized by rainbow-colored buildings, steep craggy cliffs, beautiful terraced farms, and amazing views of the ocean.
The towns of Cinque Terre are all linked by ferries, hiking trails, and a train, although you can easily road trip this part of Italy as well — just keep in mind that some of the downtown areas are car-free.
Tour the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill
When a lot of people think of Italy, an image of the Colosseum in Rome comes to mind, and for good reason.
Constructed in 80AD, the Colosseum was built as a place of entertainment for the public. Here, gladiators would fight to the death in brutal games, exotic animals would be put on display, and public executions would be held regularly. Today, it’s perhaps Rome’s most iconic site.
Meanwhile, the nearby Roman Forum was the site of several ancient Roman government buildings, and Palatine Hill was one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Rome, having housed emperors and dignitaries.
Visiting these three sites in a day is easily done, as they’re all located within the same archaeological area and you can walk between them. Plus, there are guided tours that will let you skip the lines!
Take a Walking Tour in Matera
A town located in Basilicata, a Southeast Region of Italy, Matera is known for its ancient cave houses that residents were living in as recently as 1950.
The town is a maze of palaces, churches, and architecture old and new. To get the most out of your trip, a Matera guided tour is the way to go. Prepare to spend a lot of time learning about the history of Matera and all that it has become today.
Museum Hop in Florence
Florence is well regarded as one of the world’s great capitals of art, so dedicating time to the exquisite museums and galleries in the city is a must.
There are endless museums and galleries in the Tuscan capital, but some of the best are the Uffizi Gallery (home to The Birth of Venus and Primavera), the Duomo, and the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze.
Read more: 10 Places You Must See in Italy
Hike Mount Vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius is one of the most famous volcanoes in the world, as not only is it the volcano that destroyed Pompeii, but it’s still active.
The best part? You can hike it!
Hiking Mount Vesuvius will take roughly a half-hour each way, and it’s a relatively steep hike with lots of switchbacks. So, while it won’t take long to reach the crater, it’s good to be prepared with grippy shoes and a lot of water.
Oh, and yes, hiking Mount Vesuvius is totally safe. While it’s estimated that the volcano has erupted 40 times in the past 2000 years, the volcano gives warning signs of an eruption at least two weeks in advance, and you can bet that hikers won’t be allowed to casually wander up there when that happens.
Road Trip the Amalfi Coast
With terraced orchards, vineyards, over 100 beaches, and incredible views of the ocean below, the Amalfi Coast is on the bucket list of many.
With a distinctly Mediterranean vibe, the Amalfi Coast is located in the province of Salerno in Southern Italy and draws in roughly 5 million visitors each year. That said, it’s totally worth braving the crowds and taking a road trip along this region.
The road along the Amalfi Coast is also known as the Blue Highway, which runs 69 kilometers and links up the seaside towns. Yet, while the drive doesn’t take long, I highly recommend making multiple stops along the way and checking out all the beautiful towns.
While on the Amalfi Coast, hike the Path of the Gods, visit the Valle Dei Mulini, swoon at the pastel-colored houses of Positano, and wander the town of Sorrento.
Visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Ah, the tower that has inspired one of the most famous tourist poses of all time.
Standing at 60 meters tall, the Leaning Tower of Pisa began construction in 1173 and was pretty much leaning right from the start, although it was designed to be vertical.
While it may seem like a touristy place to go, the tower and the surrounding buildings are iconic to Italy, and you won’t want to miss taking a wander through the town of Pisa after you check out the site. To make the experience go as smoothly as possible, I recommend booking a Pisa Cathedral guided tour.
Tour the Vatican
Although technically it’s own country, the Vatican is located right in Rome and is one of the most iconic sites in this area of the world. Even if you’re not Roman Catholic, the Vatican is beautiful to see and has a ton of history attached to it.
You won’t want to miss checking out Saint Peter’s Basilica, Saint Peter’s Square, the Sistine Chapel, Saint Peter’s tomb, and Castel Sant’Angelo.
Visit the Ruins of Pompeii
As I mentioned above, Pompeii was an ancient Roman city located near Naples that was destroyed by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD.
When the volcano erupted, Pompeii was covered by a thick layer of volcanic ash and remained that way until 1748, when it was rediscovered almost completely intact by explorers.
Since its discovery, Pompeii has attracted 2.5 million visitors a year and is easily one of the nation’s top sites.
While there, be sure to visit the Temple of Apollo, the House of the Faun, the Amphitheatre of Pompeii, and the Temple of Jupiter – among others.
Relax on Lake Como
Located in Northern Italy at the base of the Alps, Lake Como has been called the most beautiful lake in the world and is known for its picturesque villages, luxury properties, amazing hikes, and water activities.
While it was once known as a vacation retreat for the rich and famous, you can visit Lake Como and take in its wonders on pretty much any budget. Some of the best towns to visit on Lake Como include Varenna, Bellagio, Como, Tremezzo, and Brunate.
Visit the Valley of the Temples
A UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Agrigento, Sicily, the Valley of the Temples is one of the most well-preserved Doric temples dedicated to the Greek Gods.
The site dates back to the 6th century when the Greeks settled the area and is home to eight main temples, all built between 510 and 430 BC. These include Hera Temple (aka Juno Temple), Temple of the Dioscuri, Temple of Concordia, Temple of Heracles, Temple of Olympian Zeus, Temple of Hephaestus, Temple of Asclepius, and Temple of Demeter.
Take a Wine Tour
Italy is a place of pilgrimage for any serious wine connoisseur, and with so many regions and variances, there is a lot of wine knowledge here to uncover.
Some of the best Italian wine regions include Puglia, Sicily, Prosecco, Trentino, Collio Friulano, Tuscany, Umbria, and Irpinia.
Go Under the Trevi Fountain in Rome
Yes, the Trevi Fountain is one of the most famous sites in all of Italy, but did you know that there is a whole complex of ancient ruins right below?
Dating back to the Imperial Age, the ruins – also known as La Citta dell’Acqua (City of Water) — can be found just around the corner from the fountain. You can visit either independently or call ahead for a guided tour.
Take a Food Tour in Bologna
Italy is one of the most renowned countries for food in the world, and Bologna is one of the best food destinations in Italy. So, if Italian cuisine is calling your name, then take a food tour in Bologna!
Discover melt-in-your-mouth meats, savory cheeses, and some unique-to-Bologna kinds of pasta.
Explore the Frasassi Caves
The Frasassi Caves, located in Genga, Italy, is an immense cave system filled with huge caverns, stalactites, and stalagmites.
Visits can only be arranged through guided tours, but the highlights include a crystallized lake, a Grand Canyon, and the Ancona Abyss, among others. In fact, it has been said that journeying through the caves feels like you’re descending into the center of the Earth.
In total, tours through the caves take about an hour and a half, so prepare for a long trek and bring good shoes!
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