Things to do in Italy
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From hiking in the mountainous region of the Dolomites to cruising around the sun-soaked coastline of Capri Island, to wine tasting in the rolling vineyards of the Tuscan countryside, there are endless things to do in Italy. Italy attractions range from ancient monuments at the ruins of Pompeii to popular swimming spots in the lake district region, so whether you’re looking to soak up the local culture, history, or sunshine, there are plenty of things to see in Italy. Keep reading below to find out exactly what to do in Italy, and when is the best time to visit this majestic country.
- Harry Donaghy
- From USA
1. Sip Wine in Tuscany
There are a lot of things to do in Italy but one of the most enjoyable pastimes is eating local Italian pasta and drinking red wine under the setting sun. Luckily, a trip to rural vineyard provides the opportunity to indulge in such a thing! Head to the wineries in the Tuscan countryside and learn about the process of making wine before sampling some of Tuscany's very best bottles.
Best time to visit: April – September. The summer months are the hottest and busiest time of the year to visit Tuscany, and with that comes expense. For a more budget-friendly trip, try visiting in the low season of November – February, but double-check vineyards are open for tasting tours.
Good to know
- Make reservations for wine tasting in advance as most wineries in Tuscany accept bookings only in advance, particularly if you'd like to take a look at the vineyard rather than simply looking at the bar and sampling glasses.
- Pay a visit to the incredible Castle of Vicchiomaggio, which sits atop a hill in Chianti surrounded by vineyards. Indulge in the wine tasting tours that it offers to passing guests.
- Sip on Tuscan wines in San Gimignano, a famous medieval town that sits in the heart of Chianti and has the finest wineries in the whole of Italy.
If Tuscany is not on your list, the country still offers many great destinations for wine tasting opportunities. A weekend wine tasting trip in Faenza might just do the trick.
2. Soak up the sunshine on the Amalfi coast
Beach lovers and road trip enthusiasts will delight at a holiday on the Amalfi coast, a picturesque stretch of coastline spanning 50 km along Italy’s western coast. Small secluded beaches, colourful fishing villages, and looming cliff tops dominate the Amalfi coast and provide an ideal destination for water babies, beachcombers, and culture vultures alike. You could also prepare an Amalfi coast itinerary to ensure that you don’t miss out on anything and make the most out of your stay in this beautiful coastal area!
Best time to visit: May – August. The high season runs from spring through to the end of summer and you can expect to enjoy bustling beaches and hot sunny days. To avoid the crowds, try visiting in mid-September.
Good to know
- Take motion sickness tablets if you’re prone to motion sickness since the tight bends and high cliffs along the coast is good at churning the stomach although they make for some epic vistas.
- Start your time on the coast in the town of Amalfi itself and enjoy fresh seafood, glorious Mediterranean views, and a charming beach for a spot of sunbathing.
- Don't miss a visit to Positano, at cliffside village renowned for its pebbled beachfront, boutique-lined streets, and 13th-century church.
3. Find your feet in Cinque Terre
A picture-perfect tour in Cinque Terre is made up of a number of Italian seaside villages found on the Italian Riviera coastline, each of which is linked together by hiking trails that run along the Sentiero Azzurro cliffside. If you’re an outdoor lover or nature enthusiast, then strap on your walking boots and get ready for a coastal hike to remember!
Best time to visit: May – September. If you’re a bit of a water baby you’re going to want to visit over the summer months to enjoy a dip in the Mediterranean.
Good to know
- Take to the walking trails early in the morning to beat the crowds and the midday sun, and take plenty of water with you. Don’t forget to purchase a Cinque Terre pass to enjoy access to all trails.
- Hike the scenic Blue path trail which spans the length of all five Cinque Terre villages and is the ultimate route for the avid walker. Though long in length, walkers can pick and choose which sections to join at. However, if you prefer a simpler trail, hike the Riomaggiore Ring and enjoy breathtaking sea views from Montenero.
In the north of Italy sits the Italian lake district, a region home to five magnificent clear water lakes; Maggiore, Lugano, Como, Iseo and Garda. If you’re ready to make a splash on your Italian holiday, then a trip to the lakes is an absolute must as you’re in for endless fun including romantic boat rides, lakeside wine tasting and visits to picture-perfect villages.
Best time to visit: April – June and September – October. Shoulder season (March and July) in the lake region brings with it bearable temperatures and fewer crowds. Better yet, the lakeside flowers are in full bloom from April onwards.
Good to know
- Make sure you triple check the departure time and day while catching the ferry across lakes as the differentiation between midweek and weekend can be subtle!
- Get charmed by the glorious mountains and beautiful towns in Lake Como and watch out for the luxury and popular resort area that accumulates in the town of Bellagio that Lake Como is renowned for.
- Don't miss the wild countryside of lined, pretty villages in Lake Maggiore. It is another spectacular lake that sits on the south side of the Alps and is recognized as the second largest lake in the country!
5. Admire Gothic architecture at Milan Cathedral
Milan Cathedral, known locally as the Duomo di Milano, is a spectacular gothic cathedral located in the heart of Milan. As one of the cities most iconic attractions, a visit here is an absolute must to admire the building's pure grandeur and incredible architecture. Get ready to be blown away by a structure that took six centuries to complete!
Best time to visit: September – October. Shoulder season is an ideal time to visit to avoid large tourist crowds and long queues. You’ll also escape the cities soaring summer temperatures.
Good to know
- Take a private tour of the cathedral to enjoy a one-to-one guiding and quiz your guide on all things Milan!
- You can enter Milan’s Cathedral for free however to enter the treasury, the crypt, or to access the Duomo roof a ticket is required.
6. Brush up on local culture at the Vatican museums
The Vatican Museums are made up of Christian and art museums found inside the perimeters of Vatican City, Rome.The museums display an array of artifacts and paintings gathered over the centuries by past popes and includes some of the best Renaissance art and Roman sculptures in the world. Among various things to do in Italy, if you’re looking forward to a cultural awakening, it is must to visit the Vatican museums. Get ready to make a beeline for these museums, it's worth it!
Best time to visit: April – June. Avoid the crowds at the Vatican and visit in the shoulder season.
Good to know
- Book your Vatican museum tickets online in-advance and try to visit the site first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the midday crowds. Note that the museums are free on the last Sunday of every month.
- Take a Vatican & Sistine Chapel tour which takes you to the Vatican museums and the Pope’s home as you marvel at ancient Rome! It also covers the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Dolomites mountain range sits in northeastern Italy and forms part of the Southern Limestone Alps and the northern Italian Alps. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this spectacular mountain range is home to some of Italy’s best walking trails and hiking routes as 18 peaks rise high above 3,000 metres and offer incredible vistas for miles and miles. Pack your walking boots; it’s time to head to the mountains!
Best time to visit: June – September, November – February. Summer in the Dolomites is the optimum time for hiking, biking, and via ferrata (a route fixed with ladders, rungs or cables) adventures while winter brings with it snow sports such as skiing and snowshoeing.
Good to know
- Explore the mountains by campervan as opposed to a rented car since it gives you the freedom to stay overnight closer to your designated walking route.
- Put your hiking skills to test by climbing the challenging trail of Selva to Rifugio Puez. It is a difficult hike covering 22 km of ground and can take up to 8 hours to complete, but you’ll be rewarded with incredible mountain scenery, shimmering lakes and magical forests.
- Take the Adolf Munkel circular trail, a short 3-hour walk over 9 km over terrain which has a number of restaurants and mountain huts on the route. This route is recommended for beginner hikers.
No trip to Rome should go without a visit to the Colosseum, a grand oval amphitheater that dates right back to 70 AD. Once used as a stage for theatrical performances, the Colosseum is now somewhat of an open-air museum, and a visit allows the chance to brush up on Roman history and to admire the ancient architecture.
Best time to visit: November - February. In the low season, the queue for entrance is considerably shorter as there are far fewer tourists in town.
Good to know
- Aim to be at the Colosseum, 15 minutes before the opening time - 8:30 am, allowing you to be closer to the front of the queue at the ticket counter.
- Alternatively, book a guided tour to avoid waiting in long lines. Or, buy your ticket online to avoid queuing in the hot sun for hours.
- Visit the Colosseum at night for an experience that is twice as stunning as during the day.
9. Marvel at the Art in the Uffizi Gallery
The Uffizi gallery is a world-renowned art gallery located adjacent to Piazza della Signoria in the historic town centre of Florence. Home to some of the most impressive works from the Renaissance period and paintings from all-time greats including Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli, this art gallery should be on every culture vulture’s to-do list.
Best time to visit: April – June. The shoulder season is ideal for enjoying museums and galleries without the crowds.
Good to know
- Don’t miss Botticelli’s Primavera and Birth of Venus, found in halls 10-14 this painting depicts the arrival of the goddess of love on earth. Also, look out for Filippo Lippi’s Madonna and Child, found in hall 8 this painting is one of Lippi’s most famous pieces.
- Order your tickets from the official Uffizi museum website to avoid buying through third party vendors. This way you’ll avoid paying higher booking fees. Also, it’s worth paying the extra USD 4.5* for advance reservations where you’re guaranteed entry with minimal queuing.
Insider tip: We really recommend you visit the Uffizi with an exciting guide, which makes it a much more enriching and interesting experience! It is a huge museum with thousands of artworks, and navigating it alone — especially after a long wait in the lines can get a little tiring. With a guided tour, not only can you can skip the lines, but everyone tells us they would have been totally lost without one of our fun guides and that they were surprised how much they and their children enjoyed themselves! — Lara from ArtViva
10. Try pizza in its birthplace
In the late 18th century, Naples residents began topping their flatbreads with two delicious ingredients, tomatoes and cheese. And just like that, the humble Neapolitan pizza was born! Today this traditional dish is judged by its crust (which must be made with highly refined wheat flour), the tomatoes (which must be San Marzano) and the mozzarella cheese, which can be used in two forms. To dine on authentic pizza Napoletana that Italy has to offer amongst other Italian dishes you’ve simply got to head to Naples!
Best time to visit: March – June. Spring brings with it pleasantly warm and dry weather.
Good to know
- If you grab a pizza to go, fold it up before you bite it. This is how the locals manage to eat and dash around the city without getting pizza sauce all over their face. It’s known by some as a pizza a portafoglio, meaning a “wallet pizza”.
- Dine in Pizzeria da Attillo, the best pizza restaurant in the Montesanto neighbourhood and the restaurant tends to run out of dough just before closing. Stand in a queue at Sorbillo for arguably the best pizza in town that uses organic Campanian ingredients only. It’s totally-worth-it!
11. Float the Venice Canals on a gondola ride
Venice is made up of over 100 small islands in the Adriatic Sea, and the best way to get around the lagoon is by gondola. This traditional Venetian mode of transport offers an authentic look at Venice from the water as you glide down the Grand Canal and veer off into secret side canals to charming islands. Riding a gondola is one of the top things to do in italy, so hop ashore, and you’ll get to witness local artisans at work making glass, pottery, and other Venetian delights!
Best time to visit: May – July. The winter season is over and the city is becoming abuzz.
Good to know
- Opt for a gondola ride along the quieter back of Venice instead of the popular Grand Canal. That way you'll get away from the crowds and enjoy Venice from a different angle.
- Book a tour to Venice so you can have more of a say over where you go and which canals you head down which is an ideal way to avoid the crowds on the Grand Canal.
- Take a gondola ride around Venice by night with a serene canal ride. Venice by night is truly beautiful.
Insider tip: When in Venice, be sure to take a day trip by vaporetto and visit Burano, one of the most colourful places in the world. Here you can eat seafood pasta, enjoy the rainbow hued homes that you make your Insta blow-up, and even buy hand sewn lace pieces. — Cheryl Howard
12. Explore the Ruins of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius
The Ruins of Pompeii are one of the most talked about archaeological ruins in history, and a visit to this protected site offers a historical insight into life in Italy in 79 AD. To put things into perspective, take a tour up to Mount Vesuvius to marvel at the very volcano that erupted and made the small village of Pompeii history.
Best time to visit: November – April (avoiding Christmas). The shoulder season brings with it far fewer tourists and exploring Pompeii’s narrow streets is easier without a crowd.
Good to know
- Take public transport independently to Mount Vesuvius as opposed to bus tours. Though the latter is easier, commuting through public transport will be more adventurous. Note that there’s a USD 11.25* entrance fee to the park regardless of your mode of transport.
- Explore the Ruins of Pompeii on foot with a private guide and soak up the very best of Pompeii.
13. Tilt your head at the Leaning Tower of Pisa
The freestanding bell tower of Pisa, known globally as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, is an iconic Italian landmark that shouldn’t be missed. With medieval architecture, a Romanesque style, and a design so funky it’ll have you tilting your head, the Torre Pendente (which took over 200 years to build) lives up to its name.
Best time to visit: April – June and September – October. The weather is still hot in the low season and tourist numbers is lower than the heights of July and August.
Good to know
- Try and pre-order your tickets to visit the tower otherwise you could be disappointed with long queues. Make sure you arrive 30 minutes prior to your allotted entrance time.
- Opt for skip-the-line tickets to avoid queuing in the hot sun. If you’re a culture vulture, and interested in visiting other monuments in Cathedral Square, you should definitely take a combination tour which covers various attractions.
14. Stand on Juliet’s balcony
Tucked into the charming streets of Verona sits a stone terrace building with a small balcony with a significant history. The house that’s been dubbed as inspiration for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has become a popular attraction and many travel far and wide to visit the location of Shakespeare’s inspirations. The house has been transformed into a museum, and a quick visit inside explains the history of the property over the years.
Best time to visit: June – October. The summer months are ideal for strolling the city and soaking up the sun, but for a more affordable trip with fewer crowds try visiting in February to May.
Good to know
- Take a 15-minute walk from Juliet's house and visit the Capuchin Monastery of San Francesco al Corso, this is where the Shakespearean tragedy is said to have ended.
- Check out Juliet’s Tomb inside the monastery of San Francesco al Corso which is where the tragedy took place. Also, just around the corner from Juliet’s balcony sits Romeo’s home, a majestic Montague house and medieval building, don’t miss it!
15. Explore Italy through its cuisine
We have already given pizza a slot of its own on things to do in Italy because it clearly deserves it. The good news is, there is so much more to try on an Italian holiday. The bad news is that you cannot have your fill of everything. There is an endless variety of pastas, an entire gamut of cured meats and cheeses and the best of truffles too. Oh! What would we not give to devour a scoop (or two) of gelato right now? For coffee lovers, Italy opens up a whole new world. If you are in Trieste, do not miss out on caffe triestino — an espresso with whipped cream on top.
Join a cooking class on your trip to Italy, recreate the taste of the country back home and be the envy of your family and friends.
Best time: Any time.
Good to know
- Aperitivi are pre-meal drinks and snacks that can easily turn into a full-blown meal, and they are easy on the wallet. Accompany your aperitivi with antipasti — a platter of cured meat, seasonal vegetables and a selection of cheeses — and you are good to go.
- Be part of a food tour to learn more about Italian food culture. You can either book day tours specializing in local dishes or go for multi-day ones that take you on a gastronomic journey through the country.
16. Explore a sea cave at the Blue Grotto, Capri
The Blue Grotto is Capri Island’s most popular tourist attraction, and it’s understandable why. This natural geographical formation is buried deep into the cliffs of Capri and is dappled with sunlight throughout the day. Tours into the cave take place regularly and provide the opportunity to view one of Italy’s natural wonders up close and personal. Get ready to marvel at the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
Best time to visit: May – October. The prime tourist season runs across the summer but June and July bring the hottest temperatures for dipping in the Mediterranean Sea.
Good to know
- Take a boat trip around the island’s entire coastline before stopping off at the Blue Grotto and admiring the cave. You’ll also get to sail around the island and swim in the blue sea!
- Be prepared to not spend too long in the grotto, and to queue quite heavily to get in. That said, the experience is totally worth it!
Our list of Italy tourist attractions could go on and on but the above destinations, museums, and attractions have to be some of our favourite things to see and do in Italy. Get ready for a whirlwind Italy tour that soaks up the countries very best artwork, architecture, and cuisine, all while enjoying the laidback lifestyle of a local as you hop from small Italian village to sprawling city on the hunt for things to do in Italy.
Feeling inspired? Read our travel guide on how many days to spend in Italy to plan the perfect duration to include the activities mentioned above. All these experiences can be packed into a customized tour to Italy with the help of our local travel experts in the country.