A melting pot of culture, art, and history, Italy is an engrossing country you’ll fall in love with time and time again. From internationally acclaimed galleries and centuries-old ruins to multi-colored villages and golden sandy beaches, Italy has a little bit of everything.
Come to marvel at the magnificent museums and trek through picture-perfect landscapes. Stay for the hearty, comforting food and convivial atmosphere you can’t help but get swept up in.
Despite having a rich and colorful history that stretches back thousands of years, Italy is one of the youngest countries in Europe. Rome may have been founded in 753 BCE, but Italy itself didn’t exist as a true country until 1861!
Whether you can’t wait to explore the country’s 58 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, sail across its perfectly still lakes, shop in jaw-droppingly beautiful fashion malls, or learn to cook authentic Italian dishes in the Tuscan countryside, you’ll never be stuck for what to do in Italy.
With so many extraordinary things to see and do, it can be tricky to know where to begin. To help you get started, we’ve created a list of the absolute best things to do in Italy. Include these activities and attractions on your Italy bucket list, and get ready to have an awesome time discovering one of the most fascinating and beautiful countries in the world!
- The 25 Best Things to Do In Italy
- 1. Party Hard at Carnevale
- 2. Hike to the top of Mount Vesuvius
- 3. Climb to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
- 4. Sample authentic Neapolitan pizza
- 5. Hike through beautiful Cinque Terre
- 6. Step back in time at the Colosseum
- 7. Have a luxurious beach day on the island of Capri
- 8. Gorge on spaghetti carbonara
- 9. Go skiing in the Dolomites
- 10. Take a drive along the stunning Amalfi Coast
- 11. Watch an opera in an ancient theater
- 12. Get in a food fight during the Battle of Oranges
- 13. Admire the masterpieces inside the Uffizi Gallery
- 14. Make a wish at the Trevi Fountain
- 15. Explore the museums in Vatican City
- 16. Treat yourself to all the gelato
- 17. Go wine tasting in Tuscany
- 18. See the original ‘Last Supper’ painting
- 19. Explore the ruins of Pompeii
- 20. Take it easy at Lake Como
- 21. Be inspired by the Milan Cathedral
- 22. Sip on a bubbly glass of prosecco
- 23. Explore the Valley of the Temples
- 24. Be awestruck by the Infiorata Festival
- 25. Enjoy a romantic gondola ride in Venice
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The 25 Best Things to Do In Italy
1. Party Hard at Carnevale
If you think Brazil throws an extravagant carnival celebration, wait until you see the one Italy hosts! While the festival is celebrated in towns all across the country, the best place to go for this event is Venice.
Each year around February or March (Carnevale dates change depending on each year’s Easter dates), Venice comes to life with opulent masquerade balls, street parties, lavish parades, theatrical performances, and over-the-top competitions with all kinds of themes.
All across the city, you’ll see people wearing glittering suits, opulent dresses, and iconic Venetian masks. Huge wigs underneath even bigger hats are standard attire during Carnevale.
If you can afford the cost and are lucky enough to snap up a ticket, we definitely recommend attending one of the masquerade balls. At this time of year, stores in Venice are teeming with beautiful costumes and masks for the balls. Grab yourself an outfit and get ready to feel like you’ve stepped into the pages of a fairytale!
2. Hike to the top of Mount Vesuvius
If you’re up for a challenge, one of the most unique things to do in Italy is to climb to the top of Mount Vesuvius. This mountain is one of the most famous in the world, mainly because of the destruction it caused to Pompeii when it erupted almost 2,000 years ago.
Although it’s still classed as an active volcano, Mount Vesuvius is completely safe to climb. If you’re used to hiking, you can reach the top in about 30 minutes. The paths are clearly marked, and the route is pretty clear. As long as you’re prepared for the steepness of the trail, you’re good to go!
When you reach the top, you’ll be able to gaze into the crater of the volcano which destroyed an entire town. The view from the top is absolutely incredible. You can see all the way down the rugged, red side of the volcano out into the lush green grass dotted with tiny houses.
3. Climb to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa looks remarkable from the ground. But when you’re done taking pictures with all the classic poses, head to the entrance and climb up to the top. The tower is a lot taller than you think and the views from up there will really surprise you.
The tower stretches almost 200 feet into the sky and took almost 200 years to build due to delays caused by various wars. It was closed to the public for many years, as the structure was deemed unsafe. But after injecting the tower with cement grout, it’s now totally safe for anyone to enter.
There are 300 spiraling steps you’ve got to climb to reach the top. As you go, you’ll experience an unusual unbalanced sensation as your body feels like it’s leaning to one side. That’s because it is!
Push through the strange feeling, and you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views all across Pisa. There are even small diagrams at the top to explain what you’re looking at from each side of the tower.
4. Sample authentic Neapolitan pizza
One of the must-do things in Italy is to enjoy a genuine Neapolitan pizza from Naples. Known simply as “pizza” in Naples, Neapolitan pizza is a basic type of pizza with very specific requirements.
The only toppings allowed are tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. The tomatoes have to be San Marzano or Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio tomatoes, while the cheese must be mozzarella di bufala campana or fior di latte.
It may sound simple, but it tastes amazing. A thin and crispy pizza crust topped with flavor-packed tomatoes and ooey-gooey mozzarella is tough to beat!
You’ll find fresh Neapolitan pizza all over the place in Naples – from fancy restaurants to street sellers and even small grocery stores.
Sorbillo is one of the best places in the city for pizza. But it’s so popular that you can wait over an hour for a single pizza sometimes. For something faster, consider Starita. Make sure you save room for a dessert of deep-fried pizza balls with warm Nutella!
5. Hike through beautiful Cinque Terre
Italy is filled with incredibly stunning regions, and Cinque Terre is one of the finest. A collection of five centuries-old seaside towns scattered across the rugged Italian Riviera coastline, Cinque Terre is a wonderful place to get outdoors and enjoy unparalleled beauty.
From remarkable sea views and quaint, colorful houses to picture-perfect beaches and secluded cobbled streets, this part of Italy is almost too beautiful to believe. All five towns are connected by a single cliff path that you can follow on an epic hike.
The hike from the first to the last town is out of reach for everyone but very experienced hikers as it covers more than 750 miles. However, the 7.5-mile Sentiero Azzurro walk between Monterosso al Mare and Riomaggiore is very feasible for anyone with a medium fitness level. If you get tired during your trek, you can stop off at one of the villages along the way and carry on when you’re ready.
Consider the route between Riomaggiore and Manarola for something a little shorter and easier. This hiking trail is just over one mile long and doesn’t require sturdy boots or a head for heights.
6. Step back in time at the Colosseum
The Colosseum is one of the biggest Italy attractions – and for good reason, too. Instantly recognizable by its curved shape that has been gradually damaged over time, the Colosseum was once a magnificent amphitheater with the capacity to cater to more than 50,000 spectators.
Today the incredible structure is Rome’s most famous landmark and is visited by more than 6 million people each year.
Centuries ago, the amphitheater was used to showcase all kinds of performances. From displays of exotic animals and prisoner executions to recreations of battles and the notorious gladiator fights, the Colosseum was Rome’s center of entertainment.
Sign up for a tour of the Colosseum, and you’ll get to see where all the action took place. From the area where the shows were performed and the seats where the most prestigious guests sat to the underground tunnels that the exotic animals used to walk through and the rooms that gladiators would be kept in, you’ll get to see it all.
7. Have a luxurious beach day on the island of Capri
One of the most popular islands in Italy, Capri is beautiful beyond belief! From the glistening azure ocean and ultra-soft sand to the charming tree-lined streets and rugged mountain backdrop, every inch of this island will take your breath away.
Hidden away in the Bay of Naples, Capri is a glittering gem if you enjoy the finer things in life. Here you can while away days shopping in high-end boutiques, relaxing in luxury hotels, pampering yourself in indulgent spas, and treating your taste buds in fine dining restaurants.
If that’s not quite your thing, the island’s gorgeous hiking trails, stunning lookout points, picturesque piazzas, and golden bays are sure to win you over.
When you’re finished lounging on the beach, take a boat trip to the famous Blue Grotto. An eerie cave you can row through, the Blue Grotto is known for its bright blue waters, which reflect onto the cave ceiling below, dousing everything that enters in a spooky shade of blue.
8. Gorge on spaghetti carbonara
There’s a lot of Italy sightseeing to do during your vacation. To make sure you’ve got the energy for it, dig into a generous bowl of spaghetti carbonara.
You may have tried this dish before. But nothing compares to eating it in the country that invented it!
Spaghetti carbonara is a simple dish made of pasta noodles, egg, parmesan cheese, and bacon. When done right, it’s silky smooth with a fabulously rich and satisfying flavor. Drizzle on a little truffle oil, and you’ll be in heaven.
You can find excellent pasta all over Italy. Roscioli in Rome is one of the best places to savor this dish. This restaurant uses thick spaghetti, three types of pepper, and crispy pork cheek for oodles of flavor and texture.
Also located in Rome, Ad Hoc restaurant is another place that dishes up incredible spaghetti carbonara. They serve it three ways in a single dish – one with crispy bacon, one with honey mushrooms, and one with black truffle. It’s a great way to try different types of pasta without getting too full.
9. Go skiing in the Dolomites
If you’re visiting Italy in winter, head to the Dolomites for an epic ski trip. This part of the country boasts 12 different ski resorts and staggeringly high peaks that reach over 2 miles into the sky.
No matter how good or bad at skiing you are, you’re guaranteed to have a brilliant time here. There are more than 745 miles of ski trails, with most areas being connected by additional ski trails or lifts.
There’s nothing like zooming at high speeds over crisp white snow during the day before relaxing in front of a fire with your favorite cocktail and soaking up the après-ski vibe at night.
The largest ski resort town is Cortina d’Ampezzo, famous for its five peaks connected by more than 36 lifts. Here you’ll find remarkably long runs that start from the snowfields close to the summit and go all the way down into the town below.
10. Take a drive along the stunning Amalfi Coast
For some of the best sights in Italy, rent a convertible car and go on a legendary road trip along the Amalfi Coast. This scenic coastal drive is one of the most exciting in all of Europe. It’s full of dazzling vistas, as well as tricky hairpin bends that require quick thinking and top driving skills.
The drive covers around 48 miles, beginning in Sorrento and following the coastline south before ending in Vietri sul Mare. Along the way, you’ll get to stop by beautiful towns such as Positano, Praiano, Ravello, and Amalfi.
Most of the time you’ll be driving along cliff roads with near-vertical plunges into the aquamarine ocean far below. It makes the trip a little nerve-racking, but it’s the only way you get to see such stunning scenery.
As well as the shimming sea, you’ll also pass by terraces full of fragrant lemon trees, thick olive groves, staggered fishing villages, and pastel-colored houses spilling down the mountainside.
11. Watch an opera in an ancient theater
If Verona’s on your Italy vacation itinerary, don’t miss the chance to watch a spectacular opera performance at Arena. This astounding open-air theater dates back to the 3rd century, and spending an evening here is as close to stepping back in time as you can possibly get.
Arena is one of the biggest and best-preserved Roman amphitheaters in Europe. It can accommodate up to 22,000 visitors and still has all its vaulting and seating rows entirely intact.
The dark seating areas, sensational stage sets, and incredible performers mean you’re guaranteed an evening you’ll never forget. The stage is so huge that entire streets with multi-floor buildings can be created for an authentic and engaging show. The music is often so loud that you can even hear it streets away!
Throughout July and August each year, the theater hosts the Verona Opera Festival. It’s one of the most important summer music festivals in all of Europe and is definitely worth checking out if you’re in Verona during the summer.
12. Get in a food fight during the Battle of Oranges
Joining in with the Battle of Oranges is one of the coolest things to do in Italy. Held each March or April (the dates change according to when Easter falls) in the northern city of Ivrea, this quirky festival sees hundreds of locals go out into the streets and hurl oranges at each other!
In the run up to Fat Tuesday, the town splits itself into nine groups, each of which has a unique battle uniform. For several days, men, women, and children don uniforms and throw oranges at rival teams in an attempt to wipe them out of battle.
Most of the play fighting is done in the streets. But there are also battle buses that drive through Ivrea filled with people hurling oranges at their opponents.
The Battle of Oranges isn’t quite as big as Spain’s La Tomatina, but more than 500,000 pounds of oranges are used as ammo during the fights. It’s bizarre to watch, and don’t be surprised if you end up with some orange-related bruising!
13. Admire the masterpieces inside the Uffizi Gallery
Italy has some of the finest art galleries in the world, and the Uffizi Gallery is a must on your Italy bucket list. The world-famous museum is in the historic center of Florence and is set over two floors of a magnificent building that dates back to 1560.
The building was never intended to be a museum. It was originally designed to host magistrates, seats of power for various important people, a theater, and judiciary offices.
Because of this, working your way through the gallery can seem like trying to get out of a maze. But that simply adds to its charm!
Considered to be a treasure chest of art, the Uffizi Gallery is where you can admire a huge number of priceless works created during the Italian Renaissance. Many masterpieces from Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci are on display.
From paintings, sculptures, and manuscripts to gems, coins, and cameos, the gallery is overflowing with cherished artifacts that have been beautifully maintained or restored.
14. Make a wish at the Trevi Fountain
One of the most fun things to do in Italy is to toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain and make a wish. The 18th-century fountain is a work of art decorated with beautiful statues and delicate engravings.
The fountain is 86 feet high and 161 feet wide, making it the largest Baroque fountain in Rome and one of the most famous in the world. According to local legend, if you toss a coin into the fountain, you’ll have good luck for the rest of the day, and you’ll definitely return to the city in the future. There’s no harm in making a wish, too!
Don’t worry about your coin going to waste. All the money that gets thrown into the Trevi Fountain (around $3,325 per day!) is donated to feed the people in Rome who need it the most.
While the Trevi Fountain looks breathtaking during the day, it’s even more dazzling after sunset. At night, cleverly positioned lights highlight the best parts of the fountain and make it look incredible.
15. Explore the museums in Vatican City
While you’re in Italy, take a trip to the smallest country in the world – Vatican City. Tucked inside Rome, Vatican City is an independent city-state that’s home to some of the world’s most prestigious museums and galleries.
Together, the Vatican Museums boast more than 70,000 paintings, tapestries, and sculptures, displayed across more than 54 stunning galleries. Here you can discover phenomenal pieces created by Renaissance masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Bernini, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Raphael.
In addition to the classic displays, the Vatican Museums also feature a collection of religious modern art, with pieces by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Gauguin, van Gogh, and Carlo Carrà.
The spiral Bramante Staircase is one of the museums’ many highlights. It was inspired by Bramante’s double-helix staircase and allows people to go up and down without bumping into each other. The Gregorian Etruscan Museum is also fascinating and contains eight galleries dedicated to ancient artifacts from Etruria.
Don’t miss the chance to gaze at the mesmerizing ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, walk through the Gallery of Maps, or explore the Necropolis of the Via Triumphalis.
16. Treat yourself to all the gelato
Enjoying a cone of artisan gelato is one of the absolute best Italy activities you’ve got to try during your visit. The country is full of outstanding ice cream parlors that dish up scoops of all-natural, fresh, and handmade gelato every day.
What sets gelato apart from ice cream and frozen yogurt is the texture. It contains 70% less air and more flavoring than other frozen desserts, making it decadently dense and rich.
If you’re in Rome, the best place to try real gelato is Gelato San Lorenzo. This place serves top-quality gelato in a huge range of flavors. They’ve even got several vegan options that are just as silky smooth as the others.
For the best gelato in Naples, head for Casa Infante. Here you can enjoy some of the thickest, creamiest gelato in the city made with seasonal, organic ingredients. For an extra special treat, you can have your gelato served to you inside a buttery brioche!
17. Go wine tasting in Tuscany
For alluring landscapes, impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and some of the finest wine in the world, take a trip to Tuscany. Here you can discover rolling hills blanketed in thick vineyards where rich, full-bodied wines are made year after year.
Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Brunello di Montalcino are the three most common wines produced in this area. You’ll likely come across some wineries that are getting creative and trying to produce different types of wine, too. But Chianti, Vino Nobile, and Brunello are the most reliable and delicious varietals.
If you haven’t got much time to spare, consider going on an afternoon wine tour to Chianti from Florence. You’ll get to ride through the blissful Tuscan countryside, visit rural villages, and explore wine cellars, as well as savor local wines and traditional foods.
For something a little different, consider this Chianti Safari. This is a unique experience in the Chianti hills where you can experience nature with an exciting Jeep ride in the vineyard. Your guide will help you spot local wildlife and you’ll learn about the region’s exquisite grapes. Plus you’ll get to visit the cellar and enjoy a wine tasting paired with a lunch of local fresh ingredients!
18. See the original ‘Last Supper’ painting
You can’t visit Milan without spending some time at Santa Maria delle Grazie to see the original Last Supper painting. Even if you’re not really into art, it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Italy.
The famous piece by Leonardo da Vinci is more impressive and impactful in person than you could ever imagine. On a huge space that covers 181 inches by 346 inches, the famous scene of Jesus dining with his apostles shortly before one of them betrays him is displayed. It’s strikingly moving, even if you don’t believe the story that inspired the painting.
The painting has gone under many restorations over the years. The most recent restoration aimed to eliminate the traces of paint that were visible from previous restoration attempts while reestablishing the original colors.
To protect the painting, only a small number of people are allowed to view it every day. Because of that, you can expect a fairly long wait. To avoid the lines, we recommend buying your ticket in advance.
19. Explore the ruins of Pompeii
Pompeii is one of the most captivating and intriguing cities in Italy. Famous for being destroyed by lava and ash in 79 AD, there’s a surprising amount of architecture and relics left to explore today.
As it flowed over the town, the lava solidified a lot of Pompeii, allowing Roman life to be captured and frozen in time. After the site was excavated, it provided a unique opportunity for a glimpse back in time.
Today Pompeii is like an open-air museum. Grab an audio guide at the entrance and get to work walking in the footsteps of people who lived almost 2,000 years ago. You can stroll between well-preserved houses, ancient baths, and huge Roman forums filled with all kinds of treasures that belonged to the people who once lived there.
Despite its impressive age and the devastation it went through, the town still boasts colorful frescoes and mosaic tiles. There’s also a small museum that hosts rotating displays highlighting the most interesting archaeological finds from the area.
20. Take it easy at Lake Como
When you need a bit of rest and relaxation, one of the best things to do in Italy is to spend a few days at Lake Como. Tucked away in Lombardy in the north of Italy, this upscale resort town boasts dramatic scenery nestled at the foot of the Alps.
Most of the town’s life is centered around the huge lake that the place is named after. Measuring a colossal 56 square miles, the lake is the third-largest in Italy and is a fantastic place to practice watersports.
From swimming, kayaking, rowing, and yachting to waterskiing, canyoning, wakeboarding, and kitesurfing, there’s absolutely loads you can do around here. If you don’t have the energy, simply lay your towel down at the shore and soak up the glorious sunshine.
The houses that surround the lake are owned by some of the richest celebrities in the world. Behind that, you’ll find dense alpine forests and sleepy Italian villages filled with dainty homes.
21. Be inspired by the Milan Cathedral
Italy is home to an almost never-ending number of remarkable buildings, and the Milan Cathedral has got to be one of the most exceptional. Italy’s largest church, Milan Cathedral (also known as the Duomo di Milano) took a staggering 600 years to build and was created to honor Saint Mary of the Nativity.
The cathedral stands proudly in the center of Piazza del Duomo and has a unique look that makes it stand out from all other cathedrals. Covered in a pink-white marble that glistens in the sun, the religious structure is topped with spiked pinnacles and towers. At the very top, you can see statues that watch over the city.
The inside of the cathedral is even more elegant than the outside. Take a walk around, and you’ll see delicate marble decorations and a stunning altar. Don’t miss the chance to climb the staircase to the top. From here, you can enjoy some of the best views in all of Milan!
22. Sip on a bubbly glass of prosecco
When you’ve spent a long day crossing all the top things to do in Italy off your list, pop into the nearest bar and relax with a glass of prosecco. Similar to France’s champagne and Spain’s cava, Italy’s prosecco is a type of sparkling wine named after the village where it was made.
There are several different types of prosecco available – from spumante (super-sparkling) to frizzante (semi-sparkling). Many bars even serve a pink rosé variety made by blending prosecco grapes with pinot noir.
Prosecco is so popular and common that it’s available at practically every bar throughout the whole of Italy. As it’s a local drink, it’s usually one of the cheapest options, too!
If prosecco isn’t for you, maybe an Aperol spritz will be more your thing. This quintessential cocktail is made by combining bitter, zingy Aperol with sparkling prosecco for a cocktail that’s deliciously refreshing and relaxing.
23. Explore the Valley of the Temples
If you’re into history, you’ve got to check out the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily. This sprawling archaeological complex boasts some of the most well-preserved Doric temples in Europe. Some of them go back as far as the 5th century!
The towering temples were built to honor the gods and goddesses worshiped by locals at the time. Even though they’re 1,500 years old, they’re in incredible condition. You don’t have to imagine what they looked like back then because you can see them with your very own eyes today.
The Temple of Concordia is one of the most popular and well-preserved temples. Its columns, stairs, and roof are still very much intact. In front of the temple, you can see the toppled Statue of Icarus, who burned his wax wings by flying too close to the sun.
If you can tear your eyes away from the ancient wonders, take a look at the view down below. From the top of the hill, you can see for miles down the grassy hills and all the way to the tiny town below.
24. Be awestruck by the Infiorata Festival
One of the best things to do in Italy at the end of spring and the beginning of summer is to gaze at all the gorgeous creations made for the Infiorata Festival. Celebrated throughout the country in late May or early June around the Corpus Domini celebrations, this festival is when creative locals use colorful flowers and petals to create astounding pictures on the ground.
It takes months for talented locals to create the designs. From simple geometric patterns to religious masterpieces, all kinds of images are created using a rainbow of dried and fresh flower petals.
To get the colors just right, artists also use other organic materials, like wood cuttings and beans. Soil or leftover coffee grounds are used to make the outlines.
You can find these stunning creations throughout the streets and piazzas of Italy. The most spectacular ones are usually created outside churches and cathedrals.
The longer the floral creations are open to the elements, the more likely they are to change. To see them at their best, plan to check them out as soon as they’re on display.
25. Enjoy a romantic gondola ride in Venice
It may be a bit of a tourist cliché, but you’ve got to go on a gondola ride if you’re ever in Italy. One of the most popular attractions in Venice, a gondola ride is a wonderful opportunity to explore parts of the city you wouldn’t otherwise see and take a short break from wandering around the winding streets.
You’ll find gondoliers all over Venice, particularly by the Doge’s Palace and at the Rialto Bridge. You can instantly recognize them from their horizontal-striped shirts and straw hats. By law, all prices are set and on display, meaning there’s no room for haggling.
For the ultimate romantic experience, plan your gondola ride just as the sun is setting. Grab two glasses of prosecco to take away from the nearest bar and sip them as the sun sinks into the horizon. As night draws in, the lights from nearby bars and restaurants will twinkle on the canal and make your experience extra special!
There you have it! The 25 best things to do in Italy. What’s your favorite thing to do in Italy?
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