Posted on 14th January, 2016
Italy is an extraordinary blend of heart-thumping, soul-stirring art, food and landscapes rivalled by few and envied by millions. The landscapes offered by Italy are unparalleled and it is a country that has something to offer for all kinds of visitors - whether you are looking for a adrenaline pumping experience or just hoping for a relaxing vacation. Here are 20 things that you must do in Italy.
I know plenty of these lists include a Venice gondola ride on them, but I think they're unnecessarily expensive and not the romantic experience they're made out to be. Instead, one evening before or after dinner, hop on the slow-moving #1 Vaporetto at one end of its run and ride it to the other end. This is preferably done with a serving of gelato in hand and someone to cuddle with in the dark. And be sure you can snag a spot with a view, so you can see the moonlit sights of Venice as you glide past.
Most tourists skip Milan, and that's probably fine, but this is the only city where you can see Leonardo's masterpiece of "The Last Supper". It's a heavily regulated 15-minute time limit, and you'll need to get your tickets well in advance, but it's worth it.
The Uffizi Gallery is on just about every must-do list for Italy, and there's a good reason for it. Nowhere else on earth will you see such an amazing collection of Italian Renaissance art, all contained in gorgeous buildings once roamed by Medicis. The artists on display here are like the rock stars of Florence.
You could walk yourself through the Vatican Museums, but for everyone but the hardcore art historian it's probably better to follow a guide who'll point out the truly important pieces and keep you from spending too much time on the rest of it. And as a bonus, with most tours you'll get a guided visit to St. Peter's Basilica as well.
This is perhaps not for those with fear of heights or small spaces, but for a spectacular view of Florence's historic center and an interesting lesson in architecture and engineering, you could do worse than to climb to the top of the dome of Florence's Duomo. If you'd prefer to have the dome itself in your rooftop view, then climb Giotto's bell tower instead.
There's nothing like eating something as universally well-known as pizza in the place where it was born, and for that you've got to go to Naples. I've heard that the pizzeria which claims to actually be the very place which invented pizza is turning out less-than-lovely pies these days, but you'll find plenty of great restaurants ready to take its place.
When you think of Italy, you probably think mostly of Roman ruins. But on Sicily you can branch out a bit by touring both Roman and Greek ruins, and the stuff the Greeks left behind is even older than the stuff from ancient Rome. A walk through the Valley of the Temples is highly recommended.
Whether you decide to do the driving or not, the road that snakes along this stretch of Italian coastline is well worth the trip. It's precarious at best and dangerous at worst, but the Italians seem to make it work – and the views are simply stunning. On second thought, perhaps you should let someone else do the driving so you can just stare out the window at the Amalfi Coast and pretend you're not scared out of your mind. Oh, and for a truly heart-stopping ride, hop on the back of a local's motorbike for the journey.
Yes, lots of places in the south of Italy get loads of sun, but the Costa Smeralda boasts some of the most beautiful beaches anywhere on earth, let alone in Italy. Plus, while it's wildly popular with Italians on vacation from the mainland, you're less likely to see hordes of other foreign tourists in Sardinia.
Opera fan or no, there's nothing quite like sitting in a Roman amphitheatre, just as people have done for thousands of years, watching a show. Okay, so you're not watching chariot races or lions fight gladiators, but Verona's famous opera company, which fills the night air with music every summer, is still a grand spectacle.
Don't be one of the guys who thinks the "David" in the Piazza Signoria is the real one, but likewise, don't be one of the people who's satisfied with just seeing the real one in the Galleria dell'Accademia. "David" is all over Florence, and seeing him pop up here and there (including overlooking the historic center from the Piazzale Michelangelo) is one of the charming games you can play as you wander the city.
When Rome wears you out, or you’re tired of overpriced meals around all the tourist attractions, look no further than the Trastevere. This old neighborhood is full of twisting cobbled streets, peace and quiet during most days, cheap eats, and boisterous groups of young people at night.
While the residents of Pompeii in 79 A.D. probably were none too pleased with nearby Mount Vesuvius blowing its top and covering everything in sight, what it gives us today is a unique look at a Roman city frozen in time. Both Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum are well worth a visit, but don’t forget that much of what archaeologists have discovered is in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.
It matters not one bit if you’re a soccer fan, or even a sports fan, for that matter; going to a game of calcio makes for an unforgettable trip. Italian soccer can be considered a second religion in this country, and experiencing a game first-hand lets you witness the passion Italians feel for their clubs. Whatever you do, however, just don’t make the mistake of cheering for the visiting team.
I think the Cinque Terre Trail is overcrowded and posited that people should be let in on a permit system, but the fact remains that as long as there’s room on the path, the hike between these five picturesque villages is a great way to spend half a day. If you plan well and go when it’s not quite as overrun, all the better.
This is easy to do no matter where you are in Italy, so I don’t want to hear any excuses for not accomplishing this task. Remember, Italian Gelato is made with milk, not cream, so it’s a lot less fattening than you think. And you’re walking everywhere, anyway, so it’s a well-deserved treat.
Some places require a map. Some places require that you forget the map. Venice is in the latter category. It’s an island, people, so you’re not going to get too far off track. With that in mind, leave your map in your hotel (maps are all but useless in this city anyway) and get yourself good and lost in Venice. It’s by far the best way to spend a day in the canal city.
No matter the season or the weather, there’s always a good excuse to duck into the Pantheon in Rome. For one thing, it’s free. And for another, although it’s got a giant hole in the ceiling to let in the light, it’s always cool in summer and dry when it’s raining outside. Plus, just setting foot on stones that have been walked on for 2000 years is, in my book, pretty incredible.
The roads that connect the famous hill towns of Tuscany might get short shrift with all the gushing people do about the towns themselves, but the views out of a car window when you’re cruising along windy country roads are enough to make anyone understand why someone might drop everything and buy a rundown Italian farmhouse. And if you’re beyond the Tuscany thing, you’ll get the same kinds of views (with somewhat smaller crowds) in nearby Umbria, too.
History buff or no, it’s impossible not to marvel at a structure like the Colosseum, or stand in awe on the cobblestones of the Roman Forum and think about who walked there before you. An afternoon spent surrounded by the ruins that once made up the center of the Roman empire is an afternoon very well spent in my book.
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Olivia Skumps is a blogger and a journalist.
Italy, Rome, Vatican, Venice, Sardinia, Beaches, Colosseum, Tuscany, Pantheon, Cinque Terre, Pompeii, Florence, Amalfi Coast, Sicily