Let’s be honest, if you’re here, you’re probably not looking for reasons to visit Italy. You’ve already drunk the proverbial Kool-Aid and are ready to jump right in. Chances are that your ticket is booked, your suitcases are already packed, and you’re ready to discover Italy and all it has to offer. Or at least you’re close to it, and we can’t say we blame you!
Italy is one of the most visited countries in the world, and it often appears on many people’s bucket lists. For a country with so much to see and do, it’s not a huge surprise. Italy has a way of reaching deep into your soul and captivating you with its charm, beauty and offerings. No matter what you’re into, chances are you’ll find it here.
As we’ve already covered the basics of visiting Italy, here we’re jumping into what everyone here wants to know – what should we see and do in Italy? The answer depends largely on you and your expectations. This page is here to help you find your own slice of Italy to explore.
- Practical tips for visiting Italy
- What type of traveller are you?
- Discover Italy: where to stay
Practical tips for visiting Italy
Whether you’re coming to Italy for the first time or returning for more, it’s important to set your expectations. While Italy is not a massive country, it’s also not a tiny one. The country is shaped like a long boot, and there is something to see in every corner. This means you have to travel up and down rather than in a circle which makes reaching all the things you want to see a bit challenging.
With so many offerings, deciding what to see and do in Italy can be a bit overwhelming. Depending on how much time you have, you’re likely not going to be able to visit everything you want on one trip. Sure, you can book a whirlwind tour of Italy that takes you through all the key places in a week, but you won’t be able to appreciate it all as you’re rushing from place to place. Here is what we recommend:
- Decide what you want to see. As challenging as it might be, write down all your must-see and those that are nice to have. Narrowing down your list makes it more manageable and less stressful. You’re more likely to enjoy the sites without getting burnt out and exhausted. Especially if you’re visiting during the hot months of summer. You really don’t want to spend most of your time travelling between destinations.
- Set realistic expectations. The reality is that you’re not going to see it all on one trip. Rather than jumping between different things all over Italy, divide your time into sections that cover your desired places and activities. Having a smaller, more manageable list of items will ensure that you actually have time to see everything on your list and enjoy doing so.
- Book in advance. Gone are the days of simply showing up at the must-see attractions and waking right in. Most places now require tickets bought in advance and allow a limited number of people inside each day. If you don’t want to stand in line for hours and avoid disappointment, book your tickets ahead of your visit.
- Consider a guided tour. Another great option for bypassing lineups is to join a guided tour. Most of the popular attractions in Italy allow tour groups to walk right in. As you’ll be with a tour guide, it’s also an opportunity to have someone explain to you what you’re looking at and offer additional tidbits that you’d not get doing the tour alone.
Recommended tours and activities:
- Vatican: Museums & Sistine Chapel Entrance Ticket
- Rome: Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill Entry Tickets
- Venice: Doge’s Palace Reserved Entry Admission Ticket
- Florence: Skip-The-Line Uffizi Gallery Timed Entrance Ticket
How to avoid tourist scams in Italy?
Travelling to a new country is exciting, but it can sour very quickly if you become a victim of a scam or theft. While Italy is a very safe country, it has its share of scam artists and fraudsters looking to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists. Here are some tips for avoiding the most common scams tourists face in Italy and how to avoid them.
- Be aware of pickpockets: Keep your valuables close to you and be mindful of your surroundings, particularly in crowded areas such as train stations and tourist hotspots. Pickpocketers often work in groups where one person distracts the unsuspecting tourist while the other steals their belonging.
- Be wary of “free” bracelets or other trinkets: Scammers may approach you with a “free” bracelet or trinket and then demand payment later. They can get very persistent, so make sure not to take anything they try to push on you. We find it’s best to walk away and don’t engage.
- Overcharging: Unfortunately, stories of tourists being presented with enormous restaurant bills for a small dish or gelato still make headlines on the news every now and then. While most restaurants will charge a standard fee per person (pane e coperto or servizio) it’s usually a minimal fee. To avoid being overcharged, avoid touristy spots where prices tend to be higher, and always ask for a menu. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re getting ripped off, you can refuse to pay or call the police at 112.
- Be aware of “too good to be true” deals: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of deals that sound too good to be true, such as discounted tours or tickets.
- Research the tour companies or guides: Before you book a tour or hire a guide, research the company or individual and read reviews to ensure they are legitimate.
What type of traveller are you?
Every person coming to Italy has their own reasons for the visit. The options for how to explore Italy are endless. Some people want to experience the art and culture, while others want to eat their way through the country. Whether you want to cruise the Amalfi Coast, tour Italian wineries or visit every ancient ruin you can find, you can do it here.
The best way to discover Italy is by embracing the adventures that reflect your interests. If you’re into food, then do a culinary tour of Italy. Love art and architecture? There are museums and art on almost every corner. Don’t follow what others have done simply because that’s what they did. Not everyone enjoys the same things, and what works for one person won’t necessarily appeal to another. Let’s look at some themes you can choose for your next Italian adventure.
Discover Italy for art and culture lovers
A few places in the world offer as much art and culture as Italy. As home to some of the most renowned artists in history, Italy is filled with cities full of beautiful architecture and stunning artworks. So, if you’re an art and culture lover, Italy is definitely a place for you. Book your tour of the Uffizi Gallery or a guided tour of the ancient rock city of Matera today.
You could spend weeks exploring the art museums and galleries of Rome, Florence, Venice and other Italian cities and still barely scratch the surface. Simply strolling through the streets, you’ll see countless pieces of art that will take your breath away. You can find many of Italy’s most famous paintings in churches and other public buildings. You can also admire numerous Baroque fountains and statues adorning picturesque piazzas and gardens.
Italy is a treasure trove for all architecture lovers that holds endless appeal. Here you can explore architectural styles that go back centuries, including some of the most iconic buildings in the world, from the Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Duomo in Florence. You can even explore ancient Roman towns, Medieval villages and fortresses.
What to book
Padua walking tour | Accademia Gallery tour | Borgese Gallery | Dodge Palace + St. Mark’s Basilica
Discover Italy for history buffs
Italy is like a cake, filled with layers of history at every turn. As you peel back the layers, you’ll find everything from ancient ruins, monuments and archeological sites to Medieval castles, Renaissance palaces and Baroque churches. Sometimes you can even find many of them in one place.
In the countryside are villages that have stood unchanged by time. Stroll the cobbled roads between stone buildings and piazzas as you admire the surrounding landscapes. You’ll likely find several churches and a castle or two in every town. Some are now ruins, while others have been meticulously restored. Part of the fun is finding out which one you’ll find once you arrive.
Get a taste of the Romans at the Colosseum in Rome or Pompeii near Naples. Discover ancient Etruscan tombs in Tuscany and the Greek ruins in Sicily. Immerse yourself in the Italian Renaissance in Florence, partake in the Carnival in Venice and let the magnificence of Italian churches like Milan’s Duomo di Milano and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Vatican City awe you.
What to book
Pompeii guided tour | Colosseum Underground | Florence: The Medici Experience Tour | Agrigento: Valley of the Temples
Discover Italy for foodies
Italians take their food seriously. When not making food or eating it, Italians frequently talk about it. Food is a popular topic of conversation among people of all ages, and it’s amusing how much they discuss it. Considering that Italian cuisine is one of the most popular in the world, you can’t blame them.
Italy’s soil is fertile, meaning everything grown here is bound to taste good. When you set out to discover Italy through the culinary path, you find yourself on a wonderful journey for the senses. Take a cooking class or go on a guided food or wine tour to discover the best local restaurants and wineries. Farmer’s markets are great places to pick up ingredients and sample the flavours.
For a more hands-on experience, consider staying on a farm or signing up for a local food experience like truffle hunting, olive picking or cheese making. Seeing the food made in front of you is not only fun and educational, but it’s also an unforgettable experience you won’t soon forget.
Additionally, cities like Genoa, Bologna and Parma are known for their specific traditional food and are great destinations for foodies. Italian food is versatile, and you’ll find different dishes and ingredients in different parts of the country that are a culinary treasure hunt.
What to book
Palermo Street Food Tour | Cooking class in Venice | Rome Food Tour
Discover Italy for outdoor enthusiasts
While Italy might not immediately come to mind when you think of outdoor destinations, it is actually an ideal location for outdoor lovers. Here you’ll find a diverse range of natural landscapes that offer many opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, skiing, cycling and water sports.
The Italian peninsula is surrounded by the Adriatic, Tyrrhenian and Mediterranean Seas, with a spectacular coastline lined with beaches and cliffs. It’s perfect for beach lovers and water enthusiasts. Going to the beach is a national past-time for Italians, and it’s easy to see why. If you’re planning on visiting the beach during the summer months, make sure to book your accommodations ahead of time.
Italy is also home to three mountain ranges, the Italian Alps, the Apennines and the Dolomites. Not only are they spectacular, but they also offer plenty of outdoor activities, including hiking, skiing, rock climbing and mountain biking. The Dolomites, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, are known for their dramatic peaks and rugged landscapes. The Alps are also a popular destination for skiing, and here you’ll find many famous ski resorts.
What to book
Hike Italy’s Deepest Canyon | Mount Etna Mountain E-Bike Enduro Tour | Canyoning Vione | Path of the Gods Hike
Discover Italy: where to stay
As Italy has been attracting visitors for centuries, the locals are well-versed in hospitality. You have a range of places to stay in Italy, from budget-friendly options to luxury accommodations. Hostels and hotels are the most popular accommodation options and can be found in most major cities and tourist destinations.
If you prefer a more intimate experience, you can opt for a Bed and Breakfast (B&B) or a vacation rental like Airbnb. These are typically family-run and are popular in smaller towns and villages and can range from small apartments to villas and palazzos. You might even find lodgings in some convents and monasteries across Italy.
Camping is also a great option if you prefer to be near nature. Italy has many campgrounds and RV parks, especially in the countryside and along the coast. On the flip side, if luxury is more your game, you’ll find plenty of luxury villas across Italy to choose from.
Beyond the above-mentioned options, there are a few other unique places to stay in Italy worth considering.
The word “agriturismo” is a combination of the Italian words “agriculture” and “tourism.” An agriturismo is similar to a farm stay, where you can experience rural life while staying on a working farm. It is a form of sustainable tourism that promotes rural development and preserves local culture, traditions and natural resources.
Agriturismos can be found throughout Italy and vary in size and amenities. Some are small family-run operations, while others are larger and more luxurious. They often offer traditional accommodations such as farmhouses, cottages and apartments. You can sometimes participate in farm activities such as milking cows, feeding animals, and picking fruits and vegetables during your stay. Some agriturismos also offer cooking classes, guided tours and workshops on traditional crafts.
Agriturismos are a great way to experience the authentic Italian countryside and learn about local food and wine. They often serve traditional, home-cooked meals made with produce from the farm. They are also eco-friendly, as many agriturismos use sustainable practices and promote environmental conservation.
A Masseria is a type of farmhouse or manor house found in the southern region of Italy, particularly in Puglia. The name “Masseria” comes from the Latin word “mansionaria,” meaning living quarters for farm workers. Masserias were traditionally used for both agricultural production and residence for the owner and his family. They were often fortified and had a central courtyard surrounded by rooms for the family and rooms for the workers.
Many have been restored and transformed into luxury accommodations, such as hotels, restaurants, and vacation rentals. They offer a unique opportunity to experience the traditional southern Italian rural lifestyle and architecture while providing modern amenities and comfort.
Many are located in the countryside, often surrounded by olive groves, vineyards and orchards, making them an ideal place for those seeking a peaceful and quiet stay. We stayed at an olive farm in Puglia and can attest that it’s an incredible experience.
Alberghi diffusi, or “diffused hotels,” are a new lodging concept that combines the traditional concept of a hotel with the preservation of local cultural heritage. The idea behind it is to revitalize abandoned or under-populated rural areas by repurposing old buildings and bringing life back to them. They are called “diffused” because instead of being housed in a single building, the accommodations are dispersed throughout a historical village or town.
Alberghi diffusi typically consist of restored houses used as guest rooms or suites. The houses are often decorated with traditional furnishings and decorated with local artwork. Guests can enjoy the ambiance of a small village or town while having access to modern amenities such as private bathrooms and comfortable bedding.
Some alberghi diffusi offer additional facilities such as swimming pools, spas, and restaurants. This concept is a great option if you want to experience a small Italian village or town’s traditional culture and way of life. It’s also a great way to promote sustainable tourism, as it leads to the revitalization of local communities and the preservation of cultural heritage.