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Visit Italy: Top 20 Things To Do and Must-See Attractions

The 20 best things to do in italy (bucket list).

You’re planning to visit Italy for your next trip and you’re looking for the best places to visit?

Great choice, there are many beautiful things to see in the country, you will love it!

With many beautiful cities , a rich history , stunning landscapes , some of the most beautiful Mediterranean islands and of course delicious food , I can say without a doubt that Italy is one of my favourite destination in Europe.

In order to help you plan your stay, I have prepared this list of the 20 best things to do in Italy , with all the highlights and must-see attractions. It will for sure give you an idea of your next travel destination.

So, what are the best points of interest in Italy? Discover Rome , the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Sicily and much more now!

1. Rome : the capital

2. florence: the art city, 4. venice: the romantic city, 5. the cinque terre, 6. lecce: the baroque city, 7. verona: the shakespearean city, 8. genoa: port city, 9. naples : historic city, 10. capri: magnificent island, 11. turin: the city of cinematography and chocolate, 12. milan: the capital of fashion, 13. lake maggiore and the borromean islands, 14. lake como, 15. garda lake, 16. the dolomites, 17. the amalfi coast, 18. gargano national park, 20. sardinia, flight prices to italy, you’re traveling in italy these articles will help you, visit italy: the 20 best places to visit and must-see attractions.

I will start this guide of the best things to do in Italy with the capital, Rome. The Eternal City city attracts millions of tourists every year but, despite what you might think, it isn’t the most touristic city of the country. Florence and Venice both attracts more international visitors!

Rome is a beautiful city, with the added advantage of being very easy to visit on foot. It’s full of ancient monuments, beautiful squares and museums. Here are the must-see:

  • The Coliseum
  • The Roman forum
  • The Pantheon
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Piazza Navona

If you are visiting Rome, you should also go to the Vatican City. Don’t miss the following:

  • Saint Peter’s Square
  • Saint Peter’s Basilica , the world’s largest basilica
  • The Sistine Chape l and Michelangelo’s major work: The Last Judgement
  • And all Vatican museums

For more details about the city, you should read my article: The 25 best things to do in Rome .

rome Italy

Florence, undoubtedly the most beautiful city of Tuscany, is home to numerous museums and Renaissance palaces. The Cultural Heritage is immense : Half Italian works of art are located in Florence. No wonder why it’s one of the most visited city in Italy along with Venice!

So will you be one of the 15 million tourists that will visit the city this year?

Must-see places in Florence:

  • The Uffizi gallery and its famous paintings
  • The basilica San Miniato al Monte , from which you will have a panoramic view over Florence. A tip: go there for sunset
  • Piazza della Signoria: a real open-air museum
  • Cupola del Brunelleschi: climb 400 steps for a 360 degree view of Florence. Remember to book your tickets in advance to avoid the queue.

And don’t forget to visit the Tuscan countryside , famous for being the most beautiful in Italy!

To learn more about the best places to visit in Florence, you should read my dedicated article: The 27 Best Things to do in Florence.

Florence, one of the most visited city in Italy

When you hear about Pisa, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably the famous leaning tower, the symbol of the city. However, there are also other things to see in the city, so you can easily spend a full day in town.

  • The Piazza dei Miracoli , is the touristic heart of the city: all the famous monuments of Pisa are located there!
  • The tower of Pisa , with it’s 20€ entrance fee (it can be a surprising price!)
  • The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption
  • The Baptistery of Saint John of Pisa
  • The Monumental Cemetery Camposanto
  • La Piazza dei Cavalieri , a small typical Italian square with fewer tourists
  • Borgo Stretto: shopping hotspot and ideal place to eat or have a drink in one of the numerous restaurants.

You will find every information you need to visit Pisa in my article: The 10 best things to do in Pisa.

Pise-Italie

I can’t write an article about the Best of Italy without mentioning the famous City of Venice!

Venice is one of the most touristic cities in Europe, a great choice if you want to spend a weekend or more in Italy. With its numerous canals and its famous gondola rides, it’s also the perfect destination for a romantic stay. The Venice Carnaval takes place every year in February and attracts tourists from all over the world. If you don’t mind the crowds, it can be a good time to visit the city!

The places to visit in Venice:

  • Saint Mark’s Square: heart of the city and pigeons’ area
  • Saint Mark’s Basilica and its golden mosaics
  • The Ducale Palace
  • The Bridge of Sighs: Venice’s famous bridge
  • The islands of Murano (world famous for glassmaking) and Burano with its typical colorful houses.

You can find more info about the best places to visit in Venice in my article: The 31 best things to do in Venice .

Venise

This guide of the best places to visit in Italy wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Cinque Terre , 5 stunning cliff-side villages overlooking the Mediterranean sea. You have probably already seen pictures of them, these spectacular colourful towns are amongst the most famous sights of Italy!

Cinque Terre villages are located close to each other. To visit them, you have 3 choices:

  • Do the hiking trail that connects them (but be careful, depending on the season, some of them might be closed). The routes between each village can go from ½ hour to 2 hours.
  • Take the train that connects all the villages: The Cinque Terre Express.
  • By boat, with amazing views over the villages.

The Cinque Terre villages are the following:

  • Monterosso al mare: located in the northernmost part, it is the largest of the villages and the only one with a large sandy beach.
  • Vernazza with its colourful houses and small port.
  • Corniglia, the only one that isn’t connected to the sea, can be reached by a staircase of more than 350 steps.
  • Manorala: the oldest village.
  • Riomaggiore, situated in the very East, at “the end” of the Cinque Terre.

If you want more information about Cinque Terre, you should read my detailed article: How to visit Cinque Terre?

Cinqueterre italie

Much less known than the previous cities, it’s however definitely worth a visit during your trip to Italy. Lecce, located at the base of the “Italian boot” in Puglia region, is a very beautiful baroque town. There are churches, museums and palaces everywhere, all sharing the same architectural style.

  • La Basilique santa Croce
  • The Basilica of the Holy Cross
  • The historic center
  • The dome of Lecce
  • Sant’Oronzo Square
  • Faggiano Museum

Lecce, Italie

Verona is the city of love and of the tragic destiny of Romeo and Juliet. Everyone has already heard about it, but do you know what are the best things to do in town?

Here are the best places to visit in Verona:

  • Juliette’s house: the opportunity to admire the famous balcony and take a picture with your lover
  • The piazza Bra, where Verona arena is located
  • Piazza delle Erbe with its market, bars and restaurant terraces
  • The basilica of San Zeno Maggiore, the oldest church in Verona
  • The Castelvecchio, a 14th century castle turned into a museum

Verone, en Italie

Genoa is and have historically always been a port city. Christopher Columbus, one of the most famous adventurers of all time was born here!

The city is also full of monuments and beautiful sites to admire. Not many people visit it but it’s a shame, because there are very nice things to see in Genoa.

Things to do:

  • The port of Genoa where you can visit the aquarium and see a replica of a pirate ship. Don’t forget to take the glass elevator to enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
  • The historical center with the piazza dei Ferrari and its beautiful fountain
  • Walk along Via Garibaldi and visit one or more palaces such as the palazzo reale, the palazzo bianco or the palazzo Rosso.
  • Stroll along the Lungomare, a 3 km seaside promenade
  • Go to Boccadasse, an old fisherman’s village with colourful houses

Que faire en Italie: visiter Gênes

Naples is the European city with the largest historical centre, so you can be sure there are a lot of churches and monuments to visit in the city! Naples is also very famous around the world for its gastronomy: the pizza (created in the 1600s as a street food for the poorest Neapolitans) as well as the famous Neapolitan sauce.

Naples must-see attractions:

  • Start with the historic centre and its Duomo
  • The Piazza del Plebiscito, a huge and very photogenic square with beautiful monuments surrounding it
  • The Vigiliano Park and its magnificent view over the bay
  • Visit the archaeological museum which houses objects from Pompeii archaeological site
  • Go to Pompeii,  located about 40 minutes by bus or train from Naples and witness the damage caused by the murderous eruption of the Vesuvius.

Visiter l'Italie: Naples

From Naples you can easily take the ferry and go to Capri island for a day trip.

You will start your visit of one of the most beautiful places in Italy in Marina Grande port. You should then take the funicular: it will take you directly to the famous Piazzetta, in Capri town center. With its café terraces and magnificent view over the bay, the place is magical!

Other things you shouldn’t miss in Capri are the Arco Naturale , a large 20m height rocky arch and the viewpoint of Tragara , which also offers a magnificent view. And of course the must-see attraction of Capri: the blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra in Italian), named after the unique water color inside.

Capri - Italie

You may not know it, but Turin is THE chocolate city. Yes, there is not only Swiss or Belgian chocolate! Italian one is also very famous. Your favourite sweet thing has even been invented by a master pastry chef from Turin! Every year, the chocolate festival takes place in town, with many events and tasting.

But Turin is also the city of cinema. Located in Turin’s emblematic monument, the Mole Antonelliana, the Cinema Museum is one of the best in the world. You will learn more about the history of cinema and you can even see masks of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings! Don’t forget to take the panoramic lift to the upper terrace, you will enjoy a 360° view over the entire city.

Also worth seeing during your trip to Turin:

  • The Egyptian museum : the 2nd largest after the one in Cairo and the oldest Egyptian museum in the world
  • The automobile museum, with its impressive collection of vehicles
  • The Palazzo Reale, former residence of the Dukes of Savoy

To plan your visit to Turin, you can read my definitive guide about the city: The 20 best things to do in Turin

turin en italie

Milan is the capital of fashion and design, with many renowned designer’s luxury boutiques and showrooms. In addition, there is also many historic buildings to visit in the city!

The tourist attraction you shouldn’t miss in Milan:

  • The Piazza del Duomo and its magnificent Cathedral: the Duomo di Milano . Don’t hesitate to take the entrance ticket with rooftop terrace access, it’s worth it!
  • The Sforza Castle and Parco Sempione, just nearby
  • The Vittorio Emmanuel II gallery and its huge glass roof, a luxury shopping spot
  • The Pinacoteca di Brera (Brera art gallery) and its rich collection of paintings by Italian masters such as Raphael, Bellini or Caravaggio.
  • The monumental cemetery: The burial place of celebrities, featuring some very unusual tombstones.

If you have planned to go to Milan, you should my detailed article, with all my best tips to visit the city in 1, 2 or 3 days: The 15 best things to do in Milan

Milan

The Lake Maggiore , along with  Lake Como and Lake Garda is one of the 3 biggest (and most beautiful) Italian lakes. If you plan to visit Milan during your stay in Italy, it can be a great idea to spend a day or 2 around Lake Maggiore, as it’s only at 1h30 by car. And if you don’t have a car, many tour companies offer day trips from Milan.

Lake Maggiore is especially known for the Borromean Islands: the great new is that you can perfectly visit all 3 of them in 1 day with one of the many boat tours available.

The 3 islands

  • The Isola Madre, where you will be able to admire its famous exotic garden with freely wandering peacocks.
  • The Isola Bella, with the Borromean palace, its garden and the shell grotto
  • The Isola Superieure, an island of fishermen.

lac majeur Italie

Located at only 1 hours from Milan, Lake Como is the third largest lake in Italy. The lake is a very popular jet set holiday destination and is famous around the world for its many majestic villas and lush gardens.

It’s also a very popular shooting location: for example, you might have seen in it in Star Wars episode II! A part of the movie was shot at the Balbianello villa , one the lake shore. But Lake Como is more than this: around the lake you can visit beautiful fishing villages and enjoy many hiking trails. A must visit in Northern Italy!

Best Places to see:

  • Como city and its pedestrian center
  • Tremezzo  and Villa Carlotta with its sumptuous botanical garden
  • Bellagio and villa Melzi , a source of inspiration for Stendhal himself
  • Varenne and the villa Monastero with its promenade at the edge of the water
  • Castello Di Vezio and its panoramic view of the lake below
  • And of course, if you’re Star Wars fan, the Villa Balbianello.

Lac de Côme

Lake Garda is the largest and one of the most touristic lake in Italy. It’s located at only 1h30 by train from Milan.

Besides the lake itself, you can visit some of the nearby towns:

  • Sirmione: the most famous town on Lake Garda. Its medieval castle marks the entrance to the city, and it’s vert pleasant to stroll in the small typical alleys. Catullo caves archaeological site is also worth seeing for its ruins of Roman temples and villas.
  • Malcesine : in the city, you can visit Scaliger Castle and the Palazzo dei Capitani. Then take the cable car to Monte Baldo and enjoy a panoramic view of Lake Garda.
  • Torri del Benaco: with its small fishing port and Scaligero castle, it also deserves a stop.

Lac de Garde

If you love hiking and Italy, then the Dolomites are made for you! Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the area has 18 mountain peaks, some of them being more than 3,000 meters height.

Famous for their very particular shape, sculpted by the elements, they are even more beautiful at sunrise and sunset.

To fully enjoy the landscape, you can drive along the Dolomites road from Bolzano to Cortina . There is around 130km and the road offer breathtaking views on the mountains.

Don’t hesitate to stop in the villages or at the lago di Carezza. Cortina is one of the best starting point for the numerous hiking trails in the region. If you love outdoors activities, the Dolomites is the region you should see during your next trip to Italy!

Les dolomites

You are looking for the top sights in Italy? Then the Amalfi coast is a great choice for your next trip!

Located South of Naples, the Amalfi coast is famous for being one of the most beautiful coasts of Italy. With its wild coast and amazing cliff-side villages, no doubt you will love it!

Overview of the best places to visit:

  • Sorrento , standing on a cliff with a view over the bay and the island of Capri.
  • Positano, a colorful cliffside village. It’s popular jet-set destination for its fashion boutiques and trendy cafes.
  • Nocelle: if you go to Positano, you should really do the Path Of Gods Trail, it start from Nocelle, a bit above Positano.
  • Amalfi and its magnificent Duomo
  • Ravello and the villa Cimbrone: with its 6 hectares garden overlooking the sea, it’s a must-do in Ravello.

La cote amalfitaine, en Italie

Located in Puglia region, Gargano Natural Park is the largest natural park in Italy. The coast is famous for the limestone rocks the sea has carved over time. You will be able to see numerous caves, wild coves and faraglioni .

The center of the Gargano is a great place for peaceful hikes, especially in the Umbra forest, literally “the forest of shadows”. Stroll under the hundred years old trees and enjoy the flora and fauna.

The small town of   Vieste is also a must in the region!

Vieste, parc naturel de Gargano, en Italie

Sicily, the biggest island in the Mediterranean sea, is the ideal place to visit if you want to mix relaxation at the beach and discovery of world class archaeological sites. Add the delicious Italian cuisine to the mix and the result is a perfect combination for unforgeable holidays!

Best places to see in Eastern Sicily:

  • Catania and the Piazza del Duomo with the Cathedral of Santa Agatha
  • Syracuse and the island of Ortigia : Take a walk the small alleys of the historical center, admire the grandiose Piazza del Duomo and enjoy the view of Castello Maniace
  • Baroque towns: Noto, Modica and Ragusa
  • Taormina : For the famous Greek theatre, the view over the Etna and its magnificent pebble beach: “Isola Bella”.
  • Etna, the most active volcano in Europe.

Places to visit in Western Sicily: 

  • Palermo , with the beautiful palatine chapel , the Norman palace and the unusual Capuchin Catacombs
  • Cefalu, a small traditional fishing village
  • Agrigento and the valley of the temples
  • The beaches of “Scala dei Turchi” and Eraclea Minoa
  • The Egadi Islands , a paradise on earth.

Discover all of my articles about Sicily .

Isola-Bella

You love beautiful beaches and you’re wondering where to go in Italy?

Sardinia , the 2nd biggest Italian island, is famous around the world for its stunning beaches. It’s the perfect destination if you want to enjoy holiday in the sun.

Best places to visit in Sardinia:

  • Cagliari , the capital of Sardinia which stretches over several hills. Visit the Castello district , most of the tourist attractions are located there.
  • Maddalena Islands , with beautiful wild beaches.
  • Costa Smeralda : the perfect jet-set destination for a luxury holiday. The road, all along the coast, offers a spectacular view.
  • The Gulf of Orosei : Huge and impressive limestone cliffs, hosts some of the most beautiful beaches of Sardinia.

You’re planning to visit Sardinia during your next trip? Have a look at my article about the best things to do: The 20 best places to visit in Sardinia.

sardaigne

And you, what do you plan to visit in Italy? What are your favorite places?

So, you want to go to Italy? In order to get the best price, I highly recommand you to check flight prices now. It’s quick and easy, just use our flight comparator below!

Once on the results page, feel free to compare several sites, to make sure that no fees are added to the final rates.

Italy travel Guides

  • Buy the Lonely Planet Italy guide on Amazon.com or on Amazon.co.uk
  • Buy the Rick Steves Italy guide on Amazon.com or on Amazon.co.uk

Discover all my articles about Italy : All my articles to help you plan your trip to Italy are listed there.

  • The 20 Best Things to do in Italy – All the must-see places!
  • Cinque Terre: The definitive guide to plan your visit
  • Florence: The 27 best things to do and must-see attractions
  • Milan: The Top 15 things to do in the city and around
  • Pisa: Top 21 must-see attractions + Tips
  • Rome: The 25 best things to do and see
  • Siena: Top 20 best places to visit
  • Turin: The 20 must-see attractions
  • Venice: The 31 best things to do (+ Tips)
  • 2 days in Florence
  • 3 days in Florence
  • 4 days in Florence
  • 5 days in Florence
  • 2 days in Milan
  • 3 days in Milan
  • 4 days in Milan
  • 2 Days in Rome – How to visit Rome in 48h
  • 3 Days in Rome – The best itinerary to visit Rome in 72h
  • 4 Days in Rome – The best places to visit in 4 days
  • 5 Days in Rome – How to spend 5 days in Rome
  • 6 Days in Rome – The ultimate Itinerary + Where to stay
  • One week in Rome – The perfect 7-day itinerary
  • 2 Days in Venice – An Epic 48h itinerary
  • 3 Days in Venice – The perfect 72h itinerary
  • 4 Days in Venice – Itinerary + Best Things to do + Tips
  • Where to stay in Milan? My guide to the best areas and hotels for a perfect stay
  • Where to stay in Rome? – The definitive guide of the best areas!
  • Where to stay in Venice? My selection of the best hotels and districts for an epic stay
  • Omnia Card: The definitive guide
  • Colosseum: The 7 best skip the line tickets
  • Trevi Fountain: History, Secrets and Facts
  • Rome’s Hidden Gems : The Definitive Guide with 17 secret spots!
  • The 20 Best museums in Rome – With all my best tips!
  • Rome in May: The definitive guide to plan your visit: weather, things to do, itineraries and more!
  • Rome in June: Guide + All my best tips

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Visit Italy

Creator of the Voyage Tips blog, travel and photography lover. I give you all my best tips to plan your next trip.

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Naeem

Good work, I am really impressed by your information and tips. Thanks a lot for sharing such helpful information and tips related to travel in Italy.

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Aosta Valley

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italy tourism

Italy: a first-timer’s guide

Duncan Garwood

Sep 4, 2023 • 8 min read

italy tourism

Yep. The food in Italy is as good as you've heard © Vladimir Vladimirov / Getty Images

With its iconic monuments, timeless landscapes and irresistible food, Italy is one of Europe’s most alluring destinations. Its historic cities promise thrilling art and architecture at every turn while its varied coastlines and Alpine heights provide a stunning outdoor playground.

In fact, the country is so packed with possibilities that it can seem almost overwhelming. Where should I go? How do I get there? How much will it cost? This planning guide tackles these questions and provides clear practical advice on how to get the most out of your first Italian trip.

Cloud swirl round craggy Peaks of the dolomites in Italy as forests run down the hillside turning from green into yellows reds and oranges in the autumnal glow with a Russian-style church, Church St. Johann in Ranui, stood at the bottom of the field

When should I go to Italy?

The short answer is anytime. Spring and fall are best for sightseeing , touring, and seasonal food. It’s warm without being stifling and nature is in full color. But with the glorious blue-sky weather come crowds and high-season prices in the main cities.

Summer sees cities empty as holidaymakers head to the coast. Prices skyrocket in popular areas, peaking in mid-August when beaches are packed and resorts full. Meanwhile, the festival season swings into gear with high-profile events such as Il Palio di Siena , featuring a wild bareback horse race around Siena 's Piazza del Campo , and Spoleto’s Festival dei Due Mondi , with musicians, artists and actors performing to passionate throngs.

Winter is generally quiet – except in ski resorts – and it can be wet and cold. But low season rates and empty museums make it a decent option for a city break.

How much time do I need to visit Italy?

Realistically, you’ll need at least two or three days in top cities such as Rome , Florence and Venice . That won’t give you enough time to cover everything but it will allow you to get a feel for the place and explore some of the headline attractions.

If you’re happy to move fast, you could cover Italy’s highlights on a whistle-stop 10-day tour. That would give you a couple of days each in Venice and Florence, a day in Bologna , Pisa and Naples , and three days in Rome. Alternatively, you could focus on a particular area. For example, with a week you could explore southern Tuscany and parts of neighboring Umbria , or cut a swathe through Sicily’s baroque southeast .

Train station on the coast in the small village of Manarola with colorful houses on cliff overlooking sea.

Is it easy to get in and around Italy?

Italy is well served by air with flights from across the world. Major airports include Rome Fiumicino (officially Leonardo da Vinci) and Milan Malpensa , the two main intercontinental gateways, Venice Marco Polo , Pisa International (for Florence and Tuscany), Naples International , and Catania (Sicily’s busiest airport). There are also excellent rail and bus links, especially to northern Italy, and ferries to Italian ports from across the Mediterranean.

Once in Italy, trains are best between major cities and along the coasts, while buses are better for the mountains and hilly inland areas . For more remote parts you’ll really need your own wheels. Most major cities have decent public transport, though you can often cover their historic centers on foot.

Young woman tourist fashion white dress with spritz cocktail in front of panoramic view of Rome cityscape from campidoglio terrace at sunset. Landmarks, domes of Rome, Italy.

Top things to do in Italy

Tour rome’s greatest hits.

First port of call for many travelers is Rome, Italy’s charismatic capital. You’ll never be able to cover all of its monuments and masterpieces but there are some you won’t want to miss. The Colosseum and Pantheon are obvious highlights, along with the Roman Forum and Palatino . Then there’s the Vatican where you’ll find St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel (in the Vatican Museums ). And, of course, you’ll want to toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain to ensure you return to the Eternal City.

For a taste of authentic Roman cuisine, try a slice of pizza from Forno Roscioli or a pasta carbonara at Flavio al Velavevodetto in the Testaccio neighborhood.

Marvel at masterpieces in Florence

One and a half hours north of Rome by train, Florence is the second of Italy’s ‘big three’ (Venice completes the trio). Visitors have been rhapsodizing about the city for centuries and still today it thrills with its Renaissance palazzi (palaces), frescoed churches and artworks such as Michelangelo's David at the Galleria dell'Accademia , Botticelli’s Birth of Venus at the Galleria degli Uffizi , and Brunelleschi’s red dome atop the landmark Duomo . Art apart, there are markets and boutiques to explore and Negroni cocktails to be sampled, including at the historic Caffè Rivoire .

With more time, you could add a day-trip to Siena or a tour of the Chianti wine country .

Several gondolas offer their tourist services very early in a new day of the beautiful city of Venice as they punt beneath the Bridge of Sighs

Get lost in Venice’s backstreets

As soon as you set foot in Venice you know it’s special. And confusing. To get your bearings take vaporetto (water bus) No 1 along the Grand Canal to Piazza San Marco where you’ll find several landmark sights. Chief among these are the Basilica di San Marco and the Gothic Palazzo Ducale , former residence of the ruling Doge. Elsewhere, you can catch modern art at the world-class Peggy Guggenheim Collection and browse colorful produce at the centuries-old Rialto Market .

To fuel your wanderings, Venice is famous for its cicchetti (bar snacks). A top spot for these is the canal-side Bracaro ae Bricoe bar in the Cannaregio sestiere (neighborhood).

Feast on pizza, art and street life in Naples

With Mt Vesuvius brooding on the horizon, Naples is sprawling, loud, sometimes edgy, and often magnificent. Its Dickensian backstreets are a joy to explore and its regal palaces showcase world-class collections of Greco-Roman antiquities and baroque art – check out the Museo Nazionale Archeologico and Cappella Sansevero for a glimpse. Then, of course, there’s the city’s revered pizza, served at historic pizzerias such as Da Michele .

Beyond the city, Pompeii is an easy day trip and the Amalfi Coast is within striking distance via the sunny resort town of Sorrento .

A woman in a flowery dress admiring sunset over Lake Como and Bellagio old town in Italy

Cruise the Italian Lakes

Ringed by brooding Alpine summits and steep wooded slopes, the Italian Lakes have been a popular holiday spot since ancient times. At Lake Maggiore , you can explore the Isole Borromee with their ornate palaces and lavish gardens, while further east you can go celeb-hunting on Lake Como , cruising around its exquisite villas and villages.

To reach the lakes you’ll often have to pass through Milan , Italy’s northern powerhouse. A day here would be enough to take in some of its signature sights: Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper , the fairy-tale Duomo , the Quadrilatero d’Oro shopping district.

My favorite thing to do in Italy

As much as Italy’s obvious beauty and blockbuster sights, what I love are its simple pleasures: a leisurely lunch in a favorite trattoria, the sight of pine trees towering over Roman ruins, a glass of prosecco on a Venetian canal-side.

I also love wandering around Rome and seeing how its life plays out against a backdrop of ancient monuments and historic palazzi . There’s always something going on and even without trying I usually come across something special, an amazing baroque fountain or a teeming market in a medieval square. The city’s streets really are an experience in themselves. I mean where else can you wait for a tram just yards from where Julius Caesar was stabbed?

Diverse young women friends eating italian take away pizza in city street - Multiracial female having fun together on summer vacation

How much money do I need for Italy?

Italy isn’t cheap. Accommodation rates vary enormously between places and seasons but prices are universally high in popular destinations. That said, you can still find deals if you book early and avoid peak periods. Sightseeing can also add up with top sites charging top dollar. On the plus side, eating out doesn’t have to cost the earth, especially if you stick to pizza and gelato.

Some average daily costs:

  • Double room in an agriturismo (farm stay) €40-80
  • B&B room €60-140
  • Coffee (standing at a bar) €1.10
  • Midrange meal €25-35
  • Glass of wine €5-8
  • Museum admission €10-20
  • Public transport ticket (Rome) €1.50 for 100 minutes unlimited travel (but only one metro ride)
  • High-speed train ticket Rome to Florence €55

A waiter in sharp white suit stirs a Sbagliato cocktail at the Camparino cocktail bar in Galleria, Milan

Frequently asked questions

This is italy, so do i have to dress up all the time.

In a word, no. When sightseeing go for comfort, especially when it comes to shoes – you’ll be walking a lot and cobbled streets can be murder on the feet. Note also that major religious sights often enforce dress codes, so make sure you can cover your shoulders, torso and thighs. For going out in the evening, smart casual is the way to go.

What’s the score with tipping?

Tipping is not strictly necessary in restaurants as most places add servizio (service) to the bill. If they don’t or if you want to leave something, a few euros is fine in pizzerias and trattorias; 5% to 10% in smarter restaurants.

What’s this about not drinking a cappuccino after 11am?

Italy has a whole (unwritten) rule book on the dos and don’ts of drinking. As a foreign visitor you’ll get a pass if you order the wrong drink at the wrong time, but it helps to know that Italians regard cappuccinos as breakfast drinks, call an espresso un caffè , and drink beer with pizza.

What’s the card vs cash situation?

Businesses are legally obliged to accept digital payments but it’s always best to have some cash on you. You probably won’t have any problems but it’s not unheard of for payment machines to be mysteriously broken in smaller bars, shops, museums or restaurants. Major credit cards are widely accepted (Amex less so).

This article was first published May 2019 and updated September 2023

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Top experiences in italy.

Renaissance Art.  See the works of Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. With world-class art museums such as the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the Borghese Museum in Rome, getting at least a peak at some of these masterpieces is not to be missed. A word of advice: during the high season, book your tickets in advance.

Cruise the Canals of Venice. Whether by gondola or vaporetto, drifting through the canals of Venice is an iconic Italian experience.

Hike the Cinque Terre. Spend one day hiking through the five towns of the Cinque Terre. It is a fabulous hike and what's better than refueling at each town with fresh fruit, gelato, pasta, and wine?

Visit the Blue Grotto in Capri.  We weren't sure if this one was worth it, but once we did it, we loved it.

Visit the Vatican. The Vatican Museum is another "must-see" when visiting Italy. Definitely book your tickets in advance (this can literally save waiting in line for hours) and expect HUGE crowds during the summer months.

Climb the towers in Florence. The Duomo is the most popular tower to climb in Florence, but the Campanile was our favorite. Florence is a gorgeous city and the towers give some of the best vantage points.

Lake Como.  Located in northern Italy, come here for alpine vistas and to visit the villas on the water. Lake Como is virtually deserted during the winter months, so plan to visit between March and October.

Verona. This underrated city is one of our favorite spots in Italy. What a gorgeous city to explore.

Pompeii . This ancient city was destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D.  Pompeii is one of Italy's most visited sights. The ash that covered the city preserved the streets, buildings, and even the bodies of those people unable to flee the eruption. Walking through Pompeii is like walking through history.

The Dolomites.  The Dolomites were our favorite part of Italy. The hiking was epic, the scenery was stunning, and we loved the Austria meets Italy vibe.

Tour the Hill Towns of Tuscany.  Tuscany is packed with quaint, hillside towns. Walk the cobblestoned lanes, dine on delicious Italian food, go on wine tastings, and go shopping. You could spend a week in Tuscany, visiting a new town every day.

See DaVinci's "Last Supper" in Milan. Tickets for a 15 minute viewing sell out weeks in advance, so this is an activity that needs to be planned ahead of time, but it's worth it. Visiting Milan can be done as a day trip and seeing the "Last Supper" can easily fit into your itinerary.

Visit the Greek Ruins in Sicily. Some of the best Greek temples in the world, even better than those found in Greece, can be found in Sicily. Some of these ruins date back to the 5th century  B.C.!

The Amalfi Coast. The Amalfi Coast is labeled as one of the most scenic drives in the world.   It's beautiful, it's filled with hair pin turns, and some people call it a "white-knuckle" ride. Come see for yourself.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Do you think the Leaning Tower of Pisa is too touristy? Maybe. But it's a quick visit and it can easily be seen as a day trip from Florence or on your way to the Cinque Terre.

Visit Sardinia. This rugged island is home to long, sandy beaches, prehistoric sites, and colorful coastal towns. The mountainous interior of the island is a hiking paradise, where you can visit one of the deepest gorges in Europe and the highest sand dunes in Europe.

Visit Puglia. Puglia, also called Apulia, geographically is the “heel” of Italy. What brings most visitors to this part of Italy is the town of Alberobello and its white-washed conical huts. But you can also find colorful coastal towns, national parks, and stunning coastal cliffs.

How Many Days Do You Need in Italy?

At minimum, plan on spending 7 days in Italy. This gives you just enough time to visit two cities and do a day trip or two.

For the best experience, plan on spending 10 days in Italy. This gives you enough time to visit three cities (Rome, Florence and Venice) or several regions of Italy (Amalfi Coast, Rome, and Tuscany).

With even more time, you can tour Italy’s highlights or immerse yourself in one or two regions.

If you only have a few days in Italy, we recommend choosing one city and doing day trips from here.

Best Time to Visit Italy

Spring and fall are generally the best times to visit Italy. During these two seasons, the weather is great for sightseeing and crowds can be a little lower than the summer months.

July and August are the hottest months of the year and visitation is at its highest. During this time, the weather is generally warm/hot with sunny skies, but expect big crowds and higher prices for hotels.

Rainfall picks up in the fall, especially around Rome, the Amalfi Coast, and southern Italy. But crowds also lessen at this time.

Winter can be cold, especially in northern Italy, but if you want to visit Italy without the crowds, this is the best time go (aside from holidays such as Christmas and New Years).

Spring is a beautiful time to visit Italy, with warming weather and blooming flowers. May is one of the best months to visit Italy, with great weather for sightseeing and crowds not yet at peak levels.

Italy Travel Guide with Itineraries

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