The birthplace of the Roman Empire, Italy is one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations. From numerous UNESCO World Heritage Cultural sites and a dramatic coastline blessed with sandy beaches and turquoise waters to picturesque lakes and impressive palaces, Italy has it all. Foodies can enjoy one of the most famous cuisines in the world, while shopaholics can explore Milan, Europe’s shopping capital.
As for history-buffs and culture-vultures, they will have an opportunity to discover one of the oldest civilizations in the world. To sum it all up, Italy offers something for every traveler. Whether you wish to walk down cobblestone streets dotted with historical buildings or swim in crystal-clear waters in Sardinia and Sicily, this list of things to do in Italy has got you covered.
One of the most famous attractions in Rome, the Colosseum is one of the largest amphitheaters in the world and a must-visit place when exploring Italy. This big oval structure used to hold nearly 60,000 spectators and was constructed by Titus of the Flavian dynasty back in 80 AD. Today, Colosseum attracts millions of visitors per year and the lines in front can be pretty long.
2. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Florence in Italy is an ideal destination for couples on vacation looking for a romantic experience. Not to be missed is the beautiful Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, one of the world’s finest cathedrals. From the lovely exterior with marble panels to the cathedral’s bell tower, a visit to this place is a memorable experience. Make sure to climb the viewing platform for spectacular views of the city.
If you are looking for things to do in Italy, Rome, head out to the Pantheon. It is one of ancient Romans’ greatest architectural achievements and a place where many great Italians including kings and artists are buried. To admire this large unreinforced concrete dome, its best to arrive early in the morning when there are fewer visitors around.
4. Trevi Fountain
No trip to Italy is complete without paying a visit to the incredible Trevi Fountain in Rome. Constructed in the 18th century, the fountain is known as a spot to throw a coin which means that you’ll be definitely returning to Rome. At night, the fountain which is made of glittering marble is illuminated and makes a great spot for taking photos.
5. Roman Forum
A site that used to be located in the center of ancient Rome, the Roman Forum was a favorite gathering place for many people in ancient Roman times. It was also home to many of the ancient city’s temples and monuments and a burial ground. Nowadays, the Roman Forum is a great destination to explore for history buffs and culture vultures who wish to learn more about the history of ancient Rome. It attracts nearly 5 million people each year.
6. Leaning Tower of Pisa
If you are visiting the city of Pisa in the north of Italy, a visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa is simply a must. For those who don’t know, soon after the construction of this so-called fluke of architecture, the tower began to sink because the foundation was poorly laid. This is why today the tower has a crooked stance. Make sure to climb to the viewing platform where you can take spectacular pics of the entire city and enjoy the views.
7. Doge’s Palace
There are many things to do in Venice in Italy and a visit to the Doge’s Palace is one of them. As the Italians call it, Palazzo Ducale used to be the center of the government when the Venetian Republic existed. Later on, the castle was converted to a Byzantine-style palace. Now a museum, Doge’s Palace houses many beautiful paintings and is one of the major attractions in Venice for tourists.
8. St. Mark’s Square
St. Mark’s Square is without a doubt one of the most important tourist spots in Venice. It is constantly packed with hordes of tourists who are looking for that perfect picture for their Insta account. The main attraction on the square is the extraordinary St. Mark’s Basilica which is the final resting place of Saint Mark the Evangelist. Influenced by the Byzantine Empire, the building is definitely the work of art. From its high altar and mosaics covered in gold to the beautiful marble decorations, it’s easy to see why St. Mark’s Basilica is beloved by so many people.
9. Uffizi Gallery
If you don’t mind waiting in line, make sure to spend a couple of hours exploring the Uffizi Gallery in the romantic city of Florence. This art museum is home to works by artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio and is also considered being one of Italy’s most beautiful buildings. Art lovers will be happy to hear that Botticelli’s world-famous Birth of Venus can be found here in the Uffizi Gallery.
10. Canal Grande
As the main waterway through the heart of Venice, The Canal Grande is a great place to tour the history and architecture of Venice. With many famous homes and restaurants lining this Canal, the richest citizens of Venice had and still have their homes here and you can observe centuries of architectural development along this waterway. We’d recommend that you take a water taxi, gondola, or tour boat along this busy canal Grande and enjoy this bustling highway through the core of the city.
11. Piazza Navona
As Italians say, all roads lead to Rome! In this case, let the road take you to the one and only Piazza Navona. With three spectacular fountains and a giant obelisk in the middle, Piazza Navona is one of Rome’s most beautiful squares attracting both locals and tourists. Admire the beauty of the baroque church of Sant’Agnese in Agone or take a photograph in front of Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi.
12. Mount Etna
Located on the island of Sicily in the south of Italy, Mount Etna is an impressive active volcano that has one of the highest peaks in the country. The good news is that there are many tours from Catania to Mount Etna daily. During these organized and guided tours, travelers will have a chance to go on various hiking routes and climb up to the highest altitudes. If you manage to go all the way up, expect to see everything from lava flows to the black volcanic soil and active fumaroles.
13. Duomo di Milano
A gothic cathedral located not far from the center of Milan in Italy, Duomo di Milano is one of the best attractions in the country and you can literally spend the entire day here. It took 6 centuries to build this spectacular architectural masterpiece, so it comes as no surprise that millions of people visit the cathedral each year. Some of the highlights include the gold reliquary of San Carlo Borromeo and the tomb of Gian Giacomo Medici. For a small fee, you can head out to the terrace which is located on the roof of the cathedral.
14. Ponte Vecchio
A medieval bridge spanning the river Arno, Ponte Vecchio is a pedestrian bridge in Florence that you can see in many travelers’ photos. As you walk across the bridge, you will come across two lovely terraces that offer spectacular views of the river. It would be a shame not to mention one of the newer customs on Ponte Vecchio, in which couples on vacation place a lock on the Cellini’s monument and declare their everlasting love. However, this tradition didn’t go well with the authorities who decided to charge anyone who attaches something on the monument with a heavy fee.
15. Amalfi Coast
Looking for unforgettable and adventurous things to do in Italy? How about a visit to the Amalfi Coast, a glittering jewel along the Sorrentine Peninsula? You will be visiting cute hillside towns like Positano, Ravello, and Amalfi which are built along the steep mountainsides. These pastel towns offer jaw-dropping views of deep gorges and sandy beaches below, so it comes as no surprise that the Amalfi Coast is one of the most dramatic destinations in the country.
16. Rialto Bridge
Built in the 16th century, Rialto Bridge is an arched stone bridge in Venice that attracts large crowds of visitors on any given day of the year. It is formerly known as the Lovers Bridge connecting San Marco and San Polo in Venice. Apart from visiting the lavish souvenir shops, you can also enjoy spectacular views of the Grand Canal. In case you get hungry, there are some fine dining establishments on the north and south side of the bridge.
17. Villa Borghese
Looking for unusual things to do in Italy? Pay a visit to Villa Borghese, often nicknamed “Park of Museums”. Located just a short walk from the Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese covers an area of 80 hectares and features many attractions including museums, Pincio’s Water Clock, and Silvano Toti Globe Theatre which is a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Admire the beauty of the park’s sculptures, monuments, and fountains and don’t forget to check out museums like Museo e Galleria Borghese, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, and Museo Nazionale Etrusco.
18. Spanish Steps
Popular with both tourists and locals, the Spanish Steps in Rome are a must-visit destination when exploring Italy. The 135 gleaming steps rise from Piazza Trinita dei Monti and are dominated at the top by Trinita dei Monti Church. You might have seen these steps before, as they are featured in an episode of the popular US TV show Everybody Loves Raymond and in Audrey Hepburn film, A Roman Holiday. Keep in mind that as of 2019, travelers are no longer allowed to sit on the Spanish Steps.
19. Castel Sant’Angelo
Located close to the Vatican City, Castel Sant’Angelo is a beautiful fortress split into five floors. Expect to see everything from a grand collection of paintings, sculpture, military memorabilia and medieval firearms to rooms that were once a Papal residence and prison cells where many historical figures were kept. For spectacular views over Rome make your way to the castle’s terrace.
20. Bridge of Sighs
Bridge of Sighs is definitely one of the most photographed places in Venice. The bridge connects the 16th-century Priggione Nove with Palazzo Ducale and many visitors find it very romantic. However, the story about the Bridge of Sighs is far from romantic, since the name of the bridge actually refers to all the convicts who needed to cross the bridge and go to prison. The thing is that at the time, the bridge connected the inquisitors’ offices with the New Prison which was a building specifically designed to serve for detention. This bridge is probably the most misinterpreted attraction in Italy.
21. Pitti Palace
One of the largest museums in Italy, Pitti Palace in Florence is actually home to several museums with nearly 150 rooms. A visit to the place means coming close to some of the best world-class treasures including works by artists such as Rubens and Titian and places like the Royal Apartments, Porcelain Museum, Carriage Museum, and Costume Gallery. Guided tours of the palace are available, but keep in mind that you will probably need a couple of hours just so see the highlights of the palace.
22. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Home to some of the most luxurious boutiques in Milan, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a place to satisfy every shopaholic’s craving. With prestigious labels such as Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton, this elegant shopping arcade is one of the largest megastores in all of Italy. Whether you wish to get that lovely hat from Borsalino, purchase something from Prada, or just unwind at one of the on-site restaurants and cafes, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is definitely worth checking out.
23. Pompeii Archaeological Park
If your idea of having a good time includes paying a visit to the remains of a city that was destroyed in AD 79 when the volcano Vesuvius erupted, make sure to check out the extraordinary Pompeii Archaeological Park. What’s interesting about this place is that the eruption from the volcano managed to preserve historic treasures such as sculptures, frescoes, and mosaics. Visitors can tour the site and admire the remains of markets, theaters, baths, and streets.
24. Sassi di Matera
If you are planning to visit the lovely town of Matera in Italy, you will stumble upon an astonishing collection of ancient cave dwellings also known as Sassi di Matera. These one-room caves in the tufa limestone were home to the first human settlement in the country. A guided tour of Sassi di Matera allows travelers to discover dwellings carved right out of the rocks and learn more about the ancient Holy Land.
25. Arena di Verona
The third-largest Roman amphitheater, Arena di Verona dominates Piazza Bra in Verona and is a popular tourist attraction worth visiting while exploring Italy. It used to host performances for nearly 40,000 people, and today visitors can still attend all kinds of events in the area ranging from theater performances to live music concerts.
26. Aquarium of Genoa
Vacationers visiting Italy with kids will want to make their way to the fabulous Aquarium in Genoa. With 70 tans and over 15,000 sea creatures ranging from penguins and dolphins to sharks and seals, it’s easy to see why the Aquarium of Genoa is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Genoa. The complete visit lasts for about 4 hours and offers travelers an opportunity to come close to stingrays, marine mammals, and even reptiles.
27. Gardaland Park
An amusement park located in a small village called Ronchi, Gardaland Park is an excellent destination for families on vacation. This amazing resort is adjacent to Lake Garda and is the most popular amusement park in the country. Whether you wish to enjoy river rapids and gentle carousels, take your kids to meet Peppa Pig, or check out the amazing sea life aquarium, there are plenty of attractions to keep you entertained throughout the day. In case you wish to spend the night, book a room at the fantastic Gardaland Hotel.