The Big Italy Bucket List: 50+ Things to See and Do Before You Kick It!
Just thinking of creating an Italy Bucket List takes me back to the very beginning, when we were still just talking about making our first trip to Italy. I remember how excited I was — I mean, Christmas morning as a kid kind of excited! After some initial adjustments to language and some unexpected feelings of being underwhelmed in Naples (it’s not what you think), we fell in love with Italy like I knew we would. It’s been a love affair ever since, always exciting and new because every region in Italy is completely unique. Certainly the food varies by region, but most everything else does too. Dialects are especially unique from one region to the next. And as is often the case, the more you discover about a place, the more there is to see — so instead of ticking places off this Italian bucket list, we keep adding more!
Maybe it’s the Italian in me that leads me to feel this way, but from what I’ve seen, Italy is an equal-opportunity temptation, grabbing you hard whether you grew up in an Italian-American home or not. It’s dreamy and Old World, and you’ll find yourself staring in awe at places you’ve only read about or seen in the movies. Places like Venice, Capri, Pompeii, the Dolomites, Tuscany, and the Cinque Terre. Is it necessary to make yourself an Italy bucket list? Maybe not. But it’ll help those of you who’ve never been before get started planning your first trip. And for those of us cursed with an ever-growing list, here’s a few more places to add so we always remember there’s one more trip around the corner.
Bologna and Emilia Romagna
Test Drive a Ferrari
Have you ever thought about living the dream, and driving a world-class Formula One racing car? One of the best day trips from Bologna is to the Ferrari Museum Maranello and the headquarters of Ferrari, Italy’s iconic luxury sports car brand. Here you can take a tour of the museum and for a few Euros have an exiting Ferrari experience in a race simulator. It’ll leave your heart pounding and your knees a little wobbly. But for the thrill of a lifetime, make your sports car dream come true and take a Ferrari out for a spin!
While you’re at it: Visit the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena, a fascinating look into the life of the man behind the legend. If this is your first time in Bologna and you’re looking for a good overview of what this region is all about, the Ferrari and Pavarotti Tour is a fun combo to visit three Italian legends in the same day: both Ferrari museums, the nearby Pavarotti Home-Museum, and the balsamic vinegar producer, Giuseppe Giusti.
Take a Food Tour in Bologna, Italy’s Gastronomic City
So that you don’t miss any of the delicious specialties that Bologna is known for, indulge yourself and take a Bologna food tour. Taste Bologna is a walking tour that allows generous samplings of Bologna’s culinary high points. You’ll stroll through the historic Quadrilatero tasting bites here and there, and buying meats, cheese, and bread for lunch. The Italian Days Food Experience is an all-day tour that takes you to the point of production in Emilia Romagna to try some of Bologna’s best food: a parmigiano-reggiano cheese factory, balsamic di Modena factory, and prosciutto factory. Italian Days also offers a Pignoletto Wine Tour that just might be one of the best wine tours we’ve ever experienced.
While you’re at it: A Bologna bike tour is a great way to see the city (and work off the added pounds from the tour!)
Go Truffle Hunting in Emilia Romagna
Truffles are one of Italy’s most exquisite foods, and one thing that’s unique about these tasty morsels is how they’re harvested. You can join a tour in Valsamoggia just outside of Bologna and spend an hour or two with a licensed truffle hunter and his truffle dog, a breed of dog specially trained to locate truffles using only their nose. Afterwards you’ll be taken to a truffle factory to learn how this delicate food is processed and enjoyed. It’s one of the tastiest things to do in Bologna!
While you’re at it: Attend the Savigno Truffle Festival! This small town not far from Bologna honors the world’s most exquisite food every year at the Savigno Truffle Festival the first three weekends in November. So plan accordingly. It’s one of the tastiest events in Italy!
Campania and the Amalfi Coast
Dine at a Michelin Star Restaurant
Whether you consider yourself a foodie or not, dining at a Michelin star awarded restaurants means you’re in for a special experience, and Italy has its share of them — 367 in 2019 to be exact, ranking it the second richest in the world. What’s so special about it? Well for starters, you’ll notice service in a way you never have before. Staff is highly-trained to attend to a guest’s needs while barely being noticed at all. The cuisine is considered among the finest around the world. Perhaps the most famous Michelin recipient may be Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana in Modena, but there are many smaller, less famous but equally deserving eateries to enjoy. One such place we enjoyed this year was the elegant Don Alfonso 1890, tucked in the hills above Sorrento, and a must-eat restaurant in the Amalfi Coast. Their own organic farm nearby supplies the restaurant with staples of the Mediterranean diet such as fresh organic veggies and their own pressed olive oil. On your next trip to the Amalfi Coast, go!
Go Underground, to the Naples Catacombs
by Bella Falk, Passport and Pixels
The majority of visitors to Naples don’t stop to look around – they’re simply passing through on their way to the picturesque towns of the Amalfi Coast. But Naples is worth far more than that – as one of the oldest cities in the world it’s bursting with astonishing history everywhere you turn. And two of the best places to get a sense of Naples’ history – albeit a macabre one – are the Catacombs de San Gennaro and the Fontanelle Cemetery. The Naples Catacombs are an enormous underground burial chamber dating back to the 2nd century. Down a long flight of steps is an eerie warren of rooms filled with now-empty tombs, many of them decorated with brightly painted frescoes that are still in near-perfect condition, thanks to their dark underground location. A guided tour here is a great way to learn about Naples’ ancient history in one of the most atmospheric – and almost spooky – locations possible.
After your visit to the Catacombs, you may be wondering where the bodies went. You don’t have to go far to find out – just up the road is the Fontanelle Cemetery, a cavernous former quarry filled with the bones of thousands of Naples’ former residents. The story goes that in the 16th century, with centuries of people having lived and died in the city, the graveyards ran out of room, so they began digging up the older bodies to make room for new ones. All the old bones ended up piled up here. It’s a truly chilling experience to see so many human remains in one place, but you’ll step out into the sunshine feeling moved and humbled and ready to enjoy Italy to the fullest.
Eat the World’s Best Pizza in Naples
If ever there was a bucket list item for Italy, it would be this - foodie or not. Italy has the best pizza in the world, and Naples (arguably) has the best pizza in Italy! If you’re a pizza purist like me, you’ll love pizza in Naples. Beautiful, simple and authentic with just three colorful ingredients — sauce, cheese, and basil — Pizza Margherita is Italy epitomized in food. Our first, and still favorite is in Naples at Pizzeria Da Michele, but our recent trip to Sorrento found us another great place at Pizzeria Basilico. One thing is for sure — once you eat it, you’re kind of ruined on pizza forever. #sorrynotsorry
Stroll the Night Streets in Positano
Positano is sometimes called the Jewel of the Amalfi Coast — with a reputation for being the glitzy center of attention, and with good reason. For decades, Positano has charmed the rich and famous who in turn made it a sought after place to vacation for everyone else — a quintessential Italian playground. There are so many great things to do in Positano, fabulous places to eat, and some of the world’s best shopping. Or you can spend your days lounging the beaches and people watching over lunch at Chez Black. But stay for the night and stroll the quiet streets. They are quite safe and worth exploring long after the crowds leave. Being mesmerized by the beautiful solitude of Positano at night is worth a place on any Italy bucket list!
See the Colorful Grottos of Capri
The island of Capri off the Sorrentine peninsula in southern Italy is a dream. The warm coastal weather draws visitors from around the world during the spring and summer months to enjoy the weather, shopping, and life on the sea. You already know about the famous Blue Grotto, the small cave tourists flock to to see the illuminated blue water inside — but did you know there’s also a Green Grotto and White Grotto too? Depending on the time of year and sea conditions, you can visit both of these open caves without a fee, but you’ll need a boat to do it. Many people visit Capri as a day trip from Sorrento, Naples, or the neighboring Amalfi Coast. But smart travelers know this is the place to escape to, not from. Staying here for a few days or more is the better idea — there really are enough things to do in Capri Italy to keep you as busy or relaxed as you care to be.
We’ve all read about this incredible place but until you see Pompeii for yourself, it’s impossible to grasp the devastation of the eruption on that fateful day in August 79AD, or the size of this Roman city and enormous task of ongoing excavation. To visit Pompeii is stunning, sobering, fascinating, and overwhelming. There’s so much to see as you essentially roam an entire city. Take some time to explore on your own, and for a more in-depth understanding hire a private guide before you go. Pompeii is close to everything you’ll want to see in Naples, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast. From Sorrento to Pompeii, the archeological site is an easy 30-minute train ride and about the same from Naples. Plan to spend most of the day, for a full and immersive experience!
Visit the Naples Archeological Museum
It’s certainly worth touring the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum but to see the very best artifacts from those it’s a must to visit Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, the Naples Archeological Museum. You could spend a few days here marveling at the Roman and Greek collections with many finds fully intact and beautiful. The museum also houses one of the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts in Italy. There’s a room called the “Secret Cabinet” with displays of erotic and phallic artifacts most of which were found in Pompeii and Herculaneum. But it’s the treasures of Pompeii — bronze statues, the Alexander mosaic, the Dancing Faun, colorful frescoes and marble sculptures that seem to fascinate everyone.
by Helen Rapp, Helen on Her Holidays
If you want to explore one of Italy’s most iconic Roman archaeological sites, but want to see the maximum number of interesting sights in the shortest time, skip the crowds at Pompeii and visit Herculaneum instead. Herculaneum (also known as Ercolano) is just a few miles from the more famous Roman city of Pompeii, near Naples in southern Italy. Pompeii and Herculaneum were both destroyed in 79AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted. And while both cities were subjected to hours of rocks falling from the sky, and suffered the ravages of a sudden, 100mph, 250°C gust of ash and poisonous gas known as a pyroclastic blast, weather patterns at the time caused the debris that fell on Herculaneum to carbonize, encasing and preserving it in 25 meters of rock for centuries.
When you visit Herculaneum, you’ll be amazed at the level of preservation — the upper floors of many buildings remain intact, buried under tons of hot ash which solidified into rock, protecting the details of the buildings. Most buildings still have their upper floors, wall paintings are bright and vibrant, and even wooden balconies have survived. The site’s organic matter was so well preserved in fact, they even found food on the table at first excavation!
Another reason to visit Herculaneum is that the site receives less than a tenth of the number of visitors who go to Pompeii. While it’s much smaller — another plus in my eyes — it doesn’t feel crowded, instead allowing you to take in the atmosphere of these Roman streets. I’d definitely recommend visiting both Pompeii and Herculaneum, but if you have to choose, then you won’t be sorry if you pick Herculaneum.
Hike the Dolomites
One of the most popular activities for outdoor enthusiasts visiting Italy is hiking in the Dolomites, part of the Alps in northeastern Italy between the provinces of Belluno, South Tyrol and Trentino. The Dolomites are so stunning in fact they were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.
There are trail options for hikers of all experience levels and which to choose is up to you and your fitness level. Outfitters can provide full guided tours or set you up with a self-guided tour. Day hikes are very popular because at the end of your day you can return to your accommodations and enjoy the local restaurants.
Hiking from refugio to refugio is popular as well for those that have the time and don’t mind the more rustic lodging. The trails are many and as challenging as you like. Just be sure to get to the top of the peak of your choice to take in the jaw-dropping views!
Florence and Tuscany
Play With Cashmere Goats in Chianti
Surprise! There’s more to Chianti than great wine! While we love Tuscan wine and always recommend visiting a good organic winery in Chianti, we also love goats, and cashmere. But it wasn’t until we visited the Chianti Cashmere farm in Tuscany several years ago that I realized the two could be one and the same! Really, how fun is that? A visit to the farm is some of the most fun you can have and a great way to see the authentic Tuscany on a slow travel tour. See how they are bred, raised, groomed, and cared for at this remarkable, sustainable farm. Call ahead to arrange a tour or spend the day with Km Zero Tours on a slow travel day tour.
Make Pecorino Cheese in Pienza
Podere il Casale in Pienza makes some of the finest local cheeses to be had in southern Tuscany. Being completely organic, they use milk from their own livestock to produce pecorinos from sheep’s milk, caprinos from goat’s milk, and a mild creamy ricotta. Some cheeses are left to age molding naturally to produce the best flavor while others are aged by wrapping in aromatics like grape leaves or rosemary. No matter which you try they are all delicious. You can observe a demonstration of the cheese making process from milking to aging, or for a nominal fee sign-up for a cooking class and learn to make classic Italian dishes using local seasonal ingredients. And the best part? Eating what you cook!
Have Lunch Under the Tuscan Sun
Having lunch al fresco may seem a stretch as any bucket list worthy activity, but being in Italy elevates the simple act of eating outdoors to an entirely new level! Add a bustling street scene, a backdrop of Tuscany cypress trees, or aa sunny olive grove to your table and it’ll become an experience you’ll remember forever. But you really don’t have to be in Tuscany to have the experience. We’ve had lunch Under the Tuscan Sun, Under the Campania sun, and many others too. Maybe it’s was the amazing hand-baked artisan bread or the wheel of cheese so fresh the aroma of fresh cream hangs over the table. But it’s more likely a combo of great food, amazing Italian wine and limoncello, and the company of friends you share it with that made it such a perfect day! Where have you had that quintessential Italian experience?
Road Trip through Tuscany’s Val d’Orcia
If there’s one part of Italy visitors clamor to see, it’s Tuscany, and the UNESCO Val d’Orcia is the most iconic landscapes of all. But many travelers don’t realize how vast a region Tuscany really is, or how much there is to see. There are places you’d be surprised to know were Tuscany, like the agricultural Maremma near the coast.
Tuscany is actually very easy to drive on your own, and a self-guided Val d’Orcia road trip is one of the best ways to see this beautiful part of Italy. With a little preparation, you can quickly get the hang of driving in Tuscany and set out on your own to explore, stopping wherever and whenever you want, for as long as you want. Can you think of a better way to see Italy?
Meet the Local Producers in Tuscany
Looking for a local and immersive Tuscany experience where you can hike trails only locals know about, try the authentic food specialties, and actually meet the people producing the food and handicrafts Tuscany is known for? It’s the perfect way to see this part of Italy. Our friends at Km Zero Tours live here and have spent years creating slow travel tours for a day or longer so you can immerse yourself in their Tuscan world while you’re here. You’ll meet the local breadmaker on a sunset hike and try his amazing grape foccacia and local wine as the sun sets over the vineyard. Or the woodworker creating masterpieces in his workshop down the road, or smaller bowls and charcuterie boards you can easily fit in your suitcase. And the leather craftsman who still makes handbags in the tradition of the great Florentine Masters, and the silversmith in San Gimignano whose handcrafted jewelry adorns my ring finger.
Climb the Duomo in Florence
The centerpiece of Florence is the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore also known as simply, the Duomo. It’s a step back into the colorful history of Italy’s Renaissance city. Completed in the 15th century, the Duomo is a tribute to both beauty and engineering and climbing the inside of the dome to the top is definitely one for the bucket list, no matter how many days in Florence you may have. Lines here can be long and you need an advance reservation. The climb of 463 steps is not rigorous but it is steep in places and narrow and dim in others (for those with claustrophobia). The reward when you reach the outside walkway is a view of Florence and the surrounding area like no other. Make sure you have your camera!
Get a Room With a View
The classic movie A Room With a View about love and culture in Edwardian-era England actually begins in a room with a view in Florence, Italy. And after all, if there’s one place you’ll want that, it’s in Florence. A million shades of gold, russet, and burnt umber dance across the Renaissance city as the sun rises and sets, bouncing from campanile to piazza to Brunelleschi’s famous Duomo. It’s utterly magical.
Unfortunately the cost of a Room With a View comes at a premium, so save your euros for a suite at The Hotel Savoy or Hotel Brunelleschi. So — book this incredible 5th floor Florence airbnb we found instead, with the most stunning view that had us captivated our entire stay. Our nights grew later and later as we never wanted to go to bed! Would you?
Stay in a Tuscan Agriturismo
Sometimes, where you stay is almost as inspiring as the place itself, and no visit to Tuscany would be complete without a stay in a traditional Tuscan farmhouse or agriturismo. But a stay in a Tuscan agriturismo is far from sleeping in a barn. While many agriturismos are working farms, the accommodations tend to be very comfortable — even luxurious! We’ve stayed in several places around Tuscany and loved them all. Near Chianti, Il Macinello was rustic and so comfortable with beautiful views and hiking trails nearby. Just outside San Gimignano, our stay at Hotel Le Renaie in the village of Pancole was so lovely. While technically not a farmstay, this small hotel was casual with a similar feel to what you’d find in an agriturismo. And in southern Tuscany, just outside Montepulciano (and with a killer view of the town at night!) we fell in love with Villa Mazzi. This true working agriturismo is set in the valley just steps from medieval Montepulciano, surrounded by fruit trees and pastures where herds of sheep roam day and night. We can’t think of a better way to experience Tuscany than spending a few days here staring out over this magnificent view!
Visit Medieval San Gimignano
A visit to the historic walled Tuscan city of San Gimignano is one of the best day trips from Florence though we think it’s worth spending several days. You can go for the historic architecture, quaint shops and cafes, but definitely go for their unique Italian white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Capella Sant’Andrea is one of the area’s best producers of Vernaccia wine and a great place to spend the afternoon tasting and touring.
Visit UNESCO Genoa
by Noel Morata, Travel Photo Discovery
Of all the most underrated Unesco sites in Europe, Genoa rarely comes to mind. But for those visitors coming to see the Unesco sites of this once powerful European trading power, you will be rewarded with amazing palaces, historic sites, a fabulous old historic district and an entire street that is designated as a Unesco World Heritage Site with all these impressive structures dating from Renaissance, Baroque and other important architectural heritage. The city is filled with wonderful areas to visit in the historic district with gorgeous buildings, cathedral, piazzas and important monuments that showcase the city's wealth and power in its day. Many of the Unesco sites have been converted into living museums, hotels and other tourist attractions that are open for visitors in the beautiful boulevard at Strada Nuove. It really does shine and impress inspite of the attention other famous cities in Italy get from visitors. But for those that have time to explore the many UNESCO sites of Genoa, you will be rewarded for seeing some amazing jewels of the city. Check out my post of Genoa's Unesco World Heritage sites here for more images and inspiration to visiting the city.
Visit Sirmione at Lake Garda
by Helen Rapp, Helen on Her Holidays
If you’re planning your Italy bucket list, then Lake Garda definitely belongs on it. Nestled between Milan, Verona and the Alps in the north of Italy, Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. Over 32 miles long and with 60 villages around its edges, it boasts a huge range of landscapes, attractions and gorgeous, historic sights.
Two of the must-see villages on Lake Garda are Sirmione and Malcesine. Sirmione is at the southern end of the lake, jutting out on a narrow peninsula. A fantastically romantic castle sits across the peninsula, cutting it in half with its moat which means you have to cross a drawbridge to enter the quaint, terracotta-roofed village. At the end of the peninsula you’ll find a gorgeous Roman villa with panoramic views across the lake. Malcesine is towards the northern end of Lake Garda, where the lake is surrounded by mountains. The perfect little harbour at Malcesine where the ferry drops you off in the shadow of the village’s castle is just the start; narrow, winding lanes take you toward the slopes of Monte Baldo and a cable car that can take you to the very top for a view that will take your breath away.
Liguria and the Cinque Terre
Hike Portofino to San Fruttuosso
by James Stakenburg, Travel Collecting
An experience that should be on the top of your Italy bucket list is this perfect Italian Riviera day trip. A little bit of boating, a little bit of hiking, some history, delicious seafood, and a dash of beach time... it doesn’t get much better than this. Start by taking the boat from Rapallo via Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino. Then go hiking. A path goes up the hills behind Portofino then along the tops of steep cliffs, with the azure Mediterranean Sea shining far below, and then descends through woods into San Fruttuoso. Learn some history at the 10th century abbey that dominates the tiny bay; there is a small museum detailing the abbey’s story. Have lunch at one of the tiny seafood restaurants in and near the bay. Then cool off swimming in the water and relaxing on one of the deck chairs available for rent. Then, take the boat back to Rapallo at the end of the day.
See the Cinque Terre from a Gozzo Boat
There are a million ways to experience the vibrant Cinque Terre. Don’t just take a tour and hit the scenic overlooks for a quick selfie. Hike the Cinque Terre through the multitude of mule paths and vineyard trails from town to colorful town. Or buy a 3-day train pass and hop on, hop off exploring the towns at your preferred pace. But one of our favorite ways to see the 5 towns is from the sea, on a Cinque Terre boat tour. The traditional fishing boats of Italy known as ‘gozzo’ are a great way to see the landscape, especially at sunset. So get on board, chill out, have a glass of local wine, and enjoy the million dollar views!
See an Italian Opera as La Scala
We get it (actually no, because we really like it), opera may not be your thing. But when in Italy… Opera is as much a part of Italian culture as pasta and red wine, an experience made even better by where it’s at. It’s comedy, tragedy, life, and death. You may not understand the words but an Italian aria can cut right to your heart. So when in Milan, why not enjoy it at the source. La Scala Opera House has seen the greatest performers of our time and long before. Grab some tickets if you can and make it an evening to remember. Then tell us if you still hate opera!
Trulli Amazing Alberobello
The small town of Alberobello located in southern Italy is famous for its large concentration of trulli (singular is trullo), whitewashed stone houses with unique cone-shaped stone roofs. By a decree in the 15th century, residents had to construct their houses including the roofs using only stones without mortar. Each circular stone layer of the roof decreased in size as it went up forming the cone shape. When completed, a cap or pinnacle with a small spire was placed on top along with a mystical or sometimes religious symbol painted on the roof.
Because of the number of trulli here which now house small shops and cafes, this town can be crowded with tourists. It’s even possible to book an overnight stay in a trullo. Because of their uniqueness and historic significance, in 1996 the trulli were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
No visit to Rome (or Italy) would be complete without setting your gaze way up high at Michelangelo’s masterpiece in The Sistine Chapel. It’s an engineering and creative marvel — not to mention one of the greatest pieces of artwork in history. When a canvas can captivate you for days, and draw you into the mind of its creator, there’s no doubt it belongs on your list! museivaticani.va
Visit the Rome Colosseum
by Valentina Djordjevic, Valentina’s Destinations
The Colosseum is an icon of European history. Located in Italy’s capital city Rome, this monumental amphitheater was built by the Roman empire between 72 and 80 AD. Even today, it maintains its record for being the largest amphitheater every built!
Book a skip-the-line tour when you visit the Colosseum, and make sure that your ticket includes access to the gladiatorial arena. It’s chilling to be able to stand where the gladiators once did almost two thousand years ago! Learn about the ever-evolving story of this impressive amphitheater throughout history. Marvel at its engineering, design and innovation.
The Colosseum is impressive on its own, but it’s even more enchanting in the context of Rome. Rome is known as a romantic Italian destination famous for rich history, hospitable culture, and fresh delicious food — traditional Roman cuisine is fresh and flavorful with focus on wines, bread, and pastas. Besides the Colosseum, there are so many ancient Roman ruins to see not to mention Vatican City and the famous VaticanMuseum — a self-guided Rome walking tour is a great way to see them all. You’ve got to add the Collosseum to your European bucket list!
Watch the Palio
Add this quintessential event to your bucket list! Held in the Tuscany town of Siena twice a year (in July and August), the Palio is an event filled with centuries of Italian tradition. Ten horses and riders, clad in the appropriate colors, represent ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards. The riders are bareback for the race which only lasts for only 3 laps — short but exciting — but the pageant before the race is equally fun . Not only is summer a good time to visit Tuscany (it’s hot, but a good time to avoid the crowds) but it’s also a great time to find hotels deals as well.
Explore Villa Romana del Casale in Agrigento
by Talek Nantes, Travels With Talek
Villa Romana del Casale, close to Agrigento in southeast Sicily, is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in Europe, all the more so because it was so unexpected. Travelers are predisposed to be impressed by sights such as the Roman Colosseum, Eiffel Tower and Venetian canals but since so few articles are written about Villa Romana del Casale, a location just as impressive as other European marvels, you don’t expect to be blown away by its artistic and architectural achievement.
The villa is an excavated Roman palace dating from the 4th Century BC, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s home to a glorious and well-preserved collection of Roman mosaics, among the most impressive in the world. The site was damaged at various times in its history until it was totally abandoned in the 12th century when a landslide covered the main sections and buried it. Excavations began in the 20th Century and continued over the years, finally unearthing the mosaics that were seen to have remained relatively intact. Today much of the villa has been restored, and it’s intriguing to imagine what this marvel must have been like in its heyday.
Take a Sicily Road Trip
by Kate Storm, Our Escape Clause
There’s just nowhere quite like Sicily — and for that reason, a Sicily road trip absolutely belongs on your Italy bucket list. Stunningly beautiful, endlessly interesting, and just a little bit wild around the edges, the Mediterranean’s largest island is well worth the time it takes to explore. Grab a car, open the map, and hit the road: whichever way you turn in Sicily, you’re bound to find something interesting.
Whether you want to stretch out on the beaches of Cefalu or Avola, visit with mummies in Palermo, admire magnificent sea views from the cliffs of Taormina, wander through the stunning streets of Ortigia in Syracuse, taste chocolate in Modica, or stare out over the landscape from the crater of Mount Etna, Sicily has an adventure waiting for you. Use the benefits of having a car to seek out roadside stands and hole-in-the-wall restaurants that will allow you to taste the best of Sicilian cuisine, from street food favorites like arancini to sweets like cannoli. During your road trip, be sure to build in plenty of time for extra breaks on the side of the road — the magnificent landscapes that you will pass will no doubt require an extra few minutes of admiration here and there, and ensure that you leave the island completely smitten with Sicily.
Discover Wine in Umbria
by Alex Trembath, Career Gappers
Umbria, the ‘Green Heart of Italy’, is perhaps the country’s most underrated wine region. Although it does not enjoy the fame of the likes of Tuscany or Piedmont, the region produces some of Italy’s most exquisite and unique wines, with an age-old culture of sustainability and love for the land. The town and commune of Montefalco is central to Umbria’s viticulture scene. This is the home of Sagrantino, a grape that can only be grown legally in Montefalco and five surrounding villages.
To mark its importance and growing popularity, a wine and food trail has recently been created in the area to link the best vineyards: La Strada Del Sagrantino. While exploring the wineries of Umbria you can relish in the region’s outstanding natural landscapes and ancient heritage. Its rolling green valleys are spread with endless vineyards and olive groves, and punctuated by charming medieval hilltop villages. Umbrian food is every bit as good as the wine, too; a glass of Sagrantino red paired with local pecorino cheese and cured meats is the ultimate treat after a morning’s hiking.
Visit the Vatican
by Angela Corrias, Rome Actually
One of the must-visit places in Rome for anyone on their first trip, the Vatican is packed with artwork, history and culture. Cosily nestled on a soft-rolling hill on the right side of the Tiber river not far from the Janiculum Park, it’s the world’s smallest sovereign state. There are many ways to visit the Vatican, depending on how much time you have and on what are your main interests. Visiting Saint Peter’s Basilica and Square, the heart of the Vatican City, is free of charge and doesn’t require prior booking. In the high season, the line is pretty long, so try to get there early in the morning or in the afternoon. A huge basilica, St. Peter’s is a shrine of gorgeous sculptures, paintings and fine artwork.
Among all, the first masterpiece to see is Michelangelo’s La Pietà on the right when you enter. From inside the basilica, you can also go down the Popes’ crypt free of charge, but if you are interested in history and archaeology I wouldn’t miss the Roman Cemetery underneath the basilica where is the tomb of Saint Peter and for which you need to book well in advance. If you are an art lover, you can’t miss the Vatican Museums, a huge gallery packed with artwork collected in seven centuries by the different Popes, and the main highlight of which is the Sistine Chapel with the wonderful Universal Judgement fresco by Michelangelo.
See a Different Side to Venice
Venice is one of the most visited cities in Italy, earning it a reputation lately of being so over-touristed the city had to issue a recent tourist tax to help restore some of the damage caused by so many visitors. So here are some alternatives: instead of a large group tour, make your way through the less-trodden streets of Venice on your own. We developed this walking tour of Venice so you could see the city away from the massive crowds. If you’re more adventurous and want to slow travel Venice, head to Sant’Erasmo, the Venetian Garden of the Doge. A short ferry ride delivers you to a bucolic island where you can bike or walk your way past vineyards, beaches, fields of violet artichokes, and visiting local producers of honey, Prosecco, and the city of Venice's only winery.
Dine with Locals in Venice
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in a place like Venice? A place that’s so popular — overrun — with tourists, yet visitors barely get to scratch the surface and get to know it at all when they visit? More and more, travelers are interacting with local residents in unusual ways when they travel, and Venice is one of those places. Our friends at Italian Days have an immersive tour which includes a delicious and interesting dinner with locals — the people who cook it for you, in the back garden of their canal home in Venice. Not only is the dinner amazing, but getting to know the Chef/owners in this unique way is a priceless experience, and definitely a great one to add to your Italian bucket list!
Stroll the Venice Cicchetti Bars
Italians love their Aperitivo, and few places do it better than Venice where it’s a tasty tradition to stroll the canal streets in late afternoon and nosh on small bites called cicchetti. The casual Bacari bars are everywhere, gathering places for friends after a long day, and make a perfect pre- or post-dinner treat with a glass of wine. They can even be your entire meal which is often the case since Italians tend to eat dinner around 9:00 or 10:00pm, around the time most Americans are heading for bed. Stay awake and indulge in the local tradition!