Exotic. Beautiful. Larger than life. Italy is so much more than a country. Be it its exquisite masterpieces of art, ancient cities, tranquil lakes, impressive cathedrals and palaces, castles that reach for the horizon, crumbling ruins or picturesque landscapes, there is just so much that makes Italy one of the most popular destinations on the world map. This abundance of attractions can often leave tourists torn between experiences to seek and leave out. This bucket list of things to do in Italy will help you plan an itinerary that is more experiential and not just about checking boxes out of FOMO:
Pilgrimage to the Vatican
Irrespective of whether you are a believer or not, a visit to one of the most important and oldest seat of religion in the world is a must during your trip to Italy. The autonomous state of Vatican City can be accessed via Rome and makes for a jaw-dropping experience. Taking in the view of the majestic Vatican Palace, the Sistine Chapel housing the Creation of Adam and powerhouses like St Peter’s Basilica and Piazza San Pietro must feature on your list of things to do in Italy.
Fiat 500 Tour of Rome
Add travel back in time to your list of things to do in Italy with a tour of the ancient city of Rome in a candy-pink Fiat Cinquecento. Whizzing past iconic landmarks like the Colosseum in this retro car will transport you to the 1950s. This tour will take through some of the lesser-known but beautiful spots in the city, like the Orange Garden on Aventine Hill that offers an unforgettable view of St Peter’s Basilica.
Explore the Roman Forum
The Roman Forum that once stood at the centre of the Roman Empire is a popular attraction situated between the Palatine and Capitoline hills of Rome. The breathtaking views of the city and the remains of the beautiful complex make it a delight to behold.
Enjoy Cinque Terre Minus the Crowds
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cinque Terre comprising five vibrant fishing villages sitting atop rocky cliffs flanking the Italian Riviera is famous for its fairytale-esque setting, traditional eateries, romantic olive groves and tranquil views. The villages of Corniglia, Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Monterosso have their own distinct charm. Given its breathtaking beauty and popularity, Cinque Terre attracts droves of tourists. A hike along this coastal trail is one of the most popular things to do in Italy. Renting a boat from one of the neighbouring harbours and accessing Cinque Terre by water is a smart way to beat the crowds and soak up the beauty of this place at your own unhurried pace.
Valley of Temples
If your itinerary includes the charming island of Sicily, you must add a visit to the Valley of Temples in Agrigento to your bucket list of things to do in Italy. The huge archaeological complex houses Doric temples dating back to the 5th century still standing intact. The historical site also offers stunning views of towns sprawled around.
Drive along the Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast Road, suspended between the sea and mountains, is quite unlike anything you have seen before. Yes, the drive is full of twists and turns but it belongs on the list of things to do in Italy for those seeking enriching experiences on their holiday. The mesmerising colours of the Mediterranean on one side and views of lemon groves, grand villas and mountain terraces on the other, it makes for a heady experience.
Opera at La Scala
If you are going to see the opera only once in your life, make it at La Scala in Milan. This opera house must feature on your itinerary for its sheer grandiose. From ornate cravings to glistening chandeliers, everything about the La Scala is captivating. You will need to book tickets in advance to check this item on your list of things to do in Italy, as the shows here are immensely sought-after and tickets go on sale two months before a show’s opening and are often sold out within days.
A Trip to Pompeii
Pompeii is well-known the world over for the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD that covered the entire town in ash. The eruption, however, also captured the ancient Roman life and froze it in time for posterity. An excavation of the site brought glimpses of this bygone era to the fore again. The site today comprises an open-air museum with preserved ancient Roman forums, houses and baths replete with relics of people from this ancient civilisation.
Appreciate the Colosseum
You cannot visit Rome and not visit one of the most iconic attractions in the world – the Colosseum. Even in its ruins, this once magnificent amphitheatre that could house 50,000 spectators at a time is a sight to behold. If the epic drama of Gladiator left your hair standing at its ends, you have to add a visit to the Coliseum to your list of things to do in Italy.
Romeo, Oh, Romeo…
Take a leaf out of Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, by adding a trip to Juliet’s balcony in Verona to your list of things to do in Italy. Even though the house featuring this now famous balcony was bought by the city of Verona in 1905 solely for the purpose of turning it into a tourist attraction and Romeo and Juliet never did exist in reality, the balcony offers a pretty escape into the world of fantasies. While you are there, don’t forget to give the right bosom of the bronze statue of Juliet a rub for good luck.
Hike to Stromboli
The still active volcano, Stromboli, in Sicily is another huge tourist attraction to add to your list of things to do in Italy. If you have the nerve for it, take a hike, headed by a certified guide, to the crater of Stromboli that billows fire and clouds of ash constantly. It takes about 3 hours to reach the top of this volcano and about 2-2.5 hours to descent. You are looking at a six-hour-long slog but the spectacular view from the top and the thrill of accessing an active volcano are well worth the effort.
Boat Trip to Blue Grotto
Blue Grotto or Grotta Azzurra is a cavern filled with water that acquires a luminescent blue glow in the sunlight. Needless to say, it makes for a breathtaking sight. The rowing boat ride inside the grotto offers a one-of-its-kind experience of watching nature’s own light show, making it one of the most memorable things to do in Italy.
Some Other Unique Things to Do in Italy
Apart from exploring the myriad landmarks, enhance your travel experience with these unique things to do in Italy:
- Ride on the Grand Canal in Venice
- Savour the authentic flavours of pizza in Naples
- Forget the customary selfie again the Leaning Tower of Pisa and climb this architectural marvel instead
- Marvel at the splendour of works of Michelangelo and Da Vinci
- Take a tour of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
- Toss a coin in the Trevi Foundation for good luck
- Travel to the underground Frasassi Cave in Ancona
- Embark on the Chianti Wine Trail
- Try your hand at skiing on the Italian Alps
- Sunbathe at the Lido di Venezia
- Shop for exquisite perfumes at the island of Capri
- Explore the locales of Lake Como
- Learn to make your own pasta in Bologna
- Try your hand at native cooking style in Le Marche
And that’s pretty much all you need for an action-packed, enriching trip to Italy.