One of my favourite countries in the world is Italy because it is just jammed packed with amazing things to do no matter what you like to do. For me no where can beat it because of all the amazing cultural attractions, outdoor endeavours and of course amazing food. So if you are looking for the best things to do in Italy we have you covered with our ULTIMATE Italy Bucket List.
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Italy Bucket List
Note: This bucket list covers the whole of Italy, including it’s beautiful islands however does not exclude Rome. This is because there are just too many things to add to your Rome bucket list – that’s why we have this separate Rome Bucket List that is the perfect accompaniment to this post!
For more information on visiting Rome with toddlers or visiting Rome in the rain check out this post.
Also this guide is more general than our usual family travel posts so if you want more information on visiting Italy with a toddler check out our dedicated guide.
North Italy Bucket List
Go on a Gondola ride in Venice
A gondola ride along the canals of Venice is a brilliant addition to any Italy bucket list. It’s a lovely way to explore the city, giving you the chance to get away from the busy streets so that you can explore some of the smaller and more secluded canals.
For hundreds of years gondolas were the main mode of transportation around the city. Nowadays there are a number of alternatives, but none are quite as special as a gondola ride. The introduction of motorboats to Venice means that gondolas are no longer as practical as they once were, but they remain popular – especially with tourists!
Before you set your heart on a gondola ride, it’s worth knowing that it’s a fairly expensive thing to do. That being said, it’s definitely justifiable for such a unique and potentially once in a lifetime experience!
The cost of a gondola ride in Venice is €80 for a 40-minute ride as of 2019. If you want to take a gondola at night it will cost slightly more at €100 for a 40-minute ride. The advantage of the latter is that the canals are generally quieter at night as most people opt for a daytime gondola ride.
Gondola rides may not be cheap, but they are a great way to see Venice from a different perspective!
Nominated by Something Of Freedom.
Burano is an incredible place, a photographer’s paradise that enchants visitors, not only for its history but also for its charm. Burano features drop-dead-gorgeous sunsets with significantly fewer lights or distractions than Venice. Listen to islanders chatting with friends in the peculiar Venetian dialect and learn a lot about Burano during a day trip from Venice. There are several guesthouses and B&B’s on the island and locals treat the streets like their front rooms, so you can often see them outside doing ironing, making lace, and cooking.
The Isola di Burano is a beautiful island in the Venetian Lagoon known for its brightly colored houses and traditional lacework. This cute little town used to be a traditional fishing village where fishermen painted their dwellings in vibrant colors so when they came home after a long voyage, they could distinguish their houses one from another in the misty lagoon.
It takes only about 45 minutes by Vaporetto boat to travel from Fondamente Nove to Burano. A single trip on Vaporetto costs €7.50, which is for journeys of up to 75 minutes and includes changes to different lines. If you are in Venice for several days, it’s worth getting a 48-or 72-hour transport pass as it will be much better value for longer stays in Venice. While Burano is a small island, you’ll need at least a day to explore it on foot.
The highlight of the island is the rainbow houses. Each house has its own unique exterior persona, which makes a beautiful place to explore. The bridges across the canals are popular photo spots for good reason. That said, explore the side streets too – there are plenty of awesome places worth checking out. Not to mention, they are amazingly quiet. Tre Ponti offers some of the best panoramic views of Burano’s pretty streets and quaint canals, but any of the bridges will do just as well.
Nominated by mindthetravel.com
Glass Blowing Demonstration on Murano Island
If you are spending at least two days in Venice, then you have to take some time to visit Murano. Located just a short boat ride from Venice, Murano is famous for its tradition of glass making. Visitors to Venice can easily hop on Vaporetto line 42 and arrive at Murano in about 40 minutes.
The tradition of glass making here dates back to the late 1200s when the Doge of Venice ordered all Venetian glassmakers to move their furnaces to Murano, as he feared they would cause a fire in Venice. This greatly benefited the glassmakers as this kept their secret techniques safe from other who would want to steal them. It was not long before the reputation of Murano’s glass was born.
Today, watching these glass artists at work draws visitors from all over the world to the island of Murano. The process is fascinating from beginning to end. Watching the artists add color and mold the glass is a true testament to their talent. If you are planning to visit one of the bigger factories, then we recommend making a reservation or scheduling a paid tour. If you are not planning to visit the bigger factories, then there is no need to make an appointment. Just stop in and watch. Most artists will let you walk into their warehouse and observe if they are there working. Maybe you will get lucky like we did and the artist will stop and talk to you about the process and their art.
The experience is so memorable, and should definitely be on your Italy bucket list!
Nominated by That Texas Couple.
Hike from Portofino to San Fruttuoso
On the top of your Italy bucket list should be the hike from Portofino to San Fruttuoso on the Italian Riviera. Start your day by taking the first boat from Rapallo, past Santa Marherita Ligure and its umbrella-lined beach to the adorable little town, Portofino. This gorgeous village is the playground of the rich and famous and the tiny bay is jammed with yachts and sailboats. Get off the ferry here and spend a little time exploring the shops and restaurants. At the very least, stop for a gelato. Then head up the stairs that lead up from the port past tiny terraced farms with ancient olive and lemon trees, wild flowers and tiled houses into the hills above the town. The trail eventually flattens out, and the next hour or so is a delightful easy walk along the hillside, with the Mediterranean Sea sparkling blue far below. The final part of the two-hour hike is a series of steep switchbacks down through shady woods to a tiny beach.
This is San Fruttuoso, a stunning pebbly cove, which can only be reached by boat or on foot. The beach is surrounded by steep forested hills and framed with a Tenth Century Benedictine abbey. There are also a few tiny restaurants and a kiosk selling sandwiches. Take a dip in the emerald green water to cool after your hike, then rent a deck chair and umbrella and spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach, swimming in the sea or enjoying a glass of wine in one of the seafood restaurants. At the end of the day, take the last ferry back to Rapallo.
Nominated by Travel Collecting
Verona is one of the most beautiful cities in northern Italy, with gorgeous architecture, beautiful balconies, and multiple high places for views. You can climb up to the top of one of the church towers open to the public, or take the elevator to the top of Torre Lamberti. But for the absolute best views, head to Castel San Pietro!
Taking in the expansive views from the top of Castel San Pietro is one of the most iconic things to do in Verona. The city of Romeo and Juliet is spread out on both sides of the romantic Adige River, and from the viewing areas at the top, you can get fabulous photos of the orange rooftops of Verona.
The castle itself is not open for visits. The viewing area at the top is large, with multiple places from which you can see different parts of the city. The towers of the churches rising up into the sky, the pretty rooftops of the historic center, and the curve of the river all look spectacular from the top. You can also look down upon the Ponte San Pietro, the historic bridge across the Adige River.
To get to the castle, you can walk up the hill, but you can also take the funicular. Go on a clear day if you can, for the best views! From the centro storico, go across the Ponte san Pietro and you will see signs for the funicular.
Nominated by It’s Not About the Miles
Watch Opera in Verona
Summer means opera in Verona, if visiting between July and September don’t miss out on the annual Verona Opera Festival. The dates for the opera changes each year but typically the festival showcases six shows each performed in rotation. It’s been a tradition since 1913 when a production of Aida was shown to celebrate Giuseppe Verdi and the rest as they say is history.
The amphitheatre used to hold about 30,000 spectators in its gladiatorial days and still contains all of its original seating and exterior arches. Surrounded by the sheer scale of the place and history will leave you utterly speechless and I guarantee will become of your most cherished memories of Italy. Due to the incredible acoustics of the ancient Roman amphitheatre, it’s said to be one of the best places in the world to see an opera under the stars.
Whether you’re a fan of the opera or not, a night at one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres dating back to the 1st century A.D. is pure magic.
Nominated by the Curious Pixie
Shopping in Milan
Milan, known as one of the most important fashion capitals of the world, attracts millions of tourists yearly eager to shop till they drop. To be fair, Milan has much more than boutiques and department stores, but shopping (or window-shopping) is definitely a big part of experiencing the city.
If all that comes to mind when you think of the city is Milan Fashion Week and big expensive brands, don’t get discouraged. Milan has something for every budget.
If you can afford to splurge, head straight to the Quadrilatero della Moda (Fashion Square). This neighborhood is jam-packed with luxury brands like Prada, Gucci, Versace and the like. The two most renowned streets here are Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga.
Looking for mid-range brands? Walk down Corso Buenos Aires that offers more budget-friendly options at shops like H&M, Zara, and Pull and Bear. Via Torino is also great when it comes to affordable fashion.
Lastly, Milan is famous for its many vintage stores and flea markets. For example, every third Sunday of the month you can explore Mercatino di Brera, located in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city. And on the last Sunday of every month check out Mercatino del antiquariato in Navigli.
Nominated by that’s what she had
Visit the Last Supper from Sa Vinci in Milan
Milan is the home of amazing paintings, sculptures, and architecture. Among all the things to see in Milan, a visit to one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most important artworks is a must. We are talking about The Last Supper, the incredible mural painted on the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie. The mural is from 15 century and it’s one of the most recognized paintings in the Western world. The Last Supper is a symbol of the Catholic Church and one of the best examples of Da Vinci’s techniques.
To tick this attraction off from your Italy bucket list you must plan your visit in advance. The tickets are released every 2 months. For example, in July they opened reservations for October/November, and in September they released the tickets for December. So as soon as you book your flights to Milan you must go to The Last Supper official website and book your visit.
The Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie Church is open to the public, you can visit it for free. However, to get inside and convent refectory you must have a valid ticket, an ID card or passport and follow strict security procedure. No selfie-sticks, photos with flash or video recording is allowed. It can be a bit tiring to organize your visit to The Last Supper, but once you there admiring that magnificent piece of art you forget all the hassle.
Nominated by Love and Road
Visit Lake Garda
One activity for your Italy bucket list: stroll the beautiful towns of Lake Garda. While the lake is the biggest in the country, it is often overlooked by US-Americans who visit other places BUT the towns and villages around Lake Garda are some of the most beautiful in Italy.
So, make sure to visit at least a few. My tips: Plan in one day for the small but gorgeous town of Limone – it is probably the prettiest town at Lake Garda and one of the best places to stay.
The village center is gorgeous – with flowers all round and cute narrow streets that want to be explored.
Also, there is a clyclopath that opened recently which is also open for pedestrians- so make sure to get up early and walk along the lake when everyone is still sleeping.
Another great town to visit at Lake Garda is Sirmione – it is bigger than Limone and busier. But even with all the visitors it is a must. Discover Scaliger Castle, explore the town center and go on a boat tour.
And there are more than these two towns to explore – visit Riva del Garda, Malcesine or one of the other pretty place there. So, if you work on your Italy Bucket List make sure to not skip visiting the towns and villages at Lake Garda.
Nominated by Arzo Travels
Lake Como is one of the most spectacular places to visit in Italy. With winding narrow roads leading all the way around the lake, you can see much of the lake from high vantage points as you drive around for hours. The lake is quite large however, and it is best to get down to one of the little villages and hop on a boat to visit what the lakeside villages have to offer.
The best place to situate oneself for a proper ferry ride is Bellagio. Located at the tip of the upside down y shaped lake, there are numerous ferries that take visitors from Bellagio to all the different villages along the lake.
One of the most popular ferries, takes cars and visitors to several well-known villages. Varenna, Menaggio, Cadenabbia, Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo and Lenno are all well-known stops. For each stop, travelers are able to disembark the ferry and walk into each town. Many of the towns do not have much traffic and mostly have a lot of people walking about the town. This is especially true for Varenna, which is built on a hill and requires travelers to climb quite a bit to get to the town center.
Visiting Lake Como and taking a ride on one of the many ferries is a must do when visiting the lake. Be sure to pick up a timetable booklet when you purchase tickets at the port in Bellagio in order to not to get stuck at one of the many towns.
Visit the Upper City of Bergamo, Italy
Bergamo is one of Italy’s last hidden gems. Located in the Lombardy region 50 km northeast of Milan, the city is best known for its international airport made popular by Ryanair. However, Bergamo is unique because it’s separated into two parts, the modern “Lower City” and the medieval fortified “Upper City” (or Citta Alta) perched on a hilltop above it.
Encircled by an immense Venetian wall built in the 16th century, the historic Upper City is a marvel and can be reached by stairs or cablecar. Only residents and visitors that obtain a special permit are allowed to drive within the city walls.
The old city is filled with Roman ruins, cobblestone alleys, churches, plazas, palaces, and other hidden gems. Start exploring in the heart of the old town, Piazza Vecchia. You can’t miss Campanone Torre Civica and Palazzo della Ragione in the Piazza itself, and the nearby Basilica of St. Mary Major, Colleoni Chapel and the Baptistery of St. Mary Major.
The fortified wall itself is a UNESCO Heritage Site and an attraction all on its own. It’s best explored from Viale della Mura, the main road that runs alongside the wall on three sides of the old city. The wall was built to protect the city but has remained perfectly preserved since the city was never attacked.
Several of the four original gates still stand, the most impressive one being Porta San Giacomo, built in the 16th century. The beautiful gate stands at a portion of the wall that enables you to not only see the splendor of the wall itself but also get a breathtaking view over the modern city. It’s the perfect place to catch the sunset over Bergamo.
Nominated by the World is my Playground
Alpe Adria Cycle Route
The Alpe Adria Cycle Route is part of the bicycle itinerary leading from Salzburg, Austria, to Grado, in Friuli (Italy). It is a 415km ride, more than 3/4 amidst the spectacular Alpine peaks, a ride that will stun you with its epic landscapes.
While the Austrian section of the route is very demanding, bringing you up the Little Ankogel at 2,400msl, the Italian part of the bike trail is mostly fairly easy, a flat valley road traversing some of the most spectacular landscapes in the entire Alpine range.
It is a beautiful cycling holiday suited also for families, who can ride it in two days or three days even with kids (a lot of accommodation options are available), while expert riders can easily manage it as a day trip.
The Ciclovia Alpe Adria (Alpe Adria Radweg) starts from the Austrian border in Coccau Valico, it is 175 kilometers long and will take you from the Carnic to the Giulian Alps to then end up on the Adriatic Seashores. The whole route never leaves the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia.
If you’re looking for an alternative way to enjoy the stunning Italian landscape in a sustainable way, while doing some healthy but easy exercise, the Alpe Adria Cycle Route should definitely get into your Italy bucket list
Nominated by Cycloscope
Hiking in the Dolomites
Usually when we think of Italy we picture history and romance, and often forget about the stunning nature that the country offers. If you want to experience some of the most amazing landscapes of the whole continent, grab your hiking shoes and head to the Dolomites.
Base yourself in Cortina d’Ampezzo, a picturesque town 160 km north of Venice. Only the beautiful winding mountain road makes the trip worth it, so have your camera ready from the get-go. From there the options are endless.
My personal favorite hikes are to Lago di Sorapis –the most turquois mountain lake I’ve ever seen, and to Tre Cime di Lavaredo –three peaks that have become the landmark of the region. Other renowned hikes are to Cinque Torri and Fedèra lake (Croda da Lago), the DolomiEU trail, and the paths around Misurina lake.
For any of these treks you’ll need at least a basic fitness level, because they’re mountain trails, so they all have elevation gain of at least a few hundred meters. Even with that in mind, if you take it slow and follow the paths, you’ll manage, regardless of how fit you are. Make the effort –the rewards at the end of the hikes are incredible!
Cortina is a fancy town, so can get a spa treatment after a hard day in the mountains!
Nominated by Experiencing the Globe
A Day at the QC Terme Pré San Didier – Next-Level Pampering
Although most people think Milano or the Dolomites when planning a trip to Northern Italy, the Aosta Valley is definitely worth a multi-day visit!
History buffs, outdoors seekers, and serial indulgers can all enjoy the blessings of Italy’s north-westernmost region: Ancient fortresses, the Alps’ highest peak…and thermal baths. Spectacular thermal baths.
If you enjoy pampering, chilling and love walking around wearing a white robe and feeling like a royal, then a visit to the QC Terme Pré San Didier deserves a spot on your bucket list.
Located 30 km west of Aosta and 15 km from Mt Blanc, the bathhouse was originally established in 1834. Visitors can expect a historical and lavish building with heaps of space and a slew of baths, salt rooms, saunas, steam baths, outdoor pools, and all your inner-chiller can wish for.
My favorite things about the day we spent here apart from the installations were the alpine views, the service, -the staff welcomed us outside the bathhouse with cookies and tea- the food, the little village of Pré-Saint- Didier, and the fact that we just spent the whole day jumping around discovering more and more areas dedicated to the relaxation of the body, mind, and soul.
You can get there by bus, -one hour from Aosta- or by car.
Bookings are required -you can book online- and the cost is $ 48 EU. The great thing is your ticket allows you to stay for the whole day -some hotels have discounts and can book for you, just ask!
Nominated by Global Curious
Tuscany Bucket List
Climb the towers of San Gimignano
It’s the towers of San Gimignano that make this town such an icon in the Tuscan countryside. In the Middle Ages, the wealthy families built the towers as a demonstration of their power – many of the structures actually had no practical use.
There are 13 towers that remain today and some of them are accessible for the public. The tallest and most impressive is the Torre Grossa, which has always been owned by the town (and so no families were allowed to build a taller one). You can walk up the 218 steps to the top for an amazing view of the town and the countryside. There’s an interesting museum with some important artworks lower down in the same building.
There are some smaller towers on the square outside the town hall that have apartments you can stay in – a very special way to experience San Gimignano! But, if that’s a bit too extravagant, you can visit the Torre e Casa Campatelli museum to see how a 12th-century tower was converted into a grand 19th-century house.
Aside from the towers, there are lots of things to do in San Gimignano. I would particularly recommend the stunning artwork in the town’s cathedral and the Church of Sant’Agostino, a walk in the vineyards in the surrounding area, and Gelateria Dondoli – which is said to be the best gelato in Italy!
Nominated by Time Travel Turtle
Lucca is a beautiful little town in Tuscany on the Serchio River that is rather deservedly famous for being a great cycling destination. We made a day trip to Lucca from Rome and it was an easy 3-hour journey.
Although I’m not a regular cyclist, as soon as I saw all the residents and visitors cycling around this historic little town, I knew I had to get in on the action. We rented bikes from one of the affable staff members at a local bike rental business and began our adventure.
Lucca is one of the few remaining towns in Italy with intact Renaissance-era city walls. It was atop these defensive walls that we made our way around Lucca. The walls are 40 feet high in some points, which made me really believe that the walls had made an effective defense when it was necessary!
Although we cycled in our ordinary tourist attire, we saw hundreds of cyclists clad in typical Lycra cycling gear, zooming around us. I didn’t realize it at the time but Lucca is a popular destination for serious cycling enthusiasts around the world. It’s situated on a relatively flat plain but is surrounded by some serious mountains and hills, making for excellent cycling conditions. Lucca is also the home of several professional cycling teams.
Nominated by Freedom 56 Travel
See Florence Duomo
Florence… where do we begin? It’s undoubtedly one of the best holiday destinations in Europe. Being the birthplace of Renaissance, the city is densely packed with medieval architecture, magnificent cathedrals, hidden historical ruins, and extraordinary museums.
The best way to enjoy Florence is to stroll through the old town. The historical center is not huge, but it may take you a day or two to explore all of the main sights and smaller hidden places. You will want to start your journey from Piazza del Duomo, where you will find the Museum of the Opera del Duomo, an important museum with original works created for the cathedral of Florence. The notable pieces are Salone del Paradiso, the Pieta by Michelangelo and Reliquary Chapel.
The Florence Cathedral (Duomo), the landmark of Florence, is just one short walk away from the Museum. The major highlights of the museum are the Baptistery of St. John and the crypt of Santa Reparata. As well, don’t miss the chance to climb the dome. The climb is just 463 some steps (sorry, no elevator!) where you get to see ancient frescoes art.
After that, you should visit the St Trinity bridge. It’s a Renaissance bridge in Florence, overlooking the Arno River. It’s not as touristic as Ponte Vecchio, but the view is absolutely beautiful especially in the dusk. On the other side of the bridge is where the locals live, and it’s where you can find good food and coffee at the local rate.
Nominated by Flyerism https://www.flyerism.com
Take a Florence food tour
If you are making Florence one of your stops during a trip to Italy, then you must add a food tour to your bucket list. Take Walks is a great company that offers a highly rated tour called “Dine Around Florence: An Authentic Evening Wine & Food Tour”.
Signing up for this tour guarantees an amazing evening in Florence’s Oltrarno neighborhood. On this calmer and more authentic side of Florence, you’ll meet your small group in quiet Piazza Santo Spirito.
From there, the evening takes off by first visiting the medieval cellar of a local wine shop. Here, you’ll sample delicious Italian wines with light hors d’oeuvres. Your guide will educate you on what you are drinking, even including tips on how to properly taste wine.
The next stop will be La Prosciutteria, where you will be served a beautiful charcuterie board with roasted vegetables and mouth-watering spreads. Wine, of course, will again be included because it’s Italy.
Incredibly, there is still more to come. The next stop is a local restaurant, where you’ll eat a light carb dish followed by a meaty main course. Then you’ll end the evening at a tiny artisan gelateria, where you will taste some of the highest quality gelato in Italy.
For all this, you pay a price of $85.92 a person. For such a unique experience, Dine Around Florence is 100% a tour that is well worth the investment.
Nominated by Fueled By Wanderlust
Road Trip Around Tuscany
Tuscany is one of the most popular and renewed region in Italy and one of my favorite. I could say it for any region in Italy, but Tuscany is really special. Soft hills carpeted with vineyards, medieval villages, art and good food are the highlight of this region. Obviously Tuscany is quite spread out, so when I decided to go on a 4 road trip with my sister we had to select just a small part of it. There is so much to see and rushing it it wouldn’t let us appreciate it enough. We would have rather chose a few towns and soaked them up completely. So we stayed in a beautiful mansion, in italy it’s called “agriturismo”, in the middle of the countryside closed to the historical town of San Giminiano and from there we would drive around different other town. Here is what we did in In four days:
– we managed to visit Siena, how can you not take a stop in Siena, went up to the mangia tower, and the cathedral museum and walk around the historical center
– Volterra, with the unmissable self guided tour of the cathedral and of course, a walk among the narrow roads of the historical city. It really feels like you travel back in the past.
– San Giminiano itself where we also would have most of our dinners it’s another example of medieval city, full its art and history, like an open air museum.
– Vinci – this small town is where Leonardo Da Vinci was born and his home is now a museum, besides a spectacular place with stunning views. Definitely a must see, if you are in the area.
Food won’t disappoint you either, but try to ask locals where to dine, because the most visible places are the most touristic ones and not the best example of the real italian cuisine. It’s really worth splurging if you want to try the best local food.
Renting a car is also a must because local transport only connects the big towns but the magic is hidden in between.
Nominated by Boundless Roads
Central Italy Bucket List
Visit Civita di Bagnoregio
The citadel of Bagnoregio, or Civita di Bagnoregio in Italian, is the most picturesque village that you can visit as a day-trip from Rome. This group of Medieval buildings gracefully ordered on a tuff cliff towering against a desolated valley is house to less than 20 people but keeps arousing the local and international interest. Civita has been resisting the inevitable action of time and the geological instability which has demolished many villages in Central Italy. Even if Civita di Bagnoregio is addressed as the “city that is dying” or “fading away”, because the cliff that holds it up is slowly sinking, its magical landscape continues to inspire travelers and artists from all over the world.
The view will leave you speechless from different lookout points, and especially from the citadel itself and from the other side of the long bridge that allows you to reach the citadel’s only gate across the steep slope of the hill. The color of the naturally striped rock puts on the most charming look at sunset time. When it’s surrounded by mist, it resembles an enchanted city from fairy tales. Once you’ve entered the village, you can take a stroll along the tiny squares and alleys reminiscent of a 2500 years’ past. Many of the houses now host trattorias offering typical dishes of the Tuscia region. The main church is from the 15ht Century and keeps the relics of the most important historical figure from the citadel: Saint Bonaventura from Bagnoregio. Walking by what remains of the city’s walls you’ll have the chance to admire the landscape surrounding the isolated cliff, which is shaped by the characteristic ravines.
The ticket to get inside Civita di Bagnoregio costs €5.
Nominated by Travel Connect Experience
Visit Ostia Antica
One of the important historic sites in Italy that often gets overlooked is Ostia Antica, the city to Rome’s west that served as its main port city. You can stay in the town for a few days, enjoying the site as well as the nearest beach to Rome, or you can visit Ostia Antica from Rome as a day trip.
While here, make sure to spend a bit of time in the archeological museum before exploring the ancient city. It’s one of the best-preserved Roman sites in the world. You’ll find a beautiful theater, shopping stalls, and even public toilets. It’s a peek into what life was like here two thousand years ago.
One of the highlights for me personally was to see the gorgeous black and white tile mosaics that line the floor of the shopping stalls. Many are still intact (or at least partially intact). You can see dolphins, Roman gods, and other interesting motifs. It’s amazing to think how these works of art have survived in the outdoors for millennia!
If you come, make sure to bring some water to drink while you’re here. The area of the city that you can see is quite large! You want to make sure you can enjoy seeing the entire archeological site.
Nominated by History Fan Girl
Drive Italy Coast to Coast
Driving coast to coast in central Italy allows visitors to experience some of the country’s most famous cities as well as some of its more under the radar attractions.
The trip starts in Pisa, exploring the Piazza dei Miracoli with its leaning tower. Day trips by train to nearby Florence and Lucca work well. From Pisa, drive south east to San Gimignano and Siena and then on to Montepulciano. Home to an incredible red wine, the Vino Nobile, Montepulciano is perfectly placed to explore some of the smaller Tuscan towns of the Val d’Orcia region such as Pienza and Montalcino.
From Montepulciano it’s a short hop over the border into Umbria where such delights as Orvieto’s magnificent cathedral and Assisi’s impressive frescoes at the Basilica of Saint Francis await. Umbria offers a landscape of rolling green countryside dotted with hilltop towns such as Todi and Spello. Montefalco is not to be missed, with impressive views it’s often described as the Balcony of Umbria. Those in the know however visit Montefalco for its delicious red wine made from the Sagrantino grape.
The drive into Le Marche from Umbria is one of the most rewarding drives in Italy. It’s best to start early with a visit to Norcia where visitors can stock up on picnic provisions from a norcineria (pork butcher) before heading towards the Sibillini Mountains by way of Castelluccio and the epic Piano Grande.
The Sibillini Mountains are at their most rewarding in late spring and early summer when the Piano Grande is carpeted with wild flowers. From Castelluccio, the road winds its way through the mountains towards Ascoli Piceno.
One of Italy’s less well known but no less beautiful stretches of coastline is that of the Conero Natural Park just south of Ancona. Studded with beaches, some of which can only be accessed by boat, this is the perfect place to unwind at the end of the trip.
Nominated by Smudged Postcard
Southern Italy Bucket list
Visit the Trulli Houses of Alberobello
Puglia as a whole is a bit of a Italy hidden gem and is well worth visiting if you want to get off the Italian tourist trail and see a different side to Italy. But if you can only visit one place in the region I would recommend that place being Alberobello.
Alberobello is one of Italy’s many UNESCO world heritage sites. This town is made up of the beautiful white trulli houses that are synonymous with the Puglia area of Italy. There are many theories about why the houses of this area were created but there is no definitive answer. However everyone can agree on their beauty.
The trulli houses of Alberobello today contain a plethora of shops and restaurants making the town a tourists dream. There are even some that have been converted into hotels which mean you can actually add a stay in one onto your Italy bucket list.
Dance the Pizzica Pizzica in Minervino di Lecce, Puglia
After you’ve eaten your fill of delicious pasta, sipped some fine regional wine and seen a jaw-dropping collection of ancient monuments, one of the most unforgettable things to do in Italy is to join one of its traditional street festivals and dance the pizzica pizzica. Participating in one of these cultural celebrations is one of the top things to do in Minervino di Lecce, Taviano, Castrignano del Capo and other small towns in the Salento peninsula of Puglia. Unlike in other countries where you might be tempted to stay on the sidelines because you don’t know the steps, the traditional folk dance of the Salento region of Puglia is so fast-paced, you can just join the crowd and follow along with the other dancers without any reservations. Even music icon Madonna danced the pizzica while in Puglia for her 50th birthday.
The pizzica ( which means bite) is the Salentine version of the tarantella, a dance that has a long history in Italy. It’s said to have originated as a way for dancers ( mostly women) to rid themselves of the venom of the bite of a tarantula spider if bitten while working in the agricultural fields. The pizzica is even faster paced than the tarantella and is often performed by couples to the accompaniment of accordion, tambourine and vocals. If you have a bandana or scarf to wave while dancing all the better – you’ll fit right in with the crowd.
Nominated by A Taste for Travel
Pomepeii has to be one of the most unique things you can do in Italy. This town frozen in time is a must see for any visitor to Italy.
The town and it’s inhabitants were covered in ash as Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD. The ash that fell on the town froze everything as it was at the time of the eruption and is now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
If you have time be sure to visit the neighbouring town of Hercalaneum which is equally if not better preserved than Pompeii though smaller and less visited by tourists.
Some of the highlights at Pompeii include its amphitheatre and Roman Forum. However to get the most out of your visit I would recommend hiring a guide and doing a guided tour of this specatuclar site.
I recommend buying your tickets online in advance as the queues at Pompeii can get quite long especially if you are visiting in Peak season.
Visit the Grottoes of Capri
The island of Capri off the coast of Italy’s Sorrentine peninsula in Campania is one of the most magical landscapes in the world. In every direction, there are views more stunning than the next all surrounded by the beautiful blue of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Most visitors come for a day trip from nearby Naples or the Amalfi Coast, but Capri is a place to be savored for several days or longer. There are so many things to do in Capri like strolling the beautiful Gardens of Augustus or shopping for high-end designer duds. But the best way to see Capri is by boat, another reason to stay longer than a day.
There are so many secret coves and grottoes along the rocky coastline of Capri. You may not know of two lesser-known grottoes — the Green Grotto and the White Grotto — where you can snorkel and splunk the nearby caves when the seas are calm. The most famous of all however is the Blue Grotto, one of Capri’s biggest tourist attractions. Visiting the grotto requires a ticket and a long wait to get inside, and you can only go in with a licensed guide. You’ll duck down in your boat so low to avoid bumping your head as you glide through the narrow entrance one boat at a time. Once inside, the view of the glowing water beneath your boat is so worth the visit and one of the most magnificent photo ops of a trip to Capri.
Nominated by Travelin Mad
Visit the island of Ischia
Ischia is a beautiful island off the coast of Naples. It is less famous than it’s neighbour Capri but no less stunning and with fewer tourists. The island is quite big but has a great bus service meaning that you can see all the sites quite easily.
It is a place you could go on a day trip from Naples as it is only 1 and a half hour by ferry but to fully enjoy you should spend a few days there.
When you first arrive in the port you will see the impressive Castello Aragonese, this is a must see and included in the entrance is a self guided tour. There is also a café in the grounds with amazing views overlooking Ischia ponte, a great place to relax.
Ischia is also famous for it’s thermal waters and a great way to pass a day is at one of the many thermal spa’s. Some are even just off the beach so you can sunbathe on the beach and then relax in the thermal pools.
The most impressive village to visit is Sant’Angelo, it is located on the south coast with a little strip of beach connecting the old fishing village to a rocky outcrop. It is very picturesque and charming and has some great shops and restaurants and after you relax on the beach.
If hiking is more your thing then make sure you hike to the highest point of Ischia to the top of Mount Epomeo at 789 metres above sea level. It is quite a difficult hike as it’s steep in places but is only about a 3 hour round trip and well worth it for the views.
Nominated by I live 4 travel
Postiano day trip
Visiting the Amalfi Coast in Italy is high on the bucket list for many travelers. Although this wasn’t our home base, it’s an easy day trip from Sorrento.
Take the SITA bus from Sorrento to Positano and enjoy the beautiful Mediterranean scenery as you wind around cliffs with jaw-dropping views. This journey is not for the faint of heart! All that separates you from the sea is a guardrail. Sit on the right side of the bus to get the full effect.
Positano is a cliff-side community. Depart the bus at the top of the mountain and make your way to the pebbled beach by walking down a winding path lined with pastel colored homes and unique shops to peruse along the way.
Stop for photos at the Church of Santa Maria Assunta. The church dates back to the 10th century and has roots with the Benedictine monastery of St. Maria. Step inside and admire the white and gold finishings. Many destinations weddings are held here with the Mediterranean and cliff side homes as the backdrop.
Continue meandering through the narrow streets until you finally reach the beach. Here, you can relax at one of the many cafes and restaurants while you gaze out into the azure waters of the Mediterranean. Chez Black, although touristy, is a quaint café directly on the beach. Stop and refuel or just enjoy your picture postcard view.
Planning on visiting Positano with kids? Then check out this post.
Nominated by Treasured Family Travels
Matera is a unique town in the region of Basilicata, in southern Italy. Recently, it has gained international fame due to its ancient and fascinating sassi a word that roughly can be translated as stones.
Matera is believed to be one of the oldest towns on Earth. Archeologists have come to the conclusion that Matera has its beginnings in the Paleolithic era. During the Roman Age, the town was clearly also populated, as defensive walls and the Civita were built. In the 8th century, the city expanded even more beyond its ancient boundaries.
This town steep in history, spread over a valley in Basilicata, was nicknamed the underground city because of the many hillside cave dwellings in which it is proven that people have lived on and off for more than 3,000 years.
Matera was granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status as “the most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region” and in 2019 Matera was the European Capital of Culture.
If you think this place looks familiar, it must be because of the many movies that were filmed here. The most famous ones are probably The Passion of the Christ (2004) and Wonder Woman (2017).
It is no wonder that in recent years this ancient place has become a popular tourist hotspot as there are lots of things to do in Matera, from exploring the hundreds of ancient caves, staying in luxurious boutique hotels, visiting interesting rocky churches, and enjoying the excellent local cuisine.
Nominated by Travelers Universe
Best things to do in Italy on it’s islands
Bationne Saint Remy Sardinia
If you are thinking of heading over to the island of Sardinia, you must get to the Bastione Saint Remy. It’s a beautifully set historic landmark and the perfect addition to anyone Italy bucket list. First, you must get to Cagliari the capital of the Island to be able to see the giant structure for yourself. With breathtaking panoramic view across the city, this is one of the key vantage points and a prime location to be during a sunset in Cagliari. If you want to get properly acquainted with the landmark, be prepared to do some climbing. Carry some comfortable footwear to assist you as the steps can get quite challenging. Once you arrive at the main entrance, you’ll be greeted by a grand looking archway that looks out to the city. It is here some of the best views can be seen from the vantage point known as the ‘Piazza Costituzione’ in Italian. You can get to the top via one of the many stairways that lead through the very narrow winding streets. The Bastione Saint Remy is free to enter and has an onsite lift, so you can totally avoid the stairs if need be. Once you arrive at the top of the structure you’ll see the Piazza, which can get very busy during peak times, usually in the afternoons. From here you can sit and admire the view, or, if still around in the late afternoon, sit at the roof-top bar area to relax for a romantic evening.
Visit Ventotene Island
A visit to Ventotene island in the Tyrrhenian Sea should definitely be on your Italy bucket list. It’s the smallest inhabited island among the Pontine islands, mainly visited by Italians. There is a small beach with sunbeds where you can enjoy the crystal clear water. You can snorkel around the cliffs or rent a pedal boat. From the beach, you can get to the other side through a tunnel in the limestone cliff. There are boat tours around the island and some of them include a visit to Santo Stefano island which is a small island next to Ventotene. In the 17th century, Santo Stefano prison was built on the island and several important names, like the former Italian president Sandro Pertini was imprisoned there.
Other activities on Ventotene include visiting the Archeological Museum, scuba diving, eating pizza and pasta, drinking Italian coffee, people-watch while enjoying a delicious gelato, and I could keep going. The small island vibe has a local feel to it and walking around the narrow streets with pastel-colored houses, you will soon realize there are hardly any cars there. It the perfect place to relax a few days.
To get to Ventotene you need to take a boat from Formia. There are speed boats and ferries running daily except when the sea is too rough. There are trains from Rome and Naples to Formia. There is a ferry running directly from Naples to Ventotene too.
Nominated by Brainy Backpackers
Exploring the Markets of Siracusa, Sicily
Sicily is famous for its food and its markets, and a great place to experience this unique food culture is at Ortigia Market in Syracuse, or Siracusa as it’s known in Italian. Syracuse is a city on the eastern coast of Sicily, and Ortigia is a small island joined to the mainland by three bridges. This is actually the city’s historic center and is where you’ll find its beautiful Baroque architecture and narrow cobblestone streets, as well as the mesmerizing Ortigia Market.
The market spreads out along Via Benedictus and is active from early morning until early afternoon every day except Sunday. The stalls are piled high fresh fruits and vegetables picked from nearby orchards and vegetable gardens. Citrus fruits are particularly abundant such as the Tarocco blood oranges and something called a citron, or cedro in Italian. It looks like a giant lemon but is actually grown for its thick white rind rather than for its juice or pulp.
In addition to the produce stalls, you can also find delicatessens and small shops selling fresh sandwiches and local products like pesto and Modica chocolate. The made-to-order sandwiches at Caseificio Borderi are out of this world, and the staff will happily cater for vegetarians, vegans and other special dietary requirements.
Nominated by the Nomadic Vegan
Best Things to do in Italy for Foodies – Italy Food and Drink Bucket List
Try bicerin in Turin
Wedged in the north-west of Italy, you’ll find Turin. Or as the locals call it, Torino. The regal city is off the typical tourist trail, but easily accessible with regular quick services to both Bologna and Milan.
Turin is famed for many things including its beautiful architecture, food scene and being the home to Fiat. If there is one thing that can’t missed on any Turin itinerary, more than taking a moment to sit back and enjoy a glass of bicerin.
Whilst it sounds like a medicinal concoction, it’s actually a hot beverage. Local to the Piedmont region of which Turin is the capital, this drink is made up of a mixture of espresso, hot chocolate and milk. Think of it as a combination of espresso and hot chocolate with just the right mix.
There are any number of great places to try bicerin on a visit to Turin. However, the most grand place to sample it would be Caffe Torino in Piazza San Carlo. The café is marked with an oversized neon Martini sign (another local brand). You’ll also stroll over Turin’s mascot of a gold bull etched into the ground on your way in. Once inside, you may well think you’ve time travelled to the 1960s. The décor set from another era, it is equally matched by the waiters in their black vests and bow ties.
Sit back, and enjoy the sweetness and caffeine hit. You’ll wonder how this simple, yet delightful drink hasn’t caught on the world over.
Nominated by Our Passion for Travel
Eating Pesto In Genoa
This list of bucket list destinations and experience in Italy is as long and diverse as the different types of pasta available in Italy. For the food traveler, there is one destination in Italy that is unfortunately often overlooked. That’s despite it being the home of one of Italy’s most popular sauces, pesto. The port city of Genoa, Italy’s six largest city, has been at the crossroads of history dating back to Roman times. Thanks to its location and long history, the Genoa food has evolved into one of the best in Italy, with pesto reigning supreme. Traditional Genovese pesto is made from the highest quality, locally sourced IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) basil, Ligurian olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Mixed together, these ingredients form the iconic sweet, salty and peppery green paste. In restaurants throughout Genoa, travelers can experience pesto served on a number of different kinds of pasta. One of the best places in Genoa to sample pesto is in the MOG MercatoOrientale Genoa. Once only a local market, the city of Genoa recently transformed this 19th-century building into a multi-purpose food and tourism facility. Visitors can walk around the market exploring fresh produce, meats, and fish on display. Afterward, MOG MercatoOrientale has several food vendors offering Ligurian wine, craft beer, and of course classic Genovese cuisine including pesto. MOG is open seven days a week from 10 am to midnight.
Nominated by Food and Drink Destinations
Eat Granita in Sicily
Granita is one of the best deserts you’ll ever taste. If you like ice cream, you will love granita! The refreshing sweet mixture is like a sorbet ice cream and can be easily enjoyed year round in Sicily. It’s typically eaten with a spoon and a brioche bun on the side. The most typical Sicilian flavor is almond, but you can find many other tastes of granite, such as lemon, strawberry, apricot, or chocolate.
Since granita is such a staple in Sicily, you can come across it in nearly every café. In Taormina, I even recommend it as one of the main things to do (because of the famous granite-serving Bam Bar). E.g. in the lovely town of Noto, there’s a world-famous café called ‘Caffé Sicilia’ featured in a recent Netflix travel show, where they make amazing authentic granitas too.
Not all granitas are created equal. The most common (and cheap) way is to use artificial flavoring and coloring to mix in with the water and ice. But the famous cafés all focus on natural ingredients, which is why they’re so beloved by tourists and locals alike.
Try it out the real Sicilian way and have a granita with a brioche for breakfast! And coffee, of course.
Nominated by Travel Geekery
Learn about Parma Ham
One of the most memorable experiences, I’ve had in Italy is visiting the Parma ham production. So, if you are planning to visit Italy, make sure you don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity. It should definitely be on your Italy bucket list (amongst the top things to do!).
To take part of the Parma production tour, you’re going to have to travel to the City of Parma which is located in the Emilia-Romagna region. This region is most famous for Parmesan cheese and Parma ham.
During the tour you will:
- Learn about Parma ham’s Protected Designation of Origin (PDO status)
- See various types of pork legs in the different stages of curing
- Discover a special type of salt used for curing pork legs
- Understand how individual pork legs are marked with a seal
- Have the opportunity to talk to experts who explain the entire process to you
Best of all, you get to sample freshly cut slices of Parma ham using the best technology and enjoy la dolce vita. You also get the option to purchase an entire leg of Parma ham. Mine weighed a whopping 4.5 kgs (10 pounds). Try packing that in your suitcase!
Visiting the Parma ham production facility is not only the best thing to do, it’s a must if you are really trying to understand Italian culture, cuisine and way of life.
Nominated by Greedy Gourmet
What is currently top of your Italy bucket list?