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Top 10 Things to do in Italy

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Europe’s very best, Italy defines the cultural essence that is so magnetic to people worldwide.

Impossible to overrate, Italy is home to some of the most unique landscapes, beautiful baroque architecture, innovative ingredients and warm, hospitable people.

A far cry from home, Italian’s know how to live well, how to look after numero uno and how to appreciate the finer things in life. You will witness this when you spend long hours around the table, chatting until the early hours and eating incredible home-cooked food and drinking great coffee, or when you pass nearly everybody in the street who has an eye for fashion. Old or young, Italy is the home of fashion.

It’s impossible to condense Italy’s beauty down to 10 places. It means ignoring some of the greatest places in Europe let alone Italy. That said, however, I have decided to create a list of just 10 and let you decide (with a vehement protest) what should be added to the list.

Alas, here are the top 10 things to do in Italy:

10. Verona

Meander the streets of old Verona and immerse yourself in the quintessential Shakespearean city.
Verona, Italy

Walking through Verona can’t help but evoke romance. Photo by Kosala Bandara

Blessed as the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Verona’s historic significance is palpable as soon as you see the grandeur in the ancient gates, the magnificence of the cities amphitheater and the splendor of visiting Juliet Capulet’s famous balcony.

Follow the UNESCO World Heritage worthy architecture along the river, dive into old pizzerias and be sure to make a return visit in summer when the 2000 year old outdoor arena hosts the worlds greatest opera names.

9. Sicily

Storing art treasures and an extraordinary high quality of cuisine, Sicily needs to be embraced with full indulgence
Taormina theatre, Sicily

Strewn out in the Sicilian hillside town of Taormina, the Teatro Greco is a beautiful ruin of a theater. Photo by Dennis Jarvis

Traveling to Sicily is like going skiing off-piste, it’s Italy with a jagged edge, a rough diamond just ready to explore and captivate those intrepid travelers.

Boasting arguably Italy’s finest selection of cuisine and wine, Sicily is like mecca to the food pilgrims. According to Walks of Italy travel blog it also possesses some of the grandest panoramic views throughout the whole of Italy, littered with beautiful white stone monuments. Italofile claim the Sicilian city of Taormina to be one of the most spectacular places to visit in Italy.

Sicily is also full of contrasts, from rugged Palermo to barque Catania and from storing an abundance of masterpieces of art to being seemingly unaware and unashamed of the awful infrastructure of the island. One thing is for sure, you will live like a mafia king in Sicily.

8. Genoa

Get lost in this Italian spiral of spaghetti streets, winding through tiered alleys, in-between crumbling Italian architecture.
Genova

Old, beautiful buildings climb above intricate alleyways. Photo by Roberto Taddeo

The capital of the Italian riviera region of Liguria, Genoa (Genova) has a bit of everything and is the quintessential Italian experience. With its romantic port and rolling hills, Genoa was listed as the European capital of culture in 2004.

For the passer by, it is a magical experience wandering aimlessly through the labyrinth of intricate alleyways, passing hanging gardens owned by the tall, colorful buildings with their green shutters and thin balconies and popping in here and there to one of the many fantastic boutique stores. You can spend days getting lost in the Italian splendor.

For the visitors staying slightly longer, the allure of Genoa’s museums and Portofino island (recommended by native Italian and Italian political and football writer Luca Hodges-Ramon) will keep you occupied for days, and that’s before you’ve even taken the time to appreciate the mesmerizing terracotta rooftop panoramas that has come to symbolize Italy’s majestic charm.

Lying next to the French Riviera, it is inevitable that Italy was going to match the likes of Nice and Monaco, and the island of Portofino does just that. With beautiful resorts and romantic stretches of sun-bathed beaches, Portofino is a fine getaway.

Last but by no means least, you mustn’t miss an opportunity to spend the evening eating divine fish in one of Genoa’s high quality restaurants.

 

>>Discover trip.me’s fantastic tours of Italy<<

 

7. Venice

The fantasy land of Venice manages to capture the hearts of millions each year.
Venice, Italy

The waterways of Venice are smelly but sensationally attractive. Photo by Max Barnard

Venice, Venice, Venice, what hasn’t been said before? I went there with my father in the summer (a decidedly unromantic, romantic trip) and completely fell in love with every single turn and crevice that Venice offers.

From the slanted buildings to the darkest passageways, Venice had something new and exciting around every corner. Located in Cannaregio near the Jewish Ghetto, it was the perfect place to get lost in the quiet passages and enchanting back-streets, stumbling across tiny cafes and quaint eateries.

Apart from the delight of walking for hours each day, stopping here or there for an espresso or a refreshing spritz, the main highlights were the Peggy Guggenheim museum, St. Mark’s square and the Basilica di san Marco and exploring Murano and Burano islands.

6. Cinque Terre

On a stretch of 18 km of breath-taking cliffs, sit 5 beautiful villages – ‘The 5 Lands’
Cinque Terre

Manarola is one of the 5 stunning villages. Photo by Daniel Stockman

Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. These are the 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites that make up Cinque Terre, and the 5 villages that hang precariously over the crashing Mediterranean sea.

These 5 villages each contain vibrantly colorful buildings, never failing to evoke a summer feel. The Northern-most town of Monterosso is the sole village that doesn’t contain the old-world charm that the other villages have, instead possessing a resort-feel coastline that doesn’t have the same enchantment.

Cars and bikes are prohibited from entering, allowing you to discover the crooked lanes and intricate stairways on foot. The landscape is the main attraction so make sure you absorb the scintillating scenery before you move on.

5. Rome

A cultural magnet, Rome is a hub for intellects, artists and historians alike
Rome, Italy

The Roman Colosseum has come to symbolize Italy’s cultural importance. Photo by Bert Kaufmann

Arguably the most invigorating and stimulating city in the world, Rome captures the imagination of millions of tourists per year. That said, it’s always possible find new places and avoid the mass crowds.

Italy’s capital and largest city is an open-air museum where you will find a multitude of fascinating ruins, ornate statues, millennium year-old churches, an array of museums and of course, the Roman Colosseum.

It is impossible to sum up Rome in a few sentences and its grandeur cannot be condensed down to a mere segment, however, this eternal city boasts the very best of Italy and is simply unmissable for art enthusiasts and history fanatics.

Baroque churches, renaissance frescoes and a seemingly endless list of masterpieces will keep you fascinated for days.

4. Bologna

 Famous for its fabulous selection of restaurants and oozing with medieval charm.
Bologna, Italy

Bologna’s iconic arches, lit up at night. Photo by Rufo

Bologna is a buzzing university town, yet at the same time manages to be a languid chill-out spot, with its terrific piazza’s littered with people who have just entered an almighty food coma, ready to listen to the nearest serenade and finish the night off with a glass of prosecco.

Bologna boasts one of the most attractive medieval cityscapes and is famous for the 40km of portico arches which link the town center with the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca.

Food and drink are the top attractions here and our article of the top 5 restaurants in Bologna is a great starter for your trip to this magnificent university town.

3. Amalfi Coast

Another remarkable stretch of Italian cliffs, the 50 km of Amalfi coast is a breath-taking drive.
Amalfi coast, Italy

Positano, along the Amalfi coast, limits mass tourism and is one of the only resorts in the world that doesn’t advertise. Photo by Dennis Jarvis.

Glinting seas sparkle back up on the heavily scented lemon groves of the colorful tiers of the Amalfi. It seems like a fairy-tale, however the Amalfi coast really is this evocative, and a drive through its winding cliff-sides will stay in your memory forever.

Positano (pictured) is one of the Amalfi’s most attractive towns, though it is Sorrento that leaves its mark on most travelers. Boasting stunning scenery, boutique shops with magnificent handicrafts, grand baroque churches and an abundance of splendid eateries and cafes, it is no wonder the longevity of those summer days and nights expand immeasurably in Sorrento.

Walks of Italy yet again recommend the Amalfi coast as one of the key experiences in Italy, mentioning its “breathtaking panoramas, amazing colors and yummy food (buffalo mozzarella cheese, limoncello liqueur, lemon cakes…)”.

2. Tuscany – Florence, Pisa and Siena

For many, Florence epitomizes Italian travel, but by no means should other Tuscan cities be disregarded.
Florence skyline

The Florence skyline is a majestic sight, especially at sunset. Photo by Steve

A true architectural gem, Florence is the capital of Tuscany and is regarded as one of the most important cities for art in Europe, particularly because of the incredible Uffizi gallery which holds hundreds of renaissance masterpieces.

The city is perhaps best viewed from its stunning skyline, a feature that Georgette (Girl in Florence blogger) claims is Florence’s best asset and a sight that never grows old. Georgette also mentioned Belvedere fort to be well worth a visit along with enjoying a great lunch at Buongustai restaurant.

From the rooftops you will also see Florence’s most iconic landmark; The Duomo, with its colossal red-tiled dome and beautiful green, pink and white tiled facade is the stand-out feature across the horizon.

Many will argue, however, that Siena is Tuscany’s prize possession, and for good reason. Although Siena doesn’t house artistic treasures, its greatest historic asset is the enduring Gothic architecture and piazza’s, in particular the Piazza del Campo, the historic public square which is highly acknowledged as one of the greatest medieval squares and architectural feats in the world.

Another example of Siena’s Gothic beauty and preservation is the walled town of San Gimignano. With it’s hilltop setting, looking out at pristine rolled out green scenery and its fusion of romantic Gothic and Romanesque architecture, this Italian gem manifests why Siena is often regarded as Tuscany’s best place to visit.

Pisa is yet another strong reason why Tuscany is Italy’s greatest province. Melanie from Italofile thinks that Campo dei Miracoli is one of the finest places in Italy. Containing four sacred edifices, the Campo dei Miracoli boasts iconic medieval landmarks such as the leaning tower of Pisa, Pisa Cathedral, the Pisa Baptistery and the Monumental Cemetery.

1. Pompeii (Naples)

Once a thriving commercial center, now a ghost city, Pompeii still beckons millions of tourists per year to scan its spectacular ruins.
Pompeii

The bleak remains of a tragic wipe out. Photo by Carlo Mirante

Engulfed by Mt Vesuvius in AD 79, Pompeii displays the ancient Roman ruins left after the eruption. An archaeological gem, Pompeii is one of the only ancient sites that has been preserved in minute detail. Walks of Italy travel blog are left speechless every time they visit, saying “The feeling you get when getting in there is difficult to describe. I simply love it!”

Along with visiting the ruins, treks up Mt Vesuvius offer a chance to climb Europe’s only active mainland volcano, including miraculous views over the Bay of Naples.

The Bay of Naples, recommended by Italofile , stretches from Naples to Castellammare and along this fine stretch you will have incredible views of Mt Vesuvius, salubrious ancient villas to the countries biggest ancient clothes market.

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What, in your opinion, was the most captivating city or site that Italy had to offer? Leave your comments below…

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