Recently I spent a few weeks exploring the majority of the Italian coast, and I had the opportunity to check off quite a few things off my bucket list. Italy seems to be one of the most popular countries in Europe for Americans seeking culture and a place to relax, but there are so many desirable places to visit and things to do that planning your trip can become overwhelming. Here are my top ten things to see and experience on your trip to Italy that I hope will help you in narrowing down your itinerary.
10. Eat everything (yes, everything) in Napoli:
As the home of pizza and ice cream’s invention, the food is unbeatable in Naples. There are several Michellin star restaurants, but you don’t need to splurge to enjoy yourself. While pizza and gelato are must haves in Naples, you’ll see lemon and olive tress all throughout the Amalfi Coast. I recommend you stop by a limoncello factory as well if you find the time.
9. Get photogenic with the Leaning Tower of Pisa:
Pisa is a must-see if you’re visiting Tuscany, and you really can’t miss the opportunity to see the leaning tower. Plan ahead if you plan to climb it- tickets sell out fast and only 25 people at a time are allowed to climb it, so it takes quite a bit longer than you’d imagine. Don’t have time to climb it? No worries, there’s plenty to do nearby including touring the cathedral, baptistry, the botanical gardens, or walking along the Arno river.
8. Wander through an open air Sicilian marketplace:
If you go to Italy and don’t learn where the ingredients of your food come from you’re missing out. Take an afternoon to wander through a market and meet the people and taste the ingredients. You’ll find olives, cheeses, fish, and fresh produce directly from the suppliers, and will get the real experience of Italian culture. Learn more about my experience in a Sicilian market here.
7. Drive the Amalfi Coast:
The Amalfi Coast is easily one of the more popular bucket list items for any Italian trip, and after experiencing it myself, I completely understand why. The winding roads through the mountains, lemon farms, and cliff side towns are picturesque and inspire more wanderlust than any other location in the world. Rent a car and spent a long weekend driving the coast and stopping in the charming towns and villages. Enjoy the food, wine, and beaches as you forget the world you left at home.
6. Get back to nature in Sardinia:
This province of Italy provides you with a scenery that you won’t find elsewhere in Italy. The mountains, the beach, the sea, and the winding sandy roads are gorgeous to experience. You can do a variety of outdoor activities here including kayaking, wind surfing, hiking, or sunbathing. It’s a great secluded area of this amazing country where you can simply relax and enjoy the great outdoors.
5. Hear the bells chime at the Duomo, Florence:
I had dreamed of Florence for my entire adult life, so when I visited, I was already awestruck by the Duomo. I did not plan to experience the chimes, but as I was near tears as I photographed the beautiful of Il Duomo, the chimes began to ring, and I knew that I was in the most beautiful place on earth.
4. St. Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican City:
Although The Vatican City is technically its own country, this tiny microstate is entirely encompassed by Italy and is easily accessible from Rome. While most of the hype is surrounded by the Sistine Chapel, I personally don’t believe that it holds a candle to St. Peter’s Basilica.
As you walk into the building, your jaw will hit the floor as you bask in the enormity and beauty of this building. The high ceilings and artwork make you wonder how people worship in any other building. My personal favorite piece of artwork in St. Peter’s is this mosaic- it is so intricate that it looks like a fresco.
As you drive down the Amalfi Coast, do yourself a favor and stop in the charming town of Positano, about 75 minutes from Naples and 20 from Sorrento. Known for its paper products, this adorable town will have you packing your bags for good. Overlook the Mediterranean sea as you enjoy the beaches or cliff side houses. You don’t need an itinerary to enjoy this place!
2. The Colosseum, Rome:
Is this even up for debate? The Colosseum is almost 2,000 years old and still stands as beautiful and enormous as ever. You can easily tour this Colosseum dozens of times and will learn something new every time you explore it. The attention to detail, Roman history offered, and enormity of this site is why this site is a must see not only in Italy, but in the world.
1. Walk the Ruins of Pompeii:
The infamous tragedy of Pompeii is one that is taught to school children as young as 8 years old in the United States, and the mystery behind what has been unearthed is more than enough to make this destination my top destination in Italy. But here is really why this destination is #1 on my list.
Originally designed by the Persian Empire, Pompeii offers the opportunity to explore the ruins of not one, but two major empires of the world. The technology implemented in Pompeii was far ahead of its time, including the use of massive stones as crosswalks during rainy weather, white stones in the streets to reflect light from the moon as street lights, and spas.
Furthermore, because the ash from Vesuvius left much of the city fossilized without melting or destroying the remains, there is more preserved art in Pompeii than in the rest of the Roman Empire combined. Not to mention, the surrounding scenery is beautiful. I can honestly say that I do not have a bad word to say about my experience in Pompeii.
Pompeii is the perfect Italian destination for all types of travelers: Solo travelers, couples, families, history nerds, art junkies, and nature lovers.
So which do you think is your #1 destination in Italy? Tell me in the comments!
Danielle Farideh Guy