Things to Do in Italy: 21 Awesome Attractions for Tourists
Updated On: August 15, 2023
Italy, a country steeped in history, art, and natural beauty, stands as a dream destination for tourists from across the globe. From the grandeur of ancient Rome to the romantic canals of Venice, there are an array of captivating things to do in Italy for everyone who visits.
The allure of Italy lies not only in its iconic landmarks but also in its vibrant culture and warm hospitality. To help you plan the most exquisite itinerary, we’ve explored some of the best things to do in Italy for tourists, providing a comprehensive guide to uncovering the treasures of this enchanting country.
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Rome: Eternal City of History and Grandeur
The Colosseum stands as an iconic symbol of ancient Rome’s grandeur and historical significance. As one of the most well-preserved amphitheatres in the world, this colossal structure invites visitors on a journey back in time to the gladiatorial contests and ancient spectacles that once took place within its walls.
Guided tours offer detailed insights into the Colosseum’s engineering marvels and the architectural feats of the Roman Empire, making it one of the most historic things to do in Italy.
The Roman Forum
As the political, social, and commercial heart of ancient Rome, the Roman Forum is a captivating archaeological site that showcases the city’s rich past. Visitors can see ancient temples, government buildings, and ceremonial spaces through the once-bustling public square.
The Forum was the centre of Roman life, where speeches were delivered, elections held, and trading conducted. Among the notable highlights are the Temple of Saturn, the Arch of Septimius Severus, and the Curia, where the Roman Senate once convened.
Exploring the Roman Forum is one of the most fascinating things to do in Italy during your holiday.
Perched above the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill offers a tranquil escape and a fascinating journey into the lives of Rome’s elite. As one of the Seven Hills of Rome, Palatine Hill was the residence of emperors and aristocrats, featuring opulent palaces and splendid gardens.
The Farnese Gardens offer breathtaking views of the Circus Maximus and the city below, making it one of the most scenic things to do in Italy. Palatine Hill’s significance extends beyond its historical value; it also boasts a serene ambience, allowing tourists to escape the crowds and connect with the ancient past.
St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is the crowning jewel of Vatican City and is one of the most remarkable religious edifices in the world. As visitors approach the imposing facade, they are greeted by an awe-inspiring sight that evokes a sense of grandeur and spiritual significance.
The sheer scale and opulence of the interior make it one of the most captivating things to do in Italy. The basilica houses an array of priceless artworks, including Michelangelo’s “Pieta,” Bernini’s bronze canopy over the high altar, and intricate mosaics adorning the domed ceilings.
Pilgrims and tourists alike are drawn to the ornate Papal Altar and the gilded bronze statue of St. Peter, believed to hold the keys to heaven. With its stunning architectural design and sacred ambience, visiting St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the best spiritual things to do in Italy.
The Vatican Museums
For art enthusiasts and history buffs, the Vatican Museums near Rome are one of the most interesting things to do in Italy. The labyrinth of galleries and halls houses an extensive collection of art and antiquities amassed by successive popes over the centuries.
From Egyptian artefacts and classical sculptures to Renaissance masterpieces and ancient maps, the Vatican Museums offer an unparalleled panorama of artistic excellence. One of the highlights of the museum complex is a series of stunningly detailed maps of Italy commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII.
Nestled within the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated artistic wonders in the world. The chapel owes its fame primarily to Michelangelo’s breathtaking frescoes that adorn the vaulted ceiling and the Last Judgment on the altar wall.
Stepping into the chapel, visitors find themselves enveloped in a symphony of colour and biblical narratives rendered with unparalleled skill and artistic vision. The iconic image of God giving life to Adam through their outstretched fingers is just one of the many awe-inspiring masterpieces that grace the chapel’s interior.
The combination of divine artistry and religious significance makes the Sistine Chapel one of the most unforgettable things to do in Italy.
Venice: The Enchanting Floating City
The Grand Canal
Exploring the Grand Canal in Venice is one of the most enchanting things to do in Italy. The Grand Canal serves as the main waterway that winds through the heart of Venice, showcasing the city’s stunning architecture and elegant palaces.
One of the quintessential ways to experience the Grand Canal is by enjoying a gondola ride. Gliding through the narrow canals and under picturesque bridges, a gondola ride offers a romantic and intimate perspective of Venice.
Visitors can opt for a cruise on a Vaporetto, the city’s public water bus, for a more practical and cost-effective way to explore the Grand Canal. The Vaporetto offers a convenient and accessible means of transportation, ferrying locals and tourists along the Grand Canal and to various destinations throughout the city.
Whether by gondola or Vaporetto, exploring the Grand Canal is one of the most popular things to do in Italy, leaving tourists with lasting memories of this extraordinary floating city.
St. Mark’s Square
Exploring St. Mark’s Square in Venice is one of the best historical things to do in Italy. At the heart of the square stands the stunning St. Mark’s Basilica, a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture.
Adorned with intricate mosaics, marble columns, and magnificent domes, the basilica’s facade is a sight to behold. Stepping inside, visitors are greeted by a sense of grandeur and spirituality. The interior is resplendent with golden mosaics depicting religious scenes, intricate marble floors, and opulent Byzantine artworks.
For a breathtaking view of St. Mark’s Square and the surrounding cityscape, visitors can climb the Campanile di San Marco. This iconic bell tower offers a bird’s-eye view of Venice, with its red rooftops, narrow canals, and the glistening waters of the lagoon.
The Venetian Islands
Exploring the Venetian Islands in Venice is one of the best things to do in Italy to learn about the area’s culture. One of the most famous islands, Murano, is renowned for its centuries-old glassmaking tradition.
A visit to Murano offers a captivating journey into the world of skilled artisans crafting exquisite glass masterpieces. Stepping into a glassblowing workshop, visitors witness the mesmerising process as molten glass is skillfully shaped into intricate sculptures, delicate vases, and dazzling chandeliers.
Another gem among the Venetian Islands is Burano, a vibrant and picturesque destination known for its colourful lacework. As visitors set foot on Burano, they are greeted by a kaleidoscope of hues, with every house adorned in a different bright shade.
Burano’s lace-making tradition dates back centuries, and the artistry behind this delicate craft is evident in the intricate patterns and detailed designs of the lacework. The Lace Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the history and techniques of lace-making, celebrating the expertise of the island’s artisans.
Walking through Burano’s lively streets is one of the most beautiful things to do in Italy. With its delightful lace boutiques and inviting cafes, Burano provides a wonderful escape from the bustling crowds of Venice and an opportunity to appreciate the skill and beauty of the Venetian heritage.
Sicily: Where History Meets Natural Beauty
Visiting Taormina, Sicily offers a captivating blend of history and natural beauty and is one of the most fascinating things to do in Italy. The ancient Greek Theater and the stunning Isola Bella are two of its most enchanting attractions.
The ancient Greek Theater is a mesmerising archaeological site that dates back to the 3rd century BC. Carved into the rocky hillside, the theatre offers breathtaking views of the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano.
The theatre’s exceptional acoustics and dramatic backdrop make it a popular venue for concerts and events, infusing the space with a vibrant and cultural atmosphere. As one of Sicily’s most iconic landmarks, a visit to the Taormina Greek Theater is a journey back in time.
Isola Bella, or “Beautiful Island,” is located just off the coast of Taormina. Accessible by a narrow strip of land, Isola Bella is a small oasis of beauty with its crystal-clear waters and pebbled beach.
The island’s lush vegetation and colourful flowers create a serene and romantic setting, making it one of the most relaxing things to do in Italy. Tourists can explore the island’s walking trails, discover hidden coves, or bask in the sun and enjoy the tranquil surroundings.
Mount Etna, located on the eastern coast of Sicily, is one of the most iconic and active volcanoes in the world. Standing majestically at approximately 3,329 meters (10,922 feet) above sea level, Mount Etna is Europe’s tallest active volcano and a geological wonder.
Its presence has shaped the landscape and history of the region for millennia. The volcano’s towering summit is often capped with snow, creating a striking contrast against the lush surrounding forests and fertile slopes. With its ever-changing volcanic activity, exploring Mount Etna is one of the most interesting things to do in Italy.
Despite its potential hazards, Mount Etna’s allure draws adventurers and nature enthusiasts from all over the world. Guided tours of the volcano offer the opportunity to explore its otherworldly landscapes and discover its volcanic phenomena, including fumaroles, lava flows, and impressive craters.
Naples: A Vibrant City of History and Culture
Pompeii and Herculaneum
A day trip to Pompeii and Herculaneum from Naples, Italy, is one of the most fascinating things to do in Italy. Both Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried under thick layers of volcanic ash and pumice from Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, encasing the cities in a remarkable state of preservation.
In Pompeii, visitors can step back in time as they wander through the well-preserved ruins of a once-thriving Roman city. The ancient streets, marketplaces, and homes provide a glimpse into the daily life of its inhabitants.
Herculaneum, located just a short distance from Pompeii, offers a more intimate and well-preserved experience. This smaller but equally fascinating ancient city was also engulfed by the volcanic eruption, resulting in the remarkable preservation of wooden structures, furniture, and artwork.
The site boasts luxurious villas, intricate mosaics, and even carbonised wooden beams, providing unique insights into the daily life and affluence of its former residents. Herculaneum’s waterfront location further enhances the experience, as visitors can see how the ancient city interacted with the sea and the surrounding landscape.
A day trip to Pompeii and Herculaneum from Naples offers a profound and immersive experience into the ancient Roman world and the tragic consequences of the Vesuvius eruption. It is one of the most unforgettable and captivating things to do in Italy.
Naples National Archaeological Museum
The Naples National Archaeological Museum is a treasure trove of ancient artefacts and archaeological wonders that showcase the region’s rich history. Housed in a grand 17th-century building, the museum’s vast collection offers an unparalleled insight into the ancient civilisations that once thrived in the area.
The museum’s crowning jewel is its Farnese Collection, which includes a remarkable array of sculptures and artworks collected by the Farnese family, one of Italy’s most influential noble families.
The renowned Farnese Bull, a colossal marble group depicting the mythological tale of Dirce’s punishment, and the Farnese Hercules, a magnificent sculpture depicting the demigod Hercules, are among the most impressive pieces in this collection.
A visit to the Naples National Archaeological Museum is a journey through time, where visitors can marvel at the artistry and craftsmanship of ancient civilisations. It is one of the most fascinating and educational things to do in Italy.
Naples Cathedral is a magnificent and historically significant religious edifice located in the heart of Naples, Italy. Built in the 13th century and dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the cathedral is an outstanding example of Gothic and Baroque architecture, reflecting the diverse influences it has endured.
The exterior of Naples Cathedral is an impressive sight, with its ornate facade adorned with intricate sculptures and decorative elements. The bronze doors, created in the 15th century, depict biblical scenes and are a remarkable artistic feature in their own right.
Inside, Naples Cathedral houses a vast collection of religious art and artefacts. The main altar, dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin, features a stunning mosaic that narrates the life of Mary.
As a religious and architectural landmark, Naples Cathedral holds great cultural and spiritual significance for the city’s inhabitants. Its rich history, stunning artwork, and sacred relics make it one of the most renowned things to do in Italy.
Florence: The Cradle of Renaissance Art and Culture
The Uffizi Gallery in Florence is a world-renowned treasure trove of art and culture and is one of the world’s most significant and influential museums. The gallery’s vast collection spans from the 13th to the 18th centuries. It includes some of the most celebrated artworks by Renaissance masters, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael.
The museum’s well-organized exhibition allows visitors to view Byzantine-influenced artworks from the early Renaissance to the High Renaissance. Iconic masterpieces, such as Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and Leonardo da Vinci’s “Annunciation,” adorn the gallery’s walls, showcasing the brilliance of the era’s artistic geniuses.
Due to its immense significance, the Uffizi Gallery attracts millions of visitors annually, making it one of the most popular things to do in Italy. A visit to the Uffizi Gallery is a truly enriching experience that transports art lovers and history enthusiasts alike into the heart of the Italian Renaissance.
The Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy, is a prestigious art museum renowned for its collection of masterpieces, with Michelangelo’s David being the crowning jewel. The museum was originally founded in the 18th century as an art academy and later evolved into a museum.
At the heart of the Accademia Gallery stands the awe-inspiring and iconic statue of David, sculpted by Michelangelo between 1501 and 1504. This marble masterpiece depicts the biblical hero David with a focused expression and an intense gaze.
The statue is a testament to Michelangelo’s exceptional skill and artistic vision, showcasing his ability to create incredibly lifelike and emotionally charged sculptures. Standing at an impressive height of over 17 feet, David exudes a sense of elegance, strength, and determination that captivates visitors.
A visit to the Accademia Gallery is one of the most essential things to do in Italy for art lovers. It offers a rare and profound experience with one of the most celebrated and influential sculptures in art history.
Milan: Italy’s Fashion Capital and Art Hub
Visiting Milan Cathedral, also known as the Duomo di Milano, is one of the most iconic things to do in Italy. Construction of this grand cathedral began in 1386 and continued for over six centuries, resulting in an intricate and awe-inspiring structure.
The cathedral’s most notable feature is its spectacular marble facade, which took centuries to complete. The elaborate designs depict biblical scenes, saints, and various religious figures, adding to the grandeur and religious significance of the building.
For an unforgettable experience, visitors can climb to the rooftop terraces of Milan Cathedral, which offer panoramic views of the city and the surrounding Lombardy region. Though challenging, the climb is rewarded with a close-up view of the cathedral’s intricate spires and sculptures and breathtaking vistas of Milan’s skyline.
Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”
Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” is one of the most famous and iconic works of art in the world, and seeing it is one of the best things to do in Italy. Created between 1495 and 1498, the painting adorns the wall of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, where it has been preserved for centuries.
“The Last Supper” depicts the moment from the New Testament when Jesus Christ shares his final meal with his twelve apostles before his crucifixion. Leonardo’s portrayal of this sacred event is revolutionary, as he employs his mastery of perspective, light, and shadow to create a scene that feels alive and dynamic.
The expressions and gestures of the apostles convey a range of emotions, from shock and disbelief to sorrow and concern. Jesus, at the centre of the composition, appears calm and composed, adding to the sense of reverence and spirituality that permeates the painting.
The profound emotional depth and technical brilliance of “The Last Supper” make it a timeless and enduring work of art. A visit to see “The Last Supper” is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one of the most rewarding things to do in Italy.
Verona: A Romantic City of Shakespearean Legends
Visiting Juliet’s House, located in the heart of Verona, Italy, is one of the most charming and romantic things to do in Italy. The house is believed to have inspired the setting for William Shakespeare’s tragic play, “Romeo and Juliet.”
Despite the fact that Shakespeare’s play is a work of fiction, the legend of the star-crossed lovers has become deeply intertwined with the history and culture of Verona, and Juliet’s House has become a symbol of enduring love and devotion.
The 13th-century building, known as Casa di Giulietta in Italian, features a beautiful balcony that is said to be the very spot where Juliet stood as she famously declared her love for Romeo.
One of the most endearing traditions associated with Juliet’s House is the practice of leaving love letters and messages on the walls and the courtyard. Visitors from all corners of the globe pen their heartfelt messages and attach them to the walls with the belief that doing so will bring good luck.
This touching ritual has turned Juliet’s House into a shrine of love and a pilgrimage site for lovers seeking to express their affection and hope for a love as eternal as that of Romeo and Juliet.
The Scaliger Tombs are a remarkable funerary complex located in Verona, Italy. These Gothic-style monuments serve as the final resting place for the powerful Scaligeri family, who ruled over Verona during the medieval period.
The tombs are situated near the Church of Santa Maria Antica, and their distinctive and ornate design makes them one of the most striking and well-preserved examples of Gothic funerary art in Italy.
Each tomb in the Scaliger Tombs complex is a unique architectural masterpiece. The most famous among them is the tomb of Cangrande I della Scala. It is the largest and most elaborate tomb, featuring a grandiose canopy adorned with intricate carvings of coats of arms, lions, and other decorative elements.
A visit to the Scaliger Tombs is one of the most fascinating things to do in Italy for history buffs. The striking beauty of these tombs, contrasting with the charming streets of Verona, creates a solemn and contemplative atmosphere.
Palermo: A City of History, Art, and Cuisine
Teatro Massimo in Palermo is an architectural and cultural gem and one of Europe’s largest and most prestigious opera houses. Built in the late 19th century, the theatre is an exquisite example of neoclassical and Art Nouveau architecture.
Inside, the theatre is equally stunning, boasting a vast and opulent auditorium with plush red velvet seating and a stunning chandelier that hangs from the ceiling. The acoustic quality of the auditorium is renowned, offering an immersive and extraordinary experience for both performers and audiences alike.
With a seating capacity of over 1,300, Teatro Massimo provides a grand and captivating venue for opera, symphony concerts, ballet, and other artistic performances. Exploring the theatre is one of the best things to do in Italy for anyone who enjoys theatre.
Today, Teatro Massimo continues to be a thriving centre for the performing arts, offering a diverse program that appeals to both locals and visitors. Guided tours of the theatre are also available, allowing visitors to explore its rich history and behind-the-scenes areas that are normally closed to the public.
Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo
The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Italy, are a haunting and unique historical site. Located beneath the Capuchin Monastery, the catacombs are a network of underground burial chambers that serve as the final resting place for thousands of bodies.
The catacombs have been in use since the 16th century and continued to be utilised until the late 19th century. Visiting the eerie chambers is one of the most fascinating things to do in Italy.
What makes the Capuchin Catacombs particularly striking is the way the bodies were preserved and displayed. Instead of decomposing in traditional graves, the bodies were mummified, embalmed, or placed in open niches, allowing them to be seen and admired by visitors.
The catacombs are divided into various sections, each dedicated to a specific social group, such as priests, nobles, and children. The friars took great care in arranging the bodies, dressing them in their finest garments or religious attire, and sometimes even posing them in lifelike positions.
While the Capuchin Catacombs may be a macabre attraction, they hold great historical and cultural significance for Palermo. For those with an interest in history, anthropology, or the macabre, a visit to the Capuchin Catacombs is one of the most memorable things to do in Italy.
There are Endless Exciting Things to Do in Italy
Italy stands as a timeless and enchanting destination that captivates the hearts of tourists from around the world. From the eternal city of Rome with its iconic Colosseum and Vatican City to the romantic canals of Venice and the art-filled galleries of Florence, Italy offers a plethora of unforgettable experiences for tourists of all interests.
From the north to the south, the multitude of amazing things to do in Italy come together to form a tapestry of art, history, and beauty that leaves tourists in awe and eager to return for more.
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