Everyone knows that Italy is one of the best places in the world to visit for food. Most people dream of visiting the boot-shaped country so that they can indulge in delicious pizza, pasta, cheese, and gelato. But, Italy has a lot more to offer than just food! First of all, practically everything in the country–from the sunsets to the cobbled roads–is 100% “Instagrammable.” As if that wasn’t enough, Italy is also home to ancient ruins, famous artwork, luxurious shopping centers, stunning landscapes, and over 50 UNESCO World Heritage Sites—all of which make it a top entry on most bucket lists.
Although many European cities also offer natural beauty, high fashion, and priceless art, Italy is truly unique. It has countless attractions located off the beaten path that are waiting to be discovered. There’s literally something for everyone to do in every season. With so many opportunities for exploring, it should be fairly easy to burn off all the calories from the irresistible food! If you still need some convincing that Italy is worth taking some time off and spending your money on, here are 25 really good reasons to visit.
25 To Hike Up An Active Volcano
If you enjoy the outdoors and live to take risks, then you definitely need to take a hike up Sicily’s Mount Etna. It’s one of the three active volcanoes in Italy, and it’s extremely active.
Standing at nearly 11,000 feet, Mount Etna is the highest active volcano in Europe
and the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps. If you’re up for the challenge, you can hike up to 9,500 feet and descend into a crater created by an eruption in 2002. And if hiking isn’t your thing, there is a cable car and an off-road vehicle that will take you to 8,850 feet. From there, you can still get a chance to see the otherworldly landscape, with its shifting sands and craters. Either way, you’ll be able to enjoy a mind-blowing view of Sicily.
24 To Drive A Vespa On The Amalfi Coast
Italy provides plenty of chances for you to live life on the edge...literally. The stunning Amalfi Coast is located on the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula and overlooks the turquoise waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It features cascades of colored shops and homes, a cliff-top resort, and well-marked hiking trails. It also happens to be the perfect place to ride a Vespa. These Italian scooters are faster than you think (some go up to 115 mph), can be easily parked, and allow you to travel up hills. Yet another benefit of a Vespa is that your confidence will skyrocket when you’re on one (because you’ll feel super cool!). Can you imagine the feeling of the wind in your hair as you cruise along a cliff with a view like this? It’s definitely something that has to be experienced!
23 The Majestic Castles
Italy is sprinkled with hundreds of beautiful castles. This is due to its rich history, which includes political instability and being conquered by the Normans who brought over castle construction skills from their conquered lands. Many of the castles are built on ruins of Roman fortresses, although there are some castles that were built pre-Roman times.
Not only can you tour the castles in Italy, but you can even spend the night in some of them!
Italy just might be the closest you’ll come to realizing your dreams of becoming royalty. One of the most famous castles in Italy is Castel Sant'Angelo, which was originally built as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian. Medieval popes turned the tomb into their fortress connected to the Vatican by a secret tunnel. Later, the castle was turned into a fort. Today, it is a museum displaying the building’s history.
22 The Libreria Acqua
If you’re a book lover, you’ll absolutely adore this unique spot in Venice. And if you’re not a book lover, you just might become one after a visit to Libreria Acqua Alta.
This bookstore’s whimsical décor is for practical reasons, not only to attract tourists.
Both used and new books are crammed into gondolas, bathtubs, and waterproof bins to prevent damage when the local waterways rise, flooding the store. But, not all the books are for sale. Some are part of the décor, covering the walls from ceiling to floor. Others have been turned into staircases which allow visitors to get a view of the nearby canal. It’s definitely worth the trip to Italy to see one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
21 To Ski On The Dolomites
As part of the Southern Alps, the Dolomites are some of the most awe-inspiring mountains in the world. And for anyone who enjoys outdoor sports, that means they are the ideal spot to ski. It is here that you’ll find the famous Sellaronda, a circular network of lifts and pistes around the Gruppo del Sella. The length of the circuit is about 40 km and is considered to be a relatively easy route to ski along (although some of the slopes are of medium difficulty). The circuit runs through four valleys and goes over four passes. And let’s be real, nothing can beat that surreal backdrop!
20 The Ancient City Of Pompeii
How often do you get the chance to visit a city that was lost and forgotten for over a thousand years? Located in Naples, the ancient city of Pompeii was once a thriving Roman city. But, in 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted and piles of hot ash completely covered the city, killing many of the Pompeii’s residents. In 1748, archaeologists uncovered pottery, bodies, and the ruins of the city (which include public baths, an amphitheater, homes, temples, and businesses). Although the site is currently huge, there is still more to be excavated! Today, you can walk through this well-preserved city–a UNESCO World Heritage Site–to get a glimpse of what life was like nearly two thousand years ago.
19 To Go Shopping In Milan
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is not only filled with luxury stores such as Prada and Louis Vuitton, but it’s also
the world’s oldest active shopping mall and an architectural wonder.
The mall was built between 1865 and 1877 and consists of two intersecting arcades. The roof covering the streets are made of iron and glass, which provides a stunning touch to the mall. Even if you don’t have the cash to drop on haute couture, you’ll find yourself content window shopping, admiring the architecture or grabbing a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants located in the mall.
18 The Blue Grotto
One good reason to visit Italy is the magical experiences you’re guaranteed to have. Many people would describe the Blue Grotto as magical, thanks to its enchanting blue water and incredible rock formations. This sea cave, located in Capri, is a huge tourist attraction—and for good reason. The only way to enter is by squeezing through a narrow opening, which you can do by paying for a rowboat. Once inside, you’ll feel the calmness of being in a dark cave and quiet cave illuminated by sunlight shining through an underwater cave mouth, creating a blue reflection. Where else in the world can you admire glowing water while listening to a tour guide sing Italian songs?
17 Michelangelo’s Artwork…
Michelangelo is considered one of the greatest artists in history, and it’s not hard to see why. He was proficient in painting, sculpting, and architecture. Many of his famous works happen to be housed in Italy, where he was born. So, if you’re an art enthusiast, you cannot pass up any opportunity to visit Italy and stand in the presence of his priceless works of art.
Although many of his works can be found in Vatican City (for example, the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica) and Tuscany, they are scattered among cities and towns throughout Italy. The famous statue of David can be found in the Accademia Gallery in Florence, while the marble Moses sculpture he made for the tomb of Pope Julius II is located within the San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome.
16 And All The Other Historic Artwork
Pretty much everything in Italy is art, so it’s not a requirement that you visit an art gallery. When you look around, you’ll find yourself surrounded by elaborate buildings, intricately-painted ceilings, and beautifully-carved fountains. Many of these were created by artists whose names you’ll recognize.
In the Galleria Borghese, you can find Bernini’s life-size marble statue of Apollo.
But, you can also see Bernini’s work while you’re shopping or eating gelato in Rome. His Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) is a landmark in Piazza Navona. If you’d like to see frescoes other than those in the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s frescoes of Cupid and Psyche can be admired in Villa Farnesina—a mansion which, in itself, is also considered a masterpiece.
15 The Crystal-Clear Beaches
Many people believe that the world’s best beaches are all in the Caribbean, Hawaii, or the Polynesian islands. But, Italy actually has some of the world’s topnotch beaches, where you can rent a boat, go swimming, or get your tan on. Many of these beaches have white sand, clear water, and are overlooked by dramatic limestone cliffs. Day excursions to the beaches are great, but if you’ve got the funds, you may opt to stay in one of the many glamorous beachside resorts instead.
Sardinia boasts some of Italy’s most popular beaches, including Cala di Volpe and Cala Goloritzé (a UNESCO site).
Tuscany’s Elba Island is also home to some top contenders, including Spiaggia di Sansone. Interestingly, there is even an exotic black sand beach located in the Aeolian Islands, north of Sicily.
14 The Picturesque Hills Of Tuscany
Seriously, does this photo not look like a painting? It sure has been featured in numerous works of Renaissance art! You may also recognize this landscape from movies such as Gladiator and The English Patient.
The lush rolling hills of Val D'orcia, Tuscany are so beautiful and iconic that they were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. These hills are occasionally broken only by picturesque towns, roads lined with cypress trees and gullies. One of the most popular towns to visit is Pienza, which is home to a magnificent stone and marble house that belonged to Pope Pius II. If you love photography, painting, wine, or serene locations, this is one place that will not disappoint you.
Every year, thousands of tourists flock to Venice to take part in Carnevale. It’s the oldest festival in Venice, dating back to the year 1162 when Venetians celebrated the victory over the Patriarch of Aquileia. The two-week festival ends on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the Christian celebration of Lent.
It’s said to be a way for Venetians to get the partying out of their system and to get meats and sweets in, since these things are all off limits during Lent.
Although it’s unclear why wearing masks became a tradition during the festival, there’s no denying that these masks are beautiful. During Carnevale, there are masquerade balls, concerts, street performances, and a parade of boats. There’s really something special about being in Venice at this time.
12 To Make A Wish In The Trevi Fountain
Completed in 1762, the Trevi Fountain is one of the most iconic structures in Italy. It is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome, standing at a whopping 85 feet tall and 161 feet wide. As you walk towards this beautiful marble fountain, the sounds of tourists and rushing water become more and more intense. When you finally lay eyes on the famous fountain, it will definitely take your breath away.
Despite the crowd of tourists, it’s totally worth a trip to see the Trevi Fountain and make a wish by throwing a coin over your shoulder and into the water.
The fountain also lights up at night, if you’d like a photo op without tourists in the background and are willing to take a late-night stroll.
11 All Those Famous Movie Locations
With its gorgeous countryside, ancient cities, and serene lakes, it’s no surprise that Italy has served as the setting for countless movies. There are quite a few famous movie locations, including The Royal Palace of Caserta (which was Queen Amidala’s royal palace in Star Wars Episodes I and II), Lake Como (seen in Star Wars Episode II, Casino Royale, and Ocean’s Twelve), and Matera (in The Passion of the Christ).
There are even specific tours catered to movie fans. If you love The Godfather, you can take a four-hour tour of the Sicilian villages where the trilogy was filmed. Or, if you’re a Dan Brown fan, the Angels & Demons tour may be right for you.
10 Saturnia’s Thermal Spa
Saturnia is a small town in Tuscany that sits on top of a hill. Like many Italian towns, it is rich in history and artistic masterpieces. But, what makes Saturnia stand out is its famous thermal spring. The mineral-rich waters are 37.5 degrees Celsius—perfect for relaxing, exfoliating your skin, and boosting respiration. The Etruscans and Romans believed that the water was a gift from the gods. But, as the years went by, the superstition changed and locals believed that it was a portal to hell (which explained the steam and smell of sulfur). Now, the locals are in favor of the spring and have even built an exclusive resort that features a spa, wellness club, and golf.
9 Ponte Vecchio Bridge
There are tons of bridges in the world, so why visit Italy? Is the trip really worth it just to see another bridge? Our answer is yes. That’s because this isn’t just any bridge. Ponte Vecchio is a medieval stone bridge over the Arno River, located in Florence.
Its name translates to “Old Bridge,” which is fitting since it has existed since 996
(but was destroyed several times and rebuilt in 1345). The bridge has three arches, but this is not what makes it so unique. That honor belongs to the high-end shops that are built along the bridge and look like they are hanging off its side. You may wish to purchase jewelry here or simply journey across the bridge, as if you were stepping back in time.
8 The Elaborate Churches And Cathedrals
Even if you’re not a religious person, a trip to any church or cathedral in Italy is recommended. These sacred buildings display some seriously impressive columns, domes, and vaulted ceilings. They also house some amazing artwork, including frescoes, stained-glass windows, reliefs, and statues.
Some of the must-see churches are The Duomo of Milan (Italy’s largest Gothic cathedral, which is adorned with over 3,400 statues and 135 marble spires), St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome (which needs no description), and St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice (which has more than 80,000 square feet of mosaics). Although these are some big names, some of the smaller churches in Italy are filled with pleasant surprises too. They’re totally worth exploring!
7 To Hike In Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is a collection of five colorful seaside villages on the Italian Riviera. With its dramatic cliffs overlooking pristine waters, Cinque Terre is a gem for outdoor enthusiasts. This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains breathtaking hiking trails, with one of the most popular being trail #2, or Sentiero Azzurro. This trail consists of four individual paths along the coast. One of the paths, Via dell'Amore, is famous for its kissing statue. The others are filled with olive trees and exotic plants. The entire trail takes about six hours to complete. Each path ranges in difficulty, so don’t underestimate them!
There’s no debating how amazing the food in Italy tastes, but we need something to wash down all that delicious food! Fortunately, Italy is also known for its wine.
Each of the country’s 20 regions grows wine grapes (over 500 different types altogether).
Not surprisingly, there is a huge diversity with regards to the types of wines produced. Tuscany is famous for its high-quality red wine, while Piedmont boasts high-quality red and white wine varieties. In Italy, wines are classified based on the vineyard practices, alcohol content, and aging. The highest levels of classification are the Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). To date, there are 74 DOCG wines in Italy. Wine aficionados cannot pass this up!